Update for 1/14/2017

Productivity

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My laziness at home is being stubborn, so I’m going to start using my productivity tricks, like microtasks (just do one small thing to get started) and implementation intentions (like “When I get home, I will immediately start making dinner.”).

Church

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Sunday I continued my quest for an occasional old-feeling liturgical church. I visited liturgical church #2, another Episcopal one. It was in a beautiful old building I’d driven by a few times before. The congregation was small, about 50 people, with many grey heads, and I worried it was a tired and dying church. But as the service progressed, I saw that it had a lot of energy and affection. There were several children who mingled among the adults, which made it feel like a big family.

The head priest chased me down afterward to talk to me, and we had a brief but nice conversation where he told me a little about the church’s history and showed me their outdoor labyrinth, which was visible as curvy mounds of snow. I don’t know if I’ll choose this church, but I’m glad it’s around.

Futurism

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Tuesday was the futurism meetup again. This time the topic was Big Data, one I’m more familiar with because it’s closely tied to AI, so I had more to say than usual. Of course, in keeping with the tone of the group, some of us were rather worried about Big Data. I don’t feel it’s a huge threat, but the TED talk we watched did bring up some ways it could be abused I hadn’t heard of.

Thinking

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I didn’t say much about this topic last week because I’d procrastinated on the post enough already, but at the moment I see this as my most important set of projects for the year, so at some point I want to expound on my reasons and agenda.

To give you the short version now, the whole range of skills involved in thinking are fundamental to the kind of work I want to do, and it’s about time I brought them from the background of my thoughts to the foreground and studied them properly and put my views in order. I’ve pondered this stuff for years in my spare moments, so there’s a lot to organize and articulate.

I finished Theory and Reality. I gave it 4/5. It’s an overview of a field I’m less familiar with, the philosophy of science, so I can’t evaluate its completeness or fairness. Sometimes I wished he’d gone into a little more depth, but it did leave me feeling I had a really good starting point for exploring further.

Fiction

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Now that Theory and Reality is done, I’m taking a side trip to Scott Alexander’s Unsong (the audio version), and then unless I think of another short one I just have to listen to now, I’m going to dive into Red Mars. I’m expecting that one to be a little hard to follow.

TV

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I’ve had a hard time in the past few months finding shows I want to keep watching. Then The Orville came along, but I quickly ran out of episodes. But now Black Mirror seems to have stuck, and that has a few more episodes to keep me occupied.

Work

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Friday I finished the big commentary series I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. Thanks to my improved planning, I was able to basically coast to the end (plus I didn’t have a real deadline), so it wasn’t as big a relief as some of my past projects. But I am glad that finishing that has put me much closer to being able to work on the programming projects I have in mind. It was also nice to be able to spring the surprise on the people who’ve been waiting for those ebooks. They weren’t expecting them for at least a couple more months.

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In other news, my 5-year anniversary at the company has come upon me, and that means I have to write something to be read for the service award they’ll be giving me in chapel. For the past year I’ve kind of been dreading trying to come up with something for that, but I’ve been reconciling myself to the idea, and in any case I’m finding myself less resistant to harder tasks these days. I think it’s a combination of better habits at work and feeling a little empowered by my analysis project. It also helps that they’ve given me a few weeks.

Posted in Books, Church, Futurism, Productivity, Thinking, Updates, Work | Leave a comment

Update for 1/7/2017

I think my brain was still on vacation last week. Life outside of work was very disorganized and procrastinatory. It seems like all I did was shop online and research and sleep.

New Year’s Eve

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I spent New Year’s Eve hanging out in three Twitch streams at once and chatting on Discord while listening to this countdown podcast from NerdSync.

Life management

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My coat arrived, but I didn’t like the velcro or its tubelike fit, so I’m returning it. I’ll stick with my old coat for now.

I also spent a whole evening ordering a BugZooka to catch bugs that are in my home instead of killing them and a Fidget Pad because I tend to mess with random objects while I work.

Thinking

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This year I want to study various aspects of thinking.

Right now on the theme of analysis and modeling, I’m reading Domain-Driven Design, Learning UML 2.0 andย various UML-related specs, and Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis.

