WN09 Kishōtenketsu

💎 Rethinking

Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.

Kishōtenketsu contains four acts: introduction, development, twist and reconciliation. The basics of the story–characters, setting, etc.–are established in the first act and developed in the second. No major changes occur until the third act, in which a new, often surprising element is introduced. The third act is the core of the plot, and it may be thought of as a kind of structural non sequitur. The fourth act draws a conclusion from the contrast between the first two “straight” acts and the disconnected third, thereby reconciling them into a coherent whole. — still eating oranges

As if I wasn’t having enough trouble working out what the structure for my NaNoWriMo idea…

I don’t know much about narrative, but this sounds like a pop song structure to me. Verse, Chorus (Act 1), Verse, Chorus (Act 2), Middle-eight or B-Section (Act 3), Chorus, Out (Act 4). Sometimes the B-Section is so different you could mistake it for another song out of context.

📯 From the World

  • I’ve been compulsively watching the Reedsy Youtube channel in prep for NaNoWriMo. Their NaNoWriMo page has been a good jumping off point for prep.
  • The Dresden Dolls turn 20! They have a new live set out. I enjoyed the bonus Q&A. Particularly the section on building a scene, inclusivity, and DIY. Brian talked about being inspired by Another State of Mind show what it’s like on a low budget tour in the 80s the punk scene.
  • I’d forgotten how good Deloused in the Comatorium is.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

NaNoWriMo day one! So far so good. Plan is to get ahead of word count on Sundays and Wednesdays so I have some buffer. Four acts, four weeks? What I hear the 30k mark is the hardest. Let’s see how my writing dramatic arc goes. I have a sketch of an outline, and some scene ideas, mostly for the first half. Is this enough for me to use writing one scene to prep the next? Tune in next week.

My plan hasn’t become much more detailed since last week, but I’ve chewed on some different ideas. I may not have agreed on much more, but I’ve discarded some ideas. Focus by subtraction has been useful. I’ve read the advice "don’t write the boring bits". Which is all well and good, but what’s interesting for a period romance is going to be different than for a cyberpunk thriller. (Or, maybe it isn’t!) I might have to write the boring bits to discover my characters and setting more. Maintaining interest can come in editing.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

It was good to be able to do a colleague’s leaving drinks face to face! Another week later and we wouldn’t.

Cyberpunk Red

I’m not giving much of an update this week. We’ve been playing through the Jumpstart, so I don’t want to spoiler the campaign. The visual wizardry of our GM using Roll20 and the blowback of our street-level incompetence has been fun to share. But this session came straight out of the book. You’re going to have to caption competition this one yourself.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

NaNoWriMo day one! So far so good. Plan is to get ahead of word count on Sundays and Wednesdays so I have some buffer. Four acts, four weeks? What I hear the 30k mark is the hardest. Let’s see how my writing dramatic arc goes. I have a sketch of an outline, and some scene ideas, mostly for the first half. Is this enough for me to use writing one scene to prep the next? Tune in next week.

My plan hasn’t become much more detailed since last week, but I’ve chewed on some different ideas. I may not have agreed on much more, but I’ve discarded some ideas. Focus by subtraction has been useful. I’ve read the advice "don’t write the boring bits". Which is all well and good, but what’s interesting for a period romance is going to be different than for a cyberpunk thriller. (Or, maybe it isn’t!) I might have to write the boring bits to discover my characters and setting more. Maintaining interest can come in editing.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

It was good to be able to do a colleague’s leaving drinks face to face! Another week later and we wouldn’t.

Cyberpunk Red

I’m not giving much of an update this week. We’ve been playing through the Jumpstart, so I don’t want to spoiler the campaign. The visual wizardry of our GM using Roll20 and the blowback of our street-level incompetence has been fun to share. But this session came straight out of the book. You’re going to have to caption competition this one yourself.

WN08 Preptober

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

It’s October, which to some means it’s Preptober! At the beginning of the year, when I did FAWM, I also decided that I would do NaNoWriMo this year, in prep for FAWM next year. So October rolls around, and I had completely forgotten about it, until I hear others talking about NaNo. So, what am I going to do? Open myself up to the possibility and see if I find an idea ripe for the taking.

There was no mention of NaNoWriMo last week in my notes, because I hadn’t even thought about it. I it was barely on my radar. This week, I’ve been thinking about it and working with some ideas on paper, and I have the seed of something. So, fuck it. Here I go. 50,000 words here we come.

The official NaNoWriMo Prep process is six weeks long. Six steps, really. I could do that in two weeks, right? The last couple of weeks are about project and time management, which I’m less concerned about.

