Weeknote for 9/13/2020

Life maintenance

😐

I spent last week getting through regular and freelance work. Somehow that seemed to take up all my time, other than naps and miscellaneous tasks.

I have a new Remicade schedule. After my upcoming infusion, I’ll do 6-week intervals (down from 8 weeks) for about three cycles and see how that affects my symptoms.

Memory

😐

I didn’t work on the mnemonic dictionary. My plan this week is the same as last week’s.

AI

πŸ™‚

I got to my first stopping point in The Lex Fridman Podcast. I listened to his interview with Kai-Fu Lee, the author of AI Superpowers, and now I’m listening to the book. This first batch of interviews gave me some people to look into further, especially Vladimir Vapnik with his mathematician’s approach to machine learning, Juergen Schmidhuber and his interesting ideas on meta-learning, and Jeff Hawkins, who is making progress on a general theory of neuroscience.

Video

πŸ€”

Watch Dan Olson’s quietly stunning demonstration of the earth’s curvature. Stay for the chilling gaze into the abyss of our bizarre politics. I’ve been trying to identify why the feeling evoked by this demo was so familiar, and I just realized it’s the feeling I got during the solar eclipse, when I was at the right place and time to see the natural world being totally itself and totally real, yet totally strange. For this and other reasons, I suspect it’s a video I’ll be pondering for a while.

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Weeknote for 9/6/2020

Productivity

πŸ€”

It’s time for some changes. My motivation has been waning lately. Last week I couldn’t summon the drive even to make a time block schedule, let alone follow it. And despite the importance of my math project, I didn’t have much energy for that either. I think it’s a combination of tiredness and the sameness of my life at home, probably some other factors too. So I’m thinking of adding some variety by doing some housework and getting out more.

Math

πŸ€”

A controlled English format for note-taking. I didn’t catch up on my prealgebra notes like I’d hoped, but in the process of trying I opened an interesting line of thought to explore. One of my quests in note-taking is to find a somewhat rigorous way to format them that will make them easy to write and powerful to use through automation. RemNote takes care of some of the automation. But I’m still working out how to use RemNote’s format while balancing rigor, ease of writing, and ease of reading. Since math is so algorithmic, I thought about trying to write my notes like a program. But this made them hard to read.

My little epiphany was that for the flashcard-oriented format of these notes, the programming paradigm I needed was probably a rules engine, where the “conditions” are the memory cues (Descriptors in RemNote) and the “actions” are the items to recall. I also need an English-like syntax using words like “is” rather than symbols like “==”. In other words some type of controlled English.

But this week starts Thinkulum project month September, and I’ve decided to take a break from math for at least a couple of months. More on this in the next section.

Learning

😐

This month I’m returning to my mnemonic substitute dictionary. I worked on this back in March but then put it on hold for math. Lately mnemonics has come up again a few times, and I think I’d like to try to finish the first release of this project by the end of the year. Other than setting up a new app with Cement, I’ll start by looking at classifying the concreteness of English words using data from Wiktionary.

AI

😎

I listened to Stuart Russell’s Human Compatible, a book about keeping AI on our side. Here’s a video interview covering some of his ideas. The book is an exceptional discussion of the issues with a promising proposal for a solution. I highly recommend it. I wondered if it would just be a repeat of Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence, but Scott Alexander’s book review convinced me to buy it.

I’m listening through The Lex Fridman Podcast. It consists of his interviews with important people in AI and related fields. Every episode has been good so far. Other than getting to know the field, my reason for listening is that I recently joined his Discord server, and I figure the podcast will make me a better participant, assuming I can get myself to participate. I’m kind of bad at group interaction.

There are around 120 episodes, and I don’t want to get burned out, so I’m going to take breaks. My plan is to listen through the Kai-Fu Lee interview and then listen to Lee’s book AI Superpowers. Then I’ll find a new stopping point for another break.

People

πŸ™‚

My family took another stab at remote Go Fish. We had our bi-weekly family Zoom call, and this time we played Go Fish online via PlayingCards.io. It took a little figuring out, but it worked well and was fun. My sister won again.

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Weeknote for 8/30/2020

Productivity

😐

The black hole of time swept back through last week. I’ll try time blocking again this week, a technique I experimented with earlier in the year, though my plans will be less ambitious this time.

