What I Did

  • Added a few hundred more items to my toolbox.
  • On the subject of that toolbox, had to philosophically reassess what the concept of a “tool” was. After a collective half-day of deliberation, I discovered that a tool starts with the object it pertains to, so I rearranged everything into a new convention.
  • Final-ish edited for two TechSplained pages: What’s a Computer? and Boolean Logic. I’m revisiting my old sites from last November-ish because because I’m creating an all-inclusive no-holds-barred battle-royale glossary.
  • I had an issue with Firefox’s built-in sync for bookmarks (i.e., doesn’t always sync quickly, so my work purging it sometimes gets randomly undone), so I researched an alternative.
  • After much misery and research, I settled on straight-up OG Markdown files:
    • They run on just about any platform, assuming I can download it there.
    • They’re adaptable, since I can take whatever notes I need or rearrange as needed.
    • I have zero risk that a platform might pull the rug out from under me by adding arbitrary features that ruined the experience, hold the information hostage from easily transferring outside its ecosystem, or insert a random paywall for features I had gotten used to (I’m looking at you, Evernote!)
  • Since I was making all my notes and links into an .md file extension, I figured it’d be a great chance to show anyone who cares what I’m working on. Thus, my new ts-learning GitHub page.

What I Learned #1

If we parse out existence, we can group the flow of ideas into reality as follows:

  1. Idea forms, which typically comes from an environmental inspiration.
  2. Idea incubates for a while, which can range from seconds to years.
  3. We make a purpose out of it, using the constraints of a tool at our disposal (such as creative tools or language).
  4. We use that tool, tweaking and finessing as we go, often learning things we wouldn’t have known otherwise.
  5. Once we feel that the thing we’re working on is “done”, we publish it to where it’s supposed to go.
  6. Review, examine results, fine-tune, finalize or throw out entirely because it was a bad idea.

Technology work, compared to just about everything else, has a massive rearrangement of constraints:

  • Effectively, any computer-related task is a very powerful tool. Most of the work involves brainstorming, so there’s no measurable output in most of the process. Writing out notes and drawing diagrams can help this somewhat, but not entirely.
  • The scale of consequences for technology is crazy bigger. I am literally sending information to potentially thousands of eyeballs at once as I write this. Coding takes writing further: it’s literally a special-syntax writing that lets people fabricate things out of nothing that engage the human experience. This should not be taken lightly.
  • Computers are rather sophisticated, and they grow more sophisticated when you add in how networks, distributed systems, and the internet works. That sophistication means many, many points of possible failure, especially when you use something outside the way 95% of the people use it.

What I Learned #2

While productivity is a good thing in its place, it needs self-awareness to prevent burnout.

I believe I’ve found a new limit to add to my labor capacities:

  • Continuous deep work on something relatively similar (e.g., data entry, driving, cleaning) – 2-3 consecutive days, depending on my passion for it
  • Continuous human interaction – 1-2 days straight, depending on who and why
  • Hybrid data/people work – 2-5 days straight, depending on the end-date of the project itself and who I’m working with
  • Recreation – 2-7 days (nonconsecutive), depending on how much I’ve been working.

Everyone has their own mix, and this may be the most critical component of whether someone likes a job. In my situation, I just worked 6 days straight, so I’m burned out for today even though I took Sunday off.

While we can push our limits to make them bigger, we must always be aware of our dispositions. Some people are not meant to be President of the United States, and wouldn’t want the job if it were handed to them. Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up, and it’s a form of wellness to accept what we suck at.

One idea I vaguely remember was called “radical self-acceptance”. Basically, accept everything as it is instead of adding conditions and caveats to it. Since it can be traumatic or ego-inflating, here’s my simple-as-I-can-make-it solution I’ve adopted:

  1. Identify a thing, whatever it is.
  2. Openly, deeply ask why that thing is what it is, and answer based on your common sense and intuition.
  3. If you’re not sure, research until your common sense links into the information correctly.
  4. Look at all the factors that are affected by that “known fact”:
    • Implications of what that does to things around it
    • Opposite things that can’t be true or are unlikely to be true
    • Lies and false beliefs that people have because of this thing existing
  5. If needed, get some paper to write down these ideas, and repeat Step 1 on all of them.

At the end, you should have the ontological certainty that prevents the self-induced misery from the human condition. It’ll likely make you change political/religious views in the process and lose friends, but I think it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.

What I’m Doing Now

  • Diving into TechSplained. You can see my progress here.
  • Building this toolbox jointly alongside TechSplained, mostly because I don’t have the tech acumen to know why some software is so cool to have.
  • I’m in between contracts right now, so my schedule is somewhat freer than it usually would be. I’m pushing into the above projects.
  • I have custody of two small people, who become legally allowed to vote in 15 and 17 years. While I debate my reliability of being a good manager of poor decision-makers simply by virtue of biological factors, my wife and I have been doing a fantastic job of turning money into a nurturing home.