Daily Entry: August 3rd, 2020

Meditation (Day 60)

Had a lot of trouble with today's meditation. Distractions kept breaking through. Though my introspective alarm was constantly telling to return to the breath, and also I didn't get angry or frustrated.

Also, lower back been annoyed so I laid down for the first half. This may have been instructive for how my posture should feel. Halfway through I went back to sitting and it worked out pretty well.

By the end of the meditation I was in a pretty good place, and it still did its job very well, unlocking a bunch of energy and helping me gain the presence to "practice intentionality".

Extracurricular Stuff

Will do stuff with friend today and try to finish processing my weekly/monthly review items. As well as some Notion tasks that would be good to deal with this week off that I have.

Daily Entry: August 2nd, 2020

Meditation (Day 59)

Prime number day, woo. I think I failed to note the other prime number in the 50s (I think it's 53?).

Stopped adjusting my form, as planned, and went well enough that I didn't want to adjust my form at the halfway point, as I usually do. Though I was unable to stay still for the entire session, and I believe I switched legs with around 10 minutes remaining, and then I felt a very strong need to keep adjusting things.

Not sure if that means anything.

Extracurricular Stuff

Renting a car today and stuff, though I plan on still having call with friend I think. We'll see if there's time. There's going to be a driving adventure that'll eat up a solid chunk of the day.

Also, technically today is wife's day (we made yesterday my day as today is definitely not such a day), and that also typically means less time for extracurriculars. Still have some weekly and monthly review tasks to complete, as well.

Daily Entry: August 1st, 2020

Meditation (Day 58)

So, I adjust my form too much. Certain parts I've gotten very good at staying still, but my neck and shoulders I still mess with, though I think I've found a good place for them. I think it's time to try staying still, maybe at the half way mark when I switch leg positions I can do a quick neck/shoulders thing for a reset and to see if things seem fine.

It's becoming a significant distraction, and I don't think there's anything to worry about my posture right now. It's just a matter of getting used to staying still like I did for my legs and my back.

Extracurricular Stuff

Today is probably going to be weekly review and monthly review day. There'll be some organization of project space as part of the usual review, but likely not work on any extracurriculars. Except for a 15-minute session with a friend (we'll be doing programming questions together).

Staycation Starts Today

This coming week would've been Quakecon, but it was properly cancelled. They're doing a "Quakecon at Home" thing next weekend, and I'll participate.

This bit of time off will be my first large chunk of time off since I started meditating. I'm curious how that will affect it. I'm going to try to start some habits I think, but per my new project rule, none of them can be more than 15 minutes a day (hence the 15-minute call with friend) and they can only increase in length-per-day by 5 minutes each week (starting on a Sunday). This setup worked very well for meditation so I'd like to try to apply it to most new things.

Though, unlike meditation, there are some things I'd like to add to my list of things I do regularly, but not necessarily everyday. Maybe still a good idea to start with 15-minutes per day, but on Sundays I can remove it from some days as well as increase length, or something. Days don't have to be set in stone, either.

I'll play with it.

Further, this is a vacation, and originally a video-game oriented one. So, I'll be making sure there's a higher ratio of entertainment-to-productivity. And I'll add some gaming in there. Though I also want to add some books (quite to check out quite a few from the library for this week, even), especially since reading books everyday hasn't been a habit I've maintained successfully.

And maybe get one blog post in this week, too. Any of the ones I have listed in my blog area could be one to work on (most of them are just working titles right now, basically).

Dvorak?

Just hit this reminder in my Notion.... I was planning on switching to Dvorak after a year of Colemak (it has been two years). This wouldn't be a bad week to start, either....

I'll think about it. Will revisit Tuesday.

Daily Entry: July 31st, 2020

Meditation (Day 57)

Focused on stage 4 again today. Hit these really solid stretches, but also have various points where there's a lot coming at me or I find myself in a chain of distractions.

Still making progress, and meditation is still super valuable. Still helping me to "practice intentionality" on and off the cushion (though I've noted some things off the cushion that I'm starting to get tripped up on).

