Weekly Head Voices #164: It’s what future you would want.

Pre-work not-too-shabby running route.

Welcome back friends! This WHV looks back at the two weeks from Monday February 18 to Sunday March 3, 2019. I was planning to release the edition of the WHV on time, but my need for a break was greater.

Because I’ve given up on ever mastering the art of the bullet-list form of the weekly(ish) status update, I am going to double-down on the old-fashioned sectioned prose form that you see before you.

Also, this post has again evolved into a long ramble. (It’s now Saturday March 9, time to start working on the next edition. I’m curious what form it will take.)

GOU#1 is #2

It feels like through these posts you’ve pretty much seen GOU#1 grow up before your eyes, so I’ve given myself permission to mention this moment of parental pride, hopefully quite briefly though (I write this blog not only for you, but also for me in 20 years time!):

GOU #1 has been elected as deputy head girl of her 1600+ pupil primary school!

She was really mature, also before the time, about this possible outcome of taking the #2 position. She seems to have made up her mind before the time that this would in fact be, for her, the best configuration.

This thoughtfulness of hers might have made me even more proud than the achievement itself.

Dreams of clean solar electricity wafting ineffectually against the greasy gears of government.

Way back in December of last year I mentioned that we were working on getting the house upgraded with a photovoltaic solar power system.

Some of you have asked me via various communication pathways how it was going.

Thanks to legislation, or rather the lack of communication around this legislation, the amount of physical progress we have made so far is close to zero. Oh, just make that zero.

My shopping list now looks as follows:

  • Unchanged: 3.6kW GoodWe EM hybrid inverter: Although a larger inverter would have been preferable, uncertainty caused by above-mentioned lack of communication motivates me to play it safe with this unit which is in the 2017 column of the approved list.
  • Unchanged: 2 x PylonTech US3000b lithium ion batteries.
  • CHANGED: 16 x Canadian Solar CS3U 350Wp or 355Wp solar panels.

It used to be common knowledge that monocrystalline panel power output suffered less due to high temperature than that of the cheaper polycrystalline panels. This is quite relevant, because just sitting there on your roof the whole day, these things can get really hot!

Well, I finally went and looked up the temperature coefficient of these current generation Canadian Solar panels, namely the CS3U range, which is -0.37% Pmax / ℃. This is in fact slightly better than the -0.39% of the monocrystalline panels I had on my list.

I am currently on the lookout for what is going to be my fourth candidate solar installer, although at this stage I would be quite happy with a talented electrician who is not afraid of heights.

(My second installer had difficulty keeping up with all of their work (probably thanks to load-shedding and also to the substantial price increases expected from our embattled electricity monopoly) and my third installer has decided to focus on commercial installations.)

My big and stupid misstep into Google Drive.

Somewhere during the past two weeks, I lost, forever and ever, at least three evenings.

Tipped off by a colleague at work, encouraged by my family’s mobile photos investment in Google Photos, and further tempted by the significant price difference and the family storage sharing option, I convinced myself that it was time to migrate my little empire of useless files (dropbox reports that I currently have just over 500000 (five hundred thousand) of them) out of Dropbox and into Google Drive.

This is how it looked on paper, i.e. in my head and in my Emacs notes:

  • I have about 70GB of photos taken with various family cameras of kids growing up, vacations everywhere and so on. These photos are currently not easily accessible by said family. If they were on Google Drive, they could be automatically exposed to Google Photos, which my family is already using!
  • My 237G of Google Drive space, sufficient for everything, costs R39 / month (that’s about $2.75), whereas my Dropbox subscription costs $10 / month.
  • The cheap subscription of Drive already enables one to do content searches. E.g. I could find scans of documents instantly by typing OCR’d words that occur in the documents. If you want the same with Dropbox, you have to go Pro (not Plus), and pay double, that is $19.99 per month.
  • Drive has a built-in facility to backup folders outside of the main sync folder.
  • There’s a great tool called rclone with which nerds can sync files to Google Drive from the command-line!

Four lessons learned uploading 500k files to Google Drive

  1. Google has servers down here in South Africa: With larger files, the upload could easily max out my 50Mbit/s upload.
  2. However, in spite of allocating and configuring my own client_id, I could not upload faster than about 3 files per second. Based on various threads on the rclone forums, this is a known issue.
  3. Google Drive’s selective sync functionality does NOT (easily) allow you to maintain a local version of an excluded directory in the same way that Dropbox does. This is especially annoying for those already quite annoying node_modules folders.
  4. Google Drive and its API support identically named files and directories, located in the same parent directory.

