Weeknote for 8/16/2020



My immune-suppressing prednisone level is low, but I’m still avoiding indoor crowds. This is mostly to avoid possibly delaying my ulcerative colitis treatments at the hospital, which would happen if I exposed myself to known or suspected cases of COVID. My UC is doing surprisingly well right now, unusual compared to my typical symptoms on Remicade and compared to other times I’ve tapered off prednisone.

Project management


I began rethinking my project management. I want better ways to assess the state of each project, especially when I juggle several at once and progress in several areas for each one. This amounts to (1) defining the tasks for each project so I can see what’s finished and unfinished, (2) externalizing more of the work I normally keep in my head, and (3) better organizing the results of my work as another way of seeing what’s finished and unfinished.

I also want to simplify project tasks where possible so they’ll have a better chance of fitting into the short time frames I end up giving them when I’m juggling. And I want better ways to manage R&D projects, which are unpredictable and are also the majority of my projects.

To define project tasks and organize my work, I listed the typical kinds of projects I do these days (writing, learning, and programming) and listed a basic workflow for each type. Then I created a set of folders in Notion to act as a template for writing projects. Next I’ll create templates for programming and learning projects, in whatever software makes sense for them.

To manage task dependencies I’m looking at ProjectLibre. I would’ve tried DigiSpoke, but I couldn’t even sign up.



My new learning goal is to be able to teach what I’ve learned from start to finish. I realized this while trying to answer why I was revisiting all the prealgebra I’d just covered. It’s because the content was still a jumble in my mind, definitely not in a state for an orderly recital. This reminded me that a start-to-finish explanation from recall has, in fact, always been my goal when learning anything. It’s a natural test for whether I’ve absorbed all the material. And I hate the feeling of disappointment, annoyance, and embarrassment I get when I think I’ve learned something, but then I try to tell someone about it and I can’t. So now this will be my standard goal, and I’ll design my learning workflow around it.

RemNote may replace both my notes2flashcards app and Anki. The more I think about all this project management, the more I want to start creating my modeling tool, because what I need is a highly structured way to track all my project data and writing. I vaguely remembered there are new note-taking apps that might work along these lines, and I stumbled across RemNote. It’s basically an outliner combined with a spaced repetition reviewer, the kind of study tool I’ve been looking for all this time. (LearnObit is similar but seems harder to use.) I’m working through the tutorials.



Math is my game. I’ve barely touched a computer game in several years, so normally I think I’m just not in a playing mode right now, and I wonder when I’ll get back to it. But last week I found out this is a lie. Tuesday the Midwest had a big storm that knocked out my power for eight hours. While lying in bed to supposedly sleep, I occupied my mind with designs for my math student simulator program. And after catching myself having fun working things out, I realized that for me this simulator is a toy for playing with math. So I concluded that math is my current game, and the object is to figure out how it works.



Space 2.0 by Rod Pyle is an inspiring crash course in the global space economy. It’s nicely organized and covers all the topics I expected and a few more, and it ends with ways to get involved. I recommend it. My favorite chapter was 14 on space infrastructure, the system of tech in space that will enable all this exploration and settlement, such as cyclersโ€”spacecraft that fly on a continual circuit to places like the moon and Mars to transport people and supplies.

Another good resource is a Discord server I joined, Rocket Emporium. In addition to the features listed on that page, the server maintains a long list of space-related websites, movies, books, and software. This will all be useful for the wiki page I’m planning about keeping track of all this stuff.



I began my journey through AI history with the late Nils Nilsson. You can get the PDF version of The Quest for Artificial Intelligence for free from his faculty page. So far I’ve learned that a lot of the themes of current research started very early in its history, including both the symbolic and connectionist paradigms and applications such as games and military intelligence. In fact, some of the themes go back even further. People have been dreaming of creating artificial life for millennia. One attempt was Jacques de Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck.

Social issues


Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist is a welcome signpost in the form of a memoir. The book is organized by topic and covers a wide range of them with fairly short chapters and many pointers to further study. Stamped from the Beginning was kind of a slog for a non-history person like me, but this one was more personal and philosophical, so it was more my style. He was also less imperious than I expected. The book is about his development as an antiracist, and he doesn’t consider himself to have arrived. He doesn’t see racism or antiracism as an unchanging, pervasive identity but only a description of specific attitudes and behaviors that can be mixed within a person and shifted over time. And he urges activists to be self-critical.

On the other side of things, a recent conversation pointed me to some Black conservatives. These were Thomas Sowell, Glenn Loury, Walter Williams, Jason Riley, and Coleman Hughes. I may look into some of them soon. Hughes wrote a helpful introductory piece on Sowell.

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