The musings of an aspiring carver of space

Arguments for Depth: more from Deep Work

What follows is more work from my zettelkasten (contained in a single entry, on this occasion).

Note that I did listen to Huxley's Brave New World on cassette tape — yes, I'm that old — many years ago; I'm simply using the To read backlink — Obsidian's terminology — for everything I want to read or read again, for simplicity.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Tags: #book #freud #jung #technopoly #esm #flow Title: Deep Work Author: Cal Newport Published: 2016 ISBN: 978-0-349-41190-3

  • Pg 2: Sigmund Freud was Carl Jung's mentor and friend. Then Jung published contradictory material.
    • I am fascinated, and deeply impressed, by a mind that conceives of this tower, travels to it regularly, away from the practice and patients that are surely the beginning of most of his great thoughts, and then publishes such a seminal opus against this larger-than-life figure, in his world, but also in the world of everyone around him.
  • Pg 67, under the heading The Cult of the Internet: Neil Postman is quoted, on a term that it's implied he coined: technopoly. That such a culture doesn't make its alternatives illegal or immoral. “It doesn't even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible, and therefore irrelevant.” Postman died in 2003.
    • I enjoy the Internet. I may have been an unintentional adherent to this philosophy, at one time. I don't believe I have been for many years, however.
    • I still enjoy hacking, in the traditional sense, but I believe I'm well aware of what works well on the Internet and what doesn't. Postman didn't even live to see the first tech bubble burst, or not completely. I don't think anyone could live through that without developing a healthy skepticism of technology writ large. And then there was the fallout of 2016: now everyone should understand the Internet's potential for targeting and magnifying our cognitive biases on an unprecedented scale, with truly dire consequences.

[[To read]] Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  • Pg 77, under the heading A Neurological Argument for Depth: most people feel that life is something that happens to them; that the shape of their lives, writ large, is outside their control. Decades of research suggest just the opposite, according to Winifred Gallagher. In what she calls the grand unified theory of the mind, “our brains instead construct our worldview based on what we pay attention to.”

    • This is deeply satisfying to me. It's taken me a long time to come to a similar conclusion — that is, that some thoughts not only warrant little attention: they are actually damaging, and need to be stopped — but I do feel I've been living by it for many years now, much happier than I was as a young man, for the most part.
  • Pg 84, under the heading A Psychological Argument for Depth: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's theory about human happiness is validated through his work with Reed Larson, broadly called the experience sampling method or ESM.

    • Achieving a mental state he called flow is directly related to the amount of satisfaction one has in their life.
    • While achieving this state in one's free time is certainly possible, its unstructured nature can present challenges.
    • Deep work, on the other hand, lends itself to flow, by its very nature.

End of Day 48

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Life in the UK test, and tmux

Well, the subject test is booked; reference material ordered. That wasn't cheap, but no part of this gruelling five-year process has been. My anxiety is way up, thinking about going to the testing centre in person. Wish I could've paid for something proctored over the Internet. Goodness knows they've come up with loads of ways to gouge me to date; can't believe they've missed this opportunity. Business figured this out long ago, folks — get with the times, dang it!

I almost thought about asking for a mental health exception; I'm confident I could get it. But I'm absolutely terrified of running afoul of this process; of being kicked out, losing my family, my job. Oh, for the day this Sword of Damocles is sheathed for good; 'til then, mind the eggshells.

I did find time to have a proper play with tmux. It's easy to see why it's so popular. I found a good introduction on YouTube, which linked to the author's associated cheat-sheet. The only omission: resizing panes; the documentation confused me on this point, but I found an excellent explanation in short order. Now I've got watch — which I only found out about through Mike, btw! — running who -uw | sed -E 's/\s+/ /g' - | cut -d" " -f1-4 - in a small pane off to the side, letting me know who's about while I play about. :–)

I'm also learning about weechat at the same time. I think I might move away from Hexchat; I don't find it intuitive or user-friendly, so, if I'm going to struggle with this return to IRC regardless, I'd like to have a snazzy, simple command-line waiting at the end of those efforts.

Oh, and I've got my backups to a decent state, finally. Timeshift snapshots sit on my new thumb drive (for that purpose alone), ready to boot, and all my documents and keepsakes are on an external hard drive, and on Keybase.

My Android phone sits outside of all that, though. Backups go to Google Photos as soon as I hit Wi-Fi, but I typically don't move everything over to my desktop until I start running out of space on my phone. So, yeah, not great on two counts. A work in progress, as I've said before.

End of Day 47

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The Social Contract has a rich history

What follows are notes from zettelkasten. I hope they retain some of their flow; I wanted to get this down, as it's been in my head for weeks, while not then spending more time away from my family to blog about those notes.