Last week on rationality I listened to Thinking, Fast and Slow, a look at how our conscious reasoning and unconscious intuition work and how they go wrong. I recommend it. This week I’m on Theory and Reality, an introduction to the philosophy of science.

Church

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Inspired by our visit to the Episcopal church on Christmas Eve, I researched liturgical churches in the area to try out over the next couple of months in case I feel the need for one in the future. I visited the first one New Year’s Eve and was surprised by the amount of Spanish in their service. It wasn’t really what I was looking for.

Looking at liturgical churches has gotten me reading about Orthodoxy again, mostly from the website ofย CJS Hayward, an old college acquaintance of mine.

Fiction

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Another book I’m reading off and on is Labyrinths, a collection of short stories and essays by Jorge Luis Borges. Last week while reading it, I realized he’s become one of my very favorite authors. When I’m looking for creative, philosophical fiction writers to read, I’m really looking for more Borgeses. Ted Chiang is one.

Music

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Borges was Argentinian, but his stories make me think of Eastern Europe, so I’ve been listening to Arvo Pรคrt while reading, and looking for more music like his led me to a new genre to explore, holy minimalism.

For Christmas I got the CD version of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II, an important album in the genre. I knew the CD was incomplete, and I’d bought one missing track, but I found out I was still missing a couple. Fortunately, I learned Aphex Twin now has the whole digital album for purchase at his online store. A combination of that and iTunes got me the rest of the tracks, and now I’ll be familiarizing myself with the completed album. It’s all fairly strange, but it has more variety than I expected.

Posted in Books, Church, Clothes, Gadgets, Holidays, Life management, Music | 2 Comments

Update for 12/31/2017

Christmas

Highlights from my Christmas vacation, part 2. I was with my family at our annual gathering at our parents’ house.

Sunday

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Sunday morning we visited an Episcopal church we’d visited the previous year. It was just the liturgical shot in the arm I needed to feel like Christmas meant something. It made me think I want to look for a church like that when (if?) I move to a new area for grad school.

This church also has a #pipeorgan.

A post shared by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

And a #triptych.

A post shared by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

That evening we went to a Christmas Eve service at our usual Baptist church, the one we grew up in. The worship band was very polished. I wondered what it takes to refine the performances to that degree.

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Later we watched Christmas for a Dollar. Usually I only tolerate Christmas movies, but after the first few awkward scenes this one charmed me into forgetting its flaws.

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Then I spent all night finishing my secret project. Literally all night. I usually do stay up late Christmas Eve, but this year I got no sleep. But it was fine. The next day I survived on adrenaline till the afternoon and took a nap.

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What was this secret project? Every year I do something creative for the labels on my Christmas presents. Usually the theme relates to whatever I’m into at the time. This year my theme was futurism, and I made each person a Christmas card (really a short letter) as if we were all living on Mars 200 years in the future and working together at an educational institute. I stole the idea of writing a story from Isaac Arthur’s “Quiet Revolution” video and most of the backstory from his Outward Bound series.

Although it was only a handful of Christmas cards, this was the biggest creative project I’ve done in a while, and I learned a few things. So I’d like to comment on it more in a separate post in the next week or two.

Monday

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Monday was Christmas, and we followed our traditional program of stockings, cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and then the rest of the presents. Abbie is always the gift distributor, and we take turns opening them from youngest person (Kimberly) to oldest (our dad). My Mars cards went over decently well. I had a good time explaining the story.

We didn’t end up taking an official Christmas photo this time, but I did take a couple of Christmas morning candids with my 360-degree camera.

In past years we’d noted that our Christmas dinners were basically repeats of Thanksgiving, but this year we decided to all-out do it on purpose. I say you can never have enough Thanksgiving, so I was happy with this plan. We ended up with leftovers for the rest of the week. Not to mention all the desserts we were already eating our way through.

In the evening Michael placed the last piece of the puzzle.

