WN04 Wales

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Went cycling in Wales. We covered less distance in more time than originally planned. Turns out terrain makes a big difference! And the extra weight of a week’s supplies doesn’t help either.

I used all the gears. And, it turns out sometimes you have to pedal when going downhill, if it’s windy enough.

📯 From the World

Cathedrals are weird. Not because they’re old or the religious iconography, but because they accumulate stuff. Chester cathedral seemed particularly weird. I’m not even talking interment of someone who loves hunting, the bell from the fire department, or the Lego replica of the building. But does it need its own version of Monopoly? Or a nook dedicated to animal trafficking? And, what’s this!?

💎 Rethinking

Next time, pack fewer things!

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

I took a few pictures. Mostly, I walked, cycled and admired the scenary.

WN03 Decomplicating Diet

This has been a liminal week. Nothing like messing with diet to bring you into the moment. Next week I’m travelling, so the update may look a bit different.

📯 From the World

Vurt

Fortunately, there are more good dreams than bad. It makes life worth living. But it’s the bad ones we remember, right? The crazy flights when we thing the entire univert is plotting against us with every terror and torture it can muster, all aimed at our poor dreaming soul.

Had an amazing bit of synchronicity. I was idly having a conversation about what books would make good role-play settings. Jeff Noon got mentioned, for his vibrant, surreal near-future Manchester. And they’ve only bloody gone and made one! It only took 20 years, but here we are. So, that came back from the bookshop with us six hours later.

The Cypher system is a good match for the game. Whether you’re a Shadowvurt Mathemagition or a Robodog Explorer, taking a feather to another dimension fits right in.

Decomplication

A nice reminder that resistance to do hard things, business and marketing push us towards complicated solution to simple problems. Not that it’ll be easy.

These problems are complex and you need a monumental amount of information to get them right. Bullshit. The core solutions to many problems, maybe most problems, are extremely simple. In one paragraph each, you can explain how to lose weight, how to gain muscle, how to save money, […] The finishing touches near perfection aren’t so simple, but the effective amount for the vast majority of our purposes? Certainly.

But if I pull you out of that wilderness utopia and return you to the modern world, the easy things aren’t so easy any more. You’ll struggle to sleep enough, struggle to eat well, struggle to exercise. You know that you need to sleep 8 hours, but it’s getting harder and harder to fit it into your schedule. You’ll start sleeping poorly, a laughable problem to anyone outside of modernity — Nat Eliason

Which reminds me of Marie Kondo. She reminds us that something is not done until its done, and only when you’re truly on the other side of can you relax.

Most people associate the word ‘rebound’ with dieting, but when they hear it used in the context of tidying, it still makes sense. It seems logical that a sudden, drastic reduction in clutter could have the same effect as a drastic cut in calories – there might be a short-term improvement but it would not be sustainable for long. But don’t be deceived. The moment you begin moving furniture around and getting rid of things, your room changes. It’s very simple. If you put your house in order in one mammoth effort, you will have tidied up completely. Rebound occurs because people mistakenly believe they have tidied thoroughly when in fact they have only partially sorted and stored things. If you put your house in order properly, you’ll be able to keep your room tidy always, even if you are lazy or messy by nature. — Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

Which brings me on to…

💎 Rethinking

Diet

Removing food from your day is a weird thing at first. All that time spent cooking and eating freed up. But also so much time and energy spent thinking about food. All of that laid bare, with nothing to do. Thinking, thinking. Time to move on. Separating the want from the lack of desire was interesting. Blow by blow account, at the bottom.

A while ago, accidentally gave myself low carb flu experimenting with diet. It was an unpleasant lethargy and malaise. So, was pleasantly surprised that my energy and mood stayed stable this time. Apart from the melancholia that comes as a sign that I should be asleep already, I was mostly in an unremarkable, good mood. And this seems to have remained with the lower-carb meals for the rest of the week. Energy has ebbed and flowed in a way that felt natural, and even in the lower energy moments I could usually get into some with some focus.

I’ve scarcely looked at the sweet stuff the couple times I’ve been in the local shops. This did wear off by the end of the week. Meal prep has been simpler this week. Salads almost prepare themselves, and just adding heat has been enough for the rest. One thing I ate disagreed with me, but I anticipated it might. Which cascaded and affected my energy for the day, and my sleep. Not desirable, but a well timed reminder.

This doesn’t remove the complexity, but it is useful context for decomplicating diet. What a body can tolerate is wider than routine, and its responses are made invisible by it.

What comes next is this; Eat food that’s good for you. Don’t eat food that’s bad. Eat enough. Work backwards to make sure you have enough good food in the house. When you find what works, you’ll know.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

I’m reading The Unreal and The Real by Ursula K. Le Guin. There’s been an inspiring potency in the subtext, even jumping from a story about a normal kids, to one about psych doctor, to full-on Dreaming.

