Weeknote for 9/25/2022

Life maintenance

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Looking into candidates to replace my retired primary doctor has been teaching me some more about research processes that work for me. I’m hoping this week I can settle on a few doctor options and make an appointment.

Productivity

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Taking care of longer life maintenance tasks I’d been putting off has me thinking again about large-scale rhythms my schedule could adopt so I can make sure I keep everything important moving in a timely fashion. I’ll need to experiment to find satisfying patterns, but one likely idea is to take week-long break from my main project every month or two for a side project.

People skills

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The Power of a Positive No by William Ury came across the most earnest book of his negotiation trilogy, since so much of it was about finding and affirming the deeper values that are driving your “no.” As usual I appreciated all the detailed advice, but I was left feeling the series had some gaps when it came to the problem of social engineering, which will be a future topic in this project.

What Great Storytellers Know by Bernadette Jiwa gave me permission to take an organized and careful approach to collecting and crafting stories. It also got me to ponder what inspiration I have to offer my storytelling listeners.

Programming

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Object Design by Rebecca Wirfs-Brock and Alan McKean features extensive and valuable discussions of the design process. But it also reminds me I still haven’t done enough object-oriented design to comfortably understand all the metaphorical language of responsibilities and collaborations, and the complexity of the design decisions only strengthens my interest in Clojure’s perhaps simpler data-oriented paradigm.

Nature

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I’ve been neglecting my nature walks lately, so I took a couple more so I wouldn’t regret missing the rest of summer. It reminded me nature is the show that never ends.

 

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Weeknote for 9/18/2022

Productivity

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I finished transferring the tags in the imported Nirvana tasks to their new properties in Notion. I have more to do to set up my Notion task management, but for now I’m taking a break for a few weeks to take care of some life maintenance issues, and then I need to import my Evernote content into Notion.

Food

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Even though I’m technically taking a break from the productivity project, I’m working on a spinoff, simplifying my meal plan so it doesn’t eat up so much of my time. I’m starting with a chicken, vegetable, and rice bowl I used to make last time I simplified, and then in the coming weeks I’ll see how I can make it more interesting and nutritious without much extra time.

People skills

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Getting Past No is the second in William Ury’s negotiation trilogy, and it covers how to handle difficult negotiations. As with the first book, I felt reassured by my impression that principled negotiation can work, but I felt overwhelmed by its complexity, which is fine because untangling complicated things is practically what I live for.

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Weeknote for 9/11/2022

Productivity

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I’m nearly done integrating the tags from the Nirvana import into my databases. Once that’s finished, I’m going to take a break from the productivity project to take care of some life maintenance tasks that’ve been piling up, and then I’ll come back for the Evernote import.

Nature

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After much waiting and procrastinating and researching and packaging, I finally shipped the binoculars I got for Christmas to be repaired. They’re on their way to the UK for collimation, and maybe when I get them back, I can use them to take some better nature photos.

People skills

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Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman gave me a practical and scientific framework of emotional skills to hone and reminded me I have a whole lot to learn about the brain. And Goleman joined the chorus of authors making the welcome case that relating well to others requires tending to your own emotions.

Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton whetted my appetite for principled negotiation. Along with other books in this project, this one starts to solve a problem I have in many areasโ€”how to implement my ideals in effective ways while responding with integrity to the derailing forces other people are bringing into the situation.

Programming

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Composing Software by Eric Elliott introduced me to elements of a functional approach to software design. Since I was mostly listening, many of the topics whizzed by me, but a few caught my attentionโ€”abstract data types, his take on OOP history and characteristics, object composition, transducers, code style, TDD, and decoupling.

TV

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Russian Doll is an odd show, but it’s made a home in my head. It’s the smart kind of soft sci fi that uses its reality-bending powers for narrative good, pressuring its characters into grappling with their issues.

Fiction

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The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks roared to an interesting finish, which mostly made up for the long, slow start and some unlikeable characters. I kind of want to live in The Culture, which is like the Federation if it were run by superintelligent AIs.

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Weeknote for 9/4/2022

Productivity

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Last week I made lots of progress on integrating my Nirvana import into my Notion setup. This week I’ll try to finish that and return to the Evernote import.

I’ve spent the past several weeks streamlining the process of writing these weeknotes so I finish them sooner while maintaining their quality. My initial experiments made the writing take even more time, but I think this two-sentence format will work as both a quick report and a conversation starter.

My boss started an occasional lunchtime discussion group for a few of us who are into productivity systems. There are endless opportunities to learn about productivity and discuss it online, but it’s a different experienceโ€”reassuring and energizingโ€”talking about things in a group in person.