Later we played Abbie’s new game, Dixit, which I’ve been curious about for ages since hearing it was similar to another game I like, Tajemnicze Domostwo (or Mysterium, if you prefer American). Our lunch game group at work just calls it Polish Ghosts. In both you’re interpreting cards of surreal art. While they’re fairly simple, both games are very challenging, but I enjoy them anyway. They engage parts of my brain that like to be active.

Tuesday

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Tuesday my dad and Abbie and I took our annual trip to Half Price Books for their post-Christmas sale. I bought a couple of Umberto Eco books I’d had my eye on, Foucault’s Pendulum and The Name of the Rose. When I get around to them, I’m thinking of listening to the audiobooks while I read. Could be interesting.

When we came home, Michael was scanning a bunch of our old family photos into the computer. Hundreds of them. I’m very grateful he took on this project, and I look forward to poring over the results.

Over dinner we watched the anime Abbie had given me, Garden of Words. I’d seen it before, which is how I knew I wanted to own it. And I initially watched it because the Internet had shown me it’s very screenshottable. It makes me want to photograph quiet corners of the area where I live that characterize it.

Audible was having a 2-for-1-credit sale, so after looking through the list for books I couldn’t get at a library, I settled on A Deepness in the Sky and Red Mars, the first in a trilogy on the settlement of Mars. It’s reportedlyย very good. If you hadn’t noticed a theme, I seem to be into Mars at the moment. I commented to Michael, who’s read the book, that it’s good I have the Mars globe now for reference, and he said yeah, that would’ve been helpful.

Wednesday

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Wednesday we took Abbie to the airport. When we got home, this bird was hanging out in the front yard we share with our neighbors.

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That night we binge watched some Nova, and I found out birds are actually very smart! This did not help decrease my wish for a pet bird. I found myself researching which ones are the smartest.

I also dug around in a box of old books and discovered a set of Raggedy Ann and Andy books my parents had given me for my first birthday. I’d forgotten about those. I shipped them home to become part of my nostalgia collection.

๐Ÿ˜ฎ

While snooping into books around the house, I found out that one of my mom’s old Bibles I grew up with isย very old. It was a gift to her grandmother in 1927!

Thursday

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I’d brought my winter coat home mainly so my mom could help me restuff it, though it turned out I needed it for the actual weather. Thursday we finally got around to looking at what we could do, and when I found her searching online for a replacement coat, I decided to take her advice and just buy a new one. The one I have is 20 years old. So I ordered an Eddie Bauer, and we’ll see how that is.

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That night our binge watching session was Madam Secretary. Each episode drew me in, even when I tried to escape by leaving the room. I think it was very well cast, and I was happy to see Lilith from Frasier as the Secretary’s chief of staff. I put it in my Netflix queue to probably revisit at home.

Friday

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Friday was my flight, which we thought might be delayed due to snow, but thankfully it wasn’t. Then a trip home via Airport Rides by Jeremy, with a detour to TGI Friday’s for a late dinner.

This was a really nice vacation. We didn’t go out and do much besides a movie, some restaurants, and church, but somehow when I’m with my family, I don’t feel the need to do much.

Life management

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Saturday began my new project to organize my life. For the first phase I’m trying to clean up a pile or two in my apartment each day.

Posted in 360-degree camera, Board games, Books, Church, Clothes, Cooking, Dusk, Futurism, Holidays, Housekeeping, Life management, Movies, Sleep, Spirituality, Travel, TV, Updates, Writing | 2 Comments

Update for 12/24/2017

Worship team

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Sunday the Advent Orchestra had its performance. I thought it turned out well. By that point my tone was pretty good, and I hit most of the notes cleanly. And the songs took turns getting stuck in my head.

I wish I had the endurance to play my part exactly, but when you only play about once a year, high notes take a toll. So to pace myself through the run-through and two services, I wrote some lower parts to play in the spots where my music wandered up to high Fs and Gs. I ended up improvising a little too. It made me wonder what an orchestral jam session would be like.

I also thought a little about what I could do to get myself to play the horn more. I don’t know if I want to join a performing group, but maybe I can find some music to play on my own with recordings.

Movies

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On Sunday Tim and I watched The Last Jedi. 5/5. I think it helped I didn’t have many expectations. I agree with Film Critic Hulk that the film represents a new, broader direction for the series and that this is a good thing.

