Weeknote for 5/9/2021

Blog

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A couple of housekeeping notes about changes in the next month or so.

I’ll be ending or replacing the audio version of the posts. The audio service I’m using for the blog is a good one, but it costs more than the use I’m getting out of it. There are some free services I’ll look at again.

I’m switching to a different email subscription service. Google is ending FeedBurner’s email subscriptions in July, so I’ll be looking for another provider.

Productivity

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My time management system is continuing to improve. Every few days I think of a new change to try. You may have noticed I’ve posted the last few blog updates on time. Sunday is the deadline I’ve had in mind since I started my weeknotes, but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I decided to imagine I had a weeknote presentation Sundays at 5pm I had to be on time for. That’s done the trick, at least for now. It also helps that I give myself a couple of hours to write the post. My time management changes have begun merging the two different systems I’ve been using at work and at home. I’m using my work timer for some of my home tasks, and this week I’ll try planning out my work day with time blocks.

Productivity for INFPs by Amanda Linehan nudges me to experiment with intuitive planning. Like The Art of Procrastination, it highlighted the importance of individual differences when it comes to managing life. She wrote the book (or the blog posts that became the book) because the typical productivity advice didn’t work for her and she found her own techniques that do. The book was another good catalyst for reflecting on how I work, since as an INFJ, I have a lot of overlap with INFPs. Interestingly, it seems that one way we differ is that Linehan wanted to focus on the intuitive side we share that I typically discount. It makes me want to experiment with paying more explicit attention to my intuition when I’m planning. However, I’m not giving up my lists! She trusts her mind to remember much more than I trust mine.

Making It All Work by David Allen is a large and familiar stepping stone on my current path to revamp my productivity system. I’ve read both this book and Getting Things Done before, and since GTD is basically how I like to work and I reread GTD last year, I thought it’d be good to reread MIAW. This book is a slightly different angle on the system and goes into more depth on certain topics. Actually right now my path for this project is like ice, and I’m sliding down it freely. Thanks to my familiarity with GTD and its compatibility with the way I think, along with the progress of my outlook since last time I visited it, it’s sparking many thoughts. Allen is right: Returning to the material does reveal new insights.

Finances

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I came up with a ballpark estimate for disability insurance. My sources say to expect a premium of 1-3% of your income, so I went with 3%. A slightly intimidating number, but still doable. I’m training myself to think of disability insurance as just another given of financial life, like health and auto insurance. My employer’s benefits already include both short- and long-term disability coverage, but I may want to supplement it to cover a larger percentage of my income and so I can hopefully have some coverage in case of unemployment. Later in this project I’ll look into the specifics of buying the insurance.

I found out I’m already in the advised range for retirement saving. I’ve seen ranges of 12-15% and 15-20% of your income, including any employer contributions. If I’m reading my numbers right, I’m at 15.6%. Next I’ll look at retirement savings advice in more detail, because I’m still confused about things like how inflation fits into these calculations.

Housekeeping

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I’ve been getting my old CRT TV ready to sell. Now that my cleaning is under control, I’m starting to add tidying to my housekeeping time. The first item on that agenda is the big TV taking up space in the corner of my living room. This will probably lead to organizing my closet, since it’s been annoying digging through my storage boxes to find the equipment I need to test the TV. My digging has already unearthed a digital kitchen scale I forgot I had, a thing I was about to buy, so who knows what other treasures I’ll find?

Health

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Wednesday was my latest ulcerative colitis treatment, two weeks overdue. I’ve had some run-ins with our complicated medical bureaucracy in the past, but this time it stepped its game up a level. My pharmacy entered some kind of business arrangement with another pharmacy, which was now supposed to be handling my medication. But they couldn’t fill it because of the way my insurance was classifying my treatments. With help from the specialist nurse at my doctor’s office, I spent the month of April making many phone calls to resolve the situation. I got switched to yet another pharmacy, and after a few more calls they worked out how to get my medication shipped to the treatment center.