WaitGroups with Goroutines

Golang’s concurrency system is so minimal. It takes the two letter keyword go and a function to run it asynchronously. But it doesn’t have a thread.join() equivalent, so you have to include synchronisation steps in your code. Six lines of boilerplate for adding a WaitGroup may seem a bit much, but you’d often be using channels instead. And this approach would scale to multiple different Goroutines setup at the same time.

package main
func goroutineWithWaitGroup() {
wg := sync.WaitGroup{}
wg.Add(1)
go func(wg *sync.WaitGroup) {
defer wg.Done()
// …
}(&wg)
wg.Wait()
}

view raw
waitgroup.go
hosted with ❤ by GitHub

Keeping it in Your Brain

If I do not write at least 1000 words a week, the story leaves my brain […] I might not write again for months.Hank Green

This is why I have this section in my template. I’ve been spending a small amount of time doing music production and looking at songwriting each week. I’m looking to build it up, but right now I’m making sure I hit that minimum threshold.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Cyberpunk Red

We were late, by this point. While Camden and Apogee dug out the car, D311B0i set a grenade to anonymise the scene and Alex brought the truck around. Then we sped to the ambush site, while avoiding cop attention.

We were late, so we head on to catch them up. We pincered the armoured truck when we caught it. A bit further down the road, but that was the plan. The convoy bike spun out, and an oncoming car skidded off the road. We totalled our van, but got the cargo. Now to drop off the cheese.

A Three Day Fast

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so — Ford Prefect, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Last weekend we did a three day fast. I’ve been doing 16-8(ish) time restricted eating, meaning breakfast is lunch, but I’ve never done anything extended. So, when group we’re in set the date and we said “sure”.

Water, tea and coffee were all that we consumed. This is as simple as it sounds, but it highlights how enmeshed we are with food. Come lunch time on Friday, the first “mealtime”, I was met with a moment on confusion. I guess lunch is coffee and I go for a walk? I was tired that morning, which was unrelated as nothing was different yet. I was actually far more alert come the evening. Go figure.

What did happen was I got cold. This is a common thing, without as much digestion going you just generate less heat. Nothing putting another jumper on couldn’t solve. I actually over-compensated and got quite warm. Come the evening, I think my body was kicking out more heat again.

Saturday was weirder. I’ve heard that this is where the hump is, and we were going to town so we’d be around a whole bunch of smells and temptations. And I noticed that there was food everywhere. Smells became more intense, salty things smelled so appetising. I noticed me noticing, but was not tempted to break fast. We had some dead time between browsing books shops and going to the cinema, so we sat and got a coffee. If we weren’t fasting, would have likely got a cake or pastry too.

There were a few moments like this. “Oh it’s there and I like food, so let’s get this now.” Not today. A 100% abstinence rule is so much easier to follow. Mostly, it was my pattern matching brain that was spotting opportunities rather than my body crashing or craving. All in all, weird but not so difficult. There was no cake on my birthday this year.

By this point, day three was easy. Perhaps months of skipping breakfast put me in good stead. Some of the group had a harder time, but that and starting the fast with exercise was enough for me. My energy had been fluctuating, but no more than usual. When I was doing focused work I could sustain it. A background thirst and recontextualising the signals from my body didn’t demand an immediate response.

75 hours later, I met some friends in the pub for dinner. I’d spent much less time thinking about food by this point, but I had been fantasising about steak. I wanted to order everything, yet I resisted and got a mix of small plates. The salty, fatty goodness of chorizo and tatziki was delicious.

And this week has mostly been low-carb. No grains (except that first meal), more protein and mostly lots of salad. Initial thoughts above. Next week is travelling and lots of cycling. It’ll be eating what’s available. From experiment, to experiment, to experiment, so it seems.

WN02 Take Notes not Reminders

Starting writing Weeknotes is almost a direct result of going to Nor(DEV):con this year. A small mention of Theory of Constraints lead me down a rabbit hole. I discovered Tiago Forte’s series on it, before branching into the rest of his material. Through that, I discovered Roam as a tool. Which has brought its own rabbit hole.

Building on couple other ideas and sources, a plan and approach slowly built up. That ToC could be used for writing isn’t a leap. Realising that I would is unexpected. I’ve not been thinking about it directly in a while, yet identifying and elevating the constraint has happened implicitly. I’d like more words and ideas presented on this blog. Committing to posting makes is causing ripples in my process to bring it about. Writing about writing is more meta than I’d like, but I’m glad I’ve had this realisation.

There are many moments like this across a lifetime. Turn left instead of right, and the butterfly effect takes us to unexpected places.

📯 From the World

Memories of Murder is worth a watch. As is The Roads Not Taken. Watching them together, I came away with a wistfulness for more presence or awareness for the consequences of how we act and think.