How did the wheels fall off then?

I was alternating between the official Google Backup & Sync client and rclone sync. I did this to check if rclone with a private client_id would be able to upload faster (it couldn’t) and because rclone showed sync progress more clearly with an estimated time of completion (all of this turned out to be wildly incorrect and variable due to all of those small files).

My logic was that as long as the two tools were not running in parallel, sync logic and checksums should prevail right?!

Well, that turned out to be a very sad assumption…

rclone, which I still believe is a great tool for bulk uploads and downloads, should probably not be used for syncing in situations like this.

Unbeknownst to me, it had created hundreds of identically-named directories everywhere. (See lesson #4 above.)

At about halfway through this multi-day upload project, I switched back to the official Google tool, which finally, FINALLY managed to sync everything after about 5 days I would guess.

I was briefly quite happy with Google’s arrow-in-cloud you-are-fully-synced icon in the menubar.

However, because happiness is so inherently fleeting anyways, I decided that it was time for the next phase of the project: Add the first Linux workstation to the little sync family.

Google Drive does NOT have a native client for Linux, although they’ve promised this since the start, and so I decided to try Insync, which seems to be one of the best of the third party clients.

I pre-seeded the sync directory on said Linux machine using rsync and then started the insync client. This is a use case which was often enough mentioned on the forums as being supported.

Initially, everything seemed to be going swimmingly!

However, soon I saw whole directory hierarchies with thousands of files disappearing simultaneously from both my local disc and google drive.

STAAAAAAAAHP!!! JUST STAHP.

A second, stubborn attempt, after having recovered files and synced everything up with Google’s tool, yielded similarly frustrating results.

Granted, the duplicate folders on Google Drive are a far from ideal test case, but deleting directories like that on both client and server is not defensible.

Defeated, I retreated to the expensive, but safe, embrace of Dropbox.

More lessons learned:

  • The lack of an official Google Drive client on Linux is debilitating to my workflow.
  • Handle the third-party Insync client with extreme caution.
  • The sunk cost fallacy is a real danger in cases like these.
  • The hours I lost are probably worth at least a year or two of Dropbox.
  • Having reliable incremental backups outside of your cloud syncing service remains important.

On that last point: Juggling my 500k files between Dropbox, Google Drive, then going live on Google Drive with real work before jumping into the shady world of badly implemented sync clients made me realise (again) the importance of a separate set of incremental backups.

Before my macOS phase (which started on May 6, 2015 when my employer bought me my first MacBook Pro and I wrote in my diary: “Bought 13.3 retina MacBook Pro early 2015, 128 GB SSD. I am doomed.”) I used to maintain a dirvish backup.

(Dirvish is an amazing tool by the way.)

The truly stupid and frustrating adventure I write about here, did at least lead to some learning, and to me hooking up a Seagate 4TB external drive to my desk at work. Now when I connect my MacBook, Time Machine performs incremental backups the whole day long.

The next time I have one of these moments of irrationality again, I will at least have the possibility of returning my files to sanity as soon as I do.

Thinking of future you.

There was one more learning I wanted to share.

I have mentioned before on this blog the well-known productivity trick of writing down, during your morning planning, the two to three really important tasks for the day.

In the Sam Harris podcast where he interviews Derren Brown, they briefly mention a really interesting take or perspective on the tip above.

When writing those tasks down, try to predict the two to three tasks the completion of which will satisfy future you the most at the end of the day.

It sounds like a small tweak, but this is a great way to encourage deeper (almost meta-)consideration of tasks that will really matter.

Additionally and more straight-forward than that, with this exercise you increase the chances that you end the day with that great feeling of closure that comes with getting important stuff done.

Weekly Head Voices #161: Email Equilibrium.

fastmail This folder is empty

Welcome to the one hundred and sixty first edition of the Weekly Head Voices, looking back at the week from Sunday January 27 to Sunday February 3, 2018.

I am writing this draft in a markdown file, using good old Emacs, during an early morning session (more about that later), because I am still not really loving the Gutenberg block-based editor experience in WordPress 5.0.

Today, I have three stories:

Running inspiration

After a month-long normal-shoe-person hiatus at the end of last year which again led to tender ankles, I realised (I’m a slow realiser, ok?) that it’s not the shoes but the person in the shoes.