My biggest concern is that without an outline, I will have no structure from which to write. But finding time to write, I have been doing morning pages on and off most of this year. I know I can write about 750 words in half an hour, and 20% of them will be gibberish. And 600 words morning, afternoon and evening is word count. Now, editing is hard, but editing is not the target. Don’t expect to see the first draft. I already have time blocked out on Wednesdays and Sundays for creative projects. So I can get myself ahead. Which gives some slack, as I’m not used to writing long narratives. The trick is keeping those words on-topic.

Working on an outline this week and next is finding a way to make a writing session sustainable. Going through the official prep has given my process some structure, and having the outline will keep me on the rails once NaNo begins. With it I’ll know where I’m starting each writing session, and it will help me get to the end of it.

📯 From the World

Ryan Singer at Basecamp has put a book out. Basecamp seem to actually do what Agile Software Development should be; high quality, customer-focused work in a low pressure environment. Yet, the way they run is counter to many of the standard practices.

I’ve been looking forward Shape Up since Ryan Singer went through their process on the Getting Real Youtube Channel a couple years back.

What stood out was the Hill Chart. Yes, it’s a it’s a feature in their app, but it’s an interesting model for describing risk at different phases of a project. There are at least two different types of work. There is discovery work, like research and design. This is the uphill part. And there is the execution. Once you understand the problem, getting it done feels like a downhill task.

They’ve built their entire project process around the risk of uncertainty, pulling a lot of it forward. To the point where they don’t even commit to a project until they have explored and shrunk the scope to reliably fit in a six week time-box with 2-3 people.

💎 Rethinking

So, NaNoWriMo… That’s a timebox. As a four week project, we have a clear target, the word count, and significant editing is clearly out of scope. By following the prep process, having characters and an outline, removes the biggest barriers to starting to write.

Ryan makes a point in Shape Up I hadn’t considered before. When you’re defining your work at the same time as trying to execute it, you can design yourself into a corner. Here, I’m making it possible to have a story with a beginning, middle and end. There’s still plenty of room for creative freedom, but I know I’m writing this book, not just any book.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Cyberpunk Red

We left off with Camden and D311B0i breaking into Dr. Carver’s office. Our black market contact would be taking it over since Dr. Carver is dead. D311B0i is more oblivious as to the state of his own building than you’d expect. He was only now noticing that Dr. Carver had reinforced some of the walls and added security doors for the main entrance. The side-door, however, was a standard glass-panelled, wooden door. That one couldn’t even take two good kicks.

Waiting room. Consultation office. In the back another set of reinforced doors. There was a keypad, but best let the tech take care of this. By this point Alex and Apogee Borne had been released from the police station. Camden went back and picked them up. They were in a dour mood. But, Alex’s mood brightened when Camden mentioned that Dr. Tero was around since he’d offered to fix her netrunning gear.

Alex gave the doctor the latest info on her gear, while Apogee got into Dr. Carver’s operating theatre behind the office. Dr. Tero then ran a test and yes, Alex’s hardware was in a bad way.

In Dr. Carver’s kit there was an external firewall block. It would reduce the speed at which Alex could work in the net, but keep her from infecting more hardware. Make it safe to jack-in! Alex tried this out on Dr. Carver’s computer and went through various layers of encryption and counter-measures to unlock the contact list. Stims may have been involved. She had just been operated on. But she got through.

The new doctor was very pleased with This and in the scheme of things, this goes some goes a long way towards a penniless netrunner retooling their gear.

WN07 Ikea and Akira

📯 From the World

Cineworld and Picturehouse have closed their doors indefinitely. When we went to the cinema in September, the screen as about a quarter full. Full enough that it didn’t feel empty. On Tuesday we went to see The New Mutants, and we were the only people at the showing.

The cinema was also showing Akira, and I couldn’t pass it up. That screening made it to a whole 5 people!

💎 Rethinking

The way we’ve used the house this year has changed. I’ve tried changing-up my desk a couple times during lockdown, but the furniture we have is a limitation. But more than that, what even is a home for? That may have not changed, but what we needed it to be to achieve that has. My keyboard and guitars have been scattered to make space for the professional office. This is not ideal. Work, hobbies, and the domestic life have been layered on top of each other. How can we make the space for each distinct, and inviting?

We’ve been looking at how we want to use the space we have at the moment. There will be some rough edges and compromise. We can change too much at once. Yet, we have a chance of making the spaces in our reach better, and better suited to how we’re living right now.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

Browsing Ikea and making floor plans isn’t my usual, but it totally counts.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

We’re not in one of the increased lockdown areas. But there is that feeling of the world shutting down again. The team got together for one more pub trip before winter. It’ been good to get more time with them in 3D. Especially with our newest member, who had started while we were remote. I have met them face to face, but getting a full evening in the pub (even if it’s an earlier close) was good!

