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Time Management and Writers Block

Just a couple of links to pique your interest.

James Clear, one of the few “self-help” authors, I actually read and follow, has this to say on time management:

  • What is urgent in your life and what is important to your life are often very different things.
  • Eliminate half-work at all costs.
  • Do the most important thing first.
  • Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule.

Read the whole, really well written article to learn more.



Mary Beth Keane on