Programming

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SQL: A Comparative Survey by Hugh Darwen might be where I start when I learn SQL more seriously because the book aligns its discussions of the language so carefully with its explanations of relational theory. But my reading will also include a book or two by SQL defender Joe Celko, who I discovered while researching Darwen and Date’s views.

Politics

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After the Fall by Ben Rhodes gave me more details on Russia’s struggles with democracy and a better perspective on China’s. I admit I’m susceptible to the formula of making a situation sound dire and then relieving and motivating the audience with potential solutions, and I did feel more hopeful at the end, though the author’s optimism was based more on the general possibility of solutions than on specifics.

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Weeknote for 8/28/2022

Productivity

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I finished replicating most of my Nirvana task management in Notion so that it’s in a usable state. This week I’ll integrate the task and project properties I migrated from Nirvana into my existing Bulletproof setup, and maybe I’ll get back to importing my Evernote notebooks.

Programming

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Data-Oriented Programming by Yehonathan Sharvit (author’s related blog posts) affirmed for me that there’s a disciplined way to part from object-oriented design and manage your software’s data separately from its functions. I’m looking forward to trying this style on some project in the near future, and I even feel motivated to learn Clojure at some point (don’t tell Haskell), since data-oriented programming was inspired by it.

People skills

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Braving the Wilderness by Brenรฉ Brown was a validating and challenging manifesto on fostering true belonging in our divided society. I was hoping for a bit more detail in her advice, but it was motivating and a little intimidating to hear a vigorous case that the kind of bridging I aspire to is not just a private wish but something I should gather the courage to do.

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The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker (TED talk) gave me a road map for making the meetings and get-togethers I find myself hosting more meaningful. It was refreshingly deep and principle driven and covered a range of gathering types, from the avant-garde (her preference, apparently) to the everyday (my preference).

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Weeknote for 8/21/2022

Productivity

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Last week I struggled with importing my Evernote notes into Notion, but I settled into a groove on transferring my Nirvana tasks. I still have a few more days of work on that, but I’m going to finish integrating Nirvana before I try again with Evernote.

Programming

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An Introduction to Relational Database Theory by Hugh Darwen revealed to me the hidden predicate logic that underlies relational databases. It dovetailed nicely with the insight I’ve gleaned from both my productivity system and my recent programming at work, that finding simple, consistent ways of slicing a task can dramatically enhance your power to work with it.

Coffee

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Barissimo Adventure Blend Ground Coffee: 4/5. Brewing it tastily was no problem this time, so whatever was happening last time, I’d say this is another good everyday coffee.

Personal development

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Give and Take by Adam Grant was a satisfying tour through the intricacies of generosity. It got me to examine my own reciprocity style and where I’d like to move it in “otherish” directions, a style that emphasizes giving without leading to burnout or victimization.

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Weeknote for 8/14/2022

Productivity

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Last week I replicated my Nirvana setup in Notion as a starting point for my task management. This week I’ll work on moving my Evernote setup to Notion, which will transfer over both a bunch of content notes and some more pieces of my project management.

Personal development

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Daring Greatly reintroduced me to Brenรฉ Brown’s work on shame resilience. It alerted me to the need both to learn these skills before I venture into shame-prone situations and to learn ways to communicate and persuade that foster others’ resilience and avoid triggering shame.

TV

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I finished season 3 of The Orville, and the show keeps getting better. Charly’s and Topa’s storylines stood out to me, especially watching what Topa’s situation brought out in the other characters.

Music

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I’ve been adding to my old dubstep playlist. I hadn’t touched it in several years, but a few weeks ago I stumbled back onto it as an energy source to help me get moving when I’m tired.

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Weeknote for 8/7/2022

Productivity

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I began looking at ways to implement my productivity system in Notion. I chose three processes from the system to focus on, and I began describing the first one, task management, which I currently do in Nirvana. This week I’ll finish describing how that process works and explore how I might create a Notion version of it.

Programming

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Patterns of Software by Richard P. Gabriel took me on a welcome side trip through programming philosophy. It’s a loose collection of essays on a cluster of themes centered around the author’s career in software development. I was interested because it seemed like a unique and thoughtful big-picture look at patterns in software development. And other than maybe the long autobiography toward the end, the book didn’t disappoint.

It started off with a bang with a foreword by Christopher Alexander, the patterns architect himself. After that the book gave me a better picture of Alexandrian patterns and reinforced my sense they were deep water worth exploring. I was especially struck by the point that patterns are about promoting a certain quality of vitality and not just generically solving common problems. Another essay drew some intriguing and useful parallels between natural language and software design. Later essays made arguments about programmer productivity and product success that I found rather depressing at first, but on a second reading I saw them less as an attack on me personally and more as a look at systemic issues in the software industry and at the nature of design and the market. Gabriel even persuaded me I should study poetry for the lessons it can teach on writing prose. It’s a book worth revisiting.