Didn't play with the meditation at all today, just tried to find a good posture and then stay as still as I could. Also trying to make sure that when I notice my posture needs modification that I do it mindfully and not automatically.

Extracurricular Stuff

Today I'm being as efficient as possible to get as much work done as possible. Thus, as planned, no extracurrricular stuff.

Daily Entry: July 30th, 2020

Meditation (Day 56)

Meditation prep is now a written-out page in my Notion. Gives me reminders and stuff to think about throughout the prep. Reviewing distractions of note after my meditation is now an action-item in my morning routine. Today's distractions of note were political in nature. There were other distractions but I couldn't remember them.

I've slowly started doing a full stretch routine before meditation, which is good. Though now my daily morning routine is becoming quite bloated.... Gotta make sure it doesn't grow out of control.

Did another "don't go beyond stage 4" day. Aka, I didn't do any full-body scans, though there were several moments where I would have had I not agreed with myself not to at the beginning of the sit. This is also something I'm playing with, some ideas of things to try during meditation happen... during meditation. But 1) those ideas are a meta distraction, and 2) I'm not sure if I feel it's really "practicing intentionality" if I try them out that session.

Which is why I'll try to consider such ideas I remember having before a new session, and then decide during that session. These ideas include:

  • closing my eyes to increase the strength of other sensations
  • body-scanning (including when in session and how many times)
  • posture mutations
  • what kinds of pain I will address and which I will treat as distractions

Extracurricular Stuff

Probably going to skip extracurrricular stuff today/tomorrow. I'm on staycation next week and thus will try to get as much stuff done before then so when I get back it can be a fresh start on some new thing, hopefully.

Daily Entry: July 28th, 2020

Meditation (Day 54)

Starting with stage 4 continues. I have noticed a pattern wherein during the second half of my meditation I often get flooded with internal distractions. I manage my way through most of them, but often one finds its way through to be a gross distraction, or just occurs often enough that it "makes progress" in a sense (like, a series of thoughts around the distraction will occur).

I'm getting better and better at handling this, and have a "focus on the breath" alarm that goes off pretty soon after a gross distraction has taken hold. But it also occurs to me that I may want to write any of these distractions that I remember down. They may be worth processing outside of meditation. Or at the very least writing them down may help me avoid getting caught on them during meditation. I still mentally list some distractions to be wary of during my meditation prep, but maybe I should go through a written list before I sit on the cushion....

Went outside for a proper walking meditation after my sit today. Might play with that more going into the future.

Extracurricular Stuff

So, as stated above, there are thoughts that come to me regularly that I don't write down. This is true outside of meditation, as well. I've been getting pretty good about not thinking about things in the "wrong context". Basically, if I find myself thinking about, say, politics whilst I'm in the middle of something not relevant to politics, I thank myself for noticing that I'm thinking about it, and guide my mind elsewhere.

But also, I'm trying to write my thinking down more, and once I've written enough about a thing, organize that writing to further process my thoughts. This is the real purpose of me writing "proper blog posts", instead of think-as-I-go here in this daily entry.

So, I spent some time making areas to think about certain reoccuring thoughts. And I'll create new spaces as necessary. These may or may not become public. It depends on whether or not I consider them possibly problematic. I have a very small audience of maybe 2 people who read this, but still. I think that's a good habit.

Anki Curation Stuff

Yesterday, I did not end up making time to add work anki card, for a variety of reasons. Though, I did read more The Mind Illuminated and add some new meditation cards.

I also created a "poetry deck" and added Kahlil Gibran's "On Pain".

I find this acceptable, but still something to improve on (especially in relation to my "practice intentionality" theme).

Exercise Thinking

So, today is typically a running day. And I have been making good progress on running and haven't noticed any real issues during running. However, there has been this growing... ache? irratition?... potentially problematic unpleasantness. It occurs in my lower back and in my knees (though of note it isn't my knees that are the problem but a tightness in my IT band).

Now, I don't think that the knees thing is anything to worry about, yet, as my foam roller seems to be finding the problematic spot and I may be able to handle it with the routine I already have in place. I do not feel the same about my back.

