• Keeping my cool

    Over the years I’ve learned to keep my cool when working on DIY projects. I’m apt to lose my cool when, despite my best amateur efforts, something doesn’t go as planned. It could be a cut in the wrong place, an unlevel hanging, the wrong screw…

    Our mood predisposes us to see the world in a way. With DIY that can mean everything is the target of a hammer!

    Saturday I was putting up a shelf in the laundry. Rather than a simple shelf with brackets, I had purchased a floating shelf. After 30 minutes searching in Bunnings, that was all I could find!

    Let’s say 5/10 for annoyance.

    I collected my tools and started checking for studs and power. Beep! Beep! Beep! Something was wrong. The only 9v battery I could find for the stud finder was old and that was the cause. Ok, off to the supermarket for batteries (and I grabbed replacements for the smoke alarm as well).

    5/10 is now 7/10.

    Returned home. Measured for the shelf. Put in the plaster sockets. Screwed in the first screw 80% of the way. Did the second. The screw snapped in half. And the third. And the fourth!

    11/10 at this point. Despite that I breathed slowly and took my time to resolve it all. Removed 2 of the 3 broken screws. Used someo f the stock I had and got the shelf up. It was level right-to-left, but not front-to-back.

    Another trip, to a different hardware store – keeping in mind to not let my temper affect my driving – to purchase a bracket to support the bracket.

    Here is the final shelf, ready to do what a shelf does. It looks a little wonky in this photo. That’s an artifact of the angle of my camera, not the shelf itself.

  • Measure once, cut twice

    Have you every carefully considered a purchase from a store then when you got home realised there was an aspect you’d missed that made it completely unsuitable?

    I do it frequently with trips to the hardware store for screws where somehow I’ve manged to get the wrong diameter or length. Once, I bought the extended edition of the Belinda Carlisle Runaway Horses CD, after I already had the original version. Then asked a friend to buy it for me, forgetting I had it!

    Last year I purchased Celestron SkyMaster 20×80 binoculars for stargazing and as soon as they arrived, rushed off to the camera store to purchase a tripod. I’d done research and the shop assistant was helpful, but somewhere along the way I missed the height requirement.

    To look horizontally requires me to crouch down a few inches. Looking up, to where the stars are, means tilting the binoculars and dropping the eyepieces down even lower.

    It’s meant I haven’t used the binoculars as much as I should have.

    The tripod I purchased is good quality and has a very smooth head on it for aiming the binoculars which is great. It’s simply too short at a max height of 130cm. I need something more like 170cm.

    This afternoon I’ve been looking at extenders. My fear is that will create too much instability as the binos weigh 2kg and putting them on a taller pole could be too much.

    So instead I’ll purchase another tripod and transfer the head across. It’s a waste of money but all on me. If I don’t I’ve wasted money not only on the tripod but on the binoculars I’m not using as well.

  • Do you over-aside?

    I’ve noticed recently a tendency in myself and others to add layer upon layer of explanation when we are talking. Once I saw it, I realised how counter-productive it is.

    We think we are helping, but we’re not. Piling up information faster than the recipient can process it.

    I park my car a few hundred meters from where I work. I enjoy the walk in the morning, and the time to slow down on the way home.

    Succint and tells you all that you need to know about where I park.

    I park my car around the corner from work because there is free parking. If I can’t get a park I park in the multi-storey car park where I have to pay. Where I previously worked there were people who paid for parking each day just to be a little closer. That’s something like $1,250 a year and I’ve got better things to spend my money on. Though sometimes when I parked there I’d forget and walk back to where I normally parked. Once I even did it in the rain. Anyway, I park in, what’s the name of the street?. I can never remember.

    Adding aside, after aside, only confuses the key message. Keep an eye out for it in your communication and assess its effects on those around you – and you when you’re the recipient.

  • What I’ve learned playing Elden Ring

    I’ve been considering writing an article on what I’ve learned playing the role-playing adventure game Elden Ring.