Math

😐

I finished learning RemNote and transferring my notes. I was able to make more progress last week because more of my project time evaded the black hole. I’ve come up with a template for my notes on each topic, so I’ll probably fill in the gaps in my earlier notes at some point, but for now I’ll continue the prealgebra notes from where I left off. Then I can get back to algebra.

AI

πŸ™‚

David Vernon’s Artificial Cognitive Systems: A Primer is a helpful overview of the issues and options. I picked this one up a while back because it covered some of the cognitive architectures I’d just discovered. Deep learning has always seemed to me like only a piece of the cognitive puzzle, and I wanted to see what work had been done assembling more of the picture. The book is compact yet nuanced, and it gives me lots of directions for further research.

Rebooting AI by Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis gives me still more directions for research. Most of the book is about the ways deep learning is a dead end for AGI, but I was already on board with that notion. I was more interested in the constructive part of the book toward the end. For example, I want to look into the idea that concepts are defined in terms of the theories they’re embedded in.

I was a little unsure of the book’s audience. It seemed to be written for the general public but also appealed to the AI community to change its focus. Maybe the authors were targeting newcomers to the field.

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Weeknote for 8/23/2020

For having done so little, I sure have a lot to say.

Productivity

😐

A temporal black hole passed through my week. It’s the only explanation for where the time went and how little I got done. I suppose there’s one other explanation, that my prednisone ended and left me to my own devices to deal with the sleep schedule it had scrambled for me. But I had a reset at the end of the week in the form of an involuntary early bedtime, so maybe this week I can recover.

I’m trying a new anti-procrastination technique. A lot of tasks involve physical objects. In the past I’ve tried putting these objects out of place in plain sight so I’ll be reminded to do the task and the materials I need will be easy to grab. But this isn’t enough, because if I’m determined to procrastinate, I get used to having the objects out of place, and they fade into the scenery.

So I’m trying something newβ€”putting the objects in the way of other everyday tasks. For example, a few weeks ago I needed to vacuum. So I plugged the vacuum cleaner into my bathroom outlet, and I made a rule that I couldn’t unplug it until I’d done the vacuuming. This made it inconvenient to recharge things like my electric toothbrush. I still put it off a few days, but the vacuuming got done.

The next rule I need is to spend my tired and lazy moments making a bit of progress on my projects rather than scrolling through social media.

Math

😐

I started transferring my notes to RemNote. My time for this project fell into the black hole, so I’m still working on the notes. Hopefully I’ll finish that early this week and I can return to learning.

AI

πŸ™‚

I finished The Quest for Artificial Intelligence by Nils Nilsson. Some thoughts:

  • I didn’t realize the author was the inventor of the well-known A* pathfinding algorithm, which he developed for a well-known robot named Shakey.
  • Competition was a major driver of research at certain points. For example, the reaction of the US to Japan’s Fifth-Generation project in the early 1980s. Another was DARPA’s Grand Challenges for automated driving in the early 2000s. Well don’t look now, but China wants to be the AI king. I should read Kai-Fu Lee’s AI Superpowers soon.
  • Military agencies have been another major source of funding in the US since way back in the 1950s. Early on it was from the Office of Naval Research and ARPA.
  • Even though AI winters sound like doom for research, AI research continues during them, just with less funding, and I’d say we’ve recovered from the major one in the late ’80s. Judging by Nilsson’s account, progress plodded before that period and zoomed afterward.
  • The book reinforced my observation that AI is less about perfect reasoning and more about making the most of the system’s limitations. Here and there a theme of idealism vs pragmatism surfaced. A prominent example was the debate in computer vision between reconstructing entire 3D scenes and processing only the elements relevant for action (see the faculty page of Yannis Aloimonos).
  • Expert systems could help with my modeling project. Creating them involves a step called knowledge acquisition. The old approach consisted of interrogating subject matter experts to build the knowledge base. The questioning methods they used could be instructive.
  • Thinking about all this AI reminds me that I have a long way to go and I need to keep moving. Maybe I should pretend I’m already in grad school and study like I have deadlines.

People

πŸ™‚

Monday night my family played Go Fish over Zoom. Since Go Fish involves passing cards between players and we were each playing with a physical deck, we took some time to improvise new rules.

