2019 has started out strangely for me. Last week featured epic levels of procrastination and intestinal dysfunction.
With an extra long blog post, a project retrospective, and some apartment tidying on my agenda for last week, I found it necessary to procrastinate. It turned out I found some very engrossing subject matter for procrastination, and it basically ended up shuffling around my project schedule. So instead of doing any of what I’d planned except the blog post, I spent most of my time on conceptual modeling a few months early.
Backstory: Although my life agenda project is more or less on hold, from time to time I add a little to the project map I’m developing for it. Essentially I’m treating my life as a massive project, and I’m charting its task dependencies, where the “tasks” are whole projects.
As I’m mapping these project chains, I’m finding I need a vocabulary to describe the different kinds of tasks and projects I’m encountering. As usual these days when I need to define things, what immediately resurfaces is my wish that I had a formal way to write the definitions. This is because formalizing messy things brings me clarity, and clarity brings me power, power to learn and communicate and make decisions.
Well, I’d done a little more project mapping, and since I needed a way to procrastinate, it was the perfect time to look into the formalizing issue more extensively. I wanted to explore the idea that you should define a term by listing a set of conditions that would uniquely identify it, basically using some equivalent of set-builder notation. This suggested looking at query languages, since they give you results from a dataset based on conditions you specify. To give me the most flexibility, I wanted a query language that had a lot of tool support in multiple programming languages.
The point: I landed on the RDF query language SPARQL, which led me to look more closely at its family of languages, the Semantic Web, which I’d dismissed before as too simple for my needs. It turns out I was wrong, and it actually looks very promising. I spent the rest of the week researching and learning about it.
I also glanced at category theory, an area of math that would also help in conceptual modeling. But it has less tool support and seems harder to learn, so I’m putting it off for now. When I get to it, I’ll probably start with David Spivak’s Category Theory for the Sciences. It’s written for non-mathematicians, and the first chapter tells me the author and I think a lot alike.
A side project was installing Debian in VirtualBox on my Windows tablet. That was my New Year’s morning. Other than procrastination, the purpose was to give me a way to explore the design of Linux software as described in The Art of Unix Programming. I haven’t done any of the exploring yet, but it felt good to get it set up, especially since I hadn’t worked with virtual machines before.
Since it was Linux, it was only natural that I ran into problems very quickly. The Debian setup wizard kept failing on the software installation step. It turned out the KDE installation files were too big for my var partition, so I installed Xfce instead, which I’d never heard of. Even though it’s annoying to have to follow the operating system’s agenda for your time rather than your own, the good thing about running into problems is that solving them teaches you more about the system.
Christmas gift labels
I successfully procrastinated the whole week on writing the project retrospective. Maybe something will happen on it this week.
I also didn’t do any tidying, but I did upgrade my apartment a little. On Saturday I bought a new TV and a Blu-ray player, which I’d been planning since before I moved. It’s a Sharp 40″ 1080p Roku TV. For the size I followed the guideline of dividing the viewing distance by 2.5, and the result does feel right. I also learned a 4k TV is a waste at that size and distance unless it comes with HDR, which might still not be worth it yet, which saved me some money.
Other than being able to read text on the screen across the room now, my favorite feature is that using the Roku app I can listen to the audio through headphones on my phone. When I’m home alone and I don’t have to make extra noise, I like keeping my apartment quiet.
I finished the second book in the Mortal Engine’s Quartet, Predator’s Gold. 5/5. Like the first one, it kept me guessing, especially wondering how the author would tie together the threads of the plot.
For about 12 years I’ve had ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease that for me amounts to chronic diarrhea. Nice topic, I know. My main treatment is an infusion of Remicade at the hospital every 8 weeks. Most of the time, it goes smoothly, and with a little supplementary medicine it keeps my condition very manageable.
This time I had two problems: I was out of town the date I should’ve had my next appointment (Dec 26), and my insurance was taking its time reauthorizing my treatment. The result was my next infusion had to be two weeks late. My symptoms were okay the first week, only a little worse than usual. The second week I was reminded why I need this treatment. I spent what seemed like a fourth of my waking hours sitting in the restroom. Fortunately, my next infusion is Tuesday. (If you want to get technical, it’s happening as I write this.)