The other movie I watched last week is in the next section.

Christmas

Here are some highlights from last week’s segment of my Christmas vacation.

Monday

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My flight was on Tuesday, but I took Monday off too so I’d have more time to pack and such. Plus I’ve always liked the idea of tacking some staycation days onto a vacation. I still stayed up late to finish some technology setup, but at least I wasn’t packing in a panic.

Tuesday

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My flight to Texas was on United. They’ve improved their overbooking system. The check-in kiosk asked if I’d volunteer to take a later flight for an additional voucher, so to be nice to my fellow passengers I said yes, but it turned out they didn’t need me.

Wednesday

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Wednesday my siblings and I took our customary walk down some residential streets. We had an interesting time observing the styles of the homes and decorations in the area. We also found this strange object.

Thursday

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Thursday the family had our annual movie outing. This year it was The Man Who Invented Christmas, about Charles Dickens’ writing of A Christmas Carol and its connections with his life. The film was funny, had beautiful sets, and gave an interesting look at the creative process.

That night we started on a 1000-piece puzzle, “Trimming the Tree” by Terry Redlin. We worked on it rather intensely over the next few days. It was fun, but the parts covered by words on the box cover were annoying.

My sister and I gave the game Once Upon a Time another shot, this time joined by our mom. We threw in our two cents, but our mom won rather handily. I was pleased that my part of the story was simpler than the one I tried to tell at Thanksgiving.

Friday

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Friday I accompanied my dad to the cafe where he’s a regular to pick up Sunday’s breakfast pastry. On the way back he told me about the remarkable doughnut shop group he’s a part of. It’s like something out of a novel or a movie, a bunch of older men who meet there daily and chat. This kind of thing.

After that we had a nice time all trekking out to divide and conquer the grocery store. It turns out a family vacation requires a lot of groceries, and we wanted to conserve our mother’s energy. It was over in a jiffy too, after we took some time to split up the shopping list and make sure we understood it.

Saturday

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Saturday night we watched Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was a rewatch for me, and it confirmed that I really do like that movie. While that was going on, I continued work on a secret project that will be revealed in the next update!

Posted in Board games, French horn, Holidays, Movies, Travel, Updates | 2 Comments

Update for 12/17/2017

Project generator

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After months of research and distractions, I’ve finally achieved a first release of this software. I present to you generator-python-cmd v0.1.0! I’ve even posted it on npm for other Node.js users to find. It’s an alpha release, which in this case means it works, but it doesn’t have all the features I want in a production release. There’s a roadmap of future features in the readme file.

Now that that’s done, I’m going to take a break to focus on Christmas and tidying up my life. I’ll probably come back to this project in a month or two.

Christmas

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Speaking of Christmas, I’m flying to Texas this week for our annual family gathering. I’ll be there about a week-and-a-half. I’m looking forward to it, as always.

Books

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I ended last week about halfway through The Stand. It continues to be good. The characters’ trek across the US reminds me of the show Carnivale and the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

The audiobook gets automatically returned around Christmas Day, but I won’t get much listening done while I’m in Texas. So I’ll put it on hold again and finish the rest later. It’s a very long book.

Futurism

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Last week my futurism group discussed the prison system, and my eyes were opened to how broken it is. John Oliver had a good segment on it. Listening to our discussion reminded me of how tame my life has been compared to other people’s.

Social issues

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Thursday I watched the FCC tank the Internet on the livestream of their open commission meeting (“Restoring Internet Freedom” on that agenda). As everyone expected, they voted 3-2 to end their rules that enforced net neutrality, the idea that Internet service providers should treat all traffic the same rather than blocking some of it or throttling its speed.

Strangely, the next day everyone’s Internet didn’t slow to a crawl or get packaged into nickle-and-dime bundles. But even though I think the Internet is better with regulatory safeguards, really I don’t expect things to change quickly or obviously, if at all. People like to panic about politics, but I think the ISPs have at least a little clue about what practices will be bad for business.

Work

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Last week one of my favorite people at work left the company to venture out on a new career path. I’ll miss him, but I think he’ll do well. Hopefully we’ll stay in touch.

