Input / Output

I read through “Deep Work” by Cal Newport this weekend. Admittedly, most of it was a skim as I didn’t need the hard sell that deep, focused work for extended periods of time is the best way to get real, valuable things accomplished. For anyone that has been stuck in shallow work for their career, that stuff is probably really eye-opening.

For me, the second half is where I found the most value. That’s where the practical application advice lives and I took a fair number of notes as I worked my way through it. I’ve included them all below, in case they might be of use to someone else.

For now, I’ve started with getting up significantly earlier and spending the first couple of hours of the day in what I’m terming “deep work”. For me, that means solid time focused, without distractions from family or the internet. The work itself may not be particularly deep, but it will definitely move things forward in the work I’m doing as well as clear the way ahead for deep work to come.

I’ve set down some clarified professional and personal goals, as well as what activities will help me work toward reaching them.

I’m now assessing my network tools to see if any culling can be done. It’s possible that the focus and increased discipline I’m developing will be enough for now.

I’m also working with the questions: What does “deep work” mean to me and what does “shallow work” mean as well?


Deep Work notes

Be patient. It will take time to develop this as a skill.

Deep work pushes you cognitively to your limits. Fatigue is inevitable if you don’t train it like a muscle.


  • Where you’ll work and for how long
    You don’t want an open-ended slog.
  • How you’ll work once you start
    Setting a metric (words written, feature complete, etc) can be helpful.
  • How you’ll support your work
    Be organized and ensure the environment and tools you need are readily available.

Experiment with the ritual if it’s not working. It’s a big deal to develop deep work.

Sometimes grand gestures (renting a hotel room) can help.

Focus on the wildly important goals. Use a weekly review to keep yourself accountable.

Do a formal shut down of work at the end of the day.

  • Downtime aids insights
  • Downtime helps recharge the energy needed to work deeply
  • The work that evening downtime replaces is usually not that important

Shutdown should include setting up a list of the next day’s tasks.

Embrace boredom

The ability to concentrate deeply is a skill that must be trained.

Don’t take breaks from distraction. Instead take breaks from focus.

Schedule in advance when you’ll use the internet (social media, entertainment, etc).

1. This strategy works even if your job requires lots of internet use.
2. Regardless of how you schedule internet blocks, you must keep the time outside them internet-free.
3. Scheduling internet use at home as well as work can improve your concentration training.

You must rewire your brain to be comfortable resisting distracting stimuli.

Working like Roosevelt

High intensity bursts of focus can help you accomplish a lot. Set a timer.

Start with once or twice a week and use a specific goal and deadline.

Meditate productively

Walking to focus on a single deep problem or task.

Act mindfully but instead of clearing your thoughts, keep them focused singularly.

Once or twice a week for this at first.

Be wary of distraction and looping thoughts.

Stretches your deep thinking.

Quit social media

The craftsman approach to tool selection:

Identify the core function that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.

Apply the law of the vital few to your internet habits.

  • Identify the main high-level goals in your professional and personal life. These goals should not be overly specific.
  • For each goal, list the top two or three most important activities that help you satisfy the goal. These can be more specific, but should not be one-time activities.
  • Consider the network tools you use. Ask if each has a substantially positive, substantially negative, or little impact on your activities.
  • Keep the tool only if it has positives that outweigh its negatives.

The Law of the Vital Few:

In many settings, 80% of a given effect is down to just 20% of the possible causes.

Stop using services for 30 days then ask:
1. Would the last month be better if I had used the service?
2. Did people care if I was using it?

If no to both, then quit using it.

Don’t use the internet to entertain yourself. Put thought into your leisure time.

Drain the shallows

Deep work should be built up. An hour or two, but likely no more than 4, with the remainder for more shallow tasks.

Schedule your day by blocks of time and adjust as needed. This isn’t about constraint, but thoughtfulness.

Quantify the depth of every activity.

Shallow work:

Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much value in teh world and are easy to replicate.

How long would it take (in months) to train a smart recent college grad with no special training in my field to complete this task?

Create a shallow work budget

How much time (by percentage) should be spent on shallow work?

30-50% in general.

Be conscious about accepting new obligations.

Become hard to reach after hours and during blocks of deep work.

Recent Reads 2019: 04.03 – 05.27

React vs Angular vs Vue: Who wins in 2019? – zero to mastery – Medium
Angular is the entire kitchen that gives you all the tools necessary for you to build the meal that is your web app . If I am a bank with lots of developers, I like Angular to keep everyone working in the same pattern. React is the oven. You most likely will need more tools to bake that cake, but it allows you the flexibility to pick and chose what tools you want based on your needs. If I’m a tech company with strong senior developers that can make good decisions, I like React.js. Vue is the microwave that allows you to get up and running really fast and make your cooking life efficient and easy. If I am a startup with a young developer team and a strict deadline, I like Vue.js.

