Starting

This post was written 29 days ago.
Mon, 17 Sep 2018
The last blog post took me very long to write, now I am trying the opposite, writing something fast. And that is something I want to do more. Because I want to document what I am doing. A bit like the "weeknotes" that some people write, but I know in my case it won't likely be exactly each week.

I want it to be a mixture of documenting what I have actually done — especially in terms of learning new things — and commenting on books, articles and current events as well as occasionally jotting down all kinds of thoughts. A lot is in flux, with my life (my work life much more than my family life, though I have to admit the children becoming teens has an impact!) and with society at large.

Plan till the end of the year


Learning new things and organising Codehub, these constitute my — unpaid — "job" at the moment, which I take seriously and so far have managed to treat as such. And the documenting, I'd like that to become part of the job, too.

Job description:
  • Learn (and build)
  • Organise CodeHub events
  • Write about both

With learning my focus will be on:
  • Python
  • DevOps with Vagrant, Docker, Ansible; also simply learn more about Linux
I would like to carry on learning Haskell, but it will be difficult to invest a lot of time in it.

And these are currently my projects
  1. The main one will be a Django app with the working title "Book exchange"
  2. Build and manage "Codehub servers" where members can put projects up
  3. Building a mini website for a friend of mine, with a CMS called Pico and text files managed via Github and prose.io
  4. Trying some web scraping (shared interest with Lewis, who's in Malta)

I have decided that Mon, Tues, Wed I will each day do at least 4 full hours on Python, the app, or related DevOps. Thursday was going to be reserved for Haskell (but last week showed in practice this will be difficult), then Friday for reading, writing, communicating, philosophising. A day where I'd also purposefully allow myself to "drift off". - The minisite and web scraping I will do in other slots of time, late afternoon, evenings, weekend…

So I decided to set myself a minimal target per day, but then be rigorous about those 4 hours. Apparently you can not be very focused for more than 4 hours per day anyway. Still I will work for more on most days.

I will have to write about plans for Codehub organising another time.

One and a half weeks in


I'd also would have liked to write about what I have done so far! Maybe I will try a very brief summary:
  • Set up a Vagrant and using Ansible installed relevant Python modules and Postgres on it, created Postgres db and user
  • Then, for now, carried on manually with a Digital Ocean tutorial on setting up Django with Nginx and Gunicorn
  • Started working through the Django tutorial
  • Before all that, for my mini site, I worked out how to create a webhook from Github, so that on updating content via https://prose.io, a PHP script is run on the server to pull in the changes from the repo
This list is uncomplete. I am anyway pleased I got a fully functioning production server set up on my Vagrant, though I realise that this is doing things backwards. You can just start with using the development server — and I will use that to go through the tutorial. But somehow I wanted to solve the challenge of setting up a production environment first!

As so often when I start to write, there would be so much more. But at least I have made a start. I hope it is the start of things!

As to books, I am reading "The Guilty Feminist" by Deborah Frances-White at the moment. I have so much respect for her. Here is somebody who speaks her mind, and you can tell that it is simply what she thinks, and there's some really original thoughts in there that you would not hear from many other feminists. I also like her pointing out that the "calling out" and language-policing can quite quickly itself become dogmatic and then not much is gained. (She said this differently.)

The book and some of the thoughts in it is also something I will want to write more about!

For now good night, so late now, 4 am. Tomorrow is hack night…

A Pending Promise or Already Functional?

This post was written 4 months ago.
Sun, 03 Jun 2018

Turning a Meetup group into a platform for independent learning


"..and I don't really know what's going to happen with the institutions, but I do know that this wild learning is happening and that some people are becoming more expert at it." Howard Rheingold in the foreword to Peeragogy (https://peeragogy.github.io/)
 

If you have been a web developer for a while, the concept of independent learning is nothing new to you. You do it all the time. Quite a few developers started that way, too. They built a site for themselves in HTML, then got commisssions from friends and small businesses, and before they knew it they were working for big business and in teams. Their knowledge grew alongside the industry, they helped each other out, in real life and online.