I was hoping to finish my big series of Bible commentary ebooks on Friday, but the source files needed more attention than I expected, so I’ll have another week or two of work on them when I get back. That’s still way ahead of our estimated release date, so I’m not too disappointed.

Posted in Books, Coding project generator, Futurism, Holidays, Social issues, Updates, Work | 1 Comment

Update for 12/10/2017

Project generator

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I am millimeters from the first alpha release. Basically I just have to determine what goes in the release notes. After the release and submitting it to npmย for others to use, I’m going to take an official break from this project to take care of some other things, mainly organizing my life.

Website

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The prospect of other developers finding my generator and my website motivated me to finally upgrade the site to HTTPS. That means that in your web browser’s address bar, you should see some indication that my site is secure. It was way too easy to set up for the amount I procrastinated on it.

Books

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I’m still inching through Bonhoeffer’s Advent devotional, which is very thought provoking. It’s satisfyingly jarring to hear him talk about some spiritual principle and then find out it’s from a letter to his parents or his wife. What sound like abstractions are observations about their real situation of being separated by prison walls.

I caught up on Rationality, but I found out the audiobook isn’t finished. They’ve recorded about 47% of it. I bought the ebook, so I could just read the rest, but the readers do such a good job, I’d rather listen. So I’ll try to keep up with it as they release new chapters. But already I feel I’ve been initiated into the ways of Bayesian rationality, and I’m more aware of the community surrounding it, though I haven’t participated yet. I wasn’t planning on diving into critical thinking until after my analysis research, but this book might lure me in earlier.

I haven’t been in the mood for Stephen King since last year when I got only a few scenes into The Stand. But later I put it on hold at the library as part of my Dark Tower listening project, and it finally became available last week, so I decided to give it another try. I was already thinking about existential threats to humanity, so why not a plague? Listening is reminding me how human his stories are. I keep getting wrapped up in the characters’ lives and then remembering that everything’s falling apart and probably none of their worries or hopes will matter in a few days.

Chapel

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Last week’s chapel was an author with a book signing. When it was my turn for a signature, she exclaimed that she knew me, but she didn’t know when or where we’d met. I was surprised because I hadn’t recognized her. I was intrigued, so I did some Facebooking and discovered we overlapped in college. I also recognized her husband and her maiden name, and we had a few mutual college-related Facebook friends. I sent her a message with the answer to the mystery. She replied, “Get away from me, you creep!” Not really, she thanked me. It’s interesting to cross paths with people after so long and see where they ended up.

Technology

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My iPhone battery has been draining way too fast lately. But unlike last time I replaced my phone three years ago, I’ve decided I’m not in a hurry and I can put off losing my headphone jack a while longer. I’d read the Apple Store could replace the battery for me, so on Saturday I went there to have it checked out. Their diagnostics agreed I needed a new one. But it would take an hour-and-a-half to replace, and I didn’t have time for it that day. So I’ll be going back sometime this week.

Worship team

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I didn’t practice my French horn for the Advent Orchestra as much as I’d planned, but I did do some, so I was still a little proud of myself. The performance is next Sunday. As I’d observed in past years, it’s taken about a week for me to feel comfortable playing after my long break. Also as before, I got some exercise unsticking my valves. It’s like I oil them with superglue.

It’s interesting to rehearse with such a wide age range of players–from people older than me all the way down to elementary school. Seeing the students talk after the rehearsals reminds me of hanging around the band hall in my school days. Nostalgia.

Posted in Books, Chapel, Coding project generator, French horn, Hardware, Site updates, Updates, Worship performing | Leave a comment

Update for 12/3/2017

Project generator

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I actually worked on this a bit. I’m very close to the first alpha release.

Books

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While I make my way through Yudkowsky’s Rationality, I’m tacking on Bonhoeffer’s God Is in the Manger. It’s a devotional for Advent and Christmas drawn from letters and such he wrote while in a Nazi prison.

I bought a bunch of software development ebooks for almost half off. These were specific books I had in mind to read on certain themes, mostly software design. I’ve gotten more organized about my reading, so I’m pretty sure I’ll actually get through them.

