Weeknote for 2/21/2021

Blog

πŸ€”

I need to budget my blogging time. Last week’s project time was taken up by blog writing, which is not how I’d prefer to use it. I’ve used various time-limiting strategies for my blogging in the past, so I need to revisit them or try new ones.

Finances

πŸ™‚

I set up my budget in Quicken. It still needs refinement, but the basics are there. This week begins the March project month, and I’m continuing the finance project. My next step is creating a task list from the advice in my personal finance books.

The Savage Truth on Money is the personal finance book I’d recommend if you only wanted to read one. It’s wide ranging, packed with details, and friendly yet straight talking. Of course, I haven’t read many of these books, so take that recommendation for what it’s worth.

From Here to Financial Happiness is a devotional-style book for people who want to get started quickly. That is the opposite of my approach, so if it’s effective for such people, I wouldn’t know. But I value it for the bit it contributes to my overall understanding of money management.

Spenditude is a slightly confusing examination of three types of spenders. I think it’s really about two consistent approachesβ€”wasteful and frugalβ€”and an inconsistent third one that’s a mixture of the others. My takeaway was that consistent frugality is the way to financial success, but you can still give yourself a little freedom (though they hardly say anything about that, so I can’t tell if they mean it).

Work Your Money, Not Your Life is a mix of career counseling and financial advice aimed at letting you enjoy your work and semi-retire early. I don’t know how it ranks among all books of this sort, but I think it has a lot of advice worth considering.

The best part of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning was that it introduced me to the Bogleheads. They’re a fan club for John Bogle, the revolutionary founder of Vanguard and all around good guy. Here’s a short video tribute to him. The book itself is jam packed with details and advice, but it was a slog to get through. It probably needs updating too, but that’s what their wiki is for.

I started watching stock and crypto tradingΒ streams. Not for advice or news really, just for the ambience of the live graphs and the chat.

Music

😎

City pop is my new finance soundtrack. It came up in an unrelated Twitch stream, but right away I found it went perfectly with the trading streams, so I looked up a playlist, and the whole week I kept it on in the background of anything I did with finance.

Housekeeping

😐

I chipped away at my pile of unfiled papers. The pile is gone now, and so I’m one step closer to cleaning the bedroom.

Spirituality

πŸ€”

I did exactly zero Immanuel prayer. I’ll need to find ways to motivate myself and fit it into my day.

Space

😎

I watched the landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars. My current interest in space started with the landing of InSight, NASA’s previous Mars mission, so I was looking forward to this one. I was also more anxious about it, now that I knew how risky these landings are. Plus its mission felt more weighty and exciting to me than InSight’s. So I shared the team’s relief and celebration when Perseverance landed safely.

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Weeknote for 2/14/2021

Productivity

πŸ™‚

My elastic habits are still going well. I’ll get into specifics in the finance and housekeeping sections. To keep the blog from getting too repetitive, I’ll make this the last Elastic Habits update until something changes.

Finances

😎

I updated my budget spreadsheet to reflect my current spending. Not surprisingly, I spend more on books than I thought. My next step is to set up the budget in Quicken, and then I’ll start working through the advice in these financial books.

I got a sense of the big picture of personal finance from Douglas McCormick’s Family Inc. In contrast with the piecemeal way I’d been thinking about the issues, McCormick systematically applies the tools of corporate finance to the household, treating your whole financial future as a unit and strategizing to optimize and protect it. It felt like a revelation, and McCormick’s book quickly became my favorite in this project so far.

I started reading the OpenStax textbook Principles of Economics. This is partly to get a general understanding of how money works, but mostly it’s because I’ve discovered I think a lot in terms of economics, which I’ve learned isn’t so much about money as about decision making under scarcity. So this book is part of my decision making project, along with Making Hard Decisions, which is about decision making under uncertainty.

I extended tendrils of understanding into finance by reading many articles.

Housekeeping

😐

Last week’s housekeeping project was digging my car out of my parking space. I had an office party at work to drive to on Friday. We’d had a couple of snowstorms in the past few weeks, and since I hadn’t moved my car at all in that time, the plows had surrounded my car in a mountain range of snow, not to mention the foot-thick blanket covering the car itself. I spent three half-hour sessions brushing and shoveling away the snow, but at the end of all that, the car would barely budge.