This might be idealising a bit, but it did happen (and still does I suppose, but less). I witnessed the early years of the web, not as a developer, but longing to be one.

And a bit later I went on that journey too, for me it was a very longwinded one, a career in slow motion, full of doubts and setbacks. I was already in my 30s and had two kids. I created a website for a children's playgroup, then through a friend did work experience at a Uni department, building an unspeakably ugly website on their Plone system. Next I met two developers "off Twitter" who both helped me a lot, through teaching me some 'tricks of the trade' and passing on work to me.

I was not a natural developer, I did not take to it like a fish to water. At school things had come easy to me, this did not. Looking back I wonder how I managed to stick with it when it was so difficult, the anxiety running high, and the comparison with the 'accomplished' people who were bantering on Twitter reducing me to a fearful mess. It must have been the ongoing fascination with the web, the pleasure of eventually getting things to work, and the desire to belong to this world and the community around it.

I was working all on my own, managing my own clients, "learning on the job" but without senior colleagues at hand. This too seems crazy to me now. My debugging methods consisted of very crude trial-and-error. At one point I considered putting out a Tweet "Can somebody form a support group for web dev mums working from home?" I knew Gicela at that point, and a few years later we set up a group. It was not exclusively for mums, but in its first incarnation it was for people working from home. We were going to meet up so we could learn from each other.

The gist of the above is, I went a strange way, even in web dev terms where people come from all kinds of backgrounds. And I'm 'off' - old, female, foreign.. For a long time I found it difficult to know where I stand, and to a certain degree that's still true. There's no doubt anymore that I am a professional web developer. I know a lot and take my work seriously. But does that make me a good one? Volumewise I have done less compared to those working fulltime, and only in recent years have I worked on a team (and that did make a difference!)

So.. this was a bit of a long intro, and one I hadn't planned. But I guess it is useful to understand my growing interest in independent education.

I know it can be done, and I'd like to know how far it can be taken. As Kio Stark observes in her brilliant book "Don't go back to school", there's a few professions where you can't get round official credentials (healthcare, law, teaching at schools, architecture), some others seem "culturally closed", that is, difficult to get into without a degree, for example fine arts and sciences. But it is not impossible. It is just very hard.

With coding, there is a certain distinction between software development (backend, and at scale) and web development, where the former still recruits its workers from university graduates mainly — in engineering, computer science and so on —, while web development is more flexible. Funnily some software programmers think web development is harder (especially JavaScript!).

Setting up a peer learning group


When Gicela and I set up CodeHub we were inspired by the New York HackerSchool which has since been renamed to Recurse Center. Our group was very different (Recurse center do 3 months coding residencies!), but the idea that you could learn a lot with and from your peers was the same. A bit later I found out about OpenTechSchool that had a similar approach and we became a chapter.

The peer learning was there from the start, as well as the idea that it should all be free. We soon started to create little workshops for each other in our morning sessions, and organised longer ones with invited speakers in the evenings. We also ran a few JavaScript one-day events. You can find some information on all of them on our Github Pages.

The evening workshops were very irregular and although they were great and mostly well-attended, I never quite felt at ease organising them, and I kept stopping for long periods. For one thing, it felt strange asking people to create workshops for free. I know from many of the speakers though that they totally enjoyed it and one of them said "the person getting the most out of a workshop is the one giving it". I can fully subscribe to that. As I kept asking people for free workshops, I thought I should at least give one myself to offset that a bit. The workshop on Git ended up being a bit chaotic, but I learned so much from it! And I know others got something out of it too, despite its shortcomings.

From 2014 there's been fortnightly hack nights, and our first study group, JavaScript101, started in 2015. It has been morphed into WebDev101 this year. Since autumn last year, there's also a Haskell study group. (The Haskell group meets in the evenings, WebDev101 during the day)


The map is not the territory


It's five years since we set up CodeHub, and it's grown into something really nice. People are friendly and helpful, and there's expertise in lots of different areas. Members have learned new technologies through the group and found jobs, companies have found the right employees.