Right now I’m on Domain-Driven Design by Eric Evans. Although it’s about software development, it applies to several other areas I care about. I’m considering it the first in my series of books on analysis.

I’m also reading Learning UML 2.0 by Kim Hamilton and Russ Miles, because I’m tired of not understanding everyone’s diagrams.

Worship team

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I’ll be in town for our church’s Advent Orchestra performance, so I signed up to play. Our rehearsals start this week. It’s been less than a year since I last picked up my horn, so maybe my lips will be in better shape than usual.

Social issues

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On a heavier note, all this sexual harassment news has been weighing on me. I’m glad it’s all coming to light. I can only imagine the horrible situations the victims faced, and I hope it leads to widespread cultural changes. This is obviously a very big problem.

But I also feel for innocent people who may get swept up in the tide of accusations. It’s the kind of possibility that pushes my buttons, because I value being a safe person for others, but I’m also not perfect at social interactions, and I worry about being negatively misunderstood. It doesn’t help seeing some people dismiss these kinds of concerns.

I had a couple of low days last week thinking about all this, but a good talk with Jeremy at dinner helped me back up.

Posted in Books, Coding project generator, French horn, Holidays, Programming, Social issues, Updates, Worship performing | 4 Comments

Update for 11/26/2017

Okay, last week was pretty crammed again. I think I need to start shortening these updates so they’re easier to write.

Books

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I finished Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence. Here’s the gist. These are issues I intend to take seriously.

After that I listened to Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster. I thought it’d be a good one to accompany my new single tasking theme. I appreciated the context it gave the practice. It was mostly about material simplicity though. Sometimes there’s a trade-off between money and time, and I prefer to save time.

Now I’m on Eliezer Yudkowski’s Rationality: From AI to Zombies. I already thought good reasoning was hard work, but now I see it’s even harder.

Thanksgiving

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My geek meetup group happened to be doing Thanksgiving, so since I had no other plans, I signed up at the last minute. I thought it might feel weird to spend a holiday with people I barely knew, but it ended up feeling like one of their regular events, and I met some new people and had a nice time.

Friday I spent some time a forest preserve I haven’t visited in many years. The trees were mostly bare, but I might come back for their Christmas light display.

Movies

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Tuesday I watched Justice League with my geek group. I agree with others that the CGI wasn’t great, and it was distracting. But I liked it aside from that. I was especially intrigued by Cyborg. I identified with the way half his attention was on in his own strange inner world.

Friday after the forest I went to see Blade Runner 2049. I really liked the aesthetic and the soundtrack. The mystery and plot twists were interesting. It made me a little more worried about the possibility of creating a slave race of AIs, though at the same time it’s too easy to anthropomorphize non-human minds.

Video games

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Saturday I was free all day, so I agreed to play Minecraft with my pals Dav and froststare. We started a complete-the-monument map called Instability. It was fun, but I didn’t really do much to help.

Posted in AI, Books, Holidays, Movies, Updates, Video games | 1 Comment

Update for 11/19/2017

Last week was calmer. It was also largely taken up by trying to write the previous blog post. So this entry is a little shorter.

Productivity

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The week before last amounted to a revolution in my productivity, if it lasts. It centered around single tasking and punctuality. I had one of these revolutions a few years ago. That one was about energy and future orientation. Both revolutions have also been about the joy of accomplishment.

My new habits at work have hung on pretty easily. Strangely, I actually kind of look forward to work each day. It feels weird and a little cheesy to say that, but so far it’s been true. Work is a place with structure where I know what I’m doing and where I can get a substantial amount done. Very satisfying.

Evenings have been a somewhat different story. Much more lazy and scattered. Down time is important, but I’d still like to figure out how to balance things and get a more done outside of work.

Firefox

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One bit of increased chaos in the background of my life was last week’s release of Firefox 57, aka Firefox Quantum. It is faster, as advertised, but it also broke a couple of add-ons I relied on–Tab Groups (see the developer’s statement and this long appreciation thread with some more details from him and this Mozilla article on the tab hiding API) and Session Manager (see this bug report).

