Weekly Head Voices #241: Best intentions

Welcome back folks to the Weekly Head Voices!

Edition 241 (this one) covers the four weeks from Monday March 21 to Sunday April 17 of the year 2022.

This time, my excuse for being so late is our autumn vacation trip to Augrabies and the Kgalagagi Transfrontier park.

The Knersvlakte-Augrabies-Kgalagadi-Calvinia vacation trip

The super short summary is as follows:

  • My extremely resourceful partner had managed to book a few nights in rest camps in Kgalagadi about a year ago. That’s generally how early you need to be for this.
  • As the vacation came closer, we accidentally configured a really cool road trip (“sloertoer” as I recently learned) to sandwich the Kgalagadi bit in the middle.
    • On the way there, we stayed at Letsatsi Lodge in Vanrhynsdorp, and we spent two nights at the Augrabies falls. The falls were absolutely spectacular. Besides the panorama above, this clip of the falls at sunset should give you a taste of what we experienced.
      • On the last night, our braai was attacked by a swarm of locusts. This was so intense that the rest of the clan had to move indoors. I remained outside with the braai and the locusts, witnessing thousands of the beasts burn themselves up in the flames.
        • This event seemed like a great excuse to look up the difference between grasshoppers and locusts. Maybe you already knew this, but I did not. Grasshoppers transform into locusts. The transformation is both physical, modulated by serotonin (which is also a super important neurotransmitter in humans) and social; grasshoppers are loners, while locusts are born, live and die as a swarm.
    • On the journey’s final leg back home from Nossob, we spent a night in the Blou Nartjie in Calvinia.
  • Kgalagadi was magic.
    • On the one morning where we were able to get up early enough to exit as the Tweerivieren gates opened (this is The Way), we were lucky enough to spend some close-up alone time with two cheetah close to Kamfersboom. Ironically, this happened much later in the morning as we were on our way back to the camp. You never know…
    • On other drives we spotted lion, leopard (lazing in a tree, a lot further away than the cheetah who were almost at touching distance), springbok, lots of gemsbok (surprise!), meerkat and fox.
    • The balmy evenings outside, with intensely brilliant starry skies, were unexpectedly good.
Figure 1: Red Karahari sand!

Figure 1: Red Karahari sand!

The period after the trip

I’m writing this sentence here during the last few hours of the Easter weekend.

As I wrote in my mostly private and personal diary this morning: “Man, these days were really good for a reset, spending time on meta-work (emacs config, planning config, and so on) and family.”

(On the topic of keeping diaries and on the topic of deciding to publish some of the private bits, here is another extract: “Reviewing the past 4 weeks of notes for hopefully soon-to-be-published WHV 241 also reminded me of so many bits of peace and wisdom. I’ve said this before, it’s like I’m up and down the scale of human, and the high performing / balanced human needs to write encouraging messages to the more frequently active normal / inferior me.”)

Moving on…

In the time since the vacation trip, I’ve been exceptionally privileged and grateful to have a small selection of close friends visit in various configurations.

In some cases I could offer only my ears although I desperately wanted to help more, and in other cases they were less complicated life-affirming celebrations.

In all cases, this is what I’m here for.

(Later, I would really like to talk more about how easily and how often I manage to forget that when I get caught up stress.)

A smidgen of nerd news

It turns out that my favourite quickly-sketch-out-your-idea tool excalidraw is a cinch to run locally, if you already have node and yarn installed, and who doesn’t these days?!

As you can see from the docs, it’s just a git clone, yarn and yarn start away.

I thought this was going to be important during our Kgalagadi trip, because patchy internet, so I got it going one evening in Twee Rivieren.

(Narrator: After that, he never used it, but he could have!)

Other than that, I had fun helping to fix up an open source AutoHotkey library for using Windows API calls to switch desktops quickly.

I use this library in my simple but fast tool, called vxdesktops.ahk, for hotkey-based switching between virtual desktops on Windows. I put this together when I saw yet another screencast of someone showing off how quickly they could switch using i3wm.

The surprising effectiveness of assuming best intentions

With a small group of friends, we have for a while now been applying the idea of always assuming best intentions, and always having the best intentions.

I knew that this is how I would generally like to operate, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how this has turned so many potentially difficult conversations into constructive and educational interactions that have enriched us all.

So recently, a 2017 blog post by Rick Manelius, titled Assume Positive Intent, was again featured on HN where it caught my attention.

He makes the case for always assuming positive intent, also outside of groups of friends where you can explicitly agree upon this principle.

Of course he excludes low trust environments from this mode, but generally in business, and other interactions with strangers in non-low-trust environments, assuming positive intent will work well (and be far less tiring) far more often than it won’t.

My humble suggestion here would be to try the explicit configuration of bilaterally best intentioned environments wherever possible because this is really an amazing way to connect with fellow humans, and to assume positive intent everywhere else where it makes sense.

I hope to be able to write more eloquently about this in a future post.

Thank you for joining me here!