Weeknote for 1/19/2019

Conceptual modeling

😐

I made another adjustment to my agenda on the modeling language translations project and started with learning RDF instead of OWL, since OWL is built on top of RDF. I got less far than I wanted, but this week I’ll finish the document I’m reading (W3C’s RDF primer) and move on to the OWL primer, since next week I’ve scheduled myself to start on first-order logic with the Lapore book, and getting through that will take longer, so I don’t want to delay it.

As I go, I’m experimenting with creating a note-taking format I’m provisionally calling Structured Notes Format (SNF). It’s basically YAML with other formats embedded as needed, and at this point it looks like this, which I think is pretty readable (note that the text doesn’t matter in this example, only the hyphens, colons, line breaks, and indentation):

- point 1:
  - subpoint 1.1
  - subpoint 1.2
- point 2:
  - subpoint 2.1:
    - |
      Some lines of
      Python code
  - subpoint 2.2

Life maintenance

Diet

πŸ˜•

I stuck with my diet, but last week my scale told me I’d lost nothing (literally, exactly the same reading as last week to the tenth of a pound), which is what happened a few years ago. If it happens again this week, I’ll do some research on the problem and maybe look for a new scale, since this one is a little old, but the reading doesn’t quite seem like a malfunction.

Sleep

😐

Last week I got started on my project to get enough sleep, with a schedule of 10pm to 6am. My impression is that my life has gotten organized enough over the past year or two that I have a chance of sticking to this schedule, at least significantly longer than in the past. I started Thursday night and did fine the rest of that week. If my resolve starts slipping a lot, I’ll move to more intense motivation techniques, including an anti-charity if it gets bad enough. Sleep is such a strong and sweeping influence on my life that I’m serious about finally regulating it.

Software development

😰

I finished listening to Stephen Withall’s Software Requirement Patterns, and I found it good but a little overwhelming, giving us a long, categorized list of typical requirements we might need in our software (along with how to organize and word them in our requirement documents), and the increasing burden I felt as I listened made me realize that a requirement amounts to a problem to solve, so Withall’s book was just giving me a huge pile of potential problems. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s uncomfortable, and it reinforces my sense that I need to go into any software project soberly, and it also makes me want to collect known solutions to these common problems.

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Weeknote for 1/12/2019

Conceptual modeling

😐

At the beginning of the week I decided my original plan to immediately make a spreadsheet didn’t really fit the material, and if I tried it, I’d end up with only a superficial understanding of the content. So I explored, rethought, and decided to start with learning OWL and the corresponding software Protege and translate the different kinds of Semantic Web statements into the other modeling languages. OWL will perhaps help me take notes on the rest of the project, which will center around learning logic via the book Meaning and Argument by Lepore, and I’ll translate the different kinds of logical statements too.

I spent the rest of the week setting up the way I wanted to work, which involved a private GitHub repository, some scripts to test out the languages I’m learning, and some planning about the note-taking format I want to develop as I go along, which is based on the data serialization format YAML.

Life maintenance

πŸ€”

Last time I lost weight, I was on a low-carb diet, and when I switched to calorie counting, I lost nothing, so I concluded my body didn’t work the conventional way and I’d have to drastically reduce my carbs every time. Well I’m back to counting calories because of this cholesterol control diet, and the eating routine I’ve started with is low enough on calories that I lost almost 4 pounds the first week, about 2 more than you should safely be losingβ€”oopsβ€”so I guess it does work after all. I’m making progress on reducing the saturated fat in my diet, and now I’m adding a soluble fiber supplement and one for plant sterols and stanols.

Software development

πŸ€”

I finished Righting Software by Juval LΓΆwy, a well-known software consultant I hadn’t heard of till someone in a blog comment recommended him. I was curious about his book because he offers a somewhat different angle on software and project design than other authors I read, who tend to be friends with each other and work at the same places, so it’s worthwhile to get an outside perspective. I don’t know if his ideas are actually better, but he claims to take an engineering approach to software development, and I want to try them out. If you want an idea of what he says, I’ve made a playlist of videos from his YouTube channel that cover many of the book’s topics arranged in roughly the book’s order.

After that I listened to Microservices Patterns by Chris Richardson, and not in text-to-speech, because it actually has an audiobook for some reason and also a nicely organized website. According to reviews, the book covers all the standard industry solutions to the standard challenges a microservice architecture creates, so I feel prepared if I ever get around to creating that kind of software. I’m thinking about using some of the concepts on our ebook production tools at work, since they’re already a collection of loosely collaborating apps.