This experience has revealed to me that it really can pay to be your own advocate and not just trust the system to get the right things done. I’m grateful to my nurse for encouraging me to take this approach. It actually felt pretty empowering. But I know a lot of people have even more tangled and stubborn situations than mine, and it seems like there should be a more systemic solution than expecting everyone to manage the bureaucracy from the bottom up.

Technology

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I started setting up my new Surface. My 5-year-old Surface Pro 4 was physically breaking, the screen bowing outward and starting to separate from the frame, which my work Surface had also done. So I ordered a new one, a Surface Pro 6, which isn’t the newest model but almost as good, and I saved $500. Last time I thought I’d use my Surface as just a dumb terminal to my desktop, but it ended up being my main computer, so this time I got the highest specs I could, 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive. I was a little uneasy buying it from a random third party supplier over Amazon, but despite being an old model, it was sold new, and so far so good.

Unlike some people, I don’t get excited about setting up a new computer. I’m just trying to get stuff done, so interrupting myself to spend hours replicating my setup is a chore. But I have the basics done so it’s usable for my everyday purposes, and the rest I can set up as I need it. I can even treat some of it as housekeeping, since I have a mountain of files that need to be tidied.

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Weeknote for 5/2/2021

Productivity

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My time blocking is still working. In terms of productivity, this is basically the minimum state I’ve wanted to reach, being able to plan a reasonable day and do it. The few times I’ve gotten to this point, it hasn’t lasted, though before last year it always fell apart after only a few days or a week. Last year it lasted a while longer. For now this way of living feels very sustainable, and I’m sure a large part of it is that I’m getting more sleep. Another factor is that Elastic Habits is giving my schedule more purpose and specific guidelines, to maintain my chosen habits.

I’m reworking my productivity system. This involves rethinking the projects I sort tasks into and regularly assessing how my productivity techniques are going. I’m treating these system updates as a project and giving them time in my daily schedule.

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll is a 2-in-1 productivity system and general self-help book. Since I’m done with financial books for now and productivity is one of my current themes, I’m going through some productivity books before I get to entrepreneurship. I figured the official bullet journal book would be a good source of ideas for ways to revamp my system, as well as ideas for analog information management, which is a topic of interest to me.

The book surpassed my expectations. It’s well written, incorporates the kinds of techniques I would use from software development, and suggests ways to use your BuJo to help you find meaning, set goals, and deal with life’s troubles. I might try bullet journaling. I can think of some uses. But I’m addicted to the power of digital information management, so I’d need to think carefully about the role each system should play.

The Art of Procrastination by John Perry is a funny though wordy book organized around a few good ideas. It’s for people who get things done in order to put off more important things. It doesn’t seem to be relevant to my life right now, though it has been at other times, but the advice seems helpful. It did get me thinking about the way I work.

One tip that did seem helpful to me is to work with people who aren’t procrastinators. I have noticed that it’s easier to stay on task this way, and so when my friends tell me they’re putting something off, I ask them about their task in case the conversation helps them get started. This is one way journaling my work can be helpful for me. It’s the next best thing to conversation. I should make more consistent use of it.

Housekeeping

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I was able to spend less time on cleaning. I took care of some more catch-up cleaning and only needed about half an hour each day. This left me a lot more time for project work, which is the balance I’m looking for.

I reduced my big cleaning schedule down to a one-page checklist. I found out most things in my apartment don’t need to be cleaned every week, so my new schedule is to clean everything “as needed.” But I don’t always remember where to look, so I made a list based on the original schedule. It’s literally a checklist of things to check to see if I need to clean them.

Finances

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I finished planning my savings goals for technology, clothing, and home goods. In addition to the cost of each item, I spent some time adding three other pieces of info: (1) On a scale of 1 to 5 I rated the certainty that I wanted to buy each item. (2) I estimated the time frame I was planning to make the purchase (in 1 month, half a year, 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years). (3) Using the same set of durations, I estimated how often I’d need to replace the item.

I wondered if I was wasting my time deciding all this, but it turned out the certainty ratings and initial purchase time frames were helpful for planning what to buy now. And using the time frames to calculate the monthly costs told me my existing budget for clothing and miscellaneous purchases was pretty accurate. The monthly costs also gave me a number for my tech budget.