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Abigail Disney Has More Money Than She’ll Ever Spend
Now I’m glad I didn’t give it all away, because my money has grown. Now I’ve given away so much more than I inherited. And I’m so much smarter now. What I would’ve done in my 20s would have been great and nice, but I’m so much more effective now.

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This YouTube Channel Streams AI-Generated Death Metal 24/7 – Motherboard
this is kinda awful (imho) though the interesting part with any AI-generated work is that there has to be source material to start with. so as much as these folks are “eliminating humans from death metal” they actually aren’t because without the source, there’s nothing for the AI to learn from.

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A ‘Blockchain Bandit’ Is Guessing Private Keys and Scoring Millions | WIRED
At the peak of Ethereum’s exchange rate in January 2018, the bandit’s account held 38,000 ether, worth more than $54 million at the time. In the year since then, Ethereum’s value has plummeted, reducing the value of the blockchain bandit’s haul by about 85 percent.

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Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers – The New York Times
“School is so much fun,” Ms. Hwang said. Her son, Kyong-deok, agreed: “My mother has become a much happier person since she began going to school. Smiles hardly seem to leave her face.”

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Meditation in the Time of Disruption – The Ringer
The distinction is important: Whereas some come to meditation as a way of reckoning with the incredible gifts existence has already given them, others come because they want to see what else is in the bag. This sort of rhetoric only gets ramped up in reference to meditation as a performance booster.

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Punk Begins at 30: A Titus Andronicus Story in Five Acts | SPIN
hough Stickles is a master of the walk-and-talk, our initial discourse is largely limited to me picking up the stray proclamations he drops along the way (“The arena-rock experience on a DIY budget!”). But after my period of servitude to help ensure the Show Going On, he’s less inclined to swat me away. “You’re a ‘G,’” he daps me at the end of the day. “Now I’ll tell you mad secrets.”

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I Don’t Wanna Grow Up (And Neither Can You) | Gretchen Felker-Martin on Patreon
The idea that by depicting an act an artist is endorsing that act seems baked into the minds of certain left-leaning sets of younger people, particularly teenagers and early twentysomethings. That they have such deep concern for the safety and social equality of their traumatized peers and the traumatized in their own ranks can only be admirable, but more often than not the form it takes is mass harassment and scapegoating targeting not institutions or major studios but independent creators, many of them marginalized themselves.

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Why Archive of Our Own’s surprise Hugo nomination is such a big deal.
Both the demographics of the community and the more critical eyes many AO3 contributors represent make this Hugo nomination even more significant when you consider that the awards are barely past the Gamergate-esque war waged during the past few years, in which a group of disgruntled fans tried to rig the nominations to crowd out the women, minorities, and other “social justice warriors” they saw as “ruining” science fiction for everyone.

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One music list to rule them all | The Outline
When asked about why there isn’t a breakout pick for best album of 2018, Mitchum pointed to a paradigmatic shift in music writing that’s led to better representation and coverage of music genres across the board, with more albums thus vying for preferential treatment.

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Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management. – The New York Times
But the truth is that I don’t feel very productive. I’m constantly falling short of my daily goals for progress, so I’ve struggled to answer the question. It wasn’t until that conversation with Michael that it dawned on me: Being prolific is not about time management. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and focusing on time management just makes us more aware of how many of those hours we waste. A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes.

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Why the sexes don’t feel pain the same way
CW: many many mentions of animal testing Researchers have long attributed sex differences in pain perception to oestrogen, a hormone that controls the development of the uterus, ovaries and breasts, and which regulates the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen can either exacerbate or dull pain, depending on its concentration and location. Testosterone, the hormone involved in development of the penis, testes and prostate, as well as of secondary characteristics such as body hair, has received much less attention from pain researchers, although studies suggest it can reduce pain, and some people with chronic pain take testosterone treatments.

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RSS Is Better Than Twitter
Here’s what’s important: RSS is very much still here. Better yet, RSS can be a healthy alternative when Twitter is making you feel like shit. In 2019, that’s, like, most of the time.

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Want To Be Happy? Live Like a Woman Over 50 | Literary Hub
Contrary to cultural stereotypes, many older women are deeply happy. A 2014 Brookings Institute study on happiness and age found that people are least happy in their twenties, thirties, and early forties, and steadily gain an appreciation for life as they age. Indeed, most women become increasingly happy after age 55, with their peak of happiness toward the very end of life.