And yet for a long time I had this urge to do much more. I felt there was a potential that hadn't been realised. And that we promised too much in what we were saying about the group. Recently somebody was interested in teaching. All we can say at the moment is "come to the hack night or webdev101" (and see if somebody needs your help).

Mark has started a spreadsheet now, where potential mentors can enter their names and areas of expertise. We had a brief discussion on how to go from here, and I just had some more ideas. We'll work something out.

A lot is happening, just slowly. And that's okay. I think this has been a key challenge for me: Wanting too much in too short a time (and often this got stuck at the wanting). I am grateful to my co-organisers, first Gicela, and now Mark and Audrey, for conveying the same message again and again in different ways: It is already good the way it is. You don't need to force yourself to do stuff.

Still, I want to collect here some thoughts on what CodeHub is and can be, and who I believe it is for:

In a few words, it's:
1, a support group for the self-learner
2, a platform for developers to pass on their knowledge, including in person, and practicing mentoring and teaching
(A member can, but doesn't have to, fall into both categories; for me, the second one doesn't come easy I've noticed)

Much depends on the initiative of individual people, especially those wanting to learn. There is at the moment no traditional teaching. It is also worth noting that in many cases the informal learning (with this group and alone) will be in addition to a job or formal education (Uni or a coding bootcamp). We have links to Bristol and Bath coding boothcamps: DevelopMe are a sponsor, and teachers from both DevelopMe and Mayden Academy are happy to act as mentors to our members. This makes me glad.

How best to facilitate this type of learning then, is an ongoing question, and it's good just to experiment with different things. I've written something about the study groups below, and here is some ideas for other formats I've had:

  • Talks or workshops where a relative novice to the topic does most the work, but is guided by somebody experienced
  • Online collaboration: A study group could just exist online, collect some resources and discuss progress, questions etc. on a slack channel; or use an online classroom tool like piazza.com
  • Establishing a reading list for a topic, and members can share books
  • Working on projects together (perhaps for non-profits as Free Code Camp intended)

When you start something, you have to be prepared that it might fail. Because learning outside a traditional context is hard, and so is organising a group of people doing it together. But the potential rewards are high.

There is so much more that I could write (and I have written more! then consigned to the virtual dustbin), and you could go off in many directions.

To me, it has all been a great adventure, though not all plain sailing! I've been close to giving up more than once. In fact, I tried to hand the group off once, but nobody came forward! Recently, I have not been doing that much, and I seriously want to work towards being just a member. Not that I was that much of a leader, but I've been invested in the group more than anybody else. Also, nobody has benefited from it more than me!

In the end, what I've learned most about in the past five years is probably — people. Including myself. And I'll spare you the things I've learned. I might write about them some day. Some can be hard to accept (both with regards to others and yourself), but ultimately it's helpful to see more clearly.

I hope to write more about CodeHub and also independent learning in the future. For now, here are a few resources I found quite interesting:


Appendix: A few observations on study groups


A pattern I have observed in the study groups: There is a high drop-out rate soon after the start, and after a while the group converges on a few regulars. It is nice when that happens, you can rely on people being there, and in all likelihood they get something out of it. That can be advice from mentors, collaboration, or even just socialising with people that have common interests.

A nice thing about JS101 was that the group converged towards 50:50 female:male and stayed that way throughout the three years ot its existence - we dissolved it when many of the regulars found jobs or moved away, and we did not feel like starting again from scratch.

There would be much to say about the different study groups. I've loved being part of all three. But they don't come without their challenges. JS101 was hard to navigate once we stopped working through Eloquent JavaScript, due to the vastness of the topic. I mostly ran the group, and my lack of JS programming experience did not help. Luckily experienced people did turn up, and even co-ran the group for a while. We started working on projects together and giving little presentations. It was a really nice group with a good atmosphere. A lot was decided from session to session. Again, this could be a bit chaotic, and again, I learned loads. I'd not say my JS is great, but it's improved massively.