I fixed my emergency fund calculation, and now it looks more manageable. Next I have some scary numbers to add in, like health and disability insurance.

Principles of Economics by OpenStax gives me a basecamp for exploring economic thinking. I realized a few months ago that economics is one of the frameworks I see life through. I’m always thinking about how to make decisions and plan using limited resources and how to increase my outcomes along various values. But I understand this way of thinking in a very piecemeal fashion. It’s nice to have a whole field to explore where people have worked out many of the issues in a disciplined fashion. This textbook will be a good resource to return to as I work through the details.

A project idea that developed as I listened to all the math flow by is to create a simulation of the world economy from the ideas in this book. It’d be an experiment in learning about simulations, economics, and mathematical modeling. It’d be interesting to see what gaps in the model I’d have to fill with my own speculation or additional research. I don’t know when I’d get around to this project, however.

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Weeknote for 4/25/2021

Productivity

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I’m time blocking again, and so far it’s working very well. My disorganized evenings the week before didn’t leave much time for projects, and I spent most of the time blogging. This highlighted a dissatisfaction I’d been having, that I was developing some good routines that were tangibly improving my life, but only in its day-to-day aspects and not in relation to my longer-term goals. I needed to carve out time for my projects. Returning to an idea I picked up from Cal Newport, I created a new spreadsheet template that lets me plan out blocks of my personal time and then record how I actually spend it. Comparing my planned and actual schedules should help me plan more realistically. And planning out my whole day instead of only part of it should keep my evening tasks from being derailed by a disorderly afternoon.

Housekeeping

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I did a bunch of cleaning. Now that I had a tentative cleaning schedule and a way to reserve time for it, I spent the week trying it out, especially tackling the harder parts that have been burdening my mind with their griminess. I took a different room each day and dedicated an hour to however much I could get done, with exceptions for a couple of rooms that took more work. It definitely feels like my home has entered a new plane of clean. Next my goal is to reduce my regular cleaning time to 30 minutes a day, which I’d like to spend on the Maker Method‘s “express clean” for the day’s room plus one or two extra spots that need attention.

Finances

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I continued researching my simpler financial goals. I spent last week on technology and home goods I might want to buy over the next few years. Thanks to my time blocking, I was able to get through much more of it than before. For this research I’m focusing on how much money I’ll need for these potential expenses and over what time frame. Later I’ll look at how to reach these goals.

Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva (video interview) got me thinking about what to invest in. I rarely hear from Native Americans, so his comments were very interesting and thought provoking. The primary audience for the book is philanthropists, so listening to it was like peeking into another world, but it did get me thinking more seriously about socially responsible investing (Ben Felix’s take), or even the more ambitious concept Villanueva prefers, mission-related investing.

Movies

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Wall Street left me with mixed opinions. I wasn’t a fan of the soundtrack, and I’m sure some of the casting choices could’ve been better. But it’s a very quotable movie (I found out it’s where “Greed is good” came from), and I’m happy to report that the villain is not my only favorite character this time. I also liked Bud’s father, Carl Fox, and his boss, Lou Mannheim, who reminded me of the authors of the investing books I listened to, people in finance who actually have a heart. And thanks to those books, I again halfway understood the plot of the movie. Hopefully once I dig into my own investing decisions, I’ll learn enough to understand four-fifths.

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Weeknote for 4/18/2021

Website

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I updated my website software. I made a WordPress update, which broke the blog, updated my PHP version, which broke the wiki, and updated MediaWiki, which fixed the wiki except for the abandoned extensions I’ll have to replace. The wiki took up my project time on Saturday because it’s less automatic than updating WordPress, which is why I haven’t updated it in a few years, but it took less time than I expected. Now everything is shiny and new, but only behind the scenes.

Finances

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I planned out my simplest goal, my next car. I’ll try saving what I paid for my current one, adjusted for inflation, with a target date of 15 years from that purchase. I’m not sure how used car prices behave over time, but I’m thinking they’ll either rise with inflation or they’ll stay about the same and I’ll be able to buy something more expensive, maybe an electric car. Or maybe I won’t need a car by then, who knows? The world keeps changing.