Take Notes not Reminders

Any workflow is inherently personal. And I’ve seen a few different approaches to taking notes recently. From Progressive Summarisation, to the Zettelkasten method, to the Bullet Journal, there’s a running theme that a note has a use and that is to be reference. Anything else can be part of a workflow, but it should become reference soon to avoid wasted effort. How this looks in practice varies, but [[Andy Matuschak]]’s term Evergreen Notes sums this up well. Their note on the topic, quoted in its short entirety, is quite illuminating on their process. And the notes portal is interesting in itself.

Evergreen notes are written and organized to evolve, contribute, and accumulate over time, across projects. This is an unusual way to think about writing notes: Most people take only transient notes. That’s because these practices aren’t about writing notes; they’re about effectively developing insight: “Better note-taking” misses the point; what matters is “better thinking”. When done well, these notes can be quite valuable: Evergreen note-writing as fundamental unit of knowledge work.

It’s hard to write notes that are worth developing over time. These principles help:

This concept evolves in large part from Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten, which he regards as the independent intellectual partner in writing his 70 books. See Similarities and differences between evergreen note-writing and Zettelkasten

Elizabeth Van Nostrand’s experiment in thorough fact-checking is an extreme example of this; mining a book for literally all the information it contains, then following up by asking what is credible. It’s a great example of the power of Roam, and how notes aid thinking.

“How do we know that?” questions moved from something I pushed myself to think about during second read-throughs to popping into my head unbidden. There were just natural “How do we know that?” shaped holes in my notes.

It became much more obvious when a bunch of paragraphs said nothing, or said nothing I valued, because even when I tried I couldn’t distill them into my notes.

When I felt I knew enough I would create a Synthesis page representing what I really thought, with links to all the relevant claims (Roam lets you link to bullet points, not just pages) and a slider bar stating how firmly I believed it. This supported something I already wanted conceptually, which was shifting from [evaluating claims for truth and then judging the trustworthiness of the book] to [collating data from multiple sources of unknown reliability to inform my opinion of the world]. When this happened it became obvious Claims didn’t need their own pages and could live happily as bullet points on their associated Source page.

💎 Rethinking

Chuck Palahniuk, describes part of the writing process as finding what resonates. I’m going to keep an ear out for this.

At the same time you’re beta testing it. You’re kind of taking it on the road and you’re seeing that it’s an idea that resonates with huge number of people, because a great anecdote doesn’t leave people speechless, it leaves some competing to tell the better version of the same thing.

This reminds me of Lynda Barry’s Syllabus book which is full of exercises to train you to notice small details about the world. When catching up with people recently, I noticed a few stories that were retold by different people in the group. Bus drivers are sometimes weird, getting ID’d or mistaken for the sibling of your children, driving in hazardous conditions etc. All received a “that happened to me too!” response.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

Building out my writing process has been a focus at the moment. Little changes from last week have made writing today far easier, but not less time consuming. From a Theory of Constraints perspective, finding a bottleneck would help. Which most likely means having some more notes prepared to a higher standard.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

  • Just as UK restrictions are increasing again, I’ve seen more of my colleagues in person! Both professionally, and socially.
  • Doing my first multi-day fast. Gone smoother than expected. I will gather my thoughts.

Cyberpunk Red

A friend has been running the new Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart. We’re a few session in. They’ve been quite short, but that suits us well at the moment. It’s nice to be talking to these guys more regularly. And I’m thinking that one good scene a session is really all we need to make it worth it.

The GM’s been taking advantage of Roll20‘s features quite well. There’s something lost by not doing it in person, but clicking the character sheet to do dice rolls is satisfyingly simple. And, live updating the map where we’ve been shot or set things on fire has been an excellent touch.

This session we had some serious blowback. We ditched a car to avoid the police and have returned to pick it up. Our hiding place has been undiscovered, but fenced off as corp territory. The car is “camo” and hiding under some foliage, but it’s blue and yellow. In a panic, Camden jumps the fence to retrieve the body we also hid, thinking it’ll get found soon. A patrol car rolls up, and carnage ensues.

WN01 A Commitment Device

Hello World!

Long time no see. There’s been a creeping inevitability to 2020, hasn’t there? From music festivals and a friend’s wedding cancelled back in March/April, we’re in a more known situation but not favourable to big plans. I hope this impingement on social freedoms has served you well, and I wish everyone safety, security and calm in navigating the conditions.

The silver lining, for me has been open time that would have otherwise been spent on trains. There’s been an opportunity for reflection and reading. Since I’m not chatting with y’all down the pub, I’m making this another outlet to let thoughts form and flow.

I’m going to experiment in Weeknotes as a format for the rest of the year. A collection of links, thoughts ands reflections of things that are going on. Consider this week 1, and a commitment. I’m scheduling the posts now. Best fill them!

