Weekly Head Voices #158: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

(Note that there’s now a Telegram group that you can join to be kept up to date with these posts. I’m never going to make the A-List, but at least I haz the gimmicks!)

This edition of the weekly (haha) head voices attempts to reflect on the period of time from Monday November 5 to Sunday November 18, 2018.

The following action scene happened exactly halfway through:

Pre-requisite running photo, this one taken in Paarl. It was already quite hot. Getting really hot really early in the morning is Paarl’s thing.

Running aka Irony update

Seeing that you’ve made me talk about running again, have a look at this photo of one Luna Mono 2.0 after about 700 km of (mostly road) running in about seven months, and one brand new Luna Mono 2.0:

At around about the same time as the new shoes arrived, shortly after South African customs charged me a painful amount before letting the new babies through, both my ankles, from around the posterior tibial tendon area, let me know in no uncertain terms that they were now demanding a break.

After repeated explanations by my life partner (she counts being a rheumatologist amongst her many talents), and by a foot surgeon friend, that my flat feet mean that my posterior tibial tendons have to work even harder than they would usually have done had I been anatomically speaking more normal, I had to start facing the music:

I was going to have to wear normal person running shoes again.

(If I have to be honest I would have to say that the music was in fact more about having to take a running break. I had sneakily been pushing up my weekly distance, trying to run through ankle discomfort, and this was probably the true core of the problem.

All of that being said, I am choosing to interpret matters a bit differently. Running breaks are really hard yo.)

I’ve now done two runs in my pre-Mono Kinvara 8s, and it does indeed feel (of course it does) like my ankles might slowly be recovering. I am hopeful that the trend continues, and that I can eventually rotate in my Lunas again.

Nerd toys update: RTX 2070 in da house.

After weeks of deliberating, I broke down and bought an NVIDIA RTX 2070 for deep learning.

This in turn led to a flurry of experimentation and to be quite honest a slight case of deep learning binging.

At least I have the following new blog posts to show for it:

(I know that some of these occurred outside of the two week timespan covered by this post.)

On the memory saving of mixed-precision training.

In my tests with ResNet50, a serious convolutional neural network for image classification, the exact same network with the exact same training settings required 14159 MiB in fp32 mode but only 7641 MiB in mixed precision mode.

This means that in some cases, this new RTX 2070 can go toe-to-toe with many far more expensive cards.

Furthermore, I informally measured a training speed boost of about 20% with the smaller ResNet34.

It’s no wonder that the RTX 2070 gets the Tim Dettmers stamp of approval for the most cost-effective training.

Your message, to take home.

I came across this backyard philosophy jewel on reddit the other day and loved it. It’s about the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, a stellar adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

… in test screenings, Willy Wonka had a scene with a hiker seeking a guru, asking him the meaning of life. The guru requests a Wonka Bar. Finding no golden ticket, he says, “Life is a disappointment.” The director loved it, but few laughed. A psychologist told him that the message was too real.

Just remember the Buddhist Twist my friends:

… and finally passing through the gate of wishlessness (apranihita) – realizing that nirvana is the state of not even wishing for nirvana.

You can now also join the special head voices telegram group to stay up to date with this blog!

As an alternative to the email list, I have just setup a telegram group which you could join if you’d like to be kept up to date with posts from this blog via instant messenger!

If all goes according to plan, a notification should be sent to the group automatically whenever I publish a post over here.

Logo image courtesy of http://www.stickpng.com/img/icons-logos-emojis/tech-companies/telegram-logo

P.S. I first did this with IFTTT’s Telegram applet, but its post preview was pretty bad. TheFeedReaderBot seems to do a much better job!

Weekly Head Voices #157: Melodramatic.

Vergelegen, an important node on my Rome Glen – Vergelegen – Lourensford – Land en Zeezicht route.

It’s Monday evening around 22:31.

The track “Still on Fire” by Trentemøller is making my neurons fire in highly pleasant patterns while I try to gaze back through time at the days from Monday October 22 to Sunday November 4, and to gather my thoughts.

I have come to a decision:

The rest of this blog will be less melodramatic. Instead, I shall focus my efforts on puns.

(You should still listen to the track.)

Productivity and Focus

Vitamin-R – tomatoes for apples!

As a quick search will tell you, we here at the WHV headquarters are big fans of mytomatoes.com, an online pomodoro timer that keeps track of your pomodori in a truly low friction fashion.