People

πŸ™‚

My friend Tim saved the day with his snow removal skills. I called him Thursday night once I knew I couldn’t do any more for my car. He does this kind of thing for a living, so I knew he could help. I was going to get a ride to the work party with a coworker and worry about my car later, but Tim said he was free that night, and he came over soon after. His first idea was to tow my car out of the space with his truck, but after not finding a good hitching point on my car, he tried putting salt behind the tires. That’s all it took. I drove my car to a temporary spot, and we spent a while shoveling away the extra snow around my space. We weren’t expecting to get together till the weather improved, so my conundrum worked to our advantage.

 

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Friday was my work department’s delayed Christmas party. This was the reason for all the shoveling. We ordered from McAlister’s Deli, which I’d never heard of but immediately added to my list of places to eat with friends, and congregated in our floor’s large conference room so we could spread out. While eating we guessed which answers were whose to some ice breaker questions. My alphabetically ordered guesses scored surprisingly well. Then we played charades with titles of books we’d published. I found out I don’t mind charades as much as I thought, which I partly attribute to my interest in visual memory techniques. Finally was a gift exchange, which due to circumstances I wasn’t able to contribute to, but they gave me something anyway, a steering wheel desk for my parking lot picnics. It was a fun time.

Spirituality

πŸ€”

For Lent I’m going to self-facilitate some Immanuel prayer, possibly via Immanuel journaling. Lent goes from Wednesday the 17th to Easter on April 4. It’s been a long time since I’ve conducted Immanuel, so I’ll try it this week and then decide whether to continue or switch to some other practice.

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Weeknote for 2/7/2021

Productivity

πŸ™‚

I finished my first two-week period of Elastic Habits, and so far it’s going really well. My score was 129 out of a range of 0 to (I think) 366 (for my 14-day schedule). The main goal is not to miss more than one day on any habit, and so far I haven’t missed any.

Sleep

😐

My bedtime trended later as the week went on, but I was still able to get to bed in time for 8 hours, at least in principle. In practice I’m learning how my mornings go, and I’m finding it’s hard to sleep in unless I’m extremely tired, which I shouldn’t be on my new schedule, so there’s only so late I can push my bedtime.

Housekeeping

πŸ™‚

Last week’s cleaning theme was the bathroom. I got through about a third of all the cleaning it needs, which was pretty good for me.

Finances

😎

I started listening to some books on personal finances. I picked them up in a Humble Book Bundle. They’re all published by Wiley. My goal was to fill in any gaps in my knowledge and help me plan. All three of the books from last week sounded very sensible, so I’ll go back and work through them in detail as I address my finances.

Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s for Dummies by Eric Tyson covers what I presume are all the basic topics in a clear, well-organized, and approachable manner, so I felt it was a good introduction for me. I didn’t know disability insurance existed, so that was one gap filled. There were others, but that one stood out.

Making Money Simple by Peter Lazaroff makes money simple by (1) reducing issues to their essentials, (2) giving you worksheets to guide your decisions, (3) recommending that you automate as much of your finances as possible, and (4) recommending that you consult a financial advisor for the parts that aren’t simple.

Morningstar’s 30-Minute Money Solutions by Christine Benz was helpfully worksheet oriented like Lazaroff, but unlike Lazaroff, it kept money complicated. Benz tended to assume a lot of prior knowledge. But the book still seemed worth understanding, so I’d like to acquire that prior knowledge.

I finished setting up my accounts in Quicken. I’m not sure I should keep my retirement accounts there, since these books warned against paying too much attention to the fluctuations of your long-term investments, but I’ll decide later. In any case, the next step is to set up an updated budget in the software.

I’m extending my financial project to next month. These financial books have altered my agenda quite a bit, and it’ll clearly take more than a week or two to address all the issues.