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator has lessons even for people who aren’t into stocks. It’s the fictional memoir of a stock prodigy’s journey of learning. I recognized some of its advice from other investing books, such as buying as the price is rising from a dip and selling as it’s falling from the peak. If you can wait out the stretches of jargon-heavy narrative, you’ll hear that even a natural has to learn, and learning can be found in any experienceβ€”failure, success, and even partial success. My other key takeaway was that some fields are extraordinarily counterintuitive, so it takes exceptional discipline to succeed at them. Some fields are practically antisocial. In stocks you have to follow the logic of the market and not the pressures of social connections (such as tips, favors, and the enthusiasm of the masses).

Video

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I kicked off my finance movie project with Trading Places. It was okay. My favorite character was the affably evil Randolph Duke. Trying to understand the trading floor scene will be a project in itself. The movies in my project are from this Investopedia article and a Letterboxd list or two.

I found some good YouTube channels on finance. These stand out to me because they seem sensible and well researched. I’ve been watching through their uploads.

Life maintenance

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My whiteboard of life maintenance is filling up. I added a printout of my new cleaning schedule based on Clean My Space. I settled on a one-month table with a column for each week so I can check off each task for that week. The three pages take up the bottom half of the whiteboard in my bedroom. The top half has my Elastic Habits printouts and an empty space that will be filled with a graph for my habit scores, once I figure out how to make it. It all looks very sterile and corporate except for the colorful magnets I’m using to hold up the pages.

 

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Weeknote for 4/11/2021

Productivity

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I’m getting back into GTD. I’m trying to use it as a low-energy activity to stay productive when I’m tired after work. So far I’ve mostly been organizing the uncategorized tasks I’ve accumulated in Nirvana over the years.

Housekeeping

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I decided on a cleaning schedule, and now I need a layout for it. I’m loosely using the schedule in Clean My Space by Melissa Maker, adjusted for Elastic Habits. That is, I’ll do more on some days and less on others, depending on circumstances. I’m trying to find a way to display it so I minimize the amount of printing it takes.

Coffee

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Barissimo Breakfast Blend: 2/5. It was good when I could get it to taste right, but it was finicky and unreliable. It often had the too-sweet problem I had with Dunkin, though not as severely.

Finances

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My next task is to quantify my financial goals. I’ll see if I can do one per week.

Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain made sense to me and pushed me further away from cryptocurrency. It wasn’t exactly a balanced discussion, but if Gerard is missing the point of crypto and blockchain, it at least gives me talking points to research. I do want to look into blockchain and Ethereum sometime just to see how they work.

Investing for a Lifetime takes a deep, mathematical dive into retirement planning. It came at a good time in my reading schedule, since I’m at the point of examining my financial goals and finding strategies to reach them. I may use it as my starting point for studying investing in detail, since he carefully lines up the options and weighs their pros and cons.

How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street takes a deep, amusing dive into the Boglehead three-fund portfolio. I would recommend this one over the similar Larimore book because Roth goes into much more detail. But while Roth tries to keep investing simple, in my experience with these books there’s only so far that can go. There are always caveats and circumstances to consider, and the arguments for the various options get a little involved. It’s hard to sort out while listening. But I was able to pick out some of the factors to compare, which I’ll nail down when I come back and study it. I’m coming to the conclusion that the key to really grasping investing is to make comparison tables and graph a bunch of equations.

With that, I’ve finished the Humble Book Bundle on personal finance and investing by Wiley. All in all an excellent collection. Of course, as a neophyte I can’t properly evaluate them, but I feel they’ve put me in a much better position than I ever have been to understand finance and make financial decisions.

I’m not quite done with financial books. I have the OpenStax economics textbook to finish, a novel, a book on social justice, and some Nassim Taleb to revisit. Then, unless my financial reading list expands even more, I’ll be on to entrepreneurship.

Exercise

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I’m getting used to walking. My goal was to increase my endurance, and now I feel unsatisfied with less than 30 minutes. I’ve rarely ever wanted to challenge myself physically, but I’m starting to see how it could be appealing.