Spirituality

😐

My pastor wants us to read through the Bible again this year, and I decided to make that my Lent activity like it was last year, listening to a whole audio Bible. This year I think I’ll do the NKJV, which has been languishing in my audio Bible collection.

Movies

πŸ€”

Monday Tim and I went to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which I liked okay, but the whole time I felt like I was watching someone’s over-the-top fanfiction. Were all the movies so frantically epic and I never noticed? One of my favorite things about Star Wars is hearing people’s responses to it, so I’ve enjoyed seeing all the critical videos YouTube has been recommending me (warning: spoilers in the links).

Posted in Conceptual modeling, Diet, Movies, Software development, Spirituality, Weeknotes | 2 Comments

Weeknote for 1/5/2019

Conceptual modeling

πŸ€”

I did my project proposal and started on the first phase I’d planned–adding the translation spreadsheet entries for Attempto Controlled English, which is a restricted form of English that a computer can interpret and translate into logical structures. I thought it would be fairly straightforward, but there turned out to be several issues that made me question my plan, which I’ll write about next time.

😎

In the process of understanding the complications in my process, I came to a new appreciation for writing as a problem solving tool–specifically journaling. If you open a file or a page (or a voice recorder, if talking is more your thing) and treat it as a conversation partner as you work, not only can it help you break your work into more manageable pieces and think through it more carefully, but it can make your work feel less lonely too. I actually felt like I had a companion in my project who was interested in my work and could help me figure things out. I know this won’t work the same way for everyone, or maybe not right away, but it’s a practice worth trying, and I’ll be using it a lot more.

Life maintenance

😐

I got a Fitbit for Christmas, which I’d put on my wish list so I’d have more objective information about my sleep habits, and maybe I’d get around to some exercise too. It was immediately motivating on exercise, because I saw that my heart rate was consistently 10-20 beats faster than I thought it should be. I also want to stop my weight from creeping upward and try again to improve my cholesterol, so last week I returned to the MyNetDiary app I was using a while back, and I’m wading back into the TLC diet, just the basics for now until I come up with a more detailed plan. I paid for MyNetDiary premium to integrate it with my Fitbit, and apparently I’m more susceptible to gamification than I thought, because the combination of these apps has captured my attention much better than any of my earlier fitness attempts, so 2020 may be the year of the quantified Andy.

Productivity

πŸ™‚

My Goodreads currently-reading list is getting kind of long, so I’m focusing my listening to get some books off the list and make it manageable again, and last week I finished Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, a conversational guide to using this well-known productivity method. I’m using the PomoDone app, and I’ve still only carried out the most minimal steps and not very consistently, but overall I’d say it’s pushed me to be more focused and productive that I would be on my own, and I’m going to try to practice it more fully.

Software development

😎

Documenting your software for other developers can be a big problem, and it’s one I care about a lot. Last week I finished Cyrille Martraire’s Living Documentation, an excellent collection of techniques for capturing and presenting all kinds of knowledge buried in your organization’s minds and in its code, using both human processes and automated ones. I’m looking forward to experimenting with them and especially integrating what I pick up from my modeling research.

Audio

😰

I was in the mood for October-in-January last week, so I made a playlist of dark winter ambient music and, while that was playing, played another playlist of snowstorm videos. With the ominous playlist in the background, the bridge video in the blizzard list made me feel like I was watching a creepypasta and I would witness something strange and bad if I waited long enough, which of course I didn’t because the video was meant to be relaxing. Actually some of the music was also rather soothing.

Posted in Conceptual modeling, Diet, Exercise, Life maintenance, Music, Productivity, Software development, Soundscapes, Weeknotes | Leave a comment

Weeknote for 12/29/2019

Christmas

πŸ™‚

Some highlights and random observations from the rest of our vacation at our parents’ house.

Sunday

  • I wasn’t alert for all of church in the morning, but in one of my more awake periods, we watched a monologue about Joseph’s disrupted life when Mary became pregnant, and it struck me as a fitting modern description of that ancient story. Actually that could’ve been during Tuesday’s candlelight service, which tells you my mental state and/or the frailty of my memory and record keeping.
  • That evening in anticipation of our family trip to the movies later in the week, at Michael’s suggestion we watched the enlightening and inspiring Mister Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I’ll say more about this in the Movies section below.

Monday

  • In the evening we watched Christmas at Belmont on PBS, featuring CeCe Winans and Michael W. Smith. I added some songs from it to my Spotify playlist (see the Music section below) and commented with my family about how impressive expert musicians are as precision performers, since I am sloppy at performance and more of a maker.
  • I stayed up late wrapping presents so that would be out of the way while I was finishing up the labels. It would’ve taken much less time, but I decided I needed to try some envelope and letter folding for some of the gifts.