WebDev101 originally had the aim that we would each set out some goals and hold each other accountable in mini-standups. I soon noticed that I kept doing completely differen things from what my stated intentions had been. I suppose that in itself taught me something. In general, the original concept was hard to keep up. It could also be that the topics were just too diverse. But then, it did kick something off that was really good, as the group is now as described above: A place to ask for and share advice, meet and collaborate. A bit like a hack night during the day.

The Haskell group is modelled on this document on how to start a Haskell study group and is mainly about working through the Haskell book. There again, we've abandoned the original schedule, people are on different chapters now or working on own projects (it's just what happens). I'd never have started learning Haskell without this group. When Jack asked if I'd like to join, I thought I'd give it a try, and so far I've stuck with it. I also really like it though it is quite challenging. We will see what comes of it!

 

New look for the blog

This post was written 5 months ago.
Sun, 13 May 2018
I thought the day would never come. I have finally set live the new version of my blog! For now, I have also removed all previous posts. I will add most of them back on, but would like to have a look at some of them first, I think sometimes I overshared a bit.

This is a 'minimum viable design' btw. I wanted to make things easier to read, that was the main thing. - Mobile styles now also fine, I had not realised I had not optimised those yet.
Tags: blogging /

2018 is here

This post was written 9 months ago.
Tue, 16 Jan 2018
It's two weeks into the new year, and I did not write a review or plans, but I didn't really need to. Somehow it is as if what I'm meant to do is just bubbeling up by itself.

I anyway vow to make my blog a bit different. And I hope there will be more technical posts on it, though not only! In any case it looks like this year I might do more coding than ever before. After again having serious doubts I am now back in the swing and ready to learn a lot new stuff. In fact I want to make this a year where I immerse myself, to then ease off a bit again.

At work I do a lot of CSS at the moment, I learn Haskell with the study group, then I want to pick up the JS101 app and start by writing some more tests for it, and on Thursdays I teach a woman at BRR Python. Full on really. And all the CodeHub organising stuff on top. - Today we started a new study group that looks like it will work well. It is not me running it really but I still feel kind of responsible. And hack night next week. Tomorrow I want to ask my boss if he can sponsor us. Will I manage? I will report back. [edit May 2018 - I did ask, but nothing materialised]

Dolores O'Riordan from the Cranberries has died. That made me quite sad.

Tags: new_year / diary / coding /

September, where did you go?

This post was written 1 year ago.
Sun, 01 Oct 2017
Each year at the start of September, I've got Frank Sinatra's voice in my head, "and these few precious days.. I'll spend with you.. September, November". This year, it seemed that a few days after hearing it, September was already gone. And everybody is talking about Christmas. I remember a time when I used to be outraged when any reference to Christmas was made in September!

I cannot write very much now, as it is already so late - that's unfortunately almost always the case, when I get to write.

This entry is a desparate attempt to start off something like a diary again, some kind of record-keeping. Today I realised that I would much rather start a writing habit than a running habit. I mean, not in terms of comfort though to be honest I really don't like the idea of running in this cold and wet season. But I mean writing is more important to me. Also, I started to walk to and from work instead of cycle, which means 40 min exercise each way which is not bad! No need to go running.

So much is going on these days. In my personal life, things have been going quite well. I almost don't dare to write that. In my job I am happy. Gone the feeling that I am just given the unimportant little tasks. It's true the little tasks rather end up with me, but neither are they unimportant nor am I doing only those - but funnily prefer those now, certainly to building the layout for a new site.

CodeHub would be a whole topic of its own. There things have changed in astounding ways as well. I still feel slightly overwhelmed at times, but for better reasons now.