Daily note 2020-06-26

  • Watched [[How Can We Win_ by David Jones Media]]
  • Read [[Deep Work by Cal Newport]]
  • #rain

How Can We Win_ by David Jones Media

Tags: #video #racism #usa Link: Published: 06/2020

  • Referenced in the comments — https://tildes.net/~tv/pk7/police_last_week_tonight_with_john_oliver — of a Tildes post on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
    • I dislike that show's inconsistent policy on blocking content to those outside the US. As a result, I've given up on it.
    • Kimberly Jones is unbelievably eloquent, considering how emotional she clearly is. She's probably seen and heard quite a lot, even with this being her first day conducting interviews.
  • Kimberly Jones referenced:
    • Rosewood
      • Read [[Rosewood Massacre]], part of Wikipedia's series Nadir of American Race Relations
    • Tulsa
      • Read [[Tulsa Race Massacre]], also part of that series
    • Trevor
      • Watched [[The Daily Show with Trevor Noah 30052020]]

Rosewood Massacre

Tags: #article #wikipedia #racism #usa #florida #mena Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosewood_massacre#Culture_of_silence Accessed: 06/2020

  • Kimberly Jones seems well informed.
  • That a reporter travelling to small-town Florida in 1982 is completely unaware of this incident is shocking, to me.
    • It seemed like the victims, and their descendants, conspired in what the article labels a culture of silence.
      • The [[Tulsa Race Massacre]] references an eerily similar fallout.
    • How different from, say, the nakba (or “catastrophe”) of 1948. Well, in terms of the reactions of the Palestinian survivors, at the time (at least as I recall), and certainly of their descendants, long before any journalists needed to dig.
      • There is more in this point, I'm certain.

Tulsa Race Massacre

Tags: #article #wikipedia #racism #usa #oklahoma Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_race_massacre Accessed: 06/2020

  • The associated state commission published their report in 2001.
  • The state curriculum only now, this year, references the incident.
  • That is deeply shocking to me, even after what's seeped into my psyche — despite my best efforts to isolate, for my own mental health — surrounding the death of George Floyd, and the prominence of Black Lives Matter.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah 30052020

Tags: #video #racism #usa Link: Published: 05/2020

  • Trevor Noah is very eloquent. If this wasn't him speaking off the top of his head, he certainly did a thorough job of editing.
  • Two points stand out:
    • That footage of Amy Cooper is significant.
      • As a cis white male regularly pushing out the boundaries of my empathy, I can't hope to understand what it means to actually see a white woman — a 'Karen' — knowingly use her proxy power, in the form of the police. And, therefore, to knowingly put a black man's life in danger. Because she could.
    • IIRC — as it's been a few weeks since I watched this — Noah talks about the social contract in more general terms. (Very effectively, I might add.) It reminded me of [[The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau]].

The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Tags: #book Title: The Social Contract Author: Jean-Jacques Rousseau Published: 1762

[[To read]]

For Rousseau there is a radical dichotomy between true law and actual law. Actual law... simply protects the status quo. True law... is just law, and what ensures its being just is that it is made by the people in their collective capacity as sovereign and obeyed by the same people in their individual capacities as subjects. Rousseau is confident that such laws could not be unjust because it is inconceivable that any people would make unjust laws for itself.

– So much of Rousseau seems to be predicated on the idea of “civil society as an artificial person united by a general will, or volonté générale.” A laudable ideal that the US is still clearly falling well short of.

Rousseau... says that under the pact by which they enter civil society people totally alienate themselves and all their rights to the whole community. Rousseau, however, represents this act as a form of exchange of rights whereby people give up natural rights in return for civil rights. The bargain is a good one, because what is surrendered are rights of dubious value, whose realization depends solely on an individual’s own might, and what is obtained in return are rights that are both legitimate and enforced by the collective force of the community.

– Emphasis mine, and one of the main thrusts in [[The Daily Show with Trevor Noah 30052020]], without direct reference (again, IIRC).


I'd be interested in any feedback you have: is this jarring, annoying, interesting, largely similar to any other blog post? You can mention me on Fosstodon, or, if you'd prefer, email jlj@ctrl-c.club.

End of Day 46

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Privacy-friendly community

I do apologise for missing yesterday. It wasn't that I was burning the midnight oil or some such. I just needed an earlier night, and my daughter wasn't happy sleeping in the warm temperatures we're experiencing in the UK right now. (Tonight is going better, fingers crossed.) She did go off eventually, bless her, after using up my blogging window.

This post will be a bit of a smorgasbord. (I won't litter it with horizontal rules, though.) I found the XXIIVV webring a few days ago, and I've been having fun exploring.

Fascinating designs: XXIIVV personal wiki

I've even put in for membership, although it seems like they've got a few pull requests piling up.