Because it seemed that the shoes initially offered some relief, I reflexively started increasing distance and speed until my ankles started complaining again.

Durnit!

I then chatted with an erstwhile collaborator who is now, besides still being a successful tech entrepreneur, a successful sandal-wearing ultra runner and Leadville Trail 100 mile finisher.

He gave great advice, especially with regard to continuously training complementary muscle groups so that they can better contribute to the whole running mechanism.

Perhaps more importantly (to me) than that, was simply knowing that someone with a history, mechanism and control system not too dissimilar from mine, including the flat feet, runs so far with much joy.

Shortly after the chat, friend LM sent me this highly interesting Run Repeat survey of 150+ studies about arch support.

Amongst other things, it again confirmed what we know about barefoot and minimalist runners running with less impact and more efficiency, two ideas that I really like.

All of this led to me getting back on my Lunas, and my Xeros, and my bare feet.

I have been keeping the distances shorter, and my pace lower.

Initial results are encouraging.

P.S. Of course that survey does not come with a simple answer. However, the quote at the end by itself is worth the price of admission:

If you don’t need an arch support, you probably shouldn’t use one. It is the equivalent of wearing a cast when you don’t have a stress fracture or broken bone. Why would you do that? The best forms of injury prevention are make sure your body is balanced in strength, mobility and flexibility, you are training smart and getting good sleep and nutrition. An arch support affects only one aspect of the body. Don’t forget the big picture.

A FAR cheaper and more long term solution? Work on you arch, foot and hip strength!!! That is where you are supposed to get “arch support” from. Not some shoe insert. Work on your posterior tibialis, fibularis longus, single leg balance, proprioception, gluteal strength, core strength, body alignment, etc.

Dr Mathew Klein

Early(ish) morning sessions

It usually takes us until about 20:30 and often up to about 21:00 when all of our GOUs are finally in their beds. There’s a spread of 10 years between the oldest and the youngest, so there’s a wide range of themes and activities keeping us busy until that hour.

In my younger days (ack!) I used to be able to switch my work brain back on at that time, and work quite productively for a few hours.

(It is of course also possible that I just don’t remember this too well. Who knows what’s real anymore?!)

Whatever the case may be, it seems that I wrote blog posts, did some more reading and learning, and was generally productive.

More recently however, I’ve noticed that my work brain simply refuses to come back online at nine.

In order to work around this issue, my awake brain devised a plan, during the daylight hours of course.

Instead of trying to force poor work-brain to continue working, I go to bed at 22:00 and set my alarm for 5:30 (the optimal amount of sleep these days is 7.5 hours exactly). It does not seem like much, but I have an extra 50 minutes to an hour of crystal clear time in the mornings before the rest of the family wakes up to start the day.

(I also used to do this in 2012 when we were finishing The Visual Computing in Medicine Book. In Dutchie-land, the kids go to school much later, so I had even more time in the mornings.)

I usually start the morning with a little mindfulness exercise from the Waking Up course (extremely high-stress double-project-lead duties in 2013 were the catalyst that got me into mindfulness and early morning practices in the first place!), then I do the day planner, and then I take care of one or two important activities, the selection of which is usually clear after the day planning.

(It has not escaped me that this whole exercise is quite reminiscent of HN’s startup founder daily routine parody. :).

This morning, I get to write the words you are currently reading, with a clear(ish) mind to boot.

Whether this is just novelty, I don’t know yet, but it currently does seem as if starting the day with a bit of quiet and focus increases the probability the rest of my day at the office also starts more productively.

Inbox under control. WHAT IS HAPPENING?!

In the old days, I used to be a fan of inbox zero.

However, due to life stubbornly not adhering to Merlin Mann’s view of email (quite poetically, it seems that the inboxzero.com website is currently down), I eventually ended up with 1000+ unread emails in my inbox. (I know people with multiples of that…)

The term email bankruptcy (shudder) had even come up once or twice in conversations with friends.

Whoops.

I wrote back in WHV #69 that there seemed to be an inverse correlation between my creativity and inbox-zero.

I still think there is something to be said for that observation.

One can definitely get sucked into busy-work, a prime example of which is the grooming of one’s email, wasting time and energy that could far better be invested in creative pursuits.

However, could it be possible in some situations that one’s email landscape has changed in such a way that it has suddenly become tractable to maintain inbox-zero with a creativity-friendly and entirely affordable amount of energy?