The thing that still is of concern is the world at large. I keep making up theories about society and the human mind, and how one could overcome the huge violent waves resulting from so much irrationality. - And there was the German election. One week later, a lingering blunt pain. Xenophobia, like here, riding high in those regions that hardly have any immigrants. But people in poorer regions feel left behind and think that too much money and care was given to refugees. But even if you feel that way, to be okay with the nastiness of this party is beyond me. It is just ugly. There was a campaign poster showing a pregnant woman, saying "New Germans? We make them ourselves" Ughhh.

But then, I still have a certain trust that the other parties will keep nasty party in check. In a way, I guess it puts the established parties on their toes, and they'd better come up with some things that really make people's lives better.

That's it for now, I really hope I can write again soon. This week have got JS101 on Tuesday morning, hack night in the evening, and on Wednesday evening I am attending a PHP training event. Busy!

Tags: diary / germany /

Aspiring to be an edupunk

This post was written 1 year ago.
Sun, 23 Jul 2017
Only four days back I gave a talk at the BathCamp Meetup, but it feels as if it was much longer ago. That's good because mostly, I'd like to catapult it into some distant past immediately, where it is not much relevant anymore, and I won't be reminded of it too much. I also don't want to go on about it too much. I just would like to draw some conclusions from it.

It is difficult to say what impression I made, and it will vary for different people, but I am pretty sure that, erm, the talk was not really what was to be expected. For one thing, I totally overran the prescribed time. It was supposed to be a lightning talk and it must have seemed as if I just completely ignored that fact. I rambled on about things, narrating little anecdotes and going off on tangents, and I just simply had too much content. Also, I started with three slides about me, which probably already took up 5 to 10 minutes, as much as the whole talk should have been.

And here's the other thing. In that strange interconnectedness I feel with the group I set up, where I don't know where I end and CodeHub starts, the whole thing, from when I started to prepare for it, felt intensely personal. It felt like it would be the hardest talk I could ever give, despite it being so short. Harder than the one about Responsive Design for Skillswap. I still haven't quite figured it out why this strong identification exists, in any case the whole preparation for the talk brought with it a long and somewhat uncomfortable investigation into what I was doing with CodeHub (or not!), what I wanted, what it could deliver and so on.. There were certain realisations and conclusions which I might write about some other time.

But in the talk, for some strange reason, I felt compelled to get across the following: I am an interloper, I am totally unusual (female, foreigner and old), I am not a geek, I took a strange path. I have often felt like a canary in a fish tank and I am a "bit of a punk", doing things whether I have the authority for it or not. (I left out that I feel totally insecure about it at the same time.) I even had a slide for that with an image of Johnny Rotten next to that of a (German) book about the "canary in the fishtank", written by an unusual manager in the car industry. The idea for that slide had just appeared out of the blue at some point, and I was aware that it might be a bit strange; at the same time it seemed weirdly important to have it in there.

So, basically I gave a strange sort of talk in which I told people I was strange. At least there is some nice recursiveness in there. And maybe it is after all a bit punk to just dare to do that.

What the point of it was though, I am not quite sure. In some way, maybe it was to unmistakenly say: Please don't keep telling me I've got impostor syndrome. I simply have hardly any credentials, that's what I find problematic. If anything I have been an impostor and am becoming it a bit less now. - Or it was just simply an act of self-sabotage.

And sure as hell, the next morning, when my nerves seemed to be suffused with red-hot lava and I literally wanted to disappear in a hole, I wanted to lay everything down, step down from the Meetup group. It was just unfortunate that I had already committed to organising a JS workshop with Gicela, and we'd already confirmed the venue. - Funnily enough that quite shameful feeling subsided much sooner than expected. It helped that someone sent me a message on Meetup saying that they loved my talk, I just seemed nervous. And Simon Starr had taken a picture of me in front of a slide showing Tom at Code Club and posted it to Twitter, which was also nice. Plus Gicela wrote an understanding and encouraging email.