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Becky Chambers: To Be Spaceborn – Locus Online
“I wrote fanfic when I was younger, and I learned a lot from that. It makes good training wheels. Some writers disparage fanfic because it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re not learning how to make your own stuff.’ That’s okay! You can start with someone else’s fully fledged character – especially since your version of that character may be different than what’s textually there. It’s fine to start with a character that al­ready exists in a world you didn’t build, because it’s still coming from a place of love. A good story needs that more than anything else.”

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Opinion | In Search of Lost Screen Time – The New York Times
A recent study found that children between 7 months and 24 months old experienced higher levels of distress and were less likely to investigate their surroundings when their parents were on their mobile devices. Secure attachment begins in infancy when children take visual cues of attachment from their parents’ gaze.

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Strategy vs. Tactics: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?
While strategy and tactics originated as military terminology, their use has spread to planning in many areas of life. Strategy is overarching plan or set of goals. Changing strategies is like trying to turn around an aircraft carrier—it can be done but not quickly. Tactics are the specific actions or steps you undertake to accomplish your strategy. For example, in a war, a nation’s strategy might be to win the hearts and minds of the opponent’s civilian population. To achieve this they could use tactics such as radio broadcasts or building hospitals. A personal strategy might be to get into a particular career, whereas your tactics might include choosing your educational path, seeking out a helpful mentor, or distinguishing yourself from the competition.

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Luna Lindsey: Splines Theory: A Spoons Metaphor for Autism
I relate to this analogy somewhat, but it fails to describe the intricate resource-management I must do as an aspie. I wake up with a random number of spoons. Why? Why do I mysteriously get a bunch of new spoons at unpredictable times? The process of getting ready for a new task seems to cost me “spoons”, but that model doesn’t reflect the intricacies of the gathering process itself. What about the frustration I feel when I fail to gather or get interrupted? How do I describe the sense that a dozen little things need doing before I can start a big thing, each costing a fractional “spoon”?

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They Were Promised Coding Jobs in Appalachia. Now They Say It Was a Fraud. – The New York Times
“They’re coming here promising stuff that they don’t deliver,” said Mr. Frame, his hands and face still gray with coal dust. “People do that all the time. They’ve always done it to Appalachians.”

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When Dracula Author Bram Stoker Wrote a Gushing Fan Letter to Walt Whitman (1870) | Open Culture
You did so well to write to me,” Whitman replied, “so unconventionally, so fresh, so manly, and affectionately too.” Thus began a literary friendship that lasted until Whitman’s death in 1892 and seems to have been as welcome to Whitman as to his biggest fan.

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Britain’s Iconic Brown Betty Teapot Gets a Redesign – Gastro Obscura
“It’s one of those objects that everyone recognizes, but nobody knows why it’s relevant. It disappears into everyday life.” McIntyre himself spent three years researching, then reengineering, the Brown Betty, putting the spotlight on an under-appreciated piece of British design.

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The Modern Trap of Feeling Obligated to Turn Hobbies Into Hustles
That’s not to say there isn’t joy to be found in turning something you love into your life’s work — it’s just to say that it’s okay to love a hobby the same way you’d love a pet; for its ability to enrich your life without any expectation that it will help you pay the rent. What would it look like if monetizing a hobby was downgraded from the ultimate path to one path? What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? Or, better yet, because it enables us to truly recharge instead of carving our time into smaller and smaller pieces for someone else’s benefit?

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Music Heals: Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus on a Lifetime of Addiction
I have tried to do that with my words and I very much have tried to do that with my art but that’s a very difficult thing to do because ultimately none of us can ever know what it feels like inside the brain of another person. Even if this person is the closest person in your entire life, you know? We’re all only ever going to really understand ourselves, if we can even do that. That’s quite a hard thing to do. The totality of our personal reality, that’s nothing but the totality of our perceptions. So, I don’t know. My boy Ted Leo might call this the “Tyranny of Distance.” There’s a huge, yawning chasm between our understanding of the world and our understanding of ourselves and the way that we understand other people and try to speculate as to how they might perceive the world.

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Actor Michael D. Cohen Has Something to Say: ‘I Transitioned’ | Time
Though Nickelodeon has been supportive, Cohen knows this is a complicated time to be making this disclosure in Hollywood, too. The entertainment industry continues to grapple with what it means to be inclusive, and while LGBTQ issues are intermingling with kids’ programming more than in the past, sensitivities remain.

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Recent Reads 2019: 03.22 – 04.02

A Beautiful 1928 Letter to 16-Year-Old Jackson Pollock from His Dad – Brain Pickings
“The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc. In other words to be fully awake to everything about you & the more you learn the more you can appreciate & get a full measure of joy & happiness out of life.”

