Don’t be WIPed

Do you struggle with having more projects than you can productively work on simulatenously? I certainly do. That’s why I have been attracted to the Personal Kanban productivity system, which puts a lot of emphasis on visualizing, pruning, and limiting one’s “Work in Progress” (WIP). I’ve not been sufficiently serious about setting realistic limits on my WIP: witness my overflowing list of projects started but essentially zombified. How many projects survive on my list when I have neither the energy to advance them nor the will to kill them?

Face it: I’m not going to cure my deep rooted habit of being WIPed overnight. Yesterday, I took tiny steps in the right direction by forcing myself to schedule dedicated times for the next steps for some of my projects. Theoretically, a rigorously maintained and enforced calendar is a good visualization of WIP and of incipient (rampant?) overcommitment. There’s probably something to learn from articles like How To: Setting Your Personal WIP Limit | Personal Kanban. The start of the article is to the point:

There are only two rules in Personal Kanban.

Visualize Your Work


Limit Your Work in Progress

But I need to find the time to read the rest of the article first!

PIM 2020: Creating a better personal information manager

I would like to create a next-generation personal information manager (codename: “PIM 2020”) that lets users focus on what’s most important to them. I’m convinced that our computers can do so much more to help us understand our own thought processes and actions in the world and thereby focus ourselves. A central challenge is to develop a plan that targets a specific doable and economically viable service.

I need to articulate a compelling vision of the distinctive elements of PIM 2020. Why do I want to create personal digital dashboards presented in desktop apps, smartphone apps, and web browsers? How will the dashboard be backed by cloud computing, data integration, and machine learning?

I suspect that I will need to find a day job (or a portfolio of gigs, paid and unpaid) that will provide me some useful skills, experiences, or contacts. At the very least, the job should allow sufficient emotional and creative space for me to plot my next-generation PIM in my off-hours.

Remember the Future

Masha Gessen ends on a somewhat positive note in her Nov 2016 essay Autocracy: Rules for Survival | The New York Review of Books:

Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump’s all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past. They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform—like the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote. That should not be normal. But resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be.

Why you might want to make phone calls for Hillary

If you’re like me, the main outcome of the upcoming election you want is to prevent the election of Donald Trump. To give myself a productive activity to work to defeat Trump, I’ve been making lots of phone calls
for Hillary via Right now, we’re focused on recruiting other volunteers. Soon enough, we’ll be focused on GOTV (get out the vote) activities.

This is something you can do from anywhere you have internet access and phone access and is made up of lots of discrete tasks. It’s even fun and inspiring at times, when you connect with other people in the country wanting to contribute to our society. (Most of the time, no one picks up the phone, which I used to see as frustrating but now I see as relaxing in a funny way.)

I encourage you to join me in phone banking for Hillary. I’d be very happy to talk to anyone interested in learning more or phone banking with you folks. (You can also find events in which other people will be making calls. Sometimes it’s easiest to get started while surrounded
by others making calls too.)

Magic of Morning Moleskining

This morning, after a long break from writing journalistically in the black Moleskine I carry around in my backpack, I scrawled:

Stand back to see where my handwriting hand leads me right now. Early morning writing can sometimes be downright magical, illuminating hitherto dark spaces of the mind and heart.

What followed was a trance of fluidity that I rarely have when writing on my computer. What do we know about the difference between writing in a paper journal and on a computer?

Writing on a personal blog when there’s

Isn’t it positively quaint to hope that I will write in any meaningful way on this blog when so many of the cool writers on the web have migrated to Medium?

I’m actually inspired to get back to writing on this blog because Dreamhost, the current host for this blog, has made it free and easy for me to use HTTPS on my site (via letsencrypt.)   As silly as this may sound, I feel much more at home now on this blog, now I can write over more secure channels.   (yes,  I know: Medium also support HTTS –> so HTTPS cannot be the determinative factor in whether I write here.)

Help stop the renewal of the Copyright Term Extension Act

I just encountered (and signed) the petition to stop the renewal of the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), making me wonder what’s up with the Act. A quick Google search landed me on this Washington Post story story with the following paragraph distillation of the current state of affairs:

The copyright extension Clinton signed will expire in five years. Copyright holders like the Disney Corp. and the Gershwin estate have a strong incentive to try to extend copyright extension yet further into the future. But with the emergence of the Internet as a political organizing tool, opponents of copyright extension will be much better prepared. The question for the coming legislative battle on copyright is who will prevail: those who would profit from continuing to lock up the great works of the 20th century, or those who believe Bugs Bunny should be as freely available for reuse as Little Red Riding Hood.

Thank you, Dorothy Duff Brown, for teaching me about dissertation writing

In the mid to late 1990s, the Berkeley campus offered to its doctoral students a dissertation writing workshop for Berkeley run by Dorothy Duff Brown. I remember it after all these years as a lifesaver. Brown offered so much good practical advice. Don’t rely solely on my computer but also make use of print in writing large documents. Decide as a matter of personal discipline (and sanity) when to stop working each day, rather than on when to begin. After all, writing a dissertation is a process of guilt management. Even more valuable than the advice, however, was the kind sympathy that the Dr. Brown offered me and my fellow grad students — something that was, alas, often in short supply on the campus.

I will have to find out from the Berkeley Grad Division what has happened to the dissertation writing workshop. I see mention of such workshops in a list of offerings. I am, however, glad to see that folks at Michigan State University had captured some of Dorothy Duff Brown’s wisdom when she spoke there.

Good Prose by Kidder and Todd

I knew that Tracy Kidder is a famous writer but I didn’t know that he had received many of the most prestigious national literary prizes.  For better or worse, that understanding has raised the chances I’ll end up buying Good Prose, the book he recently co-authored with Richard Todd, his long time editor. The book’s publicist certainly understood that a book on non-fiction writing will have to be sold on not only the merits of the authors’ reputation but also on first impressions of the content.  And he standards will be high since the promise of learning from a master team are dangled before prospective readers/buyers.

I’m in no immediate need to buy the book since I just borrowed it from the university library.  Ideally I can even read it once before deciding whether to spend money for my own copy.

Congress: help us think about Syrian intervention

I usually call my elected representatives to advocate for specific policy stances.  I’m torn about whether Congress should vote to intervene militarily in Syria.  (My heart and gut say no but I’m not totally sure.)  So instead of advocating against military intervention,  I currently plan to say to my Congressional representatives:  put away the usual game playing, the stuff of day-to-day politics, and embrace fully the sobering task you have before you in deciding which potentially world-altering and calamitous actions to enact.  Please help lead this country and me, your constituent, in this serious work of prayerful and thoughtful consideration.