So until I figure out how I’ll be using Firefox, I’m sticking with Chrome. I took the add-on breakage personally for a while, but that’s another bad mood I wasn’t able to sustain. But it highlights just how important of a tool web browsers are to me. This post reflects my take on these changes.

Some frustrated users have been turning to alternative browsers that have branched off of Firefox, like Waterfox and Pale Moon. Or unrelated ones like Vivaldi. I already use Firefox, Chrome, and for a few purposes Edge. Maybe I’ll just use ALL the browsers!

Futurism

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Tuesday my futurism group had another meeting. This one was on propaganda. I like the people and our discussions, but I still need to figure out the most beneficial way to participate. It’s a familiar type of group conversation where I seem to have a different agenda and way of approaching the topic than the others, so I have trouble knowing what to say when, and I mostly stay quiet.

Movies

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I saw Thor: Ragnarok with Tim on Sunday. I liked it about as well as any other superhero movie. That’s to say it was fun and visually impressive, but it didn’t stick with me and make me think for hours afterward. I will say that Cate Blanchett was a really good villain.

I will also say that Isaac Arthur has gotten me to pay more attention to math, physics, and engineering, so I asked myself things like what materials characters’ bodies would have to be made of to withstand the force of whatever just happened on screen.

Chapel

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Thursday in chapel we had famous calligrapher Timothy Botts, who spoke about Masterpiece Ministries, an arts camp for teenagers he started years ago. It looks like a great program, so if you have artistic teenagers in your life, it’s one to consider. The camp covers drama, songwriting, drawing, painting, and sometimes creative writing, dance, photography, film, and film animation.

Hearing his stories and seeing photos of the campers’ obvious enthusiasm for their craft, I mentally inserted myself into the situation and compared my typical response to theirs. When I’m asked to do something creative, I usually shrink back because I feel I lack skills and ideas.

There’s something to be said for just jumping in and seeing what happens, but it’s also helpful to think about what it would take to feel comfortable in that kind of situation. I’d say it takes picking a skillset, practicing enough to feel competent, learning creative thinking techniques, and practicing those enough to feel competent.

Posted in Art, Chapel, Firefox, Futurism, Movies, Productivity, Updates, Work | 4 Comments

Update for 11/12/2017

“Last” week was an interesting one. It took me all the next week to figure out how to write about it. So these events are from Nov 5-11, two weeks before the time I’m posting. I’ll post this week’s update in a day or two.

Beliefs report

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The week started out pretty bad. Sunday I was feeling very down for some reason. I felt disconnected from the whole evangelical way of conducting religion, and I wasn’t sure I could force myself through church. I did, but I was miserable.

I did skip the young adult ministry gathering after the service. Even apart from feeling bad, I didn’t see much point in attending a ministry that only applies to me for four more months. That’s pretty much the essence of being 39. So close to over the hill you might as well start rolling. Except that I don’t feel anywhere near that old.

This church experience reminded me that my beliefs report is a good idea! At least once I’ve written that, I’ll know exactly where I stand. However, it’s on hold temporarily, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.

Work

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My bad week continued on Monday with computer problems that had carried over from the week before. The IT department’s login policies make it very easy to get locked out of our accounts, especially when you’ve just changed your password and you have to update all your devices. Guess what was happening. It was very frustrating. I ended up fixing it by cutting off my phone’s access to the office wifi and email.

I could’ve tried setting up my work password on my phone again, but at that point I was done. I decided it was a good time to overreact and go on general mental lockdown. If our office technology was going to be such a pain about my way of life, I’d let the office win. I shut off everything remotely personal and settled down to do nothing but my dreary job.

Bad work thing #2 was basically a request from customer service to fix an unfixable glitch in some of my ebooks. Actually it turned out that’s not quite what they were asking for, but that’s what it sounded like at the time. I was already in such a mood that I began seriously asking myself why I was still in a job that was aimed away from my intended career path. A little research told me I still wasn’t ready to move on in the right direction.