So, what's to learn from all of this? - For one thing, it showed me again that I really struggle with structuring tasks so I complete them in an adequate time. I mean, I took absolutely ages to get the talk done in the first place, but it was not really properly structured, nor properly rehearsed. It was just not finished! And the main reason for that is that I always go into too much detail, want to cram too much in. But also I got distracted preparing it.

All of it also points to a now long-held belief that I am 'neurodivergent'. There was a lot on Twitter about neurodiversity just the past few days. I've written this before: I am convinced that as a child, I was on the autistic spectrum, an Asperger kid that was never diagnosed.

But here's the thing. I don't want to give a talk like this again. It is not fair on the audience, and it doesn't help CodeHub either, or me, for that matter. Having seen how things play out if I just jump in and 'somehow' write a talk, I have decided next time (if there is one) I will enlist help. I will need somebody who forces me to really script the whole talk and will rehearse it with me.

But also in general, there is this conflict in me, where I somehow don't even want to play along, don't want to try and belong to this tech elite. Or maybe I just think I never could? That is quite a biggy for me. How much is me, how much is them? In general, I've become more aware of power structures in society. There seems to be a divide between people that grow up with a sense of abundance, a permission to thrive, to try things out, to put things into action; and on the other side those who've been giving the feeling they just won't amount to much, who feel they don't even need to try, who do not even look out for possibilities though they are intelligent and creative. And there's of course huge divides between the wealthy and those more working class - but also, the knowledge and skills elite and those that did not reach the same level of expertise. In either case, the divide seems difficult to bridge. I see myself more on the 'knowledge-deprived' side, though I was once handled as somewhat of a prodigy (when I was ten, ha!). I'm not in academia, and I have gaping holes in my programming knowledge and skills.

I'd just like there to be less of that. Less of a gap. I'd like a society where those most expert help the newcomers, and advanced beginners do so, too. Where everybody can learn from everybody, a bit like Seymour Papert describes Samba Schools in his book Mindstorms. - I'd have to work extremely hard to be in the 'elite', and if I did belong, would I then still care so much for 'fellow travelers'?

Need to go to bed now.. I can't think properly any more.

Mini post on Monday morning, before work

This post was written 1 year ago.
Mon, 15 May 2017
So, my diary came to a halt again. What happened in the one and a half months since my last post? On a personal level, I managed to run myself into the ground energy-wise, and that is part of the reason I didn't write anymore. On the political stage, a snap election was called that previously had been ruled out. France elected Emmanuel Macron. A feeling of uncertainty persists. Somehow at the moment, I am focusing more on my own personal situation, but that includes how I can find a way to consistently contribute. There would be so much more to write, but I am writing again in the morning, the alarm clocks are going to go off soon. The important thing for me was to write something, to pick up writing again. I would have liked to write a post yesterday that had to do with motherhood (fitting as it was international Mother's Day - that means in Germany, too, unlike here, where it is celebrated in March), but also other things. Another time!

Tags: diary /

Diary week c/ 27 March 2017 also known as Let's start the Brexshit week but this post is not about that

This post was written 2 years ago.
Thu, 30 Mar 2017
This first entry of my new 'diary streak' is brought to you from a hole. - Although come to think of it, I might already be crawling out of it again.

I just remembered this poem: Autobiography in 5 chapters. I think I might be at chapter 3 now. Let's hope so! And onwards and upwards!

So let me write about coding. This is a vast topic. Technology, programming, is big, and is the single most influential thing that is changing how we work, socialise, and do about everything else. Automation of jobs is already happening, and there's going to be more of it. Like Thanh at Desklodge said recently, at some point the prefix "tech" won't make sense anymore, because everything will involve tech somewhere. It will be the default, so there will be no point in calling it "tech something" anymore.

The tech industry is amazing, daunting, enabling and illness-promoting at the same time. I am absolutely fascinated by it, I by now definitely feel I'm part of it, and it is massive. It has changed my life profoundly and has or is going to, change everybody else's, too.