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Lessons Learned From Seven Courses in Seven Days
“Aside from learning the actual content I consumed, the challenge of taking seven courses in seven days led me to reflect on who I am, what I like, and how I spend my time. I’ve distilled this down into several key points that I think apply to any learner.”

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In praise of slow thinking and Socratic ignorance — Quartz
“Distance and time provide perspective. To embrace slow thinking is to allow for shifts in opinion. When we’re not in a rush to reach a conclusion or take action, we’re free to explore ideas and change our minds, or just be deliberately undecided. Having no fixed position, which seems unthinkable on the internet, is actually a liberating way to navigate the world.”

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The story behind the Oblivion mod Terry Pratchett worked on •
“Most people know Pratchett as the author of Discworld, the famous fantasy series about a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants. However, what many people don’t know is that the knighted author was also a massive fan of video games – so much so that he actually worked on mods for Oblivion, most of which were spearheaded by a Morrowind modder named Emma.”

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Delete Never: The Digital Hoarders Who Collect Tumblrs, Medieval Manuscripts, and Terabytes of Text Files
“Many people active in the data hoarding community take pride in tracking down esoteric files of the kind that often quietly disappear from the internet—manuals for older technologies that get taken down when manufacturers redesign their websites, obscure punk show flyers whose only physical copies have long since been pulled from telephone poles and thrown in the trash, or episodes of old TV shows too obscure for streaming services to bid on—and making them available to those who want them.”

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Emilia Clarke, of “Game of Thrones,” on Surviving Two Life-Threatening Aneurysms | The New Yorker
“But it all seemed manageable, part of the stress of being an actor and of life in general. Now I think that I might have been experiencing warning signs of what was to come.”

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Do You Have a Not-So-Stranger? | A Cup of Jo
Perhaps you make up stories about them, or maybe you simply wonder: Where do they live? What’s their favorite book? Do they have an orange cat named Julius? Is someone, somewhere, thinking of them right now? They’re mysterious, yet familiar, like human signposts or landmarks or even lucky charms.

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Chris Evans Talks Trump, Tom Brady, Anxiety and Those Retirement Rumors | Hollywood Reporter
“Cap’s arc within the Marvel universe has also become a story weirdly in tune with larger shifts in the culture, in ways even Feige couldn’t have predicted. Downey’s Tony Stark was the superhero as disrupter, a repulsor ray–powered Elon Musk. In the ensuing years, America’s collective faith in billionaires with big ideas has been severely tested; Musk is now a full-time Twitter villain, as is the president of the United States. Nazi-punching is once again a marketable skill. And Captain America — an honorable man maintaining his code through increasingly dark times — seems less like an anachronism and more like the hero 2019 needs.”

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At 82, Glenda Jackson Commands the Most Powerful Role in Theater – The New York Times
This is one of my favorite pieces of the year so far!!! “In those moments, she told me, even if you don’t know why, an energy is produced and sent into the dark. The audience responds and sends the light back, forming a perfect, unbound, unbroken circle. “It is the model of an ideal society,” incumbent on everyone working together. “It doesn’t always happen, but it has happened enough to know that it’s possible.””

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How to play an effective Paladin – presented by the Red Dragon Inn
“Just because a Paladin has Fallen doesn’t make the character unplayable, on the contrary, it makes them more playable! They have tasted something that they possibly hadn’t before, what it is like to be on the other side of the tracks. And that means that they can better accept those that walk there all of the time. You will need to decide how such a fall affects your character, but it should be something huge!”

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How I finished the entire freeCodeCamp curriculum in 9 months while working full time
“You will have to study even on days you don’t feel like it. Here is where motivation also plays a big role, but discipline is important — especially if you’re like me and get distracted a lot with social media and cat videos.”

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SQL: One of the most valuable skills – Craig Kerstiens
“Yes we get a new standard every few years and occasionally something new comes along like support for window functions or CTEs, but the basics of SQL are pretty permanent. Learning SQL once will allow you to re-use it heavily across your career span without having to re-learn. Don’t get me wrong I love learning new things, but I’d rather learn something truly new than just yet another way to accomplish the same task.”

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Die, Workwear! – How We Lost Our Ability to Mend
The idea of mending today feels more like a promise than a reality. Alden Wicker touched on this last month in her Vox article about how the spare button represents all the ways we fail to be good consumers. Everyone has a stash of spare buttons rattling around in some drawer, with each button still neatly tucked inside its original packaging until we gather the will to throw it away. We buy things because they’re supposedly “investment pieces” and “classics,” but when it comes time to actually take care of our clothes, we don’t actually know how – or, more often, can’t be bothered.