  1. Since we didn’t have a seating arrangement, our turn order was from youngest to oldest.
  2. Instead of passing cards, each player had a discard pile for cards they had “passed” to another player. The player receiving the cards would look through their draw deck for the corresponding cards. If it didn’t have enough of the right cards, the player would take them from the discard pile.
  3. Since everyone had the same amount of cards and could all theoretically collect every set, the winner was the first to five sets. The game still took an hour.

One interesting effect of using individual decks is that it was helpful to know which sets each person had collected, because other players were still collecting those sets, and only the players who hadn’t collected them could pass those cards. Our cameras didn’t show the sets we’d collected, so we had to be reminded of other players’ collections or remember on our own.

Another effect is that the game worked less well if some of the players shared a deck, because someone might pass cards to one of the deck-sharing players that were used up by the sets that their deck-sharing partner had collected.

And a final thing I learned is that playing games in a recurring video call is a nice way to pass the time.

Tuesday I went in to work for a team picnic. We have a team lunch a couple of times a year. It was a fun conversation, as usual, and for social distancing we were able to spread ourselves out over three picnic tables and an uncomfortable canvas folding chair. I wasn’t in the chair, but it was a conversation topic at one point.

Nature

😰

Thursday morning I found a wasp in my bathroom. It was hanging out on my toothbrush. Scary. It took a long time to figure out what to do about it. Thankfully it seemed to not like flying, and eventually as it crawled across the floor, I plunked a food container over it, slid a piece of paper underneath, and took it out to the balcony. I nudged the container partway over the balcony’s edge so the bug could fly out. Since it was such a sluggish creature, I expected it to take a while, but a few minutes later it was gone.

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Weeknote for 8/16/2020

Health

πŸ€”

My immune-suppressing prednisone level is low, but I’m still avoiding indoor crowds. This is mostly to avoid possibly delaying my ulcerative colitis treatments at the hospital, which would happen if I exposed myself to known or suspected cases of COVID. My UC is doing surprisingly well right now, unusual compared to my typical symptoms on Remicade and compared to other times I’ve tapered off prednisone.

Project management

πŸ€”

I began rethinking my project management. I want better ways to assess the state of each project, especially when I juggle several at once and progress in several areas for each one. This amounts to (1) defining the tasks for each project so I can see what’s finished and unfinished, (2) externalizing more of the work I normally keep in my head, and (3) better organizing the results of my work as another way of seeing what’s finished and unfinished.

I also want to simplify project tasks where possible so they’ll have a better chance of fitting into the short time frames I end up giving them when I’m juggling. And I want better ways to manage R&D projects, which are unpredictable and are also the majority of my projects.

To define project tasks and organize my work, I listed the typical kinds of projects I do these days (writing, learning, and programming) and listed a basic workflow for each type. Then I created a set of folders in Notion to act as a template for writing projects. Next I’ll create templates for programming and learning projects, in whatever software makes sense for them.

To manage task dependencies I’m looking at ProjectLibre. I would’ve tried DigiSpoke, but I couldn’t even sign up.

Learning

πŸ€”

My new learning goal is to be able to teach what I’ve learned from start to finish. I realized this while trying to answer why I was revisiting all the prealgebra I’d just covered. It’s because the content was still a jumble in my mind, definitely not in a state for an orderly recital. This reminded me that a start-to-finish explanation from recall has, in fact, always been my goal when learning anything. It’s a natural test for whether I’ve absorbed all the material. And I hate the feeling of disappointment, annoyance, and embarrassment I get when I think I’ve learned something, but then I try to tell someone about it and I can’t. So now this will be my standard goal, and I’ll design my learning workflow around it.

RemNote may replace both my notes2flashcards app and Anki. The more I think about all this project management, the more I want to start creating my modeling tool, because what I need is a highly structured way to track all my project data and writing. I vaguely remembered there are new note-taking apps that might work along these lines, and I stumbled across RemNote. It’s basically an outliner combined with a spaced repetition reviewer, the kind of study tool I’ve been looking for all this time. (LearnObit is similar but seems harder to use.) I’m working through the tutorials.

