Weeknote for 1/22/2023

Productivity

😐

I found two recipes to start off my new meal plan experiment. The idea is simple bowls that take minimal preparation. I chose Lentil Quinoa Bowl and Mediterranean Farro Salad.

This week I’ll work on reformatting my project tracking in Notion to give me adequate information with less work. My current listening on #noestimates, #noprojects, and measurement should be helpful.

Food

🙂

I stepped into tea nerdery with my new Ali Shan oolong steeped in my new gaiwan. My sister bought me the tea, which is smooth and mild. The gaiwan is taking some practice to pour without spilling too much. These were both recommendations of Fredrik Knudsen (Ali Shan, gaiwan).

Posted in Cooking, Productivity, Project management, Tea, Weeknotes | 2 Comments

Weeknote for 1/15/2023

Productivity

🙂

I scheduled my movable personal projects around my fixed ones. My year’s plans ended up looking like this: life maintenance, programming, arts, math, and AI. I’m sure the plan will change as the year goes on. I also scheduled my fixed work projects, and this week I’ll try to add some movable ones, although I have less control over that schedule.

For the next couple of weeks I’m working on my productivity system. The updates will cover some combination of these: streamlining my cooking, reworking my project notes format, starting a media tracker, and planning a new schedule tracker.

Health

😐

I’ve tested negative twice for COVID over this weekend, so it’s back to normal life this week. I still need to decide whether testing out of full isolation is helpful in immune-suppressed cases like mine.

Fiction

😎

Eragon drew me back into a high fantasy mood. This was another series Jeremy’s been begging me to read. I tried reading it years ago, but I gave up immediately because it sounded like stereotypical fantasy, and I was tired of that. But I’ve had a long break from high fantasy, so I was ready to try it again. Plus Jeremy insisted it wasn’t cliché. And he was right! I found it sophisticated and intriguing, and I settled into it much more easily than Twilight. I’ve already placed a hold on the next book, Eldest.

Posted in COVID-19, Fiction, Productivity, Weeknotes | 2 Comments

Weeknote for 1/8/2023

Health

😐

I came down with COVID over the weekend, just in time for New Year’s. Compared to my bout in May, it’s been less of a trial this time. I had two days of fever and since then just a congested cough and occasional sore throat, and I haven’t bothered with any medicine. The CDC and the doctor suggest I can return to the office Wednesday, though I might wear a mask while I’m there, depending on my test results.

Productivity

🙂

I scheduled my fixed projects for the year, the ones with deadlines. Those are Lent, taxes, some possible gardening, October media, Christmas, and miscellaneous housekeeping at the end of each season. I’m displaying the schedule in a timeline view in Notion. It’s giving me a much better picture of how much time I have for other projects. I’ll schedule those this week.

AI

😎

ChatGPT has been whirring in the background. I’ve been collecting sources to follow and, of course, more ideas for prompts and projects. I’ve also been sketching an outline for a prompt guide to help myself write them more easily. We’ll see if I get anywhere with that. It’s even gotten me back into learning machine learning to give me an idea of how generative AI works. I’ve started listening to François Chollet’s Deep Learning with Python. We’ll see if that goes anywhere too.

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Weeknote for 1/1/2023

Christmas

😌

The week of Christmas felt more normal and relaxed. By Christmas our family crises had settled, and we enjoyed our traditional Thanksgiving-Christmas dinner, a long nap, and finally in the evening, opening the tree presents.

My family gave me books, of course—mostly theology and spirituality, plus the Bruce Hornsby Anthology so I could study some piano rock. They also gave me a few cans of Wolf hot dog sauce (a favorite of mine that’s hard to find), Ali Shan oolong tea (recommended in Fredrik Knudsen’s tea stream), and a Nature Creation herbal relief pack to study its tea blend potential.

On Tuesday I drove two hours to see my old college roommate Jason. I met his adorable and friendly dog, and then we had a picnic and a walk at a nearby park, having our usual in-depth conversation about life, which we continued back at his place until he considerately kicked me out at five so I wouldn’t have to drive the whole way back in the dark. This sent me home into a beautiful sunset.

Wednesday I flew back to Chicago, saw my apartment building from the plane, and took a nostalgic train ride home, remembering the rides back in my college days. Besides my college friends, the only thing missing was the old Ogilvie food court.