If you work in tech, especially if you work as a software programmer or web developer, you live precariously. Your mental health is under constant attack (physical health, too, but I think that's easier to mitigate), that is how I see it now. Sitting at a desk for hours, looking at a screen, typing into a keyboard, is not that well suited to human nature for one thing. But a lot of jobs entail that. Programming, if you are not very confident and fast at it, makes you feel like a complete idiot a lot of the time. There is a lot of time pressure, and there will be periods where you get stuck and you will not see much progress for a while. Estimating how long things are going to take is notoriously difficult. Also, you need to keep many things in your head concurrently, and you need to be able to understand code that people have written in gung-ho ways, not thinking of their successors very much (just make the thing work..)

Now, in my own life, I have a really really difficult relationship with coding. For one thing, I think I have not learned it in the best way. I for a long time applied a very unstructured trial-and-error way to get things working, pulling thousands of levers here and there, till I might get a combination where things work. And I sometimes still take that approach, till I realise I must isolate things and start from really small. Build something really small that is working. My confidence is not very good at all, and if that is met with people having low expectations of me, a perfect match is made and I go down, down, down very quickly. The trouble is that the low confidence then often prevents you from getting better, it's absolutely a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, I have progressed over 10 years or so (!) very slowly. But I do know that I can program now, which is a massive relief. Still, there are enough ways left to beat yourself up if you choose to, and I have to fight a constant battle over not choosing to do that. Ms K S Durrani. Katja Self-sabotage Durrani. Shit, when I read that, why am I still here?? And is it just an excuse I am making there? "Haha, you say you are self-sabotaging, when in fact you just aren't very good." - Well, I have a huge interest in overcoming that part of me, I will keep on trying for as long as I can. I always think when I'll manage to keep it in check, then I can help others to do the same. Not only the self-sabotage thing, low confidence in general. If I manage to learn and build stuff, then I can show that it can be done, that that beast that some past well- and not-so-well-meaning figures in your life have planted inside you, can be tamed. I by now see myself as having a long-term condition. There is no point in even trying to get rid of it. You have to learn to live with it. And here's the thing. I think more and more people are living with this kind of beast these days, and it's not only women. We keep collectively digging ourselves into holes. And there is some people who actually have a vested interest in that. Because it keeps us calm and keeps us from opposing them, taking power from them ("TAKE BACK CONTROOOOOL". Fucking hell)

So, I guess this diary will also be about that. And there is another obstacle. That is my "executive functioning" weakness. Groan. I sometimes don't know what is the worse thing, the sabotage/low-confidence or that. Sometimes I wonder if they are actually two sides of the same coin. Yeah, it feels like there is something deep down in me that wants to prevent me from.. having success?

So, after I have now admitted my failures, I want to make it my expressed goal to show myself and others that I can deal with them. And the best way to start to effect change, is to observe what you are doing at the moment. Some very simple measurements I just came up with:
- Time I turn up to work
- Time I go to bed
- Time spent on coding outside job (Codehub and own projects) - at the moment I demonstrate to myself how bad I am by simply not coding very much at all!
So I'll record these every day (except the work thing, which is Monday, Wednesday, Friday). That will also help work towards improving the above-mentioned executive functioning.

And I am glad I did not mention my particular difficulties at my work place at the moment. But yeah, there's been a downward slide, after for a while things had been going quite well. And I will hang on to that. I have been doing good work. I can do it again. But ultimately I think it might also not the right match. We will see.

In the meantime it fills me with great joy that I managed to write again and I feel it will help me. I might be a bit of a wreck, but I am all in all a happy wreck (strangely enough, with all the B&T, or M&T?, stuff going on - but they can be overcome!)

Oh, here is a book about how machines will change the world (again): The second machine age It's excellent, but the authors managed to preface each of the 15 chapters with a quote by A MAN. Because women either do not say stuff, it is not quotable what they say, or they have no authority and therefore there is no point quoting them. Thanks very much, gentlemen!