Bonus factoid: mytomatoes was built and is maintained by Magnar Sveen, who is revered, at least in my circles, as a young Emacs god. Take a gander at his jaw-dropping dexterity and raw nerd power. The one where he uses Emacs to calculate the number of hours his videos have wasted around the world is especially good.

I digress.

Some of us need a constant reminder that we’re trapped inside a tomato with absolutely no way to get out.

mytomatoes lives in a browser window, and can easily disappear under the thousands of distractions trying to snatch victory from your ambitious little hands.

No friends. Nothing less than a permanent reminder on the main OSX menubar will do!

I initially made a small misstep with Be Focused Pro. This does satisfy the requirement of displaying a timer in the menubar, but also tries, unfortunately quite badly, to be a task manager, and to connect each pomodoro to a task that you have to create. (As an orgmode user, I have infinitely high expectations of any task manager.)

I digress. Again.

After 30 minutes of searching, I fortunately landed on Vitamin-R (the new version 3) on October 29. Since then, it has helped me to churn successfully through an impressive number of pomodori.

Why I’m probably going to buy this after the evaluation period:

  • Vitamin-R is exactly configurable enough. I could get it to work exactly like I wanted, without having to wade through an overly complex UI.
  • I get to log what work I plan to do during each pomodoro, and I get to edit this afterwards, but it’s incredibly low friction, i.e. no task creation and so on.
  • It has a number of simple but useful charts that help me to do better each day.

Multiple-desktops seem to have been detrimental to my focus.

Back in the early 90s, I started using multiple virtual desktops on my humble Linux 0.99pl13 computer. Because the year of the Linux Desktop was never really to be, we had to console (nerd pun, sorry) ourselves with obscure features like this.

Fast forward a few years, and Ctrl-Alt-SOMENUMBER is deeply ingrained into my muscle memory. 1 is work, 2 is more work, 3 is Emacs (all hail her greatness) and related admin tools, 4 is email and other communication, 5 is browsing and 6 is utility browsing.

This means that a single neuron misfiring leads to my number 5 finger (index) lashing upwards, like some sort of digital (Latin pun intended, work with me here people) cobra, with thumb and pinkie deftly dance-dance-revolutioning over to respectively alt and control, which switches me away from my work (usually 1 or 3) to browsing, all of this in about 3 milliseconds.

This visual shock routinely causes the rider on my mental elephant to keel over backwards and fall from the large pachyderm.

Hours of web-browsing ensue, during which my already extensive knowledge of useless trivia is expanded, but no to absolutely no work is done.

This stage is usually followed by the guilt, and the crying to sleep, and the renewed chasing of deadlines the next day.

In my feeble but eternal endeavour to increase my focus, I recently tried to mitigate the effects of these misfiring neurons by disabling multiple desktops.

Yes readers, like many of you have wisely been doing all along, I am now limited to a single desktop.

Desktop One: I can’t switch there, because I am already here, right now.

Before I started this experiment, I searched for any relevant scientific literature, but came up quite empty. It could be because it’s a complicated thing to measure. People are very different, and the computing they do is very different.

Whatever the case may be, my experience the past two weeks has been positive.

In spite of neurons misfiring and muscle memory invoking key combinations, I have been staring quite dutifully at Desktop One all this time.

Two other blog posts that you might find interesting I don’t know let me know in the comments or don’t.

Between this and the previous WHV, I wrote two other blog posts that I know of:

  1. Importing all of your orgmode notes into Apple Notes for mobile access – This used to be a huge weakness of my otherwise amazing orgmode-based note-taking: I could not access any of my Orgmode notes from my phone. In the end, all I needed to do was to use Orgmode’s built-in HTML site publishing function to get hundreds of org files, including images, math, source code and other wisdom, into my Apple Notes, ready to search and access on the phone.
  2. PyTorch 1.0 preview (Nov 4, 2018) packages with full CUDA 10 support for your Ubuntu 18.04 x86_64 systems – The title says it all. The backstory (not in that post) is that I now have a private RTX 2070 With TensorCores(tm) !!!1!! at my disposal, with which I plan to do my part in bringing about the AI-pocalypse. (Actually, I just want the AIs to take away all of our driving licenses. Humans are truly crappy drivers.)

GOU#2 discovers parts of Buddhism in the car on the way to school.

On Monday, October 23, as we were on our way to school, GOU#2, age 8, explained something she had come to realise.

It’s about really wanting that certain brilliant and clearly amazing toy.

You want it so much, but you have to wait so long for it.