People

πŸ™‚

I got a call from my good friend Tim, who I hadn’t spoken to in months. Our long silence wasn’t on purposeβ€”we just hadn’t been organized enough to stay in touch. What finally did it was that I accidentally invited him to sign up for the Citizen app, which I was setting up just to try. He was calling both to catch up and to ask questions about the app. So now we have open plans to get together sometime when the weather’s better.

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Weeknote for 1/31/2021

Productivity

😎

Week 1 of my elastic habits went very well. I didn’t miss a day on any of my habits (sleep, housekeeping, and projects). I’ll cover the details in the next sections.

Sleep

πŸ™‚

I got an Elite win every day on sleep. That means I was in bed with my night routine done in time for 8 hours of sleep. Some days my sleep got interrupted, but the important thing is I was prepared for 8. As a result I was less tired and more focused most days and had more time in the evenings, though there were still a couple that dragged and needed a nap.

Housekeeping

πŸ™‚

I got through cleaning my whole living room and part of my kitchen. Given the amount I procrastinate on cleaning, this is a big deal for me. My goal is to get through an initial cleaning of everything and then decide on a schedule. I’m also going to purge and organize, but I’m on my guard against using those to put off cleaning.

Money

πŸ™‚

I decided on Quicken for software and defined some questions to answer. After looking closely at the free program HomeBank, I decided my financial software needs to be as automated as possible so I don’t get tired of all the recordkeeping and give up, since that’s what’s happened every time before. So it needs to get automatic updates from my accounts. It also needs to cover budgeting, investing, and invoicing. I looked at reviews of some options, and in terms of well-established apps, my requirements all seem to point to Quicken Home & Business. So I’ll set that up and see where it gets me.

Looking into HomeBank got me worrying about financial issues, so I made a worry list. Part of my procedure is to respond to each of my worries with possible rebuttals or solutions, and I organized my responses into a set of financial questions to answer. They ended up sounding like basic financial planning questions: What are my goals and their time frames? What sources of income would fit those requirements and be appealing and feasible for me? Also how can I avoid disastrous investing mistakes?

Reading

πŸ™‚

To procrastinate on the epistemology book I’m trying to get through, I’ve been catching up on a bunch of miscellaneous articles. Some highlights:

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Weeknote for 1/24/2021

Productivity

πŸ™‚

Just in time for the next project month, I finished setting up my elastic habits. Here’s a good video explanation of Elastic Habits. Here are the official guides. I made a custom version of the tracker and a template for a habits poster. The tracker is tailored to my 28-day project months just to keep myself on a uniform schedule. I printed the tracker and a poster filled in with my current habits and put them on the magnetic whiteboard in my bedroom.

For habits I’m starting with sleep, housekeeping, and projects. Later I’ll add or switch to other important life activities such as exercise, but at the moment I see myself as being in self-rehabilitation mode, and these are the habits that feel both doable and impactful.

Sleep is interesting because I can’t really scale the habit levels by sleep time, since I’m aiming for 8 hours every night. Instead I’m scaling my preparation for sleep. The Mini habit is falling asleep anywhere (such as on the sofa) in time for an 8-hour sleep (or within an hour of getting home). The Plus level is being ready for an 8-hour sleep in bed with my nighttime medication done. The Elite level is sleeping on time with my whole night routine done.

Reading

πŸ€”

I’m rethinking my goals for reading my long print books. I spent a lot of time reading on my day off on Monday, but it reminded me that reading takes a lot of time, and I don’t know what’s a realistic daily page count, especially when I often miss days (like most of last week) and have to catch up if I’m trying to keep a schedule. So for now I’m just going to see how reading fits into whatever routine my chosen elastic habits create and not worry about deadlines for finishing these books.

Life maintenance

😐

February’s project is my finances. My goals are to settle on some financial software, update my budget, and start at least my emergency fund investment. Hopefully my new elastic habits will help me make faster progress on this project than I made on the setup of those habits.

Thinking

πŸ™‚

Melanie Mitchell’s Complexity: A Guided Tour does just what it says on the tin. My attention was turned to this topic by Robert Flood’s Rethinking the Fifth Discipline, in which he appeals to complexity as a corrective to the top-down solutions to systemic problems Peter Senge recommends in The Fifth Discipline. In my view any approach that goes further in grappling with the world’s messiness is a step in the right direction, so I was intrigued. It hasn’t been easy to find a good overview of this field, but Mitchell’s looked promising.