Regardless, it led me to some great sites: I found out about Aether through Romain's list of privacy-friendly products. I found a basic org-mode tutorial through Konstantine's link summary for February of this year. I also found a really heartfelt post about grief, which led me to another that I really identified with; I've blogged about it before: losing friends, and reliving the decisions leading up to that.

It's probably because I'm so focussed on it lately, but I've found at least three digital gardens/personal wikis recently; seemingly by chance. Maybe I should be publishing the work I'm doing in Obsidian; it would certainly alleviate the problem of forgetting what I've blogged about versus what I've just noted. I posted a few entries from zettelkasten in Aether yesterday, as part of a comment. Further thought required, I think. If nothing else, I'd be a bit embarrassed by my threadbare process at the moment; really need to go through some of these tutorials, before the inevitable clean-up becomes a task of epic proportions.

End of Day 45

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The Salisbury Poisonings, and revision

Note: no spoilers follow.

Lots more revision for my Splunk Enterprise Certified Architect exam today. I postponed it again as well, to a week's time. I'm just not getting through the material quickly enough. The deployment plan, and the process around it, is weighted as 2% of the questions, yet I spent half a day on that easily. When most of the sections are weighted as 5% of the exam, there aren't any corners to cut, as far as I'm concerned; add to that that I'll have to do all this stuff on the job anyway — assuming furlough doesn't end with being laid off, of course — and I'd just be stealing from Peter to pay Paul, as no one says these days.

My revision document is up to 14 pages now. I think it's more legible than my Admin one, which was 23 pages by the end, its skeleton completely collapsed: I could either read it cover-to-cover, or search it; as a reference, it was, and is, useless. Everything's Google at work, but I've been making liberal use of bookmarks and shorthand references to the course docs in my Architect one, all against a straw man of the exam blueprint. It still makes sense, for the moment, although the miscellaneous blob at the end has been growing.

With each day that passes, I grok more of the utility in a zettelkasten, even as the pressure of my deadline increases, precluding trialling it, let alone running it as my main knowledge base.

In a rare burst, we binged The Salisbury Poisonings over two nights. Absolutely fantastic television. Say what you want about the BBC: I'll look to this, and Fleabag, and be very pleased.

Writing like this puts it on my must-watch list. To get the performances we saw — sometimes in such a small amount of screen time — as well is so rare. A gem. Of horrifying, utterly sad material. The directing was inspired at times too: particularly some of the point of view shots, I thought.

Everything else will suffer for having followed this, that's for sure.

End of Day 44

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Killswitch (2014): Snowden != Swartz

I finished the subject film last night. (It's neat that the Internet Archive hosts it and The Internet's Own Boy, btw. The nostalgic post-feature walk down my 90s presence in the Wayback Machine was very enjoyable.) I liked it. I thought it was well-cut and compelling. I know I'm too old for their target audience, but I was put off by the conflation of Swartz and Snowden's causes; I think it's a bit of a stretch, and, more importantly, threatens to blur the clear lines between the two associated acts.

We'll never know why Swartz pillaged JSTOR — I assume, unless information has come to light in the last six or seven years; as I said, my mental health isn't up to digging too deeply on this sad tale — but TIOB speculates convincingly on the point, and regardless, no one was actually harmed (to the best of my knowledge). I think that that's a much harder argument to make in the case of Snowden: the sheer volume of data he provided to journalists — and, therefore, to many actors, most of whom don't wish his country well — defies human consumption (let alone screening for harm) in any reasonable time frame.

Still, as implied, I'd imagine that that editorial decision went down well with the target audience. And I very much consider Killswitch to be time well spent.

One final note: they included more footage from one of the Lessig interviews used in TIOB, and I couldn't help but think that, as a whole, that material painted the man in a slightly different light: he looked broken. Completely broken. After TIOB, I felt he'd been irrevocably changed, but was still intact. I did not have that impression as Killswitch ended.

End of Day 43

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Deep Work

I'm just starting the subject book, by Cal Newport. I've been thinking about reading Newport for quite some time: CGP Grey recommended So Good They Can't Ignore You on a very early episode of HI, as I recall. Rob Muhlestein (aka rwxrob) recommending Deep Work as part of his RWX.GG knowledge project was the nudge I needed.

I begin this endeavour with more than a bit of trepidation.

Am I cut out for deep work? I honestly don't know. Back in the days of pencil and paper, I remember accomplishing most things through a facility for memorisation, and the adrenaline surge of a time-crunch. (I was an astonishing procrastinator.) I suppose, thinking about it, I did produce some Dungeons & Dragons campaigns of staggering detail, requiring many hours of concentrated work. But that isn't the same thing as pushing my brain with a heavy cognitive load for an extended period of time.

But I must try. As I've said before, my training programme is not letting up, and my current, chaotic approach is reaching the end of its utility.