When you finally do get it, you play with it for a while, but you soon realise that it’s really not making you as happy as you thought it would.

I listened carefully to her story.

As far as I could establish, it did sound like a general lesson she had extracted, that is, not just about that one specific dud toy.

I explained to her and GOU#1 that that was a core learning from Buddhism.

We humans desire things, and we go to great lengths to acquire them, and once we have them, we usually realise that the happiness they bring is fleeting at best.

If we are clever, we see this pattern, and so we stop desiring things, instead finding happiness wherever we are right now.

Me?

I’m on Desktop One.

 

Weekly Head Voices #156: Karma Chameleon.

Scene from a recent lunch with a very flat cat. Whilst appreciating these moments with direct experience mode set to 11, one does have to realise that it’s all much more complicated than it looks.

Welcome to this, the 156th edition of the Weekly Head Voices, voices who are planning to sing about the two weeks from Monday October 8 to Sunday October 21.

Summer has arrived, and it’s really very hot down here.

As I’m writing this at 21:41, I am doing my best to limit my motion to the absolute minimum in a bid to keep my temperature within healthy limits.

You have to imagine me sitting utterly still, almost like a chameleon on a twig, with only my fingers making small darting movements over the keyboard.

Time is fun when you’re having flies.

Karma Running.

This morning, after losing all my karma in traffic (there was an accident on one of the main roads in my town, resulting in the normally already impressive level of stupidity of the driving mob, which I am part of, reaching hitherto unseen levels; WHEN IS THE AI GOING TO TAKE OVER PLEASE?!), I started my long road to forgiveness, and zen, by taking a barefoot run on the beach near my place of work.

It looked like this:

Goldilocks sand: Not too hard, not too soft, just right.

I wish I could better communicate how it felt.

Imagine the 30 Celsius morning sun on your back, a slight breeze from the sea and your bare feet rhythmically brushing the wet sand as you glide softly along the coast.

Simply keep on doing this until your body creates the stillness that your mind needs.

This is my new favourite run.

MAF(ish).

A friend from work told me about this idea of exercising at 80% of your maximum heart rate.

The idea behind this is to train your aerobic system without injuring anything, and also to be able to do so with much more volume (read: more kilometres).

Four weeks ago I tried to squeeze in too much running in the half hour I had at my disposal. Due to me being doubly stupid, I also did this in my Xero Tolerance 5mm sole sandals, and so I was rewarded with a brand new kind of pain in my posterior tibial tendon.

This is the same tendon previously mentioned on this blog, also in the context of running injuries.

However, this time I must have injured the tendon more effectively than the previous time (practice makes perfect!), because the pain seemed to be a more permanent new inhabitant of my foot.

Long story short, the suggestion of lower heart rate training came at the perfect time, with my ankle serving as a continuous and visceral (literally) reminder to keep an eye on my heart rate.

This has been going swimmingly.

I am slowly increasing my distance, but, more importantly, runs are again characterised by a whole lot of grinning.

It has not escaped me that a man running on sandals (or barefoot) with a probably fairly unpredictable-looking grin on his big hairy face could give fellow humans pause for thought.

Grab bag of thought- and/or debate-provoking pieces.

Not exercising worse for your health than smoking, diabetes and heart disease, study reveals

Over a period of more than 20 years, 122000 people were put on a treadmill at Cleveland clinic. It turns out that exercise plays a crucial role in not dying.

Core quote: “Being unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test has a worse prognosis, as far as death, than being hypertensive, being diabetic or being a current smoker”.

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

I’m really sorry about this one, fellow meat lovers.

This also looks like a pretty solid study. Core quote: “The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world.”

(I have slowly started to work on the vegetarian recipe section of my notes.)

World’s largest sleep study shows too much shut-eye can be bad for your brain

It is well known that we here at The Voices are huge fans of sleep.

However, now it turns out that lots of sleep is not going to cut it. You have to sleep just the right amount: Not too much and not too little.

You probably knew this, but this large study confirms it: Between 7 and 8 hours of sleep, no more and no less, is best for optimal mental performance.

Hard hitting quote: “One startling revelation was that most participants who slept four hours or less performed as if they were almost nine years older.”

The End

Thank you for connecting with me by reading this post. I am already looking forward to our next encounter, whichever form that may take!

Weekly Head Voices #155: Lush.

Happy place: Running on a gravel road somewhere, this time in Wilderness.

HELLO FRIENDS!

Due to being outside so often, I have not been able to make the time to sit down and write to you more regularly over the past weeks.