Tuesday (Christmas Eve)

  • In the afternoon our dad set up the Christmas tree, and the siblings decorated it, as per tradition. The decorating took less time than I expected, about 20 minutes judging by the playlist we listened to.
  • In the evening we went to our church’s candlelight service and then stood in line to take a family picture in front of the sanctuary’s Christmas trees.
  • After our dad’s yummy chili for dinner, we watched Klaus, the new animated origin story for Santa, which was very good.
  • Once my family fiiiinally got itself to bed at midnight (yes, I’m blaming them), I stayed up very late again finishing my Christmas labels. More on those in their section below!

Wednesday (Christmas!)

Christmas morning we carried out our traditional schedule–stockings, breakfast, tree presents, then lunch. My mom had replaced the old stocking she’d made in my childhood with a new one she made, so now my old one is here, and maybe I’ll use it as a Christmas decoration in the future. (Correction: The old one was made by a landlord of my mother’s.) Breakfast this year was Sister Schubert’s cinnamon rolls, which are small, which encouraged me to eat too many of them.

  • Lunch was a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, as we often do for Christmas, with the addition of roasted broccoli, since I’d requested more actual vegetables, which Thanksgiving tends to lack.
  • I was very tired after lunch and took a nap during the annual sibling walk around the neighborhood.
  • In the evening we scrolled through Netflix in despair of finding any good movie we felt like watching, but on the verge of giving up we settled on The Little Prince, and it was an excellent choice.
  • We finished the quilt puzzle. It was a fun one, with a lot of interesting shapes, colors, and textures.

 

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Some nice Christmas stuff from my family. https://www.thinkulum.net/blog/2020/01/04/weeknote-for-12-29-2019/

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Thursday

  • I continued my tech ebook buying binge with Righting Software, Software Requirement Patterns, and EMF: Eclipse Modeling Framework, all of which I’d been antsy to get my hands on. Under the mistaken impression that the site might have an after-Christmas sale, I’d waited till after Christmas, but I was going to buy them regardless. I’ve started all three, and my Goodreads currently-reading shelf is getting crowded.
  • We had our traditional House Cafe brunch, where I got my traditional French toast, which I order practically any time I have breakfast food at a restaurant.
  • My siblings were nice and went on makeup walk with me (photographic evidence), since I’d missed it the day before.
  • We tried to go see the Mister Rogers movie, but the theater had assigned seating and didn’t have five seats together, so we decided to order tickets online for the next day.
  • Dinner was Michael’s delicious turkey soup made of leftovers.
  • After dinner our dad took Abbie and me on our traditional Half Price Books run, where I picked up The Steampunk User’s Manual (follow-up to The Steampunk Bible), Doctor Grordbort’s Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory (from a series I learned about from The Steampunk Bible), Speedsolving the Cube (to help me get a handle on the 3×3 cube I bought a year ago), and a childhood favorite I never expected to find on an HPB shelf, The Man Who Lost His Head.

Friday

  • Laundry day.
  • We made it to the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, with Mister Rogers played by Tom Hanks, who was a good fit even though I never really forgot I was watching Tom Hanks. I was slightly worried it’d just be a rehash of the documentary, but fortunately it wasn’t, and it was just as thought provoking.
  • We did my traditional Schlotzsky’s run for dinner, though I’d forgotten about the tradition till my mom brought it up. I was relieved to be reminded that even though it’s a place only I really care about, since it was one of my favorite restaurants and I don’t have one anymore, the rest of the family seems to enjoy it.
  • After dinner it was time to sit around with PBS on, and I discovered the show Craft in America. The first episode that night happened to be on quilting, which is our mother’s main hobby. I also made it through a whole episode of Antiques Road Show, which I’d only ever seen a couple of minutes at a time.

Saturday

  • I had a surprisingly quick flight back, and I was glad to have found affordable flights at comfortable afternoon times, since I am not a morning person.
  • Jeremy picked me up from the airport, and while we waited for dinner time, he helped me start assembling my dining set, which we finished after dinner. Just like with the sofa, having it makes me feel more like a normal adult and makes my home feel more complete, and I’m already finding more uses for it than I’d originally planned, so I think it was a good purchase.

 

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Bookstore cafe? Or my living room with a new dining set? https://www.thinkulum.net/blog/2020/01/04/weeknote-for-12-29-2019/

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Christmas labels

πŸ™‚

Going along with my conceptual modeling theme, my Christmas labels this year were sketchnotes of popular Christmas hymns: “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Joy to the World,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Silent Night,” and “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” Click the right arrow in the post below to see more images.