Now, I don't think running is hurting my back, but it may exacerbate the issue. I think the main culprits are my standing all day and my 45-minute meditative sits per day. I think posture will fix both of these causes, and I think sitting meditation posture is very nearly there if not there already (I rarely notice any back issues during sit anymore). But I am noticing back when standing here at my desk.

In any case, the real reason I want to skip running, at least for a bit, is to use that time to explore stretches and exercises targeting my core (both abs and back). I have yet to find a really good ab workout that doesn't cause a similar issue for my lower back, for example. I also have a history of having this issue, and I know I've "solved" it before (with deadlifts, I'm pretty sure). So, an exploration finding the right exercises to add to my exercise day should be worthwhile, and also not running may help avoid worsening the problem.

So that's my exercise plan today. Still plan on treating today like an exercise day (stretching in morning), but during the time I would go for a run, do the exploration.

Daily Entry: July 27th, 2020

Meditation (Day 53)

Today's the day I assumed stage 3 "mastery" and started with stage 4 intention (be vigilant to make introspective awareness continuous, and immediately notice and correct for gross distraction and strong dullness).

The first half went very well, and I did a stage 5 body-scan. The second half had a lot of external distractions, and I took that as an opportunity, but it did require backtracking a bit to stage 3 intention.

But I greatly enjoyed those external distractions, so I'm going to call it a positive experience. The cat found many new and interesting ways to distract me and make me laugh.

Extracurricular Stuff

So, yesterday I decided on a "curation of Ank card creation" sort of project. During work days, this means making a card related to work (in my work-only, laptop-only Anki profile).

The goal is to learn the I/Os of the various boxes (the various servers in the backend and also the FE/BE I/Os). The metaskill here is to get good at identifying the code areas where I/Os are received and/or sent out, and assess the various possible structures.

I have an idea that I really want to learn this one structure that's kinda in the middle of the process... but it may behoove me to start from the FE and work my way there.

Why learn these things? Well, there's some generic reasons, but there's also some reasons that maybe shouldn't be public-facing, so I'll do that thinking in my work Notion. And I'll count it as work when the time comes.

Daily Entry: July 26th, 2020

The Return of Diary

A long time ago, I decided to make a /log area of my site. The thinking was that the boring day-to-day lists would go there and the thinking would go into this diary. Except I just went ahead and put the thinking in the log.

This didn't matter that much, because the vast majority of my posts were timeblocks with little writing. But now, this is a space reserved just for thinking aloud, as the timeblock now lives in Notion.

The thinking is mostly just meditation reflection, and now some "extracurricular" thinking, but it is still thinking. I even wrote an actual blog post (An Introduction to Meditation by a Beginner), though I'm not fully happy with it.

In any case, since I never touched diary, and also since my writing here is very diary-esque again, just going to merge the two together, and go back to having my writing in diary. Any links to the old place may be borked, though, but I don't think there was anything really worth rereading in log land except for maybe the recent blog post I made. Whereas I've been told that certain things in diary here are worth revisiting.

Anyways, that's my little bit of cleanup to this area for now. There's other stuff to do, but it'll be done later.

Meditation (Day 52)

I'm going to go ahead and treat stage 3 (extended continuity of attention and overcoming forgetting) as "mastered". Or rather, I'm adept enough to start with a stage 4 intention and fall back if necessary to stage 3.

Exciting!

Today was solid enough that I gave 3 body scans a try (stage 5 exercise for increasing mindfulness).

My posture is becoming very comfortable very quickly into the session, as well. Though it still needs some tweaks. I can feel myself microadjusting and finding better places, so I think it's just a matter of letting that process continue until a stability is reached.

I'll be reading more of The Mind Illuminated today, as well, as part of my weekly review. Will probably continue reading the... 5th interlude I think I'm on? Will try to read in an environment where making Anki cards is fairly frictionless (lots of new concepts to internalize).

Extracurricular Thinking of the Day

I think the thinking I want to do here is: is it time to start working on one of my project ideas regularly?