I finished Notes On A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig last night. I think I mentioned that a friend had recommended it, knowing about my problems with anxiety. While I think there's a high likelihood — on any particular random opening of the book — of your eyes falling on something rather facile, I would be lying if I said that it hadn't helped. My zettelkasten, only started in earnest when I was already two-thirds of the way through the book, still has notes on half a dozen pages of Haig's thoughts.

I'm still anxious, though. The degree varies from day to day, spiking when I think about leaving the house (which I rarely do). Another source is looking at what's required of me professionally over the coming months. I'm hoping Newport will help me get a handle on that.

End of Day 42

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Happy Father's Day!

This one will be brief.

I'm a lucky man, and I've spent the day feeling very grateful for that, surrounded by my loved ones.

I've had a complicated relationship with my own father, but even in this, I'm luckier than many: he's survived to my middle age, where we've both come to realise that we have pretty much diametrically opposite views of our shared past, and that there's little to be gained by dwelling on that now.

This, in turn, has galvanised my commitment to my own children. I will make mistakes; likely many of them. But my children will know that I regret each and every one of them, and still love them with all my heart. They will know this because I will tell them. Often. Probably too often.

They will know how special they are to me. And that however badly this world and the people in it hurt them, betray them, disappoint them, I will be there to listen. And to share in what I hope will be their much-more-prevalent joys.

End of Day 41

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Derek Sivers is nice

As usual, the weekend (so far) has been filled with many lovely things that I won't be blogging about. And then we decided to finish Picard tonight as well. (I do have some thoughts on it, of course, but none worthy of the spoiler warning that would have to go with them. Drop me a line if you're interested in this diehard TNGer's take.)

I ran out of space with my rclone project: it's a hard 15GB limit that doesn't seem to have touched the estimates on my actual Google account. I can't imagine a service account I create gets its own Google Drive allocation, but I don't know how else to explain what is going on. Suffice to say that it's been fun, but I'll have to think about what I might want to use that space for at another time. For now, I've picked up a 128GB SanDisk thumb drive for £15 and copied the Timeshift snapshot to it. (It's extraordinary, to me, that it takes a third of the physical space that the 4GB thumb drive that I still use does.)

I now feel like I'm on fairly firm ground with my backups. I'll still need to test them, down the road, if I can be bothered. To be honest, as long as I have a copy of my photos, videos and documents, rebuilding just seems like a chance to practice system administration. (Some would argue that creating and restoring functioning backups is a very important skill in that suite, of course. One that requires some effort to practice.)

I started watching Killswitch (2014) last night, curious to see more of Aaron Swartz. I'll write about that once I've finished it. I will say that I've already ordered a copy of Tim Wu's The Attention Merchants off the back of what I've seen, though.

I'll close with a nod to my Now page and Derek Sivers. You may have noticed that the former is linked at the top of my site; it's a .plan file for the 21st century. And I mean that in the best possible way. I'm looking forward to exploring Sivers' body of work... (OK, I've just googled him now, and, my first thought is that I can't believe how accessible and friendly he is over email. Wow. OK, I'll probably have more to say on that in a future post; I certainly have a title for this one now.)

End of Day 40

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The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

I watched this for the first time last night.

Somehow, I hadn't even heard of Aaron Swartz.

And, while I let that sink in, it's worse than being a fan of networked technology and not knowing: I was active in the digital rights scene back in Ottawa at the time too. I wasn't just reading Geist: we were meeting, as part of the group trying to get Bill C-61 amended. And we were all reading Lessig, Doctorow, and were intensely interested in Eldred v. Ashcroft.

I loved Creative Commons. It was all over my creative writing site at the time. I had no idea Swartz wrote that code.

I've tried to let myself off the hook a bit: maybe all these people he worked with — on RSS as well, and even Markdown, apparently, although that's from Wikipedia — were trying to keep him from the limelight because he was still a minor. I don't know.

It's a bit easier to understand how I missed his death: my personal life was a shambles in late 2012/early 2013. I was barely keeping it together, even with my head down, just trying to get by.

The film is as interesting for who it wasn't able to get, I think. I found the whole topic to be pretty upsetting, so I won't be doing any research on this or other points. For me, that they got his parents talking was enough: and that made it all the more heartbreaking, of course.

He was so eloquent! Even on live television. That, to me, speaks of his brilliance more than anything else: that he was able to answer questions so well, on the spot. Likely what I consider a home-run answer would've had him shaking his head afterwards, wondering why he hadn't said this or that. I bet his shower thoughts were world-altering.

And that's the saddest part of all: Clay Shirky referenced it in one of the few articles I read about Swartz's death: everyone will miss out, is currently missing out, on all the other things he would've done. He was just getting started. It's awful; just awful.

I'll close with Sir Tim Berners-Lee's beautiful epitaph:

Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.

RIP Aaron Swartz 1986 – 2013

End of Day 39

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