  • I’m not used to this kind of creative modeling, so I was worried I wouldn’t do it right, which led to procrastination during the beginning weeks of the project.
  • It probably helped that I’d been sketchnoting sermons for practice during the previous couple of months.
  • I made up the imagery as I went along, such as for the angels, but I had to research some things.
    • I didn’t know how to draw animals, so I looked up photos of sheep and camels.
    • I learned to draw star people from Visual Meetings, but I had to look up how to draw people running, which I found in an animation book I have.
    • I paid attention to manger images I saw around and learned that everyone makes them with the legs crossing.
    • I paid attention to what Mary looked like kneeling. Silhouettes were helpful.
    • I looked up what images people typically use for “truth” and “grace.”
  • I was again proud of myself for throwing out elements of the project I didn’t have time for. For example, I’d started drawing cartoon portraits to identify the person getting the gift, but that was getting complicated, so I wrote the person’s name in a little banner like the song titles in the sketchnotes.

Movies

πŸ™‚

Some things I noticed in the Mister Rogers’ films we watched last week.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

  • I appreciated seeing him talk seriously about his philosophy of child psychology.
  • I appreciated hearing a little about his wife and children and seeing he wasn’t an ethereal person with no real earthly connections. (This happened for me with Dallas Willard too, realizing he was born and grew up somewhere. XD )
  • His own childhood influenced his work. He spent a lot of time alone having to entertain himself during his frequent illnesses, and he was bullied for being chubby.
  • I hadn’t picked up on the main purpose of his program before–to help children deal with feelings. I assumed it was broader than that, but I think it was good for the program to have focus.
  • Coping mechanisms were important for him personally, and his puppets were one of them, especially channeling himself through Daniel and then later King Friday. A bit weird, but whatever works.
  • From the standpoint of someone like myself who’s trying to figure out how to live, Mr. Rogers was a good example of someone living out a deeply and consistently worked out philosophy.
  • He considered remembering their own childhood to be a key practice for adults, which was also a theme in The Little Prince.
  • I’d seen the clip of Rogers arguing for public TV funding before the Senate, and from the chairman’s reaction, I’d always thought he was just a pushover, but no, before Mr. Rogers’ testimony he was opposed to the idea.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  • The movie explored his relationship and relevance to adults.
  • To a certain extent his determination to live out his philosophy had him living in his own world, even when he interacted with other people. The movie was good at portraying a normal adult’s reactions to him as he resolutely dug into the parts of life that mattered.
  • My impression was the people around him were very loyal, even though he sometimes frustrated them with his eccentric ways.
  • I loved that the filmmakers extended the neighborhood model from the TV show’s intro to serve as transitions in the movie.
  • They also did well at slipping in Rogers tidbits you might want to know, such as how he coped with life, his advice to parents, and whether he’d ever been a military sniper (which would be closer to truth if we were talking about Bob Ross).

There’s more to say about these films, but this post is long enough already!

Audio

πŸ™‚

Soundscapes

Continuing my theme of seasonal ambiences, I’ve been accumulating quite a list for winter and Christmas, so if you’re still in the Christmas spirit, here’s the ongoing list I’ve come up with so far, partially sorted by subject matter (city walks, Santa’s workshop, etc.). During some of my Christmas project sessions I listened to the crafting and gift wrapping videos so I could pretend I was working with other project doers.

Music

Here’s a bunch of the music I listened to around Christmas:

  • Christmas 2019 (Spotify) – Based on playlist searches for some of the songs from Advent Orchestra–“Who Would’ve Dreamed” and “Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)”–plus a couple of songs from Christmas at Belmont.
  • Christmas Lo-Fi (YouTube) – To go with last year’s expansion of my musical tastes into chillhop, I saw one of these in my YouTube recommendations and decided to make a whole playlist. It makes good background music for this video of walking around a wintry Japanese city.
  • Soul of Wind Christmas Guitar 2019 (Spotify) – Based on this video, which I ran across while wrapping presents on Monday and made my companion for the night.

Conceptual modeling

😎

The Thinkulum project month of January starts this week (on Dec 29), and after weighing some options, I decided this project will be to sort out some of the pipeline from writing about a model in plain English to working with it in software. The main deliverables will be (1) a cheatsheet of translations between informal English and various modeling languages and (2) a user guide for basic operations in the software I’m focusing on. This week is for planning the project and starting on it.