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The Soothing Promise of Our Own Artisanal Internet | WIRED
This vision of decentralization is more back-to-the-land than blockchain. If portals to the digital world are so exploitative, it asks, why not curate our own?

Recent Reads 2019: 02.19 – 03.21

How Marie Kondo Helped Me Sort Out My Gender – them.
“Presenting myself now, in a way that’s honest about how I’ve always mentally straddled the gender divide, I also feel the cruelty of gender-segregated spaces more sharply.” So much of myself reflected in this essay.- – – – –

Tyrannosaurus Rex: The Once and Future King – The New York Times
“Dr. Norell said T. rex has helped foster a surge in dinosaur paleontology over the last 20 years, evident in the rising number of researchers and new fossils, and in the increasing sophistication of techniques to study the finds. ‘In the last 30 years, the number of tyrannosaurs has increased threefold,’ he said. In terms of technology, ‘it’s a different world.’ Dr. Erickson added: ‘The golden age of paleontology is right now.'”- – – – –

Leaving Room for the Beautiful Flowers
Nah, I said. “This is enough. It’s enough for us to eat and to have enough to share with our neighbors. This way, it still leaves room for beautiful flowers, and the beautiful yard and the shared food are like insurance payments, in a way. When hard times happen, we will have a bank of goodwill with our neighbors we are counting on to see us through.”- – – – –

The World’s Last Blockbuster Has No Plans to Close – The New York Times
“One possible explanation for the store’s long life: Bend is in a region that the city’s mayor, Sally Russell, describes as having “huge expanses with really small communities” that often do not have easy access to the high-speed internet necessary for content streaming.”

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At Start-Ups, the Free Lunch Is Yours for the Making – The New York Times
Ms. Jennings is known around the office for her kitchenette cooking. Her signature dish? The personal “work pizza,” which makes use of complimentary bread, sriracha and Babybel. Jennings bakes these ingredients in the toaster oven for about four and a half minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.- – – – –

From Mobb Deep Rapper, A Cookbook For Healthy Eating — In Prison : The Salt : NPR
“And perhaps reading Commissary Kitchen and other prison cookbooks can ‘give people more of an understanding of the kind of people that are locked up in jail,’ Prodigy says. ‘You have people there from all walks of life: people who made mistakes and have to deal with the consequences, mothers and fathers. You wouldn’t expect them to be behind bars.’ But there they are, feeding themselves and just trying to get to know each other over a home-cooked meal.”- – – – –

The People Who Eat the Same Lunch Every Day – The Atlantic
“Last year, Loomis retired from his job but not his lunch, which he still eats three or four days a week (now with sliced bananas instead of jelly). ‘I never stopped liking it,’ he says. ‘I still do.'”- – – – –

Central Park Detective Retires With the Horse He Rode In On – The New York Times
“The horseman of Central Park stopped on a grassy plateau to survey the terrain, from the North Meadow to his left, the Great Lawn ahead and Strawberry Fields due south. As cyclists and joggers plied the winding park drives, a nonstop stream of tourists approached the hard-to-miss horseman. They sought directions or a photograph of him and Trooper, his stately horse.”- – – – –

Mercury Is in Retrograde. Don’t Be Alarmed. – The New York Times
“Both Ms. Miller and Ms. Nicholas said that there were positive aspects to Mercury being in retrograde, and that it was a good opportunity to look back, reflect and regroup.”- – – – –

Sexuality, Disability and the Journey to Inner Freedom | The Mighty
“Where does that leave you? These ideals cannot usually be achieved at all, and if they can it is for but a moment in youth. There is a serious disconnect between the media’s image of beauty and actual human biology. If you really think about it, the traditional standard of beauty in this country is a terrible standard by which to measure oneself.”- – – – –

A brief history of when men sold their wives at market, and why some women enthusiastically consented to it –
“Flogging your wife at a cattle market may seem grotesquely abusive, but the vast majority of these sales were carried out with the full and enthusiastic consent of the wife.”- – – – –

Now, There Is Zero Proof That Alcohol Is What Makes A Great Cocktail : The Salt : NPR
“She was won over, however, when she met Ben Branson, who was inspired to create Seedlip when he came across a 17th-century book, The Art of Distillation. Written by physician John French, the volume contained recipes for distilled nonalcoholic remedies for a variety of maladies — from epilepsy to kidney stones. Branson had other ideas.”

Recent Reads 2019: 01.23 – 02.18

The Tech Revolt — The California Sunday Magazine
“Whether it was protesting projects with ICE and the Chinese government or walking out to demand better treatment of women, political activism 
has entered tech with a force that the industry has never experienced.”

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How to Declutter and Organize Your Personal Tech in a Few Simple Steps – The New York Times
“It takes up so much psychic space and brings up the same negative effect: anxiety,” Ms. Fortin said. “Since we all have our phones in our pockets, we’re toting our clutter around with us.”