Music

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I’ve been making a playlist of reflective muted piano music. It’s a style I run across occasionally, notably in Thomas Newman soundtracks, but outside of those it’s not easy to find examples. So I’m collecting them. It’s great background music for writing. And some of it will get added to my playlist for contemplative dusk walks.

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Weeknote for 7/31/2022

Productivity

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I finally finished recreating the Bulletproof Workspace in my Notion workspace. It took about three times as long as I was expecting. But now I know even more about Notion, and that puts me in a great position to do my planning over the next couple of weeks. I want to look at the various pieces of my life management system and how I can use Notion’s features to do the same things but hopefully better.

Programming

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The Art of Agile Development by James Shore and Shane Warden will probably be the first book I study when I get back to my software development notes. It covers pretty much all the key areas, and it goes into enough detail to support some specific planning on my personal tools and procedures. This book is a lot like Howard Podeswa’s Agile Guide to Business Analysis and Planning. I think of them as book-length flowcharts in prose form. But Podeswa looks at Agile from outside the developer team, so it was nice to see someone on the programmer side taking the same comprehensive, nuanced, practical approach.

Skill development

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Mindset by Carol Dweck got me to look at the ways I limit myself. The book largely consists of impressive examples of people embodying the philosophy she’s promoting, the philosophy of embracing failure for the purpose of growth and of encouraging others to do the same. It gives me a bunch of stories to mine someday for experiments to try. And it got me thinking about ways I’ve developed a growth mindset over the years and areas where I’m still in a fixed mindset. I began considering that I might be able to substantially raise the skill ceilings I’ve tacitly set for myself, such as in music.

Regardless of her work’s controversy, Angela Duckworth’s Grit left me with an appealing vision for personal development. It’s the idea that persistently and thoughtfully developing work around a benevolent passion over a long period can form the basis for a profound influence on the world. I’m somewhat less interested in how exactly that works out in specific statistical measures, although I know that’s important.

Music

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I found Blake Robinson’s orchestrated Chrono Trigger arrangement, and it was like the soundtrack bloomed before my ears. Chrono Trigger was my first RPG, and it’s still one of my favorite soundtracks, but its audio quality reflects the limitations of its 16-bit console. That style has its own charm, but the Blake Robinson album showed me orchestral arrangements can add a new dimension. Literally. I found myself imagining scenes from the game in HD 3D. His arrangement brought out aspects of the music that had always blended into the background for me. And it even showed me the appeal of tracks I’d never cared for, such as “Tyrano’s Lair,” which stuck in my head.

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Weeknote for 7/24/2022

Productivity

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I am this close to having my Notion workspace in a usable state. Last week I set up 90% of the Bulletproof Workspace. This week I’ll add the finishing touches, and then I’ll start adapting it to my system. I’m looking forward to implementing in Notion the features of my system I’ve been conducting in Nirvana, Evernote, and Google Sheets. Bulletproof is available as a template for $150. But implementing it myself taught me important features of Notion, notably database templates, relations, and rollups. I still need to learn about formulas to complete the setup.

Some of Bulletproof applies more obviously to a business than to an individual’s personal life. For example, I might get used to referring to the organizations I deal with as “brands,” but it’s hard to see how I’d have sales stages for most of them. But it’ll be interesting to see if I can adapt Bulletproof to my life-as-a-business approach. I’m especially curious about finding possible objectives and key results to track.

People skills

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Conversation Analysis: An Introduction by Jack Sidnell reminded me how much I value the tool of close reading. The book covers the history, methods, and basic findings of its field by walking the reader through many examples. As I see it, conversation analysis is the equivalent of a close reading in literary criticism, which is an intensive analysis of a text that examines each word or phrase and interprets its meaning and how it fits into the whole piece.

Conversation analysis treats this method as scientific observation that can reveal how conversation works. It treats conversation as machinery that people use together to accomplish certain actions using mechanisms that conversation analysts call practices. There are practices for greeting someone, exchanging names, taking turns, making offers, acknowledging irony, starting a story, repairing conversational problems, ending a conversation, and more.

Close reading is half my MO for grappling with any complicated issue. If I can get a basic model of conversation and a method for closely reading it, I can use conversation’s hidden machinery to understand and engineer solutions to problems in conversational situations that I can’t solve intuitively yet, that leave me stuck in my ruts. My sense is that studying this book would put me well on my way.

Food

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Barissimo Adventure Blend Ground Coffee: 3/5. I had a rocky start with this one. It seemed hard to control the sourness. Then it somehow evened out, so I don’t know what to make of that. But I accidentally bought another bag, so I’m giving it another chance.

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