Posted in Christmas labels, Conceptual modeling, Holidays, Movies, Music, Soundscapes, Weeknotes | 6 Comments

Weeknote for 12/22/2019

Christmas labels

πŸ™‚

I worked on this a lot more last week, but I’ll probably still be up late Christmas Eve, though maybe not as late as the last couple of years. Toward the end of the week I had a brilliant flash of insight–since my Christmas project has taken over a month the past two times, if I want to finish earlier, I should start it on an earlier month! So next year I’ll schedule the Christmas project for sometime before November.

Philosophy

πŸ€”

I finished Nathaniel Branden’s The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, which are the practices of living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully, and personal integrity. I found this book toward the end of high school when I was becoming aware of psychology and trying to boost my low self-confidence, and I was intrigued by its well-rounded and orderly take on the subject, but at the time I only read bits and pieces. Now that I’ve been through the whole thing, I’d say the pillars cover a lot of important ground, and I think his techniques would be very helpful, so I recommend the book, but I have reservations too. I’m not sure the practices by themselves will create an attitude of equality and compassion like Branden expects or that they’ll ensure someone feels worthy of love, and I wonder how he’d advise people who have severe physical or mental limitations and actually can’t handle everyday life on their own. But the book still has an important message, and I think of Branden as an earlier generation’s Jordan Peterson without the strident politics and Jungian weirdness, so if you want just a gentle kick in the pants about taking care of your life, Branden’s your guy.

After Branden I started on Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett, the host of the radio show On Being. I’ll write about it in a week or two, but so far I love it.

Christmas

πŸ™‚

My annual Christmas vacation in Texas with my family has begun. My brother and sister and I all arrived on Saturday.

  • The living room at my parents’ house feels much roomier this year, and I’m proud of them for working so hard to declutter and reorganize their home. I’m especially glad because this vacation it’s doubling as my bedroom.
  • Dinner at The String Bean was delicious, but they somehow refilled my raspberry tea with something that tasted like maple–interesting, but since maple tea isn’t on their menu, probably a mistake.
  • This year’s jigsaw puzzle is a quilting scene that Abbie got our mom for her birthday early in the year.

I’m also proud of myself for getting ready for this trip in an orderly, non-panicked fashion this year, even while ramping up my work on the Christmas project. I take this as a sign that my life management skills are improving.

Posted in Christmas labels, Holidays, Philosophy, Psychology, Weeknotes | 2 Comments

Weeknote for 12/15/2019

Music

πŸ™‚

We had our Advent Orchestra performance Sunday morning, and all my practice paid off. I played pretty cleanly, and I was able to play the high parts through the whole morning with minimal cheating. For the future, now that I have some exercise books lined up, I’m hoping to practice throughout the year so I won’t have to work so hard at the end of the year to get my playing in shape.

Life maintenance

πŸ™‚

I think I’ve taken care of all my major, urgent-feeling concerns now. The main update is that my health insurance finished renewing my medication referral and I was able to make an infusion appointment for Monday afternoon, so my flare-up fears have been relieved. I haven’t set up my new table and chairs yet, but maybe this week.

Christmas labels

😐

Still chipping away. I’m about 80% done.

Philosophy

πŸ€”

I listened to Anam Cara, which was unfortunately not the intro to Celtic spirituality I expected, though I benefited from it anyway. I wanted a map of the distinctives of Celtic thought, and what I got was more of a meandering tour of O’Donahue’s Celtic-inspired point of view with some side trips into Marx and Hegel. His insights felt pretty familiar, so I think the spiritual content of my Christian Education degree was even more Celtic influenced than I knew, but some of the book still felt foreign enough to my default perspective that Celtic spirituality is worth further exploration, so I’ll probably look for another overview at some point.

πŸ™‚

Now I’m on Nathaniel Branden’s The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, which basically promotes a philosophy of thoughtful individualism (as opposed to a brazen selfishness).

Politics

πŸ€”

It seems to me that American politics is currently dominated by two battling sets of conspiracy theories, one on the Republican side and one on the Democratic, and right now my political reading list is about diving into the Democratic set. I’ve mostly procrastinated on these kinds of books, because I already read enough criticism of the president in articles and social media posts, and adding whole books just felt spiteful, but right now I’m interested in the broader international issues, so it seems like the right time. I’m also interested in seeing how serious investigative journalism is done, and these seem like good examples.

Last week I finished Craig Unger’s House of Trump, House of Putin, and it tied together a lot of the threads I’d seen in scattered political tweets and articles over the past couple of years. It treated its subject clearly enough that I was able to follow the names and details fairly well, when I was expecting nothing but confusion. Although I probably found the book via Amazon recommendations, I was put on the path to prioritizing it by this intriguing tweet about Trump’s mafia connections and the accompanying website on the topic. I recommend the book if you want an angle on the weird, ominous state of current world politics, at least as it relates to Russia.