Could it be that because one has let email slip so long, people don’t send as much email anymore, and now one paradoxically has the opportunity to reclaim inbox zero?

It seems it can be.

On January 31, at the tail end of that day’s early morning session, I was staring incredulously at the words:

This Folder is Empty.

my inbox

I don’t want to call this inbox zero, because it’s not 2007 anymore Dorothy.

Let’s go for Email Equilibrium Startup Founder Parody instead.

P.S.

Friends, thank you for reading this.

I am looking forward to our next meeting.

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 #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.

Weekly Head Voices #135: It’s all rainbows and unicorns, no really!

This rainbow unicorn, floating serenely on a cloudy background, is winking right at you. Down below, we are celebrating GOU #3’s second birthday. Photo taken with the expert assistance of GOU#1, age 11 going on 32.

Hi there friends, welcome back to the weekly (!!!) head voices! I missed you.

Software Release Frazzle

Releasing desktop software, even for a small group of people, can get tricky quickly yo!

Yes, people still write desktop software, and we do love doing it. However, compared to web-apps, there are some additional challenges.

One can’t easily roll-out an incremental fix while no-one is watching, because every release is a significant event where users have to go to the effort of downloading and installing your baby.

It’s a fairly new product, so our release process is still being refined. Long story short, we caught a bug on the release platform (we develop cross-platform, but deploy for a single platform) shortly before release and so we really had to scramble to fix. This, together with the fact that the preparations for the release were already generally intense, left me quite frazzled by Wednesday evening after dinner.

Lesson learned: In a cross-platform development, don’t allow any dependency version discrepancies between platforms, no matter if it causes developer inconvenience.

Unicorns and rainbows

GOU #3 turned 2 on Thursday.

The littlest genetic offspring unit seems to be verbally well developed. She’s already using words like “eintlik” (“eigenlijk” in Dutch, “actually” in English) in fairly well-structured sentences. I have taught her to say phrases like “universiteit” and “lekker internet”, which she does with a smile.

She is able to express her wants and needs at a level which exceeds that of some 30 year olds.

Anyways, yesterday we held a birthday party for her.

It was a fabulously enjoyable affair with far too many delectable delicacies, and more than sufficient amounts of craft beer and good wine (expensive local Chardonnay is my current preference, if you must know).

It was beautiful to see so much of the family together in one place, all connecting like we humans should be doing as often as we can, but often don’t.

Thank you little GOU #3, for everything.

Your complimentary grab-bag of interesting cocktail party conversational tidbits

Trump / Brexit voters were scared.

In my 2016 to 2017 transition post, I lamented the observation that for both Brexit and the Trumpocalypse, a lower level of education was the strongest indicator for a vote for leave and for Trump respectively.

A new study by the Queensland University of Technology has now shown that in both cases the vote for Brexit / Trump was also driven by fear. It also makes the scary point that the respective campaigns deliberately targeted this fear, which is more than worrisome.

Use this tidbit with care, or right before you were planning to leave the party anyways.

How to defend your exercise addiction

A recent study published in Aging Cell, showed that older people who exercised regularly (in this case cycling), had the same levels of T-cells as 20 year olds. In other words, their immune systems are as effective as people a fraction of their age.

One of the co-authors of the study, 82-year old Prof Norman Lazarus (who himself cycles 100km at a time), summarised it neatly in the media as follows:

If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system.

(I like how he casually takes aim at our pill-obsession.)

The Carmack Productivity Method (CPM)

John Carmack is the modern-day genius who was the lead programmer of genre- and era-defining games like Wolfenstein 3DDOOM (“one of the most significant and influential titles in video game history”) and Quake. During working on these projects, he invented a number of important computer graphics techniques.

It turns out that Carmack is not only a genius, but a productivity and focus monster.

In this 2013 blog post, a colleague of Carmack at id Software describes how Carmack would apparently play CDs while he was working. If he was checking his email, or if he was interrupted by a colleague, or he needed to go to the bathroom, in other words, if he was not focusing on the core of his work, he would pause the CD player.

By the end of the day, he knew exactly how much focused work he had done by how far he had gotten through his playlist.

Compared to the interrupt-driven way programmers work today (thanks internet!) this sounds like an amazingly visceral way to recognise and signal interruptions in your flow: THE MUSIC SIMPLY STOPS.

Would you be able to implement something like this for your work?

À bientôt

Thank you very much for stopping by! Have a productive week, and don’t forget to exercise.

I look forward to our next meeting.