As the book progressed I found out why it might be hard to find good intros: The story she tells is of a newish science trying to find its footing, not even sure how to define itself. The book is fairly personal, and I was intrigued to find that Mitchell is part of the Sante Fe Institute and that she studied under Douglas Hofstadter, who was the one who turned me on to cognitive science. In the end I did feel I’d been guided through the highlights of complexity science, so as usual with these books I now have many starting points for research.

Politics

😌

I was relieved to see a peaceful transfer of power. I was also gratified to see the new administration hit the ground running, addressing so many talking points right away that the pundits I listen to have commented on for so long. My political attention might wane a bit now that I feel the adults are in charge, but watching politics has become another habit for me, so I’ll have an eye on it for the foreseeable future. And in case you’re interested, here’s my growing Twitter list of extremism researchers.

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Weeknote for 1/17/2021

Productivity

πŸ˜•

I wrestled with fatigue all week. Since I was determined to get my work done and not use personal time just for naps, my work days tended to stretch into the evenings, which didn’t help with my sleep schedule. This isn’t uncommon for me, but it was worse last week. I also found myself wasting hours scrolling through Google News or Twitter. It reiterated for me that social media isn’t just a matter of dopamine. Sometimes it’s all I can summon the mental energy for.

πŸ˜•

I didn’t do anything with my Elastic Habits tracker. I’d like to finish it this week so I can move on to my finances in the next project month, which starts next week.

πŸ€”

I’m trying different varieties of ground coffee. Not that it helps much when I’m especially tired, but about a month ago I bought a coffee maker to give me more control over the strength of my coffee, and since then I’ve been trying different recommended brands that I can get at the grocery store. Here are my ratings so far, based solely on my personal taste:

  • Folgers Classic Roast: 3/5
  • Barissimo Medium Roast: 4/5
  • Seattle’s Best Coffee Portside Blend: 2/5

Reading

πŸ€”

I’m reevaluating my year-long reading plans. After missing a few days of reading last week, I’ve gotten even more behind than when I made the plans, and the days I did read, it took a lot of time. I’m still going to try to stick with my one-year plans for the shorter books, but each page of the commentary is like two of a regular book, so I might plan to take two years for that one. I’ll decide for sure once I’ve caught up (if I do) and I see how long a normal day’s reading takes.

Politics

πŸ˜’

I’m keeping an eye on political extremists. I’m especially paying attention to the government’s response to them, to international perspectives on them, to researchers who track their activity, and to military-minded people who tell me how they operate.

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Weeknote for 1/10/2021

Health

😌

My post-Christmas self-isolation is done, and I haven’t had COVID symptoms. And I haven’t heard bad news from my family, so it seems that by some mixture of hard work and luck, we avoided disaster.

Politics

πŸ˜•

My eyes were glued to the news during the Capitol incursion. At first I was uncertain what was happening and worried about how it would be resolved. Then I was angry that the rioters had the gall to attack the heart of our system of government. It was a line I never thought anyone here would cross. Now I’m intently watching the aftermath and a little worried about when and where the insurrectionists will try again and if we’ll be ready. I have to say, though, that the arrests are pretty satisfying.

Productivity

πŸ˜•

I didn’t get much further with my Elastic Habits tracker. I was hoping to get to some other life maintenance tasks during January, but the way my time is going, this tracker may be it for the whole month.

πŸ™‚

I’m trying Pomodoro again with the Seconds app as a timer. I gave up on it last time because I stopped paying attention to the timer, but last week I needed something to help me push through work, so I’ll see what I can do with it now that I won’t be relying on its newness for my motivation. It’s been helpful so far.

Spirituality

😎

I started reading the Oxford Bible Commentary. The past few years I’ve made it my Lent project to listen through an audio Bible. After last year’s listen I decided the practice needed a change because my reactions were basically the same each time and I wasn’t gaining much new. If I was going to go through the Bible again, I needed some extra input.