Now I’m on a pair of books by Seth Abramson, Proof of Collusion and Proof of Conspiracy, which I’ve wanted to read ever since seeing his “Grand Bargain” tweets spreading the blame for 2016’s election interference to several other countries besides Russia (related Reddit thread).

AI

πŸ™‚

Saturday I got together with a couple of other AI enthusiasts for lunch, an informal meetup that grew out of the futurism group I’m in. It was a lively and informative conversation, and as a side benefit I learned from the cyber security guy how to properly monetize hacking. πŸ˜‰

Posted in AI, Christmas labels, Health, Life maintenance, Meetups, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Weeknotes | 1 Comment

Weeknote for 12/8/2019

Christmas labels

πŸ˜›

Not quite done, but I made good progress. I give myself about 2 1/2 more weeks and it should be done. πŸ˜‰ Last week my excuse was that music preparation kind of took over my time, but this week I’ll need to find another one.

Music

😐

Last week I decided that if my lips were going to make it through playing the French horn for a run-through and two church services the upcoming Sunday, I’d need to intensify my practicing, so a couple of days I increased my practice time from a half hour to at least an hour, and I skipped Wednesday to recover. I also wrote some lower lines for the new songs that I could play if my lips got too tired, which helped last year.

Life maintenance

πŸ™‚

On Black Friday I ordered a dining set I’ve had in mind for my living room for over a year. They delivered it last week, so once I’m at a good spot with my Christmas labels, I’ll put it together, and then I’ll Christmas decorate, if it’s not too close to my vacation to be worth it.

πŸ˜•

Even though my Christmas project from last month isn’t done, this week I’m still planning to start my life maintenance miscellany, especially focusing on the remaining tasks left over from the summer. Added to those is a delay on the next infusion of my ulcerative colitis med because the approval needs to be renewed and the insurance company likes to take its time, so I’ll probably make some calls to see what I can do about that, since I don’t want to spend my vacation in the bathroom.

Philosophy

πŸ™‚

I finished Kevin Aho’s Existentialism: An Introduction–wordy, but I did feel well introduced, and even though I consider my perspective to be generally existentialist already, I picked up on new key points that gave me lots of food for thought, such as the idea that we have a fundamental anxiety about death that we continually distract ourselves from (also a key feature of Ligotti); that we have no essential self but are always inventing it, unless we’re avoiding the responsibility and merely playing our societal roles; and that to do our fundamental duty to be authentic, we need to face and integrate our pain (also a key feature of Gurdjieff), though it wasn’t clear to me what we’re being authentic to if we have no essential self. I agree with Aho that even though the initial period of existentialism is long past, its perspective still has a lot to contribute.

I’m almost done with Irvine’s Stoicism book, and I’ve refilled my reading queue with a bunch more philosophy of life books. Next will be John O’Donahue’s Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

Productivity

πŸ™‚

I took advantage of some Black Friday sales and bought a bunch of ebooks, mostly on programming, but also one on productivity called Pomodoro Technique Illustrated about a system where you use a timer to manage your work cycles–typically 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break, and a longer break every four work sessions. Pomodoro is a popular method in the Internet productivitysphere, and I tried it a while back without much conviction, but around Thanksgiving I felt the need for a productivity push both at work and at home, so the sale was timely. Last week I tried it using the PomoDone app, and it helped me stay much more focused at work. I didn’t really use it at home, but it at least got me thinking of my activities in terms of focused blocks of time. I’m still in the middle of the book, which I want to finish because his advice will help me refine my practice.

Programming

πŸ™‚

My conceptual modeling thoughts and binge buying of programming ebooks have brought software development back to the front of my mind, so I’ve added another side queue for books on programming. I’m starting with Living Documentation by Cyrille Martraire, because I’ll want a lot of documentation in my math student simulator, which I’m planning to return to in the next few months.

People

πŸ€”

Saturday I bought Jeremy lunch at a local deli, partly because the weekend before was his birthday and we didn’t get together and partly because I found out that weekend that the restaurant was closing in a week. He’d never been there, so his first sandwich there was also his last, unless the restaurant reopens someday, and fortunately he enjoyed it. Coincidentally the day before I’d listened to William Irvine illustrating the Stoics’ negative visualization with the example of eating at a favorite restaurant that would soon be closing, and since the deli had recently become my weekend tradition, I wondered if I’d feel bittersweet about our lunch. It turned out the answer was no, I only felt slightly more reflective, so I guess I hadn’t formed that much of a bond with it, but it does seem to be a community hangout, so it’ll be a loss.