📯 From the World

The Regenerative Life

I’ve been slowly reading The Regenerative Life. The book sets our nine social roles that we can find ourselves in across our lifetime. It uses foundational frameworks and principles alongside journal entries to highlight their interplay. Carol invites us to take it personally, and instead of devouring this book I’m processing it slowly as the principles are worth sitting with.

One of the core concepts is the Levels Framework for seeing the world and our work in different ways. This progresses from Value Exchange, to Arrest Disorder, to Do Good, to Regenerative Life. It reminds me of The Dreyfus Model, in which we can handle increasing levels of abstraction and complexity. And Carol alludes to this as learning a new skill forces us down the scale. Yet, it’s more like improving the quality of our consciousness, or meta-cognition.

Carol warns: “By using the levels of paradigm as a framework that describes a hierarchy of value and potential, we avoid the mistake of treating these different perspectives as equivalent. They do not represent a menu of options that we can put on or take off at will as though no consequences follow from our choice. It matters very much which paradigm we adopt.” By bringing a higher-order level of thinking, we create different results. Journal entries highlight seeing social dynamics being at, typically, the Arrest Disorder level, and thinking outside the yes/no dynamic breaks down the impasse.

I do find myself getting caught in loops that are very much trying to Arrest Disorder. Opening up to wider patterns is something I’d like to cultivate. The basic principles described in the book help open up that space. Inside, Outside, All-Around sums it up. By finding what is irreducible, and seeing the relationships between things we gain a much broader perspective of the impact we’re having on a web of connections. The discussion with Gordon White gets into the details here.

Sevdaliza on Repeat

I’m going to quote thejaymo on this one: “The new Sevdaliza album is transcendent. I’ve listened to it 3 times already today.” Thanks for the recommendation! I haven’t listened to an album on repeat like this for a while.

💎 Rethinking

Regenerative Life Reflections: Retro

Moving from “start-up” to “scale-up” phases of a project leads us to having a weird lack of feedback. We know that our products work. We know our process works. Things are running smoothly from sprint to sprint. Yet, as we feel more comfortable working on larger projects we are loosing connection with the impact that our work has. After discussing that last month, I tabled it during our retro.

Using the sailboat format as a starting point, I asked what our goal was. We got things that were on Value Exchange (diverse revenue) and Arrest Disorder (website reliability) levels. I raised the stakes by asking what is valuable to the customer, and presented ideas on the Do Good level (conceive baby, walk down stairs as result of supplement).

I was aiming for thinking at a Regenerative level, but I think I missed them mark. I’ll settle for the smaller reframe that I achieved. Carol warns Do Good leading to sounding like a zealot. Half the team were onboard, but the quieter half, I’m less sure. Being more attentive to the potential for disconnect is something to look at and follow-up with.

At the Do Good, reaching more customers is an extension of this. Regenerative thinking is hard, as we are asked to be “radically particular”. Which is hard in front of a virtual whiteboard in an hour. The Tech role is naturally a facilitator, and it’s worth reflecting on what can be done.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

  • I’m doing Weeknotes now. May write about this more in future. I’ve been using Roam and Nat Eliason’s process was the last of many nudges to just start.
  • I bought a guitar practice amp recently. Now have decided that I’m likely to want to do keyboard based stuff in the near future. We’ll see whether I stick in that direction. I’ve been putting aside some time each week for creative work and have been rebuilding my process from scratch. My kit has been scattered and moved due to working from home. Having the piano keyboard in a different room is helping, my practice is taking shape even if I don’t have anything to show right how.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

London, 28th August 2020

I went to the Tate Modern and then walked up from the river to Kings Cross. London is London. Definitely felt quiet at the Tate, and on the roads, but there were still people about. I did the permanent collections, and it’s interesting what leaps out on different visits.

A lot of street photography caught my attention this time. These images are normal scenes. I was reminded of the days of disposable cameras; knowing you have to use them up by the end of the trip. Pictures of shop windows and people sleeping ensue. As normal as these scenes are, they were definitely not from 2020. I went down with a camera, and I went out and took more pictures than I otherwise would have. Just like looking back at photos of the 70s evokes human similarity and temporal difference, looking back at the streets of 2020 is going to become unfamiliar to us.

The other series that really stood out was by Claudia Andujar, who had spent time with Yanomami communities in the Amazon. Logging, deforestation and exposure to the loggers introduced diseases like measles to these peoples. And, as a result vaccination. Yanomami customs over names have taboos of secrecy, so the images show the numbers they were identified with during vaccination. A simple yet striking overlapping of worlds.

And I really like things that play with light, like the Aldo Tambellini black and white videos, and Naoya Hatakeyama‘s night photography of grid lighting on modern buildings.