Bad work thing #3 was that I’d been coming in late a little too often, and my boss politely asked me to knock it off (a loose paraphrase). I decided the best way to comply was to come in an hour early from then on. Which meant definitely going to bed on time, which to my grouchy mind meant not having an evening, just to be safe.

My strategy for punctuality included lunch. If I was going to enslave myself to a stricter work schedule, I should avoid any danger of ending lunch late. So I cut out all lunchtime project activity. Hence the pause on the beliefs report.

So after all this bitter adjustment, the end result was single tasking through a 7-4:30 workday with an hour lunch. Then errands and home by around 5:30, dinner, my night routine, and whatever projects I could work on till 10. On a normal day, if things went right. I stuck to it pretty well that week.

I tried to keep up my bad mood as the days wore on. But I was being responsible and getting things done, and to my horror, my sense of accomplishment was overriding my bad feelings! I finished the week in an annoyingly good mood instead. With a disturbing abundance of energy from adequate sleep!

Appalling. A complete betrayal of my sense of injury.

My new habits were only reinforced by my attempt to multitask my way through Saturday. It reminded me how much that feels like a bog of chaos. The contrast was stark.

Christmas

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The first evening of my grumpy new plan to be disciplined, I thought about going to sleep right after dinner just to spite the world. But I decided since my mom was waiting on my Christmas list, I should work on that.

That took basically the rest of the week. That’s how my Christmas list goes, because I have to research what I’ll need for the next projects I have planned. This year’s list features books on various kinds of analysis. Plus other things like mini-globes of Mars and the moon. Since those are our first targets in space exploration and colonization, I figure I should learn them.

Books

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With getting home from work earlier and dropping extraneous activities, I had enough time in the evenings that I randomly spent half of one working on my experimental literature project. I’m cataloging the authors in the Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature. It’ll become a page of links on the wiki and a reading list for myself.

Thursday Audible launched a contest to win a voucher for things in your wish list. I don’t normally enter contests, but this one was for something I actually care about, and it was easy, so I entered. Then I had to fill up my wish list in case I won. So that’s taken some time.

I finished Consider Phlebas. It was good, though a space pirate story wasn’t really what I was looking for right now. The ending intrigued me, however, so I’ll continue the series.

Next I started Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence, an examination of the risks of developing superhuman intelligences, either through AI or the cognitive enhancement of humans. I consider this one of the most important books I’ve read, and I intend to read it more than once and study it in depth.

Life management

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Saturday my last-straw frustration reemerged while I was getting my worship team music ready for the next day. I was keeping my printouts in a couple of big, unwieldy binders, and I decided it was time to move them to my little two-drawer filing cabinet.

Well, this thing is 20 years old, and it disagreed. The rack that held up the files refused to settle into place. It gave me two options: be unable to close the drawer or unable to open it.

I picked option C: Get a new filing cabinet. I researched it, ordered it, and picked it up from the store that day, and now it’s sitting in my apartment waiting to be assembled. I meant to do this years ago, but sometimes it takes a fit of rage.

Since it would be easier to assemble the filing cabinet if I had more space, maybe this is what will get me to clean up my apartment too.

Project generator

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With everything else going on, the generator has been on hold. But I’m hoping to get back to it in the next couple of weeks.

Social life

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Friday my brother texted me to ask if I’d ever been to Nando’s. I only recalled hearing about it from the joke going around the Internet a couple of years ago. But it turns out they have several of them in my area. I was having dinner with Jeremy that night, so that’s where we went. Once we found it, I remembered seeing it before and my surprise at the time because I thought it was a UK chain. Anyway, the food was delicious, though my order left me wanting more.

Saturday my sister texted me to ask a question about using LibraryThing, and poking around in my profile reminded me of an old online friend. He was in my pending friend requests. We used to talk all the time, and then a few years ago we lost touch. I’d searched for him a couple of times since then, but it seemed he’d removed himself from the Internet. But seeing his name got me to try again. This time I found him! A conversation in the comments followed. It just goes to show, “Good things come to those who wait.” That’s been true for me so many times.

Posted in Beliefs report, Books, Church, Coding project generator, Futurism, Holidays, Life management, Productivity, Sleep, Social life, Updates, Work | 1 Comment