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Weeknote for 12/1/2019

Christmas labels

😐

I got myself over the major hurdle in the work, once I managed to stop procrastinating toward the end of the week, but I still have the final products to make, so I’m giving myself another week, which is week four of the project anyway, since I started a week late. I’m just shifting the extra week of October’s project into December’s, which will be some miscellaneous life maintenance.

Spirituality

πŸ™‚

I finished Hidden Wisdom, a survey of esoteric spirituality: Carl Jung, Gnosticism, esoteric Christianity, the Kabbalah, magic, neopaganism, shamanism, alchemy and hermeticism, G. I. Gurdjieff, Sufism, Rosicrucianism and other secret societies, and the New Age. I read it to explore unfamiliar ways of conceptualizing the universe and to get some context for the fragments of esotericism I encounter from time to time, such as this episode of Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know on technology and the occult, which made much more sense to me after the book. Some of esotericism’s ideas I could embrace were reminders of ordinary things that gained new emphasis for me, such as the fact that some things you want to accomplish require a lot of time, effort, discipline, and even some pain and sacrifice. But I also found myself wondering what concepts from esotericism might be compatible with mainstream Christianity but go underappreciated or unrecognized, such as maybe the idea that the sacraments are a rite of theurgy, though that seems outside what mainstream theologians would accept.

Philosophy

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I decided to keep going with my philosophical list, so I ended the week on Existentialism: An Introduction by Kevin Aho. It’s fairly short, so after that this week is A Guide to the Good Life, William Irvine’s intro to Stoicism.

I was going to end the list there, but I thought of some others on philosophy of life to add, and then my next list on ethics and personality is really just an extension of this one, though with less of the weird, and I’ll even be returning to literature, so I might as well consider this reading list to be ongoing.

Politics

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I’m still in a political mood, so I’ve decided to listen to political books alongside my others, though I’ll give priority to the other topics. First up is Craig Unger’s House of Trump, House of Putin, which looks into Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia. I’ll leave you with that provocative thought and save my political ramblings for other weeks.

Thanksgiving

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My Thanksgiving was kind of a dud, since I didn’t end up with any social plans, and I didn’t do much else that day either. I got my Thanksgiving dinner from Boston Market, which had a lot more people than I expected, some of whom were picking up a meal to eat at home, but there were also some couples and families eating in the restaurant. I had my typical car picnic at a forest preserve, and I was planning to take a walk afterward, but I waited too late and it got dark. I did have a good text conversation with my family and a good phone conversation with my online friend Paul, so those were highlights, and the Boston Market food was good.

It was an interesting experience spending Thanksgiving alone, one I’d actually been curious about, but I wouldn’t want to make it a habit, since the next day felt less satisfying than other years because I hadn’t gone through the effort of the holiday, and I knew conversations about the holiday would be awkward. I’ll need a new strategy for making Thanksgiving plans. I don’t like inviting myself, but maybe I can make it known that I’m looking for somewhere to go, which is basically how my siblings each invited me over this year, but by then it was too late for me to feel comfortable making arrangements. At least Thanksgiving is the only holiday that gets tricky for me like this, and this is the first year no plans have really worked out.

Posted in Christmas labels, Holidays, Philosophy, Politics, Spirituality, Weeknotes | 2 Comments

Weeknote for 11/24/2019

Christmas labels

πŸ€”

I got past a milestone, and I’m hoping to finish these this week, or at least the main part of the work. I’ve been feeling procrastinatory because whenever I try something new with the intent to create a final product as opposed to just exploring or creating a draft, I have a sense of impending, devastating failure. Maybe I can relieve the pressure by lowering my expectations and treating these labels as drafts.

Movies

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I picked up my AI movie project again, and Tim and I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), which I’d borrowed from Heather. I found it to be an effective and timeless story about the stubborn and troublesome traits that might make humans bad neighbors. It treated AI as an integral part of the solution, and it was a tad too optimistic, in my opinion. I think it needs a sequel where the robots go haywire and threaten galactic civilization. The next movie in my list is the 2008 remake.

Fringe

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I finished Andy Thomas’ The Truth Agenda, an integrative overview of major conspiracy theories. The book at least got me to pay attention to some topics I’d only dismissed before, such as 9/11, the moon landing, Princess Diana, and crop circles, and it made better arguments than I was expecting, so now basically I have several more research projects to file somewhere in my big list. Overall my impression is he made his best cases for particular historical events and much weaker cases for a global conspiracy and claims from alternative science.