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What He Left Behind
“Kira Martin struggles through her connection – both emotional and physical – with her troubled and destructive son.”

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Elderblog Sutra: 1
“The idea is that in a complex game, after most players have finished a first full play-through, the mechanics might still leave interesting things for them to do. An Act 2 game-within-a-game emerges for experienced players who have exhausted the nominal game. A game dominated by such second-order players is an elder game.”

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Why Do So Many Women Who Study Engineering Leave the Field?
“Women’s experience of their education differed along two critical dimensions — they encountered a culture where sexism and stereotypes were left unaddressed, and they saw only lip service offered toward improving society—and both of these disproportionately alienated them.”

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I Blocked Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple
“These companies are unavoidable because they control internet infrastructure, online commerce, and information flows. Many of them specialize in tracking you around the web, whether you use their products or not. These companies started out selling books, offering search results, or showcasing college hotties, but they have expanded enormously and now touch almost every online interaction. These companies look a lot like modern monopolies.”

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Thread by @Foone: “If I was setting up curriculum at a university I’d make an entire semester-long class on The Challenger disaster, and make it required for a […]”
“Your friend is going through a hard time and you’re trying to help, and normally that’s fine, but it happens on the day when you’re getting over a cold and your roommate is yelling at the cat and you get an unexpected bill and your fiancee is out of town Each of these things on their own (or maybe with one or two others) is not a huge problem. You don’t have a breakdown. You don’t have a panic attack. But sometimes the dice come up the wrong way and all of them happen at once.”

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge Will Make You Laugh So Hard It Hurts – The New York Times
“She is so good at making people laugh that her facility for pathos can sneak up on them. While her audiences are distracted by sparkling punch lines, she is secretly messing around in the dark reaches of their psyches.”

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Weekly Reads 2019: 01.01 – 01.22

Okay, so these reading lists are a bit longer than a week between postings. Hopefully that will improve this year. 😀

Things I Don’t Know as of 2018 – Overreacted
“In this post I’ll offer an incomplete list of programming topics that people often wrongly assume that I know. I’m not saying you don’t need to learn them — or that I don’t know other useful things. But since I’m not in a vulnerable position myself right now, I can be honest about this.”

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The Woman With Lapis Lazuli in Her Teeth – The Atlantic
“But art experts were still skeptical. Some dismissed the idea that a woman could have been a painter skilled enough to work with ultramarine. One suggested to Warinner that this woman came into contact with ultramarine because she was simply the cleaning lady.”
The unfortunate part of this article is how readily the experts in the related field dismissed out of hand the idea that a woman was a manuscript illustrator.

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From Pompeii to Victorian erotica, pubic hair was considered sexy, healthy and youthful –
“Pubic hair is frequently placed on the frontline of feminism and growing a new band member for ZZ Top in your pants is often seen as a fuzzy fuck you to the patriarchy that leaves you literally tearing your hair out, and doubtless, there is some truth to this.”

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The weighted-blankets fad isn’t “appropriation.” It’s good news for autistic people.
“The trajectory for weighted blankets is the best of American capitalism: People figured out that a particular product is enjoyable for people outside my small corner of the disabled universe. They figured out a way to make the product cheaper and easier to access. This is an unequivocally good thing.”
Honestly, I have a lot to unpack with this response. I don’t know that it’s unequivocally a good thing, if I’m honest.

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The internet, but not as we know it: life online in China, Russia, Cuba and India | Technology | The Guardian
“More than half of the world’s population is now online, but that does not mean we all see the same thing. From being filtered by the government to being delivered by post, the internet can vary enormously depending on where you live.”

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It’s 2019 and I Still Make Websites with my Bare Hands
“I just… how… how can you stand building applications without knowing how they work?”

– – – – –

Using Ruby in 2019 – Jason Charnes
“Can Ruby and (Insert Language Here) coexist? Absolutely. I think too often we approach programming language wars as you have to choose one or the other. I don’t think that is the case.”

– – – – –

Effective Mental Models for Code and Systems – Cindy Sridharan – Medium
“Reducing the cognitive load on the future reader and helping them build a better mental model of our code minimizes the risk of the introduction of bugs, unlocking the ability for a future generation of maintainers to make progress at a rapid clip. It also helps build a culture of paying it forward with respect to managing complexity, effectively amortizing the maintenance cost of the codebase over time.”

– – – – –

More Start-Ups Have an Unfamiliar Message for Venture Capitalists: Get Lost – The New York Times
“Now a counter movement, led by entrepreneurs who are jaded by the traditional playbook, is rejecting that model. While still a small part of the start-up community, these founders have become more vocal in the last year as they connect venture capitalists’ insatiable appetite for growth to the tech industry’s myriad crises.”