Family is in an increased lockdown area, though. We were going to take a trip go to Ikea and catch-up with them over a weekend. But the practicalities of that are bit different now. So, we went to Ikea as a day-trip, keeping some of our momentum.

Cyberpunk Red

The second wave of cops came and we took cover. The cops round the corner and Alex fires the rocket launcher. Only in VR would we trust a netrunner with explosives, and even that’s a bad idea. The shot goes wild and Camden dives for cover. Shots are fired, but everyone’s standing.

Between us and them, we get a respawn. This hostage negotiation sim isn’t going to plan. Blocking Alex’s shot at the cops is a giant bear. She shoots. Questions can come later.

The bear grabs Alex, and in a familiar tone asks her to stand down. Only D311b0i is that polite. Next he addresses the cops. “Something is wrong. The game is broken. We need to stop shooting each other.” A talking bear is enough to give pause, and start a conversation. Camden asks about the clowns. The cops don’t see clowns, but one of the trainees is attacking another. Elevator goes ping. More bears! Acts of non-violence and restraining the hostiles gets us enough trust. After taking out the other bears, we let the timer run out.

The sim ends, and we’re back in our VR pods. Alex isn’t here. The rest of us get ushered into a room. We’re getting paid for silence and asked to sign an NDA. One of the conditions; don’t talk about Alex. Camden flies off the handle. “We didn’t want to be here, you picked us up. Now you’re saying we planned this?” D311b0i calms the situation. We sign and leave. Still got our freedom and some creds. This could have gone so much worse.

Meanwhile, Alex is getting interrogated, and the penny drops. Zeebadee did this. That shit-hot netrunner from the arcology. She recognised their signature in the hack on the apartment. She knew they were good, but this! Not only is the deck fried, but the malware has infected her implants, then jumped from the VR pods to the city’s comms grid. The public sector really should pay for better security. Alex gets to leave with her skin, but her netrunning ports have been sealed. She has history with Zeebadee, now she’s got beef.

WN06 Flash is Dead

📯 From the World

Flash is Dead

It’s funny, I still find myself defending Flash against the lumbering and dreary HTML5 pipeline that proclaimed itself successor – even now, HTML5 gaming struggles to hold a candle to what Flash could do a decade ago with a lack of decent vector animation and inconsistent performance across browers.

I think that the Flash game scene circa 2006-2010 was a LOT more friendly to newcomers. The current mobile market is too noisy and everything goes through one gatekeeper. If mobile stores worked more like the Flash portals of that era, I think there would be a much more interesting and vibrant indie ecosystem on mobile.

I’ve heard from people that Apple helped kill of Flash by not supporting it on iPhone, but Adobe had years and years to adapt and constantly let the community down, and I wonder what the world of casual games would be like now if Flash was still a viable platform for developers to use. I have a suspicion that the democratisation of platform and development that was seen in the early flash days on web portals would mean a less stale corporate run culture around small free to play games these days. — Flash Game History

Aw the nostalgia. The web’s gone growned up. Hope someone puts together an archive and emulator collection, like can be found for old arcade games.

And there’s all the animation from before we had the bandwidth for video. Maybe it’s a horrible exploit, but there was something magic about Strongbad’s virus opening a new browser window on my machine. I’d say you can’t do that with an mpeg, but Windows Media Player was a a bit hacky back in the day.

💎 Rethinking

REMEMBER: Picking a president isn’t like picking a friend. You are choosing your adversary. All politicians must be held accountable by the people… but only some of them show willing to listen. — Amy Hoy

I’ve never heard this expressed so explicitly in non-partisan ways. It’s also a plea for active participation.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

Is now the time to change the furniture? What if we changed everything? No no no. Too much… But, what is the space for? We can make it inviting.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Apparently, I’m a virgo and act like it

Cyberpunk Red

Alex’s netrunning deck got hacked when we were defending the apartment from WorldSat. Apogee unplugged her, but we haven’t got it fixed yet. VR is kinda like netrunning; you’re jacked in somewhere. Whatever virus pwned Alex’s deck got her interface too. Brain Dance just got weird.

The sim profiled us for all our gear. Weapons, Cyberwear, netrunning gear. Alex tried this VR version out. But, she wasn’t hacking the sim, the interface was infecting the hardware. The game glitched out. It felt… pleasurable. Then it glitched out again. Where did these clowns come from?

We shoot down JoJo the clown, and one of the cops pop’s back in. I thought this sim was PG, why is there blood here now?

More glitching. D311B0i gets shot down. Another clown takes their place, Noodles. Noodles starts dragging the trainee’s corpse down the hallway. Why is there an elephant flying 40 stories up? Oh, it’s feeding time. Cops for breakfast.