This "project" could be a blog post, of which I have a list of ideas for. Or it could be career(coding)-related in some way. Or it could be the learning of a new skill, the development of a current skill, or the building of a new habit.

Technically, all of these things are not mutually-exclusive, though I do not consider it "bonus" to fall into multiple boxes at once.

Yesterday, I considered "Anki card curation". How do I feel about this project? Let's go through GTD's "five phases of workflow management":

Defining Purposes and Principles

So, why do I use anki? To store things in my head on a more permanent basis that I can conjure to the present moment with the right trigger. This is to reduce the friction in the moment on whatever I'm applying myself at. Also, it's fun to memorize things.

Where has Anki been useful and where do I anticipate eventual usefulness or potential usefulness? Anki has been useful in acquiring the vocabulary of certain skills. Now, I word it this way because my first priority with Anki was to start studying Japanese, and my choice of study was being able to read aloud the 2000 base-kanji characters one needs to eventually learn to be "high-school literate" if I remember how that works correctly.

The cards I found gives you a word (in its kanji) and a sentence using the word (written with kanji where applicable), thus I learn how to read the kanji, and gain a large chunk of Japanese vocabulary, and perhaps internalize some Japanese grammar. I believe that this is a solid foundation towards understanding Japanese in the wild, and that understanding is a prerequiste for speaking (and speaking has its own training challenges to address seperate from the process of understanding).

What reason do I have to believe that this will be effective in learning Japanese long-term? My confidence in this strategy is currently based on my experience with three things:

  • learning the Colemak keyboard layout
  • Anki-fying meditation concepts
  • learning the radicals that kanji are composed of to better memorize kanji
  • my recent experience watching anime (with subtitles still, mind you)

So, about two years ago now I switched to the Colemak keyboard layout (and it is still what I use, though I do have an action item to switch to Dvorak at some point). The value I acquired from this action (aside from decreased arm fatigue and pain) was an emotional understanding of the difference between knowledge and ability. I say "emotional" because it is something I intellectually understood, but didn't really practice at the raw level.

I memorized the new key layout of Colemak very early on (a few days), but the skill of using the layout took weeks. It was, however, very important to learn that key layout before real use could occur. Practice was possible, in a sense, but I had to use a special setup designed around drilling the key placement. Once the key placements were memorized, then I could switch to practicing in a real setting.

This is when I started to feel more strongly that I needed to learn the building blocks of Japanese before trying to learn the skill of understanding Japanese, and when I once-again created an action item to start using Anki (something I did not do for well over a year).

Fast-forward to learning meditation. The book I read contained lots of concepts and advice on ones meditative path. I wanted to just know these things, especially since I didn't want to move during meditation to search through the book to look something up. I memorized the concepts in such a way that I could bring them to the forefront of my mind during a session and apply it as I saw fit.

For example, I learned the 5 elements for body-scanning purposes:

  • earth: resistance and solidity
  • water: cohesion and fluidity
  • fire: heat and cold
  • wind: movement and change
  • space: presence and volume

It is useful to go through these elements and see if you feel them in the parts of the body that your scanning. It helps to improve your sense-of-feeling skill, and helps build your ability to "feel the breath" (wind) in every part of your body.

This has been super useful in my meditative practice. I also know that I'm transitioning from knowledge to skill in a concept when I don't have to narratively think about it (just today I realized that I scan the feelings in my body without narrating through the elements).

This realization led to me taking learning the radicals that kanji are composed of more seriously. I had hit a roadblock in my 2000 card deck wherein I kept forgetting kanji, or confusing kanji with each other. So, I broke down my Japanese vocabulary training into further learning the skill of remembering kanji. From there, I knew I needed to learn the building blocks of kanji.

Just yesterday, I have finished learning new cards in the radical deck that I've downloades (about 200 to learn overall). I'm not "done", in that a lot of these radicals are not mature, and also I have realized that the way I've learned many of them means I won't recognize them in the wild. But already it has helped me with kanji I routinely forgot or mixed up with others. I believe as I apply this knowledge, I will be able to increase my daily amount of new Japanese words to learn, without having to increase my daily study-time (it won't hurt that radical-practice should be winding down now that I don't need to learn any more new ones).