I decided on the Oxford Bible Commentary to give me a detailed sense of what critical scholarship had to say about each part of the Bible. This is a question I’ve had in mind ever since grad school. My degree was in biblical exegesis, but our emphasis was more on interpretative method than on biblical content, so my knowledge of Bible scholarship has had gaps, and this commentary will be a good way to start filling those in. These scholarly details will both give me a better idea of what’s going on in the Bible and help me in my continual wrestling match with inerrancy.

My first idea was to read the whole thing while listening to my next audio Bible over Lent, but that was going to be too much work, so I made a plan to spread out the audio Bible and commentary over the whole year. Fortunately I made this plan only a few days into January.

AI

😎

I started reading Russell and Norvig’s Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. Really I started when I got the book on Christmas, but I started over when I made a year-long reading plan for it last week. This is by far the most popular AI textbook, and this is the latest edition that came out less than a year ago. It covers a wide range of issues, I enjoyed Russell’s Human Compatible and the interview I heard with him, and I’m getting a little impatient with my lack of progress in this area, so for numerous reasons I was motivated not to put off this book.

Thinking

πŸ™‚

William Isaacs’ Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together offers a thoughtful framework for creative dialogue. His work is an extension of physicist David Bohm’s model. I listened it to keep thinking about respectful discussion along the lines of Mick West’s Escaping the Rabbit Hole, but my original purpose for it was to collect some group processes for my modeling framework. Despite supporting his techniques with various types of woo, Isaacs digs rather deeply and I think plausibly into human nature and group dynamics, and I’m looking forward to studying his approach when I get into group modeling processes.

😎

I started reading Making Hard Decisions with DecisionTools by Robert T. Clemen and Terence Reilly. This is the third book I’ll try spreading out over the year. My motivation for this one is that I’m increasingly seeing that many of life’s troubles and conflicts come down to the difficulty of making decisions, and so I want to find out how the most serious thinkers give themselves the best chance at it.

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Weeknote for 1/3/2021

Health

πŸ€”

This is week 2 of my post-Christmas self-isolation. I’ve been waiting to see if I feel sick. So far, so good. The rest of the family is fine too.

Life maintenance

πŸ™‚

I designed a new Elastic Habits tracker. It’s a little more like a spreadsheet than the official one and has more hints for scoring. It’s also tailored to my 28-day project schedule rather than 30-day months. I’m still working on it, but I should have things ready to start tracking next week.

Thinking

😎

Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness offers intriguing starting points for study. The book ties together the topics of his other books, so black swans and antifragility both make an appearance. I was especially interested in his discussion of Monte Carlo engines, which were the basis for his thinking on randomness. And his references to classical music and literature always make me want to be more cultured.

Escaping the Rabbit Hole by Mick West gives me hope that even people with extreme views can be open to reason. It’s also an argument for respectful dialogue over ideological combat. As someone who’s been helping people evaluate their unconventional views for a long time, the author has a lot of practical advice.

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Weeknote for 12/27/2020

Video

πŸ€”

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me gives us Laura’s side of the story. Between tasks in my travel preparations, I watched the Twin Peaks movie. Some of the actors in the retrospective documentary said they were disappointed the show’s small town community feel was lost because the movie dropped the other plots and focused on Laura, but I agreed with this review. The movie had a different purpose from the show. The TV show told us what had gone on with Laura as it was uncovered by the investigators, which ended up fairly sanitized on screen. The movie cranked it up several notches and showed us. An emotionally wrenching portrayal.

Christmas

πŸ™‚

Last week was the Christmas trip that’s been a tower of unease looming over me since we started planning it in the middle of the year. But we made plans to keep it free of illness, and it turned out to be a satisfying time with the family. I’ll be watching our health in the next week to see if our plans worked.

Wednesday

Wednesday was our drive down to the cabin we were renting in the Ozarks. My brother picked me up and drove the whole way. One of my worries had been that my intestinal issues would give me problems somewhere in the 9-hour trip, but they were in a calm period, and the ride wasn’t too bad.