Society and the mind

This post was written 2 years ago.
Tue, 28 Mar 2017
My head is so full of so many things these days, that I find it difficult to sort everything. I have never been able to do much of GTD and by now I have accepted that and actually sometimes value it, strangely enough. My mind has a mind of its own it seems, it resists certain things that I tell it to do, and it lets itself be drawn into new directions all of a sudden, and that can sometimes be quite exciting. Still, what I'd like to achieve is some sort of consistency in what I do, especially I would like to get certain things done. It's not that it's completely lacking at the moment, but it could be better.

The one thing that I've not been doing recently that I miss most, and that I feel could simultaneously help the most, is writing. This does not itself fall so much into the action category, rather it could help me find out how I can best put things into action and serve as some kind of documentation, perhaps holding me accountable even. I'd want to do some of it not on this public blog, but then also like to write here because it encourages a certain way of writing.

Last year I had this kind of public diary for a while, and I'd like to pick that up again. And once again, there's two strands in particular - society, politics, large-scale, systems dynamics if you want, and on the other hand, the individual, what goes on in one's own mind, the things one ends up saying, the actions one ends up deploying etc. I've been long fascinated by Marvin Minsky's 'Society of the mind' which looks at how the mechanisms of decision making are very similar at every level of organisation, whether you have an individual, a family, larger groups or indeed a whole country, perhaps even all of humanity.

I am then also interested in the place of the individual in society at large. These days many of us ask ourselves what we can do now that politics both sides of the Atlantic have taken unexpected and quite nasty turns. Although of course this is only the culmination of something that has been bubbling away for a long time, but many of us have not been able to (or have refused to?) see. In any case, how can you contribute to making things less shit? For me this is an ongoing question. Especially as this individual has till this year never been politically active in any way, never been on a march (though came close in 2003, considering going to London for the anti Iraq war march) until the Women's March this January.

This all sounds quite high-flying but what I write won't be, nor do I intend it to be. Though I do want to link to a lot of stuff that I've read or partially read, actually for that reason alone it's worth writing, to build up a collection of things worth to go back to. We'll see how that all goes. In any case I think my obstinate mind recognises the value of writing which makes me hopeful I will write some more. - And while it has been very reluctant to get me out of bed after I woke up early, I managed to write this nevertheless, writing and publishing from my phone :) One idea I have is setting myself reminders each day so I won't forget. One thing that I really want to develop but so far have never succeeded is a note-keeping habit. So I put this here as an intention. In any case I need to go now, but it seems a good start.

Tags: politics / mind_stuff /

A week away

This post was written 2 years ago.
Mon, 20 Feb 2017
So, that's half term done again. The children are fast asleep in bed. They dread going back, though it seems, not as much as previous times.

This week was very good for me. I had planned to completely withdraw from the Internet for some days. I did not properly manage that (mainly for arranging things through Whatsapp, emails etc), but I reduced it so much that it had a significant effect, and the one that I wanted. Calming down from the anger caused by political news. Most amazingly, I might have now managed to step away from a conflict that I had found so hard to cope with. I will not argue anymore. I will accept that somebody has gone down a certain route, and the lesson to learn from that is that something is not right in such a way that sensible people begin to take drastic turns.

The thing I have noticed is that I can still get very distracted, even without the internet. The main distractions are books, and my own thoughts. One day the children were at a friend's house, and I had planned to tidy up, but then I spent virtually the whole day reading Carrie Fisher's "Postcards from the Edge". I had watched the film the previous night. The film is really an additional thing to the book, in the book the mum hardly appears at all while she is central to the film. - It was weird with that book. It took me back to the 80s, and to LA where I've never been. And above all, it took me into Carrie Fisher's mind and there were quite a few things I recognised while on the whole I am not very much like her, I certainly don't have her humor and wit. I feel it was kind of important to me to read that book, or to read the book and watch the film.

I continue to write in fragments, that is all I can do for now, and perhaps that's what I've been doing for most of my life. Starting and stopping.