Math

πŸ™‚

Math is my game. I’ve barely touched a computer game in several years, so normally I think I’m just not in a playing mode right now, and I wonder when I’ll get back to it. But last week I found out this is a lie. Tuesday the Midwest had a big storm that knocked out my power for eight hours. While lying in bed to supposedly sleep, I occupied my mind with designs for my math student simulator program. And after catching myself having fun working things out, I realized that for me this simulator is a toy for playing with math. So I concluded that math is my current game, and the object is to figure out how it works.

Space

😎

Space 2.0 by Rod Pyle is an inspiring crash course in the global space economy. It’s nicely organized and covers all the topics I expected and a few more, and it ends with ways to get involved. I recommend it. My favorite chapter was 14 on space infrastructure, the system of tech in space that will enable all this exploration and settlement, such as cyclersβ€”spacecraft that fly on a continual circuit to places like the moon and Mars to transport people and supplies.

Another good resource is a Discord server I joined, Rocket Emporium. In addition to the features listed on that page, the server maintains a long list of space-related websites, movies, books, and software. This will all be useful for the wiki page I’m planning about keeping track of all this stuff.

AI

πŸ™‚

I began my journey through AI history with the late Nils Nilsson. You can get the PDF version of The Quest for Artificial Intelligence for free from his faculty page. So far I’ve learned that a lot of the themes of current research started very early in its history, including both the symbolic and connectionist paradigms and applications such as games and military intelligence. In fact, some of the themes go back even further. People have been dreaming of creating artificial life for millennia. One attempt was Jacques de Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck.

Social issues

😎

Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist is a welcome signpost in the form of a memoir. The book is organized by topic and covers a wide range of them with fairly short chapters and many pointers to further study. Stamped from the Beginning was kind of a slog for a non-history person like me, but this one was more personal and philosophical, so it was more my style. He was also less imperious than I expected. The book is about his development as an antiracist, and he doesn’t consider himself to have arrived. He doesn’t see racism or antiracism as an unchanging, pervasive identity but only a description of specific attitudes and behaviors that can be mixed within a person and shifted over time. And he urges activists to be self-critical.

On the other side of things, a recent conversation pointed me to some Black conservatives. These were Thomas Sowell, Glenn Loury, Walter Williams, Jason Riley, and Coleman Hughes. I may look into some of them soon. Hughes wrote a helpful introductory piece on Sowell.

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Weeknote for 8/9/2020

Math

πŸ€”

I feel more motivated to study math. Thanks to David Tall and some handily organized course descriptions from California State University, I found out that I won’t get to the interesting, formal mathematics I’ve been waiting for till I’m done with calculus. So that motivates me to keep moving.

Last week I reformatted the math in my notes and found that adding more notes was much more enjoyable now that I know some LaTeX and don’t have the mental friction of making up my own notation.

I spent the week’s last few days pondering how to gain a fuller sense of mastery over the material. OpenStax sometimes leaves me wondering how the procedures work, so I ended up revisiting the EngageNY math curriculum and my math student simulator project. I had dropped both of those in favor of speeding through the OpenStax textbooks, but I might work with them after all to give myself a more solid foundation. I’ll try not to slow to a crawl.

This week starts the Thinkulum project month of August. I want to spend a little time assessing my progress and plans, because now that I’m in the middle of this long-term math learning project that’s only somewhat defined, I’ve become lackadaisical about actually managing the project, which seems like a mistake.

Space

😎

I introduced myself to the new space age. Since I’ve been ignoring spaceflight most of my life, I’m behind in my knowledge; and since I seem determined to talk about this topic, I decided to get organized so I’ll have a clue. The overview articles I found last week led me to a book I’ll be listening to very soon, Space 2.0 by Rod Pyle. Meanwhile, watch Joe Scott talk about why people get excited about watching SpaceX and why that’s a good thing.

AI

πŸ™‚

I found a history of AI. I picked up some search terms from the Wikipedia article and landed on The Quest for Artificial Intelligence by Nils J. Nilsson. I’ll get to that one after Space 2.0.

My reaction to AI skeptics has clarified the research I care about. At least in the near term, I want to read sources focused on exploring the space of possible minds and on integrating AI paradigms. But I’ll wait till after I’ve taken in the sweep of AI history.