 

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Even though we were away from our usual gathering place, we kept some of our Christmas traditions: Dinner was tamales, refried beans, and Spanish rice. And my sister brought a puzzle, a painting of a cat library.

An accidental tradition we seem to keep every year is too many desserts. This time we each made at least one to bring, and we ended up with nine kinds for the five of us. I made molasses cookies.

 

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Thursday

Thursday was Christmas Eve. Breakfast was Michael’s Christmas quiche (with sun dried tomatoes and spinach). I spent the morning making Google Cardboard panoramas of the cabin. Lunch was our usual chili dogs. In the afternoon we took our sibling walk around the neighborhood, but this time our neighborhood was a leafy dirt path past some other cabins and a view of the mountains. Our Christmas Eve service was a livestream from Michael’s church. Dinner was tortilla soup by Abbie.

 

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Friday

And then, at last, Christmas. Breakfast was our traditional cinnamon rolls, plus eggnog coffee cake by Michael. After breakfast we opened presents. The other main event of Christmas is lunch, and while we find it tempting just to repeat Thanksgiving, we’ve been making an effort not to do that. This year we had ham, mashed potatoes, mashed butternut squash, roasted broccoli, green bean casserole, potato rolls, and Abbie’s “frozey fruit.” The rest was a team effort between Michael and our mom.

 

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In the evening we played a board game Michael had picked up, Wingspan. He won. I tied for second with Abbie.

 

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Saturday

Saturday we checked out at around 9 a.m. and trekked back home. I did a lot of sleeping on the way. I tend to dawdle on my road trips, but Michael’s great at making good time, and I was home by early evening.

 

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Christmas labels

πŸ™‚

This year my secret Christmas gift labels were names made out of math-related shapes. This theme came from my math learning project from earlier in the year. I didn’t find any math fonts that made letters out of shapes like I’d found for food in a previous year, so I made my own letters out of things like fractals and measuring tools.

 

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Life maintenance

😐

This week starts the Thinkulum January project month, and I’m continuing with some general life maintenance. This will include task management (mostly using Elastic Habits) and finances (switching software, updating my budget, and investing).

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Weeknote for 12/20/2020

Life maintenance

😐

My pre-road-trip COVID test came back negative. I had to break my self-isolation for my regularly scheduled outpatient hospital visit and a couple of curbside pickups at stores, but I’d already arranged a COVID test for five days later, and that came back negative. For our family’s Christmas get together we’re trying to follow the CDC guidelines for indoor gatherings, so we’ll be masking, distancing, and ventilating. I’ll also be self-isolating when I get back. My other travel preparations are rolling along better than I expected.

Thinking

😎

I listened with satisfaction to Duncan Watts’ Everything Is Obvious (Once You Know the Answer). I’d sum up his message as, social science is hard, but guessing is worse. The book lays out numerous ways common sense backfires (including the cognitive biases everyone brings up) and proposes scientific techniques for finding better answers. Since one of my long-time personal mottos has been “Common sense isn’t,” I found the book valuable, and I’ll be revisiting it when I do my deep dive into rationality.

Samuel Arbesman takes a positive view of our shifting knowledge in The Half-Life of Facts. Replacing old beliefs with new discoveries is a normal part of science, and remarkably these changes happen in regular patterns we can quantify (which I’d call another example of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics). Studying these patterns gives us another way to manage the errors and gaps in our knowledge.

I was especially intrigued by his discussion of hidden knowledge, discoveries we could make by triangulating from what we already know or simply by noticing studies that have been overlooked. This is the idea behind my project Mining Ancient Thought, and I keep an eye out for AI projects that draw new knowledge from the existing scientific literature. Here’s one that found possible COVID treatments. Two examples from Arbesman that caught my ear were CoPub Discovery and DEVONthink.

People

πŸ™‚

I had a video chat with my old college roommate Jason. It’d been quite a while since we’d talked, other than a couple of brief text chats, but we picked up where we left off, it was a good conversation, and I was glad we made the time to connect. It cemented my observation that if I want to socialize, it generally needs to be scheduled. It also reminded me I want to deepen some of my relational skills, since my talks with Jason are rarely superficial, and I’d like to make the most of such conversations.

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