Video

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I’ve expanded the walkthrough travel videos I’m watching. First it was deserts, and now I’m taking my virtual trips everywhere. Here are a few you might like:

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Weeknote for 4/4/2021

Blog

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I’m rethinking how I write these weeknotes. I spent way too much time last week writing my update. And what I was trying to write would’ve taken much more time, but I scaled it back. Since I need to spend that time on my substantive projects, I’m taking a closer look at how to fence in the blogging.

Finances

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I finished my taxes. It was more work than I expected. Next is planning the rest of the project and continuing to improve my budget setup.

I looked into the FIRE movement. That’s Financial Independence, Retire Early. It came up in some of the income videos I’ve been watching. It appeals to me because I’ve been casting around for specific financial goals and strategies, and this movement has them. I’m toying with the idea of Barista FIRE, where you semi-retire and work part time. I suspect the AI work I want to do might involve an uncomfortable pay cut, so it’d be nice to be able to make up the difference.

Cryptocurrency Investing for Dummies still left me wary of crypto. I did end up with a more complete and organized understanding of it, but I’d have to do a lot of paper trading to convince myself crypto’s prices are at all predictable. I still don’t get what fundamentals a cryptocurrency can have that would anchor its value.

Video

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I finished Twin Peaks: The Return. This completes the whole Twin Peaks saga, unless they make another season. I loved this season. It was interesting and weird to the end, and it was more my style of weird than the earlier installments. It was also very confusing, so after the finale I immediately turned to YouTube for commentary. Here’s a fascinating take by Nyx Fears. That was all I got around to, but I’ll watch others later.

Westworld (1973) is disappointing on AI but effective as a suspense and action film. I’ve returned to my AI movie project, which I’ll intersperse with some finance movies. This one is an object lesson on mistakes in risk management. Sometimes our disaster mitigation is too little too late. Michael Crichton was very expository in the two books of his I’ve read, so I was expecting more on the concepts, but evidently that’s not the kind of movie he was making. I did notice it was surprisingly current with the idea that the robots’ developers didn’t understand how they worked and that some of the designs were produced by computers. My next AI “movie” will be the Westworld TV series.

Outdoors

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I accidentally found out I can visit the lake closest to home. I thought it was strictly functional and blocked off by trees, but it turns out there’s a path around it. So now I have a new everyday walking spot.

 

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Spirituality

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Happy Easter!

I made a tentative daily schedule of liturgies from Every Moment Holy. Even though Lent is over, this project will continue. Next I’ll experiment with following the schedule.

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Weeknote for 3/28/2021

Finances

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I got partway through my taxes. I did the time-consuming part of organizing my records. Maybe this year I’ll organize as I go. Anyway, I’ll finish the taxes this week.

I watched a bunch of videos on diversifying one’s income (example). My reactions to the advice have been mixed, but it’s given me ideas.

I listened to articles on poverty. These personal finance books make financial responsibility sound expensive. How is there any hope for poor people to do it? Judging from the articles, there are societal factors working both for and against low income earners. The most informative was a paper by PolicyLink. I don’t know yet what I’ll do with this information.

While researching poverty, I found out how to be extremely frugal (example). It reminded me that money is not the only resource to consider when weighing costs. Time, energy, and emotion come to mind. It also reminded me my employer has a tiered contingency plan for different levels of hardship, so I’m thinking of using some of these tips to create a plan of my own.

Productivity

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I started tracking my evening activity again. It did improve my productivity somewhat, but I have more changes to make.

I started journaling again. It began as a way to clear my mind for sleep, but its purposes quickly expanded. I need to evaluate it carefully so it doesn’t take up all my time.

Music

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“Is He Worthy?” is my new favorite song. My church has been featuring it during Lent, and that Sunday it caught my attention and held it captive the rest of the day. And really every day since then, though I mostly avoided listening to it that week so I wouldn’t get tired of it. It came at the right time to blend with some current themes in my life, color my overall mood, and catalyze some ongoing reflection.