We shoot down the last of the cops, and shortly after things return to normal. I think. We take a moment to catch our breath. We done? Elevator goes ping.

WN05 Least Reinforcing Stimulus

📯 From the World

Content Collapse

Before social media, you spoke to different “audiences” — family members, friends, colleagues, and so forth — in different ways. You modulated your tone of voice, your words, your behavior, and even your appearance to suit whatever social “context” you were in (workplace, home, school, nightclub, etc.) and then readjusted the presentation of yourself when you moved into another context. On a social network, the theory went, all those different contexts collapsed into a single context.

The problem is not a lack of context. It is context collapse: an infinite number of contexts collapsing upon one another into that single moment of recording. The images, actions, and words captured by the lens at any moment can be transported to anywhere on the planet and preserved (the performer must assume) for all time.

Content collapse, as I define it, is the tendency of social media to blur traditional distinctions among once distinct types of information — distinctions of form, register, sense, and importance. As social media becomes the main conduit for information of all sorts — personal correspondence, news and opinion, entertainment, art, instruction, and on and on — it homogenizes that information as well as our responses to it. — Nicholas Carr

First we have Context Collapse. Everything is shared through the socials and "consumed" on our phone. This has a causal change in the way that "content" is created. Remember when we had different words for articles, pictures and video? The Medium is the message, and we’ve converged on the one medium. Even pre-algorithm RSS removes the design and curation that goes with print layout.

It wasn’t just that the headlines, free-floating, decontextualized motes of journalism ginned up to trigger reflexive mouse clicks, had displaced the stories. It was that the whole organizing structure of the newspaper, its epistemological architecture, had been junked. The news section (with its local, national, and international subsections), the sports section, the arts section, the living section, the opinion pages: they’d all been fed through a shredder, then thrown into a wind tunnel. What appeared on the screen was a jumble, high mixed with low, silly with smart, tragic with trivial. The cacophony of the RSS feed, it’s now clear, heralded a sea change in the distribution and consumption of information. The new order would be disorder.

Post-Social and Cohort Futures

The primary difference between a community and a cohort is that the first is oriented around the relationships between the collective members, and the second is oriented around the progress of each individual. In short, communities are built to connect, cohorts are built to progress. — Brian Dell

In the last six months, I’ve grown close to several communities composed of people I’ve never met in person. We gather on Slack, Discord, and Zoom, share conversation and ideas. I’ve made friends and built connections without leaving my home. There are people I’ve never hugged, never high-fived, and never even spoken to in person, with whom I have profound conversations that span work, love, and ideas. The bright side of this dark year for me are the connections I’ve made, primarily online. — Anita Schillhorn van Veen, via Brian

I’ve been seeing a rise in invite-only or topic-centric, and perhaps temporary, spaces recently. Some is a response to the homogeneity of Content Collapse, and some have been direct responses to a lack of in-person events this year. And, certainly a change in my behaviour too.

Writers groups and workshops, and group chats, have always been a thing. The digital bubbling of time and space it getting baked-in in more places.

💎 Rethinking

Least Reinforcing Stimulus

When a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn’t respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away. — Amy Sutherland

Perhaps leaving the undifferentiated media feed, and not the internet itself, is the natural response to an unsatisfactory experience. How we give feedback is a complex thing. I wonder where I can say less.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

"I’ve got some good news and some bad news. I think we’ve solved all the easy bugs."

The time spent on full event capture and logging is worth it. We expected minor issues moving this service out of our monolith codebase. Event replayability has allowed us to release and catch edge-cases without a degraded service.

Network unreliability without downtime is an unexpected twist. If a call returns an empty response, did it pass or fail? What’s the sound of one hand clapping? When the request that has a pass/fail response, err with caution. When the acknowledgement only request fails… Turns out we have a difference between a client-centric failure and a partial-success.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Cyberpunk Red

The things we get into, and somehow get out of… D311B0i, ever polite should be in jail right now. Since the shoot-out in his apartment block was highly suspicious, he’d admitted to the lesser crime of holding explosives. He told the cops they were set by WorldSat, the mega-corp, so they could build a new tower here. Legitimately true, but dodgy as fuck.

Looks like we were tried and sentenced in absentia, but the street-cops appealed on our behalf. No prison, only community service. Not ideal, but it’s the best thing that’s happened to us all week.

A psyche test later, we get hooked up to the Brain Dance VR sim. So here we are, handpicked by the cops to play hostage-negotiator to train the cops. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Oh wait, looks like they’re skipping the negotiation and going straight to kicking down the door. He we go!

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


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.


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


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{}
go func(wg *sync.WaitGroup) {
defer wg.Done()
// …

view raw
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.