Health

πŸ€”

I’m sticking with Remicade for now. We’re going to try a shorter interval between infusions. My symptoms are very good right now, better than other times I’ve been on prednisone, so I think my latest Remicade infusion is working. In a couple of weeks I’ll be done with the prednisone, so we’ll see what happens to my symptoms. Then if the earlier dose of Remicade doesn’t improve them, we’ll switch to something else, most likely Xeljanz.

Prednisone is weirdly boosting my energy. I was expecting this side effect based on previous experience. This time it’s less like hyperactivity and more like doggedness. I still feel pretty slow, but sometimes jittery at the same time, and I have a lot of inertia to continue whatever I’m doing just because I can’t be bothered to change tracks. This all has the benefit of letting me (slowly) push through fatigue so I get more done and the drawback of making me feel spacey when my body is wired but my brain is tired. Apparently, just because you’re able to sleep less doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Deliberate naps have been helping (as opposed to the spontaneous ones I usually take).

Fiction

😎

I felt strangely at home in Perdido Street Station. I had very little idea what to expect when I started, but as I see it, it’s a fantasy novel about cognitive science, especially on the topic of possible minds (timely!), and it gave me interesting paths to explore branching off my usual trails of thought. The writing was also very listenable, despite all its weird content. I rarely felt lost and befuddled. If the sound of a grittier, non-satirical Ankh-Morpork appeals to you, I recommend it, and I’ll definitely come back to China MiΓ©ville in the future.

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Weeknote for 8/2/2020

Health

πŸ€”

I’m researching new medications. My Remicade infusion on Monday seems to have worked this time, and my flare-up has calmed down immensely. But my doctor made the good point that new medications have come out since I started Remicade that may be more effective for me, so I’m going to research his recommendations and talk to him again this week to make a decision.

As you will see in the rest of this post, my mind has opened back up, which I take as another sign that my health has improved.

Math

πŸ™‚

I started my math programming cheat sheet. My first goal is to add the LaTeX examples that will help me make decent-looking Anki flashcards for the material I’ve read so far. I’ve added them up through basic fractions. After LaTeX I’ll add Python examples.

Math modeling is trying to sidetrack me. This math relearning project is reminding me of math’s role in my project on modeling. A large part of that project will be understanding how different disciplines engage in modeling so I can integrate their approaches. Applied mathematics models real-world situations, and math applies so broadly and fundamentally that I think it should be one of the first fields I examine.

But math also contains models of itself, which is what has caught my attention. I’m hoping to find the kinds of analysis I wrote about in “Fundamentals” and “Number Sense” and that I read about in the Common Core Progressions. Mathematical logic and related areas seem promising. Of course, to understand this stuff, I need to learn math, which pushes me back to my current project.

Space

😎

I watched the Perseverance rover launch. It’s convenient that we’ve entered this new space age right as I was discovering futurism and just as our world is entering these crises that require some hope to pull us through. At the moment I think of this new era in terms of (1) cooperation between national and commercial space programs, which is what the Crew Demo-2 flight was about; (2) a focus on sending humans to the moon and Mars, which is what Perseverance and the Artemis program are about, among other initiatives; and (3) glimmers of commercial enterprises, mainly space industry and space tourism.

I see these types of programs as the bridges that will lead us from the present world to the one I daydream about with my fellow futurists. There’s a launch or a landing or a test to watch every few weeks, and they’re helping me keep this vision in view. I’m grateful to The Oatmeal for putting me on this path back in 2018 by getting me to care about the landing of InSight.

AI

πŸ€”

I’m suddenly interested in AI again. I don’t know what sparked it, but after a long while of almost forgetting the subject, last week I became very intent on finding classic books on AI, finding a book covering its history, and listening to AI skeptics.

I got through pieces by Peter Kassan, Eric Siegel, and Maciej CegΕ‚owski, each of whom brought up important points but, in my opinion, missed the bigger picture. My view is that hype and disappointment over AI shouldn’t govern a sober assessment of its prospects. As I see it, this is the most complicated research program anyone has ever undertaken, and it’s way too early to declare it a failure. And while the well-known AI doomsday scenarios aren’t inevitable, we still need to have a broad and ongoing conversation about AI risks that includes them. Matthew Graves responded to CegΕ‚owski with similar thoughts.

