Posts in: gtd

Writing and editing are distinct skills. As I gaze into a stream of text that someone else wrote and several more people edited, as I try to make sense of the reds and the greens and the teals of Word’s tracked changes stacked on top of the red squiggles and the double underlines, as the nested comments flow one after another until my (aging!?) M1 MacBook Air begins to stutter, I realize that, at heart, I am a writer.

Happy New Year!

The perks of being born in late December, after the (Gregorian) Christmas but before the New Year:

  • No office birthday cakes
  • A few big gifts instead of many small ones
  • Birthday cards don’t pile up on top of work email
  • Guaranteed time off to reflect on the impermanence of life

Midlife unclenching

Middle age has been on people’s mind lately. As I’ll hit 40 in a couple of weeks I am well within the demographic, but haven’t given the matter much thought. Oliver Burkman’s newsletter from today nicely encapsulates my view on the matter, which doesn’t lend itself to crises of the midlife sort once you have it, though obtaining it may possible constitute a crisis.

He writes about “clenching”: trying to preserve meaningful moments in formaldehyde, or wasting your life away on optimizing it for those meaningful moments while they fly by you. In contrast, you can acknowledge the moments for what they are — ephemeral:

Sure, you can have a hundred tea ceremonies. You can ever have them all with the same people. But you can only have that ceremony, that cup of tea, once. Then the moment evaporates forever.

On the days I let myself move through life in this unclenched way, things tend to feel much more naturally enjoyable. Not because I’m trying to make myself appreciate them, or self-consciously “feel grateful” for them – but simply because I’ve (temporarily) suspended the other agenda that was getting in the way.

This way of looking at life does not come naturally to everyone. Certainly not to me; as a 12-year-old reading Around the World in 80 Days, I thought Phileas Fogg’s optimal ways of doing everything were the bees knees. Then I started workin in health care and I saw that:

  1. We are optimizing ourselves to death.
  2. People can get terribly sick, or injuured, or both, and be bed-bound, or debilitated, or die, at any moment and for any reason, and quite often for no reason at all.

And I started thinking about life the way Burkman described, more or less. Which I did around the time we had our firstborn, a bit over a decade ago — too early for that event to qualify as a midlife crisis, but maybe I was ahead of the curve. But if you are going to have a crisis of your own, I suggest it being of the sort that turns your life away from clenching.

So, it’s done. I am at my low point of X usage. I’ve muted all but a handful of accounts (re-inventing lists in the process), and realized that I can do once-per-week wellness checks at most and not miss out on anything of importance. Now I only need to stop checking the Washington Post home page, and my media fast may begin.

I, for one, am still digesting Thursday’s dinner. There’s a reason why Thanksgiving is but once a year!

I reject the premise of this article, which ignores the option of talking to people’s face to face — the (actual, not stated) preferred communication method of every generation.

Last week was my 1-year anniversary using MarsEdit, and I feel not an iota of urge to switch to anything else for publishing. Now, if only there were a general-purpose editor that was as fast but that I could use as an nvAlt replacement. When is nvUltra coming out, again?

🗃️ Chris Aldrich’s advice on zettelkasten for course work applies to anyone who is just getting introduced to a new field:

A zettelkasten practice like that of Niklas Luhmann is more useful when one already has a strong lay of the land and they’re attempting to do the work of expanding on the boundaries of new areas of knowledge.

If you’re attempting to create 30 permanent notes a day and interlink them all, then you’re going to find yourself overworked and overwhelmed within just a few days.

This is why slip boxes get abandoned: not because they’re empty, but because they are full on unintelligible gunk. And doing it digital — looking at you, Obsidian and Roam — just makes it worse for those without discipline.

I am not a fan of legalese, but this case of typographic mischief was right up my alley. Just read the judge’s closing paragraph:

The Court further notes that the last thing any party needs is more words on a page. The length of an argument is no guarantee of its success, and indeed could result in more confusion, not clarity. Moving forward, the Parties are encouraged to spend their valuable time focusing on the merits of this case, and certainly not figuring out how many sometimes-useless words will fit on a page.

Words to live by! (ᔥMatthew Butterick, who was — no suprise there — involved in the case)

Bryan Vartabedian on the angry email:

The angry email is usually rooted in frustration over inefficiencies or some nagging problem that hasn’t been fixed. Ultimately, it’s about the fantasy of the willful imposition of change by the sender. […] The defining element of the angry email is that it’s ultimately regretted. Or it should be.

I’ve written thousands of angy emails in my head, a dozen or so on the computer, and sent zero to date. If there is a next one, I’ll write it in longhand.