Christmas labels

🙂

My gift labels this year were tea bag tags I made based on customer-created teas from Adagio that contained the recipients’ names. I attached the tags with strings to the wrapped tea tins. I chose a variety of flavors in case we wanted to share them, but for various reasons that didn’t end up happening. My favorite blend was The Amazing Kimberly, simply because it was such a fun project idea—two friends designing blends inspired by each other.

Finances

😐

I fit in a bit more investing research. I started a spreadsheet to test how I could rebalance my portfolio by changing my contributions to different assets. That helped me decide that mutual funds probably fit my medium-term investing needs better than ETFs. I’m putting this project on hold now for my project planning project, but I expect to come back to it soon.

Productivity

🙂

I’m spending the first two weeks of January planning out my year. My motivation is the cramped project schedule I ran into at the end of last year. It was a problem that these days feels very preventable. Planning the whole year is also a natural extension of my expanding planning scope over time, from hourly to daily to weekly and now yearly. Monthly has been there all along with my project months, but now I’m planning my projects with more care and context.

I’ll plan the fixed schedule projects first, such as Christmas and taxes. Then I’ll plan other high-priority projects around them, balancing the various areas of my life. I’ll also define some monthly or quarterly routines, such as invoicing. Of course, the plan is all subject to change.

Fiction

🤔

Twilight was an engrossing listen with intriguing lore, some thrills, and an uncomfortable amount of wish fulfillment. It did take about half the book to get going though. My friend Jeremy has been begging me for years to read this series, and in December I didn’t have anything else pressing to listen to, so I decided to finally go for it. I liked it enough that I’ll probably continue the series … eventually.

Posted in Christmas labels, Fiction, Holidays, Money, Productivity, Weeknotes | 2 Comments

Weeknote for 12/25/2022

Christmas

😕

The first half of my Christmas vacation was a big mix of good and bad. On the good side, I finished my gift labels on Monday before I left and my wrapping on Tuesday when I got there, my sunrise flight gave me a beautiful sky to photograph, I took some nice walks, and I got to see my family.

On the bad side, we had an illness and an injury, and it got way colder than I was packed for, all of which put a damper on our usual Christmas activities and caused me some stress. But journaling brought me through it.

Finances

😐

My current project is updating my finances, though it’s been crowded out by everything else. The goal is largely to initiate my medium-term and emergency fund investing. I gave myself a small start while on vacation with some research on lazy portfolios.

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Weeknote for 12/18/2022

Christmas

😐

In the crush of activity the last week before vacation, I made slight progress on the gift labels. I’m hoping I can plan next year to spread out my winter projects enough to avoid this kind of time wreck.

🙂

I took a trip down memory lane to listen to the old Christmas stories from my label project from a few years ago (main stories and extras). I wasn’t sure what background music would be fitting for my listening, but I picked a fantasy Christmas playlist, and that has become my theme playlist for the season.

People

🙂

On Friday our department at work had a Christmas party. We played Fun Facts, which is a nice ice breaker that tests your knowledge of the other players, and Just One, a twist on a Taboo-style word guessing game. We also had an anonymous gift exchange, a hybrid between Secret Santa and White Elephant. I gave a wooden puzzle set and picked up the book Brand Luther about Martin Luther’s relationship with publishing, contributed by my fellow ebook producer, Matt. Matt won the food spread with his realistic yule log cake, complete with meringue mushrooms. It was all a welcome break from a stressful day before vacation.

TV

🤔

I finished the last season of Mr. Robot. I have mixed feelings about the ending, but overall it was a great show. It was the kind of show that ratchets up the scope and drama with each season, so in later seasons I had to plan my watching for days when I’d have time for a whole episode. It also seemed to be the kind where character development takes priority over plot and logic, which I can respect to a certain degree, but really I’d like both. The computer hacking seemed authentic though, at least what they showed on screen.

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Weeknote for 12/11/2022

Christmas

😐

Last week was taken up by Christmas shopping, so I barely touched the label project. Maybe this week. This year I’ll be at my parents’ house for Christmas instead of somewhere unfamiliar with fewer art and technology resources, so I don’t feel as much pressure to finish the labels before I leave.