Watching Anime doesn't really provide any new insights, I simply am noticing understanding a lot more words and sentences and stuff whilst watching. Which is neat. I also can really tell that regardless of the words and concepts I know, I need to practice understanding in real-world situations to really develop my ability to understand Japanese. But, I don't think I'd have the resources to do that without a foundation of knowledge.

And so now I have internalized the layering of knowledge and skill. Learning knowledge itself requires skill, which itself requires knowledge. Unlocking a new skill unlocks new vocabulary to learn, and a greater diversity of places to apply that skill.

Outcome Visioning

It is thus my belief that identifying areas where my knowledge is lacking, and simply creating flashcards to memorize that instead of looking it up everytime, will help facilitate skill development wherever I apply this tactic.

And so I want to then develop a skill of applying this tactic in all things I attempt to improve at. Specifically, I'd like to find a valuable way of applying this to my career (aka coding).

This should manifest in little ways (functions I know exist but can't remember their name, arguments, or proper invocation in some way), and with context specific things (the shape of data as it is passed around in code).

The idea is that I'd like to "just know" things like:

  • the I/O data structures and code placements at the various boundaries in a code base
  • what is and isn't RESTful
  • good usage-tracking such as to understand usability

Also, outside of work I'd like to internalize things like:

  • what exactly are the jobs of all the political offices I vote for?
  • who are the people who represent me in some way, from local all the way to the top?
  • what are the sources for the things I "know"?

An example of the last thing is: I "know" that acquiring absolute pitch is a generally learnable skill, at least if you learn it young enough. When I told someone this, they strongly disagreed (they were quite certain it was heavily genetic), and I realized I didn't know the direct source by which to back up my claim. I actually added this source to Anki. From memory: "The Process of Acquiring Absolute Pitch: a Longitudinal Study Using the 'Chord-Identification' Method" by Ayaho Sakakibara.

This is not exactly correct, but it's enough to find it via Google easily: https://www.escom.org/proceedings/ICMPC2000/poster2/Sakakiba.htm. (What I got wrong: her name is Ayako Sakakibara, and also there isn't a little "Proccess of Acquiring Absolute Picth" part of the title.)

Basically, I want to be able to do this for two reasons:

  • back up what I believe
  • root out things I think I "know" but which I'm not sure where the knowledge comes from

Also, for the purposes of arguing, it's nice to build a habit of knowing where your premises come from and also just show that things aren't knowably true or false purely with reasoning.

Brainstorming

Whenever I google something, I should probably try to think, "Should I anki this?" I can practice making this thought a habit by adding a fake googling routine to my morning list (I have done this for pretending to leave the house and have seen great improvements to sunscreen and mask habits).

I should probably make a "front/back" setup ASAP, but I don't have to add to Anki immediately (can be tedious). Okay to just quickly add to Notion.

I suppose that whenever I finish spaced-repetition for the day, I should look over how long it took me that day, and if the timing is less than, say, 20 minutes, it's probably time to add one of my card drafts to Anki.

Oh, also, I found it so valuable to go through the six-point meditation prep that I often want to do it for any habit I'm trying to cultivate. So, should probably do that for this for a little while at least:

  • Motivation: basically that long bit of "Denfining purposes and principles" above (though this can evolve)
  • Goals (depends on day)
  • Expectations (same)
  • Diligence: do it regularly and do it properly (develop specific wording for this habit)
  • Distractions (will learn the distractions that come into play when I start applying this)
  • Posture (always a good thing to think about)

Organizing

Need to put the stuff above into Notion somewhere to start the habits I want to start.

Identifying Next Actions

Basically, do the "Organization" bit above. I can make that line an item in notion, and also make it a link to this diary post.

Okay! The "Anki curation habit development" project is go!

I think I'm done writing for today!

Though, various content in this post could probably be edited and expanded upo into their own blog post (another Notion item to link to this page).

