I finished the prealgebra chapters. Last week completed the project month of June, and this week starts my version of the extra month of Sol. The OpenStax prealgebra book continues, but at that point its content overlaps with their algebra books, so I’m considering it algebra. I’ll start on that this week and see what my pace looks like. Since it saves time, I’ll keep doing the examples in my head until I feel confused enough to need paper.
Joseph Reagle’s Hacking Life critiques the life hacker movement. I like to think broadly and consider many perspectives, so this book was important for me. You can read it for free on the publisher’s website. Some key points: (1) Treat yourself and other people like people, not cogs or machines. (2) Consider what hardships your life hacks might place on other people, such as those you outsource your work to. (3) The advice of life hack gurus doesn’t really appeal or apply to everyone, mainly to well-off Silicon Valley types. (4) Life hack gurus often give up after a few years, or they move from one hackery lifestyle to another. (5) The advice can be disingenuous or un-self-aware. For example, Tim Ferriss works way more than four hours a week; he just doesn’t consider it all work. (Plus, he chose the title using market research, not out of a concern for accuracy.) (6) Health hacking can lead to questionable science.
I’m experimenting with stochastic productivity. Now that I’ve regressed from my new-idea enthusiasm to my low-energy, undisciplined mean, I’m trying a different approach—assembling a system of practices that fit into my haphazard way of life. But I didn’t get around to planning from Elastic Habits last week like I’d intended, because I was undisciplined and was also preoccupied with some other tools.
I started exploring the Notion app. For the past few years I’ve used Nirvana for task lists and Evernote for notes. I need a way to mix those functions, and Notion might fit the bill. It’s very flexible, and YouTube tutorials offer a lot of intriguing applications.
I’m trying out a distraction blocker at work. I’ve avoided these because I’ve been worried I’ll block too much or too little or it’ll be too easy to work around. But my discipline has flagged lately, and I wanted to try altering my environment like all the gurus recommend, so I’m finally looking into a blocker. I only need to block websites rather than apps, and I only really need to make them inconvenient enough that I think twice about spending time on them. Out of a list of apps I found, I chose StayFocusd because it’s free and lets me block everything and then apply a list of allowed sites rather than only blocking a few specific sites, because it’s not just Facebook or Twitter that distracts me—it’s the whole Internet. I didn’t start the blocking that week because I needed to sift through a lot of domains from my web history to create my allow list, but I pretended the blocking was on, and so my workday on Friday was way more focused, though not very happy.
I’m not looking forward to going back to the office. Illinois is on track to enter Phase 4 in a few weeks, and my employer will be bringing people back to the office, with case-by-case exceptions. I might have a good case, since at home it’s way easier for me to work while managing my ulcerative colitis. My friends and family want me to try for it. But I’m also curious how well I can handle my time back at the office, so I might try that even if I can get permission.
I also vaguely worry that I’ll get sick or at least come in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and have to postpone my next Remicade infusion, which would result in a disruptive flare-up. But my latest infusion hasn’t improved my symptoms as much as I expected, so I’m keeping an eye on that.
An old college friend called. My friend Cam called to catch up on the past many months and to make tentative plans to bring his family by in a couple of weeks. They’ll be road tripping through the area. We’ll probably be wearing masks, but it’ll be good to see them. I was in their wedding.
My church nudged me into exploring antiracism. On Sunday my church’s powerful service of lament with an earnest message from one of our African-American members got me to stop procrastinating on learning some Black history and digging again into issues of racism. To give me context, I’m starting with Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. I think of this project as the fourth phase of my education in feminism and race relations, and I’m looking forward to what I will learn.
One theme that’s in my mind is a point I came across long ago by philosopher Stuart Hackett, that “persons, merely as such and just on account of their personhood, possess intrinsic value or worth. What that means is that persons are not to be construed as merely means or instruments of further ends, but rather as ends in themselves”. This point was reiterated last week by a Twitter thread I found by @jameyhatley: “On [Instagram], white folks are explaining why their Black friends matter. Because they are special. I ain’t special. I matter because I am. Period. … If my neighbor with the loud ass heavy Chevy doesn’t matter, if my conspiracy theory cousin, the strippers, the unhoused, the loud, the crass, the unwell Black folk don’t matter, then none of us do. Including your exceptional lil friends.” All Black lives matter. A truth for me to grow into.
Futurism is my escapism. I think everyone needs some mental escapes from the heavy times we live in, and I’m finding myself drawn back to the future. Thinking about humanity’s positive possibilities expands my vision and reminds me that the world isn’t at a dead end, or at least it doesn’t have to be. My latest source of inspiration is the upcoming launch of the Mars Perseverance rover, which will do research on enabling humans to live on Mars. It’s set to launch Saturday (Edit: Oops! The launch date is July 20, not June.). NASA has a launch calendar and a YouTube channel where you can keep track.