Outdoors

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I started walking again by exploring new parks. Health isn’t enough motivation for me to exerciseβ€”I need the experience of nature to draw me out of my home. But since I do need regular exercise and I’m in an organizing mood, I’ve made walking my lunchtime routine, and I spent last week finding places to do it. “Is He Worthy?” gave me an extra spark to get started, because that first day I needed an epic setting to listen to it on repeat, like one of our larger parks with a lake.

The Pocket Scavenger by Keri Smith is a template for creative collecting. I read it on Saturday to add an extra layer of exploration to my walks. I don’t know how closely I’ll follow the book, but it gives me a way of thinking about observing and art making. It’s giving me ideas for other projects too. No surprise there.

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Weeknote for 3/21/2021

Productivity

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I started a new productivity experiment at work. It went very well all week. Instead of letting myself extend my workday several hours to make up for wasted time, I’m only letting myself work between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm, and I can only make up 2 hours on the weekend. If I have more wasted time to make up for, I have to use paid time off. I loathe using PTO for lack of discipline, so it’s sort of a commitment device for staying on task.

My time management after work was far weaker. I was tired at the end of the workday and let myself lounge around doing nothing. This week I’ll apply my workday techniques to my evenings.

Finances

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Thanks to my poor time management last week, I didn’t get around to my taxes. I’ll try again this week.

I waded deeper into trading topics with Investopedia. I listened to sets of articles using these starting points:

These are the aspects of trading that make it feel like magic to me. I still don’t understand them clearly because I was only half listening, but sometimes when I plan to study the material later, the purpose of listening is to give me the gist while simply keeping my mind on the subject and sparking related thoughts. My very tentative idea is to try making a trading bot sometime, if it seems worth the time and effort, once my other financial goals are covered. If nothing else, studying these concepts a little will tell me what’s happening when I’m watching trading streams.

Coffee

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I give Coke with Coffee Dark Blend 5/5. One of my streamer friends was drinking this one day, so I decided to try it. I was a little scared, but it was surprisingly good and not at all bitter. I tasted caramel and vanilla, even though it wasn’t the caramel or vanilla variety. And it was only 70 calories.

Outdoors

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I spent the week watching desert hiking videos. I played them on mute while I was working, with a playlist of drone music in the background. The videos were supposed to cathartically symbolize to myself the desolate, frustrated way I sometimes feel about work, but (1) I wasn’t feeling that way last week, and (2) the videos were surprisingly beautiful and got me curious about nature and hiking. So my plan completely backfired.

I spent Saturday night making a list of parks in my area where I could walk. I felt a strangely sad nostalgia for when I used to do that, as if I couldn’t have continued almost this whole past year and as if I weren’t about to start it up again. Some of the nostalgia was for my overall circumstances at the time, but now it’s time to make new memories in new circumstances.

Spirituality

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Every Moment Holy gives me a lot of good material for the prayers I have in mind. I don’t know Douglas McKelvey’s writing process, but I thought I glimpsed the kind of approach I would take: Think of all the important things to say in the situation, and craft them into some artful form. The audiobook is narrated by a tag team of Fernando Ortega and Rebecca K. Reynolds. Fernando Ortega gave a good, standard reading, and his voice faded into the content. Rebecca Reynolds had a distinctive style that I never really got used to. But it was a very fitting one for a Rabbit Room book. I felt like she should be reading classic children’s literature. And, in fact, she does.

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Weeknote for 3/14/2021

Stormwater management

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I visited a dam with Tim. For my birthday I decided to kick off my stormwater management sightseeing with a trip to the dam that led to this new hobby. The dam keeps the area’s major river from flooding downtown. It was a fairly warm day, but the snow hadn’t all melted, so we had a nice picnic at a table in the middle of a big patch of snow, watched Practical Engineering’s stormwater intro video, and then crunched down a snowy path through the woods to the dam. It’s not huge, but it has floodgates that rise on tall columns, so it looks impressive.

Finances

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I’m researching health and disability insurance to help me plan my emergency fund. So far I’ve reviewed what my personal finance books have to say and made a list of questions to answer.

Sometime soon I’ll map out the rest of this project. I could easily drag it out the whole year, so I need to prioritize my tasks and give myself some deadlines.

I’ll do my taxes this week. Although these books talk about taxes constantly, I’ve been forgetting about actually doing them, so that’s my assignment for myself this week. I use H&R Block’s web app, and this time as I go, I’ll poke around in the sections I always ignore to see what might apply to my future financial activities.

Concentrated Investing argues that with enough skill and effort, you can not only beat the market but forego diversification. It bases this contention on ten or so case studies, one of which was of information theorist Claude Shannon. I’d like to hear a reply from passive investing advocates. But the book concedes that if you, like most people, aren’t prepared for a Buffett level of dedication, an index fund is the way to go. Still, some of the profiles are interesting, and the discussion of the Kelly Criterion seems worth studying.

Pitch the Perfect Investment gives me a mathematical framework for evaluating a company’s fundamentals. It doesn’t say much about actually researching them, so I’d have to supplement it with the other books on stock picking. But overall I found the book satisfyingly methodical yet approachable. And it drew on a lot of the books I’ve been listening to over the past few years, so it felt in tune with the zeitgeist. The later chapters on communication were also helpful, though, of course, I wouldn’t be using them to pitch an investment to a portfolio manager.

Coffee

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I’m organizing my coffee taste testing. I listed all the coffee varieties from Aldi I wanted to try, and now I’m working my way through the list. Here are my latest ratings:

  • CafΓ© Bustelo: 2/5. I liked the aroma, but the taste took some getting used to. Sucralose and the creamer I use mostly worked.
  • Dunkin’ Original Blend Medium Roast: 1/5. On its own the coffee reminded me of vegemite. With any sucralose it immediately became too sweet. I tried two or three cups, couldn’t finish them, and gave up.

I’m avoiding coffee after lunch. My body is usually pretty resistant to caffeine, or maybe my constant fatigue always gave it too much work. Last week I watched Better Ideas tell us not to drink caffeine after noon because it’ll stay in our system past bedtime. I didn’t take this advice too seriously until I rushed to finish my box of CafΓ© Bustelo, got jittery and irritable for the rest of the day, and took two hours to fall asleep. So it seems drinking too much coffee does affect me after all. Maybe with some coffee discipline my sleep will be more consistently restful.

Death

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I processed my friend’s death. Monday evening I posted about it on the forum where I met him. The few days before had some sharp and rather deep dips into sadness, which surprised me. We hadn’t spoken in several years, but it seems I was more attached to him than I realized. It was a suicide, and my thoughts kept returning to how terrible he must have felt to go to such lengths.

But I had good friends who listened sympathetically and a pastor who prayed for me, and I got used to the news, and its intensity subsided. It did spark several trains of thought that I hope will be beneficial. But for my friend and his family, my main hope is that he won’t be forgotten and that they will be able to make their way through grief.

Spirituality

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Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton (conference talk) gets closer to the way I think than other books on the disciplines I’ve read. I recognize myself in many of her reactions to the disciplines, and we share some key values in shaping a set of disciplines. They should be informed by our needs, and they should create a framework that allows our spiritual life to pervade our everyday life.

To help with my prayer project, I’m listening to Every Moment Holy, Volume 1, by Douglas McKelvey. My brother got this for Christmas, and it’s perfect for what I’m trying to do, so I bought the audiobook, and I’ve been listening to a section each day. After that I’ll choose some prayers, condense them, and probably try to memorize them so they’re easy to summon at the right moments.

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Weeknote for 3/7/2021

Hobbies

😎

Sunday, thanks to procrastination, I let my mind wander for quite a while on the web, and I was inspired by two ideas for new hobbies.

I’m adding stormwater management to my local sightseeing. Living in an area that floods fairly often has made me more aware of the way nature encroaches on civilization despite our efforts to keep it at bay, and it’s given me a respect and a bit of awe for the task of stormwater management (interesting and informative video). A while back I signed up for my county department’s email newsletter, but until that Sunday I’d always skimmed over them. This time the strange structure in the email’s photo caught my attention. I decided to investigate, and an epic, hidden world was revealed. Hidden because you barely know it’s there unless you know what to look for. Epic because every day the system stands ready to perform its quiet but massive task of averting floods. Some of it even looks epicβ€”mysterious pumps and large floodgates. And it helps me answer one of the questions in the back of my mind: How does a city work? So now I’m exploring this new layer of my surroundings, and I’ll be making field trips. This will probably get me to revive my practice of visiting the area’s forest preserves, since I haven’t seen them all yet.

I might look into container gardening on my balcony. This one was inspired by my impression that investing is similar to farming: You plant your seeds in the right circumstances for them to thrive, tend them, and wait for them to grow and produce fruit. Then watching one of my streamer friends play Minecraft reminded me that farming is one of my favorite parts of that game, and I thought maybe I should try actual gardening to see what that’s like. I remember hearing at least once in college that gardening is a spiritual discipline, and that’s always seemed right to me. So if my interest continues, I’ll do some research and see what’s involved.

Finances

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I refined my budget and emergency fund. My budget spreads my yearly expenses across the whole year to make sure I’m saving enough for them. But the expenses are staggered throughout the year, so I needed to calculate the year’s starting budget with some of those goals in progress.

For my emergency fund, I imagined losing my job at the worst possible time and having to pay all my yearly expenses rather than only saving a few monthly fractions of them. This made the total more intimidating, so instead of six months of expenses, I might start with three and build up. Next I’m researching the expenses I’ll only have if I’m unemployed (health and disability insurance, maybe others) so I can incorporate those into the emergency fund.

Penny Stocks for Dummies by Peter Leeds is a nice in-depth primer on fundamental and technical analysis. Penny stocks are more vulnerable to the forces that move prices, so they’re a keyhole through which to view the topic of careful investing and trading. The book’s checklists and flowcharts for making wise trades felt solid. It also sparked the realization that you can base decisions about your own business on the factors in fundamental analysis (how much debt to take on, how much advertising to do, etc.).

The Little Book of Valuation by Aswath Damodaran (Google talk) took me further into the benefits and intricacies of judging the health of a venture. In the context of investing, valuation is the process of determining what a company is worth so you can compare it to the company’s stock price. Some features of the book that stood out to me: (1) It discusses valuation measures for each stage of a company’s lifecycle and offers ways an investor can benefit from even a failing company. (2) It discusses techniques for special cases, such as companies with intangible assets, which apparently accountants don’t evaluate well.

The Little Book of Investing Like the Pros is another rich resource for learning and planning. It puts valuation in the context of an overall procedure for active investing. This book could be a good way to learn about accounting and investing concepts, since I’d have to look up 10 terms on every page. But I got the gist of their approach, and it was the kind of process I would use: Progressively narrow down the stock choices, decide what to do based on the stock quality and my overall plan, then monitor and adjust.

Common Stocks and Common Sense takes a case study approach to its advice, which helpfully gives me a lot to analyze. Hearing about a value investor’s work reinforces my sense that this is the approach I’d take if I were picking stocks. It appeals to my preference for sifting through a pile of options to find the one that feels best based on careful research and weighing the relevant factors. To the other ideas of value investing I’d already picked up, this book added the idea of looking for a large safety margin.

Sleep

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I learned (again) I can go to bed earlier with proper motivation. My bedtimes had been pushing the limit, but Thursday’s was 15 minutes too late for me to count it as a win. In Elastic Habits you get one patch per two-week period to make up for a missed habit. I decided I could patch Thursday’s sleep time if I got to bed a little earlier the next day, and I managed 10:00. This reminds me that it’s possible and just takes planning throughout the evening rather than ignoring my target bedtime until the last minute.

Death

😒

An online friend died. I found out a couple of weeks ago, but I waited to talk about it until I could find more news. Thursday I found an obituary and other confirming information. And I felt I needed to tell the community we were a part of, which forced me to face the situation. It’s been hard. I may have more to say about it next week.

Posted in Death, Gardening, Money, Sleep, Stormwater management, Weeknotes | Leave a comment