Daily Entry: July 25th, 2020

Dream

I know my dream involved my niece and nephew... somehow. It also involved my new retainer, in which I somehow (physically impossibly) put my retainer in backwards and upon realizing it, fixed them, but found they were painfully tight on my teeth. I became worried that they would no longer work.

Meditation (Day 51)

Still some minor wanderings with maybe forgetting (not entirely sure, breath seems to be strongly in background and often helps bring me back), but again very strong day. Regularly getting into this intense feeling of focus. A feeling that I have explicitly wanted to control (it's something I invoked often in college, but have seen very rarely in my career).

I believe I keep finding the right posture fairly late into the session. It's possible I'm leaning a bit forward, which is irritating my lower back. My legs are less prone to falling asleep, though I've been avoiding pushing my lotus lately (knees have started acting up a bit). Got to make sure to listen to my body to avoid any long-term recovery shenanigans.

Extracurricular Stuffs

Saturday is wife's day, so my main goal is to use the downtime I have to organize my various action items I shoved into the weekend. Want to do some amount of them, but not have them take up too much of tomorrow so I can focus on some small project.

Really, though, I'd want to set myself up for success throughout the week with some 15 minutes per day. In fact, don't even want to commit too much time today/tomorrow, I don't think. Meditation has taught me the value of starting at 15 minutes per day and increasing that time allotment weekly.

Weekends have enough stuff in them that I can't really fit a large chunk of extracurricular. I'm including breaks in that "enough stuff", but breaks are important and good. There's also my weekly review and typically a large chunk of action items, of which I can maybe do a few.

So, what weekends are for, in regards to extracurricular, is maybe starting a 15-minute habit towards... something, and also working out how I fit that into the day-to-day. I can also maybe increase an already existing habit by 5 minutes.

So, then, what's a habit I want to form? I had a blogging thing going on, and really it still exists, but I'm back to thinking aloud here, because there isn't a blog I want to write right now. Once there is, I go back to devoting this time to that. Which means I've done a good job with making time for writing, I think.

One habit I want to form is to make more Anki cards out of things I want to memorize. Specifically, there's some work things I want to memorize (I keep it on the work laptop and don't have an Anki account to sync that data to, so it can include "internal-use only" items). These are coding-specific things that I keep putting off. I could also build some coding-specific cards over the weekend that are not work-related, to keep work and weekend seperate.

This maybe the "project" I want to start this weekend: 15-minutes of Anki card curation. I don't even have to add the card to my system (don't want to add too many at a time), but it should be constructed such that adding it to Anki is super fast. The general idea is to memorize the structures and I/Os of things (frameworks, APIs, etc.).

It's also not a bad idea to use some weekend time to think about a blog post I want to write. Not deciding on one maybe why I'm not writing one.

....

I'll add it to my weekly review list.

Daily Entry: July 24th, 2020

Once again, had a dream that I tried to meditate on but lost it.... Need to practice writing it down or saying it aloud or something.

No extracurricular stuff today. But this weekend I should be back at it in some form. And next week no appointments or anything, so I should be able to make time on workdays. And the following week I have off, so we'll see what I decide to do.

Meditation (Day 50)

Today I had to put off meditation as I had an orthodontist appointment that I needed to start walking to at 0630. Set a timer during the walk and did 45 minutes of walking meditaiton, which went pretty well, but I used it to only further my resolve to make sure I meditated later.

Upon getting home, I stretched, and then joined the meditation meeting we have at work everyday. It was 25 minutes of meditation, and I continued another 20 minutes thereafter.

Some minor hiccups in regularly invoking introspective attention, but overall it was solid. If it's still like this on Sunday, I'll probably consider stage 3 mastered enough to work more on stage 4 from the beginning of the meditation and fall back to stage 3 practice when necessary.

Posture was mostly very comfortable. Was a bit worried yesterday, as I had some growing knee and back pain that lingered throughout the day, but I believe both of them were not serious pain but soreness, and I seem pretty recovered today, even after another urban hike to the orthodontist.

Will probably take it easy this weekend, though, and not run again until Tuesday (will go for some long walks, I think, though, still).