– – – – –

Opinion | The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s – The New York Times
“By the time we are 70, we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen. If we are wise, we realize that we are but one drop in the great river we call life and that it has been a miracle and a privilege to be alive.”

– – – – –

Daring Fireball: Pentagram’s ‘Range of Possibilities’ for Slack
“What Pentagram has revealed indicates a total disregard for what Slack is and was — a brand which users have genuine affection for — and their new mark is nothing more than an unmemorable, unpleasant shape.”

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The Great Divide | CSS-Tricks
“Maybe the term front-end developer needs some rethinking. When I started working, front-end was mostly HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript. A good front-end developer needed to be able to translate a Photoshop layout to a pixel perfect website. Front end today is much much more. If you want to learn front-end development, people seem to start learning git, npm, angular, react, vue and all of this is called front-end development.”

Simplified Mushroom Risotto

4 cups broth
1 small onion, minced
2 cups of mushrooms
1 cup arborio rice
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 T parmesan cheese

– You can use any broth or stock you like, mushroom is great, but any stock you have on hand will work fine.
– For the onion, you can use scallions or shallots too. Feel free to toss some garlic in there, if you like.
– The mushrooms can be any variety or a mix. Feel free to go up to 3 cups, too, if you want.
– You can use regular long-grain rice as well. Not quite the same, but definitely cheaper.
– The balsamic is optional. It lifts the flavors, but if you don’t have it around, just skip it.
— Parmesan is also optional, if you want to make it vegan or just don’t like cheese.
— I like to add just a pinch of nutmeg to the mushrooms as they’re cooking. It enhances their flavor and is nice if you have it on hand.

Heat the broth in a saucepan. Keep it at a simmer.

Melt some butter in a large deep pan or another heavy saucepot. sauté the onion until soft (if using garlic, add it last or it will burn).

Add the mushrooms (and optional nutmeg) and sauté until they darken and start releasing their liquid.

Add the uncooked rice and stir to coat with the vegetables for about a minute. Add the vinegar and stir until it’s evaporated.

Time to start the tedious part!

Ladle about a cup of the broth into the pan and keep stirring until it’s been absorbed (about 5 minutes).

Repeat this process with 1/2 a cup at a time until the rice is plump and no longer chalky in the center. It looks like rice pudding and should take about 30 minutes.

Add the final broth and now’s the time to add the parmesan. Give it another stir and once the broth is absorbed, you’re done!

Here’s my little cheat:
Standing and stirring for a half hour straight is no fun, unless you want to just chill and drink something nice and relax, that’s cool, too.
If you want to do other things (make a salad to go with it, etc) you can put a whole cup of broth, maybe a bit more, in the pan at a time and just let it simmer, stirring every couple of minutes.
The texture won’t be /quite/ the same, but it will still come out marvelous.

Weekly Reads 2018: 12.02-12:30

How To Stop Wasting Time On The Internet – Barking Up The Wrong Tree
I’m not even as bad as some folks are with my social and internet use, but this makes me want to get a little closer to the minimalism discussed here. I have a lot of things I feel like I don’t have time for and that’s probably not as true as it seems.

– – – – –

When someone dies, these people spring into action. Lessons on death, grief and life – The Washington Post
“We know how to have funerals, burials, cremations and scatter ashes. But grief? It’s not something where there’s a recipe.” This was beautiful, a little sad, but worth the read.

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I read only non-white authors for 12 months. What I learned surprised me | Sunili Govinnage | Opinion | The Guardian
“In addition to the philosophical questions, I had some technical issues with this whole endeavour. The most frustrating were the practical problems, such as how difficult it was to get hold of well-known books by people of colour – even in ebook format.”

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I Read Only Books by Women For a Year: Here’s What Happened
“So, how did it change me as a reader? It’s subtle, but it’s there. I find myself more attuned to characters now, whether they feel like real people or just vessels caught in a narrative tide. I’m more interested in narratives whose conflicts don’t revolve around violence. I’m less willing to suspend disbelief for the rule of cool. To some extent this is just a natural extension of my evolution as a reader and writer, but I can definitely feel the influence of my year of reading women.”

– – – – –

The Yoda of Silicon Valley – The New York Times
“I am worried that algorithms are getting too prominent in the world,” he added. “It started out that computer scientists were worried nobody was listening to us. Now I’m worried that too many people are listening.”