    Michael Lopp has saved me the trouble. I can’t say it better than he does in his piece titled Don’t Panic.

  • I’m no good at computers…

    …is the 21st Century evolution of, “I’m no good at maths.”

    It is a declaration that one can’t learn and so is a prime example of an Enemy of Learning.

    It is said in response to a fear the person with you is judging you for not having the same knowledge they have. An Assessment that can’t be grounded.

    It holds you back from asking for assistance.

    The phrase holds you back for no good reason. Let it go.

  • The magic hour

    I have a lot of projects in my personal life which are so time-hungry it’s not possible to sit down and complete them in any one evening, weekend, or week on holiday. They are:

    • Cataloging my home photos in IMatch
    • Keeping up with organsing the knowledge in my personal knowledge management system, let alone using it to create new insights and knowledge
    • Completing a cross-stitch I purchased in April 2000

    The idea of applying an hour of my time each day first came when considering my data in Obsidian. Simply getting my existing store of typed information organised is a lot of work and I can only do so much before it becomes tiresome. Nevermind linking and creating knowledge or writing new content.

    One hour per day equates to 365 hours per year. For my 38-hour work week, that’s 9.6 weeks of effort.

    From working for 30 years I have a strong internal sense of what 9.6 weeks, full time on a project would produce. The impact on my personal knowledge management system would be uncalculable.

    All for an hour a day.

  • Interrupting the flow of work has a tax

    Nobody likes interruptions (unless they are good news) but regardless, each interruption that occurs takes not only the time of the interruption itself but a little longer as you strive to get back to where you were beforehand.

    If you are in a flow state, this can take a long time and there is a risk you may not regain your previous level of thinking.

    Reducing the cost of interruption tax

    There are a few steps you can take to reduce the cost of an interruption tax.

    1. Limit the change of being interrupted. This can be anything from finding somewhere quite to work, to closing the door, to putting your phone on Do Not Disturb or making effective requests of those around you to keep away for a time.
    2. The previous step is even better if you can find a time where interruptions are less likely. his could be why many of us have been more productive working from home than in an office.
    3. Develop the habit of pausing for a moment when the interruption first occurs to take a quick note on whatever it was you were thinking of so that you can pick it up later. Then when you return to your task, refresh your memory.
    4. Ask briefly for a moment to complete what you are doing. Most will accomodate and it has the added benefit of improving your listening to the concerns of others because they have your full attention.

  • Committing to tasks without dates

    Some time ago I wrote that Adding a due date to your tasks is a mistake and promptly failed to take my own advice!

    Earlier this week I completed all the tasks on my GTD next actions list for that day, apart from three. I realised a couple of things.

    1. Once I’ve done the tasks for the day, I tend to consider myself done and forget I have another list of 50+ next actions I can work on.
    2. I’d finished but there were still 3 tasks there.

    My due dates were “want to do” tasks, not “must do tasks”. I can be sure of that because I added the 🏆 task indicator beside the date for the tasks that were “must do tasks” on the day. Without realising it I had the tasks I had to do and the tasks I had to do.

    So, as part of my weekly GTD Review on Friday I removed all dates from my next actions list apart from those very few that absolutely had to happen on a specific date. I’m quite comfortable with that. Will see how it goes across the week. I expect I’ll get more done.

  • An illustration of the truth

    There is an interesting passage in Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson where the protagonist, Kaladin Stormblessed has an altercation with his father Lirin. It shows what can happen when we hold an opinion as truth.

    An invasion has occurred and Lirin, a surgeon, urges his son to stay and help people. Kaladin, who was trained as a surgeon by his father in his youth, is caught between his father’s wishes and his natural desires to protect people using force.

    “You’re telling me to be a good slave and do what I’m told.” [said Kaladin]

    “I’m telling you to think!” his father snapped. “I’m telling you that if you want to change the world, you have to stop being part of the problem!” Lirin calmed himself with obvious difficulty, making fists and breathing in deeply. “Son, think about what all those years spent fighting did to you. How they broke you.”

    Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE) (pp. 741-742). Orion. Kindle Edition.

    At this point in the book it’s clear that Kaladin has been suffering from PTSD.

    In a way, Kaladin could understand what his father said. “Your words make sense up here,” Kaladin said, tapping his head. “But not down here.” He slapped his breast.

    “That’s always been your problem, son. Letting your heart override your head.”

    “My head can’t be trusted sometimes,” Kaladin said. “Can you blame me? Besides, isn’t the entire reason we became surgeons because of the heart? Because we care?”

    “We need both heart and mind,” Lirin said. “The heart might provide the purpose, but the head provides the method, the path. Passion is nothing without a plan. Wanting something doesn’t make it happen.

    Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE) (p. 742). Orion. Kindle Edition.

    Soon after this conversation two of the enemy forces enter the surgery. They are looking for people of a certain type, Radiants, who have been incapacitated by their attack. They are initially unaware that Kaladin is a Radiant who did not suffer incapacitation and who is also the one Radiant they are to be on the lookout for.

    So many reasons to stay where he was. But one reason to move.

    They were going to take Teft.

    Kaladin pulled open the door and stepped into the hallway, feeling the inevitable shift of a boulder perched on the top of a slope. Just. Beginning. To tip.

    Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE) (p. 746). Orion. Kindle Edition.

    Kaladin’s true nature takes over and he kills in order to prevent his friend Teft from being taken. Needless to say, Lirin is not impressed.

    Nearby, Lirin gave up, lowering his head and slumping in place as he knelt before the body. It had stopped moving, finally.

    “We’ll need to hide,” Kaladin said to his father. “I’ll fetch Mother.” He surveyed his bloody clothing. “Perhaps you should do that, actually.”

    “How dare you!” Lirin whispered, his voice hoarse. Kaladin hesitated, shocked. “How dare you kill in this place!” Lirin shouted, turning on Kaladin, angerspren pooling at his feet. “My sanctuary. The place where we heal! What is wrong with you?” Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE) (p. 751). Orion. Kindle Edition.

    The sequence was a difficult one to read. It’s a classic story telling structure to have two people from different worlds at odds. Both believe they are right. And both are right. But because they believe so strongly they are right, they are unable to understand the other person.

    Lirin is right that surgeons have a mandate to save people and not kill them. Kaladin, as a warrior, and immensely capable of saving people, also believes he is justified in his actions. Yet, both approach the problem from the position that they hold the truth and when you hold the absolute truth, listening is not an option. You’re bound to coerce/convince others of the truth.

    How often in your life do you take a position where you are treating an opinion you hold as the truth? Can you fee the desire to force others to your will? How helpful has that been?

  • Backlinks are important

    Backlinks are links on a web page/note that list other web pages/notes which refer to it. Within my digital garden, backlinks are critical in making connections between ideas. They are important because content does not always flow in one direction and knowing what links to a particular page can create a more informative context or open up new avenues of learning.

    Backlinks are not hierarchical

    If TopicA links to TopicB, it may not be obvious that there is a connection when looking at TopicB particularly as content in a digital garden is almost always non-hierarchical. Instead of:

    we have:

    It’s a lot of work to create and maintain all these backlinks and secondly, by simply writing and linking pages, the list of backlinks can highlight connections between pages in unexpected ways which generate new ideas and relationships.

    To be useful backlinks must be automatically generated

    Creating backlinks by hand gets old, very quickly. There two primary reasons for this are:

    1. Interrupting the flow of work has a tax and the mechanical act of linking pulls you out of your thinking. That disjoint and shift of focus means it takes a moment to get back into the groove.
    2. If you change the name of a note you have to find all the backlinks from other pages and rename them. This makes it hard to be productively lazy.

    I use Obsidian to manage my content and it automatically creates the backlinks for each page. It also shows my potential backlinks ie., pages which refer to the name of a page but which have not been explicitly linked yet.