For an AI skeptic I can agree with, I’ll probably listen to Gary Marcus’s Rebooting AI soon, and I’ll look into Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans by Melanie Mitchell, whose name keeps coming up in my recent searches.

I’m trying not to let this new obsession derail my math relearning.

Social issues

πŸ€”

The End of Policing offers reasonable solutions. I listened to it last week and found that it was less radical and more realistic than the title might suggest. Here’s a video interview with the author. Vitale’s point is that abusive policing comes from the fundamental purposes we’ve assigned to the police, and typical reform efforts have failed because they don’t address those purposes. Deeper reforms that do tend to work would include “ending the War on Drugs, abolishing school police, ending broken-windows policing, developing robust mental health care, and creating low-income housing systems” (p. 222).

People

πŸ™‚

I hung out with Jeremy. Saturday we picked up dinner and sat at a picnic table outside my apartment building and jabbered for a few hours. It was nice to get together again, and I’ll probably do more of it.

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Weeknote for 7/26/2020

Math

😐

I continued my prealgebra review. I was juggling work and naps for most of the week, so I was only able to squeeze math in on the weekend, but I was pleased at how quickly the note-taking went. I should be able to finish that this week, enter the flashcards, and get back to algebra.

Health

😐

I’m waiting on some test results. My doctor put me on prednisone as a temporary measure, which calmed down my intestines, and I felt much better, like my mind had been let out of a cage. We’ll see how long that lasts. Meanwhile I’m still having my next infusion on Monday, which may or may not do anything, and at some point the test results will tell us what changes to make.

Fiction

πŸ™‚

I listened to Come Join Us by the Fire, a free anthology introducing Tor’s horror imprint Nightfire. When I’m in a gloomy mood, I find that creepy stories are less demanding on my emotions than cheery ones, yet their creativity still lends me some energy. The collection’s narrators were very good, and many of the stories stood out to me.

At least a couple of the authors I want to explore further. One is Brian Evenson, whose story, “Black Bark,” distinctly bored me until the sudden, eerie revelation in the middle that things were not normal in this world. It was like a moment from Lost. The ending left me wanting more.

The other author was China MiΓ©ville, whose story, “The Design,” felt like a return to Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap, especially since the narrator was the same, Gerard Doyle. But unlike in the magical world of Septimus, the mystery in “The Design” wasn’t just a problem to solve but a baffling intrusion on the natural world, which made it more mysterious and intriguing.

Even though my mood has been better in the past week, I still have an itch for the surreal, a feeling captured nicely by a video I ran across on liminal spaces. So I’m on the lookout for anything similar. I’d been meaning to try China MiΓ©ville, so I decided to take advantage of my curiosity and continue my exploration with Perdido Street Station. It’ll take a couple of weeks at least. It’s not quite the surreal I was looking for, more like a more serious Discworld, but it’s still interesting and surprisingly relatable for me.

People

πŸ™‚

Sunday I tested some online board games created by a friend. He’d coded both the games and the platform they ran on. He was testing them with 4+ players, so we had a little voice chat party. The games were good, we helped him find some bugs, and it was fun to hang out with Dutch people.

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Weeknote for 7/19/2020

Health

πŸ˜•

Last week’s theme was dealing with my health.

My COVID swab was negative. The doctor recommended self-isolating for 10 days just in case, since it could be a false negative. That period will end after Tuesday, though my other medical issue is still keeping me from going out.

My ulcerative colitis has been acting up for two months. It’s worse than it’s been in a long time, so last week I talked with my gastroenterologist about what to do. We’re working through a series of tests. I might end up switching medications.

Mysterious illness is depressing. The slight symptoms I’ve been having on and off since March still take turns surfacing in their vague way. Fatigue hangs around the most and seems greater than my usual level. But even when the symptoms are absent, in the background I just have this persistent feeling that things in my body aren’t quite right. I’m hoping getting my UC under control will alleviate most of that sense or at least help clarify the situation. It all leads to the feeling that my life is on hold, and in the background I often ask myself if and when and how things will ever get back to normal. In the meantime, I keep life moving however I can.

Math

😐

I got my notes2flashcards app into a basically usable state. Despite my medical issues, I managed to do a lot of work on the app, and now it will convert a YAML outline into a set of lists and front-back notes I can paste into Anki.