I did miss you!

Fortunately, I am here now (that was Tuesday, it’s now Friday…) to babble a little bit about my subjective experience of the period of time from Monday September 17 to Sunday October 7. I did bring pictures!

GOUs go camping for their first time ever ✅

BFS decided to have his birthday party at a camp site called Beaverlac, close to Porterville. Beaverlac is beautiful and offers the additional amazing perk of No Cellular Reception.

The environment looks something like this:

One of the many Beaverlac pools. That water is COLD.

To my pleasant surprise, all three GOUs had a roaring time just being outside. Disconnection from the outside world was simply accepted as a given, which contributed significantly to their experience.

Before we move on to the next bit, a word to the wise: Your front wheel drive car will probably not be able to pull a trailer of any significant mass up the mountain when you leave Beaverlac. (There is only that one torturous way out, filled with thousands upon thousands of loose little stones…)

We learned this the hard way. Fortunately, the vehicle BFS had arranged for the weekend was an all-wheel drive, and so, after half an hour of hitching-unhitching-and-hitching again various trailers, we all managed to get back up to the top of the mountain.

Spring break in Wilderness.

The week after that, we left to spend a few days of the school spring break in Wilderness.

Having grown up in the Winelands, Wilderness is a whole different kind of pretty.

Wilderness has it all (say in Stefon voice for maximum effect):

Verdant, all enveloping forests, rivers snaking everywhere, mountains and a beautiful coastline.

If they had called the place “LUSH” instead of “WILDERNESS”, that would also have been quite apt.

The top of Big Tree of the Knysna Forests. Also known as the Outeniqua Yellowood, this specific one is about 800 years old.

Productivity pro-tip: Fool yourself into doing a good daily review.

Many productivity systems, including GTD, recommend or sometimes even require that one performs a regular review of one’s task system. This always looks quite good on paper, but this activity somehow falls often and easily to the wayside.

In the latest evolution of my orgmode task management evolution, the checklist I mentioned in a WHV #126 has become much more useful.

I now have a standard day planner template which I activate in the mornings by pressing a specific Emacs keyboard shortcut (C-c c p if you must know, it’s just an orgmode capture template).

This is a long(ish) checklist that ensures I review all of the important elements of my planning:

  • Longer term goals and reminders which I update every month. This includes which books I want to finish reading, which longer term projects I need to think about, and so on.
  • My calendar for the day. Yes, I need to be reminded to double-check my calendar for any unexpected meetings.
  • The “00 ToDo” folder in my email. I sometimes move emails in there from my telephone. These need to be processed and turned into real todos.
  • The main list of orgmode tasks. These are extracted on-demand from my monthly journal and the various project files I maintain in orgmode.
  • macOS / iOS reminders. Don’t judge me. Sometimes I voice-command one of my iDevices that I should do this or that on this or that day, at which point they get added to the synchronised list of reminders. This review step ensures that I take care of those.

The check list has an additional section with a list of habits that I try to build and maintain. This includes check list items for my sleep hours the previous night, the number of pomodori I complete (and whether I’m happy with that specific number) and whether I’ve read and thought enough for the day.

As with all of these systems, this one is far from perfect, but there are two things I specifically like about it:

  1. It takes a single keypress in the morning to create and configure the checklist.
  2. Checklists are amazing. In this case, the checklist is helping me to pull reminders of various kinds from a range of different sources, which enables me to exert a just a little more control over my daily evolution.

Slippery slippery focus.

Sometimes it feels like I have to spend the majority of my time just ensuring that I focus on the important stuff.

For an example, see the previous section.

A normal part of mindfulness meditation, is recognising when your attention wanders, and then just bringing your attention back to the breath.

In spite of the fact that this is an extremely well-known aspect of mindfulness, it has taken me until fairly recently to make peace with the fact that my normal daily focus (although sometimes it somehow finds itself in flow, which is amazing when it happens) will in many cases follow the same pattern.

Like many of you, I have the feeling that there’s an extremely complicated equation describing the relationship between sleep, diet, mood, time of day, environment, and so on, on the one hand and sustained focus on the other. I have an extremely rough idea how many of these affect focus, but on many days, experience breaks all of the rules.

Long story short, until we figure out how exactly to manipulate focus, I accept that the best way to handle the slippery focus problem, is, just like in mindfulness, to accept that it will never really stop wavering, and rather to work on recognising this wavering, and then simply bringing that focus back.

Flat white at La Belle Alliance in Swellendam.