Productivity

🙂

My new interval timer for cooking is helping a lot. It matches the structure of my recipes and the pace of my cooking well, and it makes the process more orderly, predictable, and relaxed, so I can plan my schedule around cooking better and procrastinate less.

😎

I researched the historical versions of Gregg Shorthand and learned that the Pre-Anniversary edition may explain the most about the system’s rationale. So I’m supplementing my Gregg Notehand textbook with that. I also settled in my mind that it’s Gregg I want to learn and not Teeline, and at some point I also want to look into a typeable shorthand like Personal Shorthand or Emma Dearborn’s Speedwriting.

AI

🤯

My mind has been gushing with ideas for exploring OpenAI’s new chatbot, ChatGPT. My boss got me to try it out at the end of the previous week. While it has clear limitations, it’s at another level of sophistication and usability from earlier chatbots, and it opens up many possibilities for learning and creative collaboration.

Honestly it’s so uncannily coherent and carries such potential for me personally that I sort of feel like I’ve entered the Twilight Zone. But it’s only been a week-and-a-half, so we’ll see if this blows over or becomes a regular part of my life.

It’s also gotten me to finally pay attention to some of the other sophisticated AI tools that have come out this year. Signing up for ChatGPT gave me access to the image generator DALL-E 2. I signed up at the Hugging Face machine learning community to try out the demo of the image generator Stable Diffusion. There are helpful prompt books for both DALL-E and Stable Diffusion. And I signed up for another chatbot app called Character AI, which lets you create and share personas for the AI to take on, optionally with AI-generated images to illustrate the messages.

ChatGPT is open to the public and free to use till, I think, sometime in March. Here’s a good explainer article, a more technical one, and a more critical one. Here’s one on real-world ways people are already making use of it. And here’s a page of links to much more information about what you can do with it and ways to write your prompts.

And here’s an example from one of my conversations. I asked it to write a story set in a synthwave world.

The year was 2084, and the world had changed beyond recognition. Gone were the lush green forests and open blue skies, replaced by a sprawling metropolis of towering skyscrapers and endless neon lights.

In this world, the city never slept, and the streets were filled with the sound of pulsing electronic beats and the hum of retro-futuristic cars. This was the world of synthwave, and it was all that anyone knew.

At the heart of the city stood a towering skyscraper, home to the most famous synthwave musician of all: Roxy. She was the queen of the genre, known for her mesmerizing live performances and her ability to create entire worlds with her music.

On this particular night, Roxy stood atop the skyscraper, overlooking the city below. With a flick of her wrist, she activated her synthesizer, and the air was filled with the sound of her music.

Down on the streets, people stopped in their tracks, drawn to the hypnotic beats emanating from above. They danced and swayed to the rhythm, lost in the neon-soaked world that Roxy had created.

As she played on, the city itself seemed to come alive, the buildings and vehicles taking on a vibrant, otherworldly glow. It was as if the entire metropolis was dancing to the beat of Roxy’s music.

Eventually, the sun began to rise, casting a warm, golden light over the city. And as the first rays of sunlight touched the skyscraper where Roxy stood, she knew that her music had once again captivated the hearts of the people.

With one final flourish, she brought the song to a close, leaving the city in a state of euphoria. Roxy, the queen of synthwave, had once again proven her power over the neon-lit streets of the city.

Posted in AI, Christmas labels, Cooking, Gregg Shorthand, Holidays, Productivity, Weeknotes | Leave a comment

Weeknote for 12/4/2022

Website

🤔

For my next iteration in weeknote streamlining I’m reducing the number of topics. Basically they need to be topics I have something to say about so I’m not racking my brain. Hopefully you won’t miss the others too much.

Christmas labels

😐

I made moderate progress on the Christmas labels. Other tasks took the front burner, such as my dragged out blog post. Potentially I can finish the labels this week.

Nature

🤔

I’ve been trying to identify a rodentlike creature I spotted at one of my local parks a few weeks ago. I guessed beaver, then otter. Last week I found its possible home, a lodge on the water, and ChatGPT told me muskrat was an option. The animal’s size and lodge appearance seem to fit, so muskrat is my latest guess.