– – – – –

Influencers Are Faking Brand Deals – The Atlantic
“Though it may seem like a useful tactic when you’re starting out, more established influencers worry that fake sponcon is creating a race to the bottom. Because brands can piggyback off of waves of unpaid influencer promoters, some have ceased paying influencers completely, or now pay rates far below what they previously spent.” My Gen X, anti-sellout self is wondering what the fuck is going on with these kids. They’re selling out and not even getting paid for the privilege of being fucked over by these companies.

– – – – –

The internet as television – Blair Reeves
“The promise of the internet was that of a panoply of riches; a nearly limitless tapestry of human potential where geography was no longer a factor. But what we’ve gotten is rather the opposite. The vast audiences of the internet are mostly guarded by gatekeepers who are careful to extract and monetize your identity for access.” And the theme of the day is “damn, remember when the internet used to be cool?”

– – – – –

The 2018 Good Tech Awards – The New York Times
“I’m continuing that tradition this year, in the spirit of reminding us that although scandals and wrongdoing in tech rightly get a lot of attention, there’s good happening elsewhere.”

– – – – –

Headspace vs. Calm: The Meditation Battle That’s Anything but Zen – WSJ
I have very very mixed feelings about the commoditization of meditation. One one hand, ew, you can just find a youtube video or read a book. On the other, I understand that for a lot of people the reassurance of having a guide through learning how to meditate and keeping on track with it is beneficial and worth the price of admission.

– – – – –

Daniel Ortberg: Top surgery was the best $6,250 I ever spent – Vox
“When I woke up in the recovery room, all I could think was, Of course. Oh, thank goodness. Oh, of course. Of course, of course, of course. But I didn’t know it was the best money I’d ever spent until I’d spent it.”

– – – – –

Emily Dickinson’s Electric Love Letters to Susan Gilbert – Brain Pickings
“Poised and serious at twenty, dressed in black for the sister who had just died in childbirth and who had been her maternal figure since their parents’ death, Susan cast a double enchantment on Emily and Austin Dickinson.”

– – – – –

Six Years With a Distraction-Free iPhone – Member Feature Stories – Medium
“In short, if you had handed me this device when I was a kid, in the 1980s, I would’ve lost my freaking mind with joy. A distraction-free iPhone is a futuristic tool that I control. It’s what I really wanted all along.”

Documentation, studying, and making things “easy”

I spent the last two days reading every inch of the React documentation.With that completed, it’s time to open up the Redux docs and start the process all over again.

This is not easy. Getting the focus together to read through these things is challenging, at least for me. They’re also complicated technical docs, even if well-written.

But I know from past experience that this is worth doing. No, I don’t expect to actually absorb all of what I’m reading. That level of studying would take a lot more that two days. I’m not being tested on this, so the purpose of the work is different than someone in school.

I just need to know where the information is so I can find it later. There’s a lot to be said for being exposed to information. What I can do is file the reference away in my brain somewhere. When an issue comes up while I’m working, it’s likely I’ll have some tendril of memory surface and remind me where I can find the information I need.

This kind of immersive exposure has a couple other benefits. I can come back and revisit the docs later and absorb a bit more each time. I can also use this experience as a stepping stone for deepening my knowledge as I seek out other resources that expand on the concepts. Better questions with more thorough vocabulary also becomes possible now that I’ve got a more solid foundation.

I’ve made things, if not actually easy and at hand, at least more within reach.

Insomnia and Getting Stuff DONE

Insomnia since 4am means I’ve gotten some stuff done and it’s not even 9 yet. I’m all prepped for my blog staff’s meeting later today, which means I got a bunch of small fixes done on the redesign and assessed the status of various projects for the next month or two.

Yesterday I finished my first little react project to the point where I’m calling it DONE as in Cult of Done and moving on to other things. I left a todo list on the readme so I can go back and clean stuff up later, but I’ve hit the law of diminishing returns for a learning project. Nothing I have left to work on there will help me learn anything new, or rather, anything I would learn I can do more efficiently as part of a different project.

You can fork that project, by the way, if you want to set up your own link directory. Check the readme for details.

Today I’m going to make a study day. I’m working through the documentation for React and Redux, which is going much smoother now that I have some experience under my belt. I might open Cuppa again and figure out next steps for that. It needs a real backend which will likely be in Node. MERN stack tutorials are in my future.

Last night I used Library Time to start poking at my next writing project. Notion seems like it will work for my needs, though I spent most of the time shuffling real pieces of paper around. I have a full binder of various attempts at wrapping my head around what this world looks like and who the characters are and what story I’m trying to tell. It’s been twelve years since I started the project and I’ve changed considerably (along with the rest of the world) in that time.

My first job is seeing what I have to work with, hence the paper shuffling. There’s a treasure trove of raw material. Somewhere in there is the heart of the story.