Spirituality

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Currently I’m listening to Hidden Wisdom, a book about Western esoteric spirituality, covering traditions like gnosticism and the Kabbalah. I should finish it this week, so I’ll give you my thoughts in the next update.

Politics

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Thanks to the impeachment hearings and my conspiracy reading, I’m in even more of a political mood than I have been, so after Hidden Wisdom I’m going to put the rest of my current philosophy queue on hold and try some of the political books I’ve been putting off, starting with Craig Unger’s House of Trump, House of Putin.

Music

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They sent us the orchestra music early last week, and I managed to practice pretty consistently, so I’m seeing progress, and I should be fairly prepared by the first rehearsal on Tuesday. Somehow I seem to have more endurance this year, meaning my lips don’t get too tired playing high notes, which is good because this music seems to hang around in the upper register more than in past years. I’m still planning to write alternate lines for myself in case my lips give out.

Posted in Christmas labels, Fringe theories, Movies, Music, Politics, Spirituality, Weeknotes | 2 Comments

Weeknote for 11/17/2019

Christmas labels

😐

I got the planning done and a tiny bit of work. I’ll need to do a big push this week to make sure I don’t fall behind my schedule.

Life maintenance

😐

I’m still working through my medical billing issues from the summer, so I’m making myself continue that this week, because I feel a need to resolve it all by the end of the year. It does feel like extra work, though, when I have enough to do already.

Fiction

😎

I finished Unutterable Horror, and I’m glad Joshi is so opinionated, because I need guidance through unfamiliar territories like this huge genre of literature. Not that I’m planning to become deeply familiar with it, because as much as I sometimes talk about horror media, I have definite limits on the types I can tolerate, and I have to be in the right mood to begin with, but the milder kinds of horror intrigue me as a source of creative ideas and of a sense of deep mystery. This book has reminded me that I’m not very interested in traditional horror tropes, like ghosts, vampires, and the occult, and instead what tends to draw me, other than cosmic horror, is random, Twilight-Zone weirdness happening in everyday life, the kind of stuff I imagined when I was young, and this type of story shows up in places like Kafka, Donald Wandrei (see “The Eye and the Finger”), and the “mundane horror” of Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, who was a frequent writer for The Twilight Zone. Now I’m looking back through the book highlight the authors, titles, and Joshi’s assessments so I’ll have stories to read, and then I’d like to find other opinionated reviewers who can help me keep up with new titles, and since this historical survey has been so helpful, I want to read others for science fiction, fantasy, and general literature.

Fringe

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I apparently wasn’t done with October weirdness, because last week I was still in the mood for darker stories and ideas, and then came the impeachment hearings, which highlighted the conspiracy theories of both political parties and gave me the extra nudge to look into that world again. So I added a book to my reading queue that I bought a while back, The Truth Agenda by Andy Thomas, an overview of various conspiracy theories and other fringe research that tries both to present a reasonable case for them and to tie them into a cohesive view of the world and its history. I’m nearing the end of it, and I’ll give you my thoughts next week, but here’s a video of one of his talks that will give you an overview. Reading about conspiracy theories makes the political books on my backburner more relevant, so now I’m more likely to read them, but I’m going to put those on hold to get back to my original queue.

Spirituality

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The next book in my queue is another strange one, Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions by Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney, and it’s actually relevant to The Truth Agenda because it covers similar kinds of esoteric spirituality. I originally added it to give me some context for understanding the book of alchemical art I bought, largely for decoration (Alchemy & Mysticism by Alexander Roob), but more generally I’m interested because I like exercising my mind with dramatically different ways of looking at the world, and in the context of this queue, it’s continuing a series on philosophies of life, arranged from more weird to less, some of which are reflected in weird and experimental literature.

Music

😐

The Advent Orchestra at church is coming up again, and even though I haven’t been practicing the horn all year to keep my lips in shape like I’d hoped, I’m on top of things just enough to give myself a couple more weeks of practice than previous years, if I don’t procrastinate, and this year I was also better about keeping my valves unstuck. So I’m picking out some free French horn exercise books from the International Music Score Library Project, and I’ll practice those till I get the orchestra music. I’m looking for exercises that work out my upper range, that aren’t rhythmically very fast or complicated (since that’s not really an issue in our Advent music), and that give me interesting melodies to play (as opposed to repetitive scales, arpeggios, or other patterns).

Posted in Christmas labels, Fiction, Fringe theories, Life maintenance, Music, Spirituality, Weeknotes | 4 Comments