I’m reviewing prealgebra. Now that I have an easier flashcard setup, I’m flipping back through the prealgebra chapters and taking some basic notes so I’ll at least remember what it covers.

Politics

πŸ€”

I listened to Too Much and Never Enough, Mary Trump’s memoir about her family. Here’s an interview that gives a good overview. She’s a clinical psychologist and the niece of Donald Trump, so I was interested in her analysis of their family dynamics and the effects of those on the president. And on her own father, Freddy, since a lot of the book was about his struggles and decline. But the two are linked, because Donald’s mentality was largely shaped by watching how their father treated Freddy. Her assessment of Donald wasn’t radically different from other opinions I’ve heard on his psyche, but it gave some extra depth and clarity to that view.

Posted in Health, Math relearning, Politics, Weeknotes | 2 Comments

Weeknote for 7/12/2020

Self-improvement

πŸ€”

Choice architecture might help me make better everyday decisions. Continuing in my theme of social engineering, I listened to Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, which promotes libertarian paternalism, designing the way choices are presented so that people will choose to benefit themselves. As my brother pointed out to me, this notion is controversial, and I will be digging into that controversy at some point. But for my immediate purpose of improving my own decisions, the book’s tips can be helpful, at least for decisions that don’t require expert knowledge.

😐

Still waiting on energy and order. Due to various factors I’ll explain, I basically ignored the previous week’s advice to myself on sleep and time management, so I still feel like I’m in a netherworld of dysfunction. But every day is a new beginning, so I’ll see what I can do this week.

COVID-19

😐

I got tested for COVID and other issues. Tuesday night I had my second brief fever in about a month, accompanied by the vague symptoms I’ve had on and off since March. So Wednesday I talked to a doctor, he ordered some tests for COVID and inflammation, plus a chest X-ray, and I did all that Thursday morning. The X-ray results were normal, and the COVID antibody test was negative. I’m waiting on the others. Other than tiredness I currently feel fine.

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I’m starting to feel the stress of this pandemic. Taking care of my medical situation and dealing with a lot of fatigue made the week feel strange and wasted. Plus I worried that I’d been exposing people to COVID, especially at the dentist appointment I kept just before I got the fever (after rescheduling it because of my last fever). The negative antibody test made me feel a little better.

The first few months of lockdown were actually a relief to me. Since I don’t have a family to take care of and I could work from home, it simplified my life so I could focus on fewer concerns. Now that things are opening up, I’m beginning to feel the complexity of managing people’s expectations for what I’m willing to do and then doing those things safely. I can only imagine the stress of parents, teachers, and policymakers deciding what to do about school next month.

Math

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I took significant baby steps on the notes2flashcards app. Life and bad time management crowded out the project last week, but I managed to adapt my old code to Cement, a framework for Python console apps I decided to try. It might replace my generator-python-cmd project.

I’m extending the math project again. This week starts the Thinkulum project month of July. As tempting as it is to move back to conceptual modeling or maybe my software development notes, math is too important to too many of my other projects to put it off again. I want to get through at least intermediate algebra and possibly precalculus before I return to other projects.

Cooking

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I’m reworking my meal strategy. There are two factors:

  1. I put off cooking the whole previous week, because the next recipe was going to take too long and I was feeling lazy. So I need to switch to my simpler cookbook (The Four Ingredient Cookbooks), and I’d like to pick recipes that share ingredients so I have flexibility without wasting food.
  2. Last week after 6 months of dieting, I managed to glide past my weight goal. So now I have to figure out how to eat more daily calories without overloading on saturated fat.

Fiction

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As a follow-up to the 2001 movie, I listened to Arthur C. Clarke’s novel. It was fine and clarified the plot, but for artistry and emotive impact, I actually liked the movie better, which is rare. An interesting tidbit I learned from the introduction: Kubrick and Clarke collaborated on the movie, and Clarke wrote the novel specifically as a precursor to the script.

I forgot to include this in the post about the movie, but I thought the interpretation of spaceflight as a dance was brilliant and perfect, and the first space scene with “The Blue Danube” reminded me of the recent SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 flight. Happily I was not the only one to make this connection (Blue Danube Demo-2 video).

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