 

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A post shared by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum)

😎

I got a nice image of Jupiter. I took a late walk at the end of the week. The sky was clear, and Jupiter was piercing through the city lights again. So I took another look through my binoculars and seemed to see all four Galilean moons! I was able to grab a good frame from the video on my phone. I identified the moons based on Sky and Telescope’s simulation.

 

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A post shared by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum)

Posted in Christmas labels, Holidays, Nature, Website, Weeknotes, Writing | Leave a comment

Weeknote for 11/27/2022

Holidays

😐

I’ll need another week or two on the Christmas labels. I reached a major mile stone last week, but after achieving this 90% mark, I find I have 90% left to go. But this project is giving me lots of data for planning next year’s edition.

🙂

I had a pleasant solo Thanksgiving again this year. My dinner mostly plopped onto my plate from cans, but I did somehow spend a couple of hours longer in the kitchen than I expected baking green bean casserole and pumpkin muffins. I compensated with an environment made of fall candles, my “community folk” test playlist, and a Thanksgiving kitchen ambience playing on the TV to pretend someone more prepared was around to do the cooking. I ate my meal with good old Doc and Marty and felt stuffed afterward. And had lots of leftovers.

Productivity

🤔

I’ve made one of my interval timers for cooking. I noticed the recipes I make all take the same basic shape, so I’m trying a timer that’s specific enough to guide and push me along while being general enough that I don’t need a new timer for each recipe. I’m hoping it will let me focus enough on each task to find ways to streamline them. Right now the timer is at 1.5 hours, and I’m hoping to get it down to 45 minutes.

Programming

🙂

Practical SQL by Anthony DeBarros (2018) led me to a better grasp of the language. I’ve used SQL here and there over the years, but I’d never learned it from start to finish, so I had several gaps and confusions. Now, thanks to the book’s explanations and the extra reading it prompted, I understand complicated joins, grouping, and the main math functions.

One interesting effect of the book is the way it focused my attention on SQL’s uses. The book was written primarily for journalists analyzing data for stories. It helped me see that SQL is one of those tools non-programmers can learn to make their work much more effective without diving fully into programming. And since the focus was less on the intricacies of the technology, I found myself noticing the significance of people’s purposes for it, things like spotting suspicious spending increases, trends in library usage, or demographic shifts.

Movies

🙂

Back to the Future Part III taught me there’s someone out there for everyone, even eccentric scientists, though it might require time travel. I also learned that I spoke too soon in my Part II complaint about character development. Part III wrapped things up nicely.

Posted in Christmas labels, Cooking, Holidays, Movies, Productivity, Programming, Weeknotes | Leave a comment

Weeknote for 11/20/2022

Christmas

😐

I didn’t quite get to the point I was hoping for with my Christmas labels, but I made substantial progress. I’ll have to finish some final steps after my two-week deadline, but I think I can do most of it in the timeframe I intended.

🤔

I booked my flights for Christmas. I had a bit of environmentalist crisis over it. Air travel is bad for the climate, so I was planning to take the train. But I worried I might be stuck in a bad experience for many hours each way, so I looked up Amtrak reviews, and apparently it has indeed gone downhill since I last rode, partly due to cutbacks during COVID.

I could drive, which I find taxing and somewhat stressful, but I found out for the distance I’m going, flying actually hurts the climate less.

I was gratified to find I wasn’t the only environmentally conscious person uneasy with the trade-offs of train travel. Fortunately, Amtrak is getting a big boost from the infrastructure bill, so maybe someday it’ll be worth the switch.

Personal development

🤔

I think my routines are regimented enough now that I’m ready to try daily journaling again, which I’m calling my daily wrap-up. I’ve made a database template for the page in Notion. The main sections cover worries, gratitude and inspiration, and a retrospective—observations about how I conducted my day. I only started a couple of days ago, so we’ll see if I can keep it up this time.

Music

😎

I attended a piano concert by an acquaintance of mine, Matt Peterson, for his very listenable new jazz album, Better Worlds. It was a solo performance, but the album features a full band. I bought the CD, which makes great commute music, and the title track quickly got stuck in my head. The album is coming to Spotify in the spring.

Posted in Holidays, Journaling, Music, Personal development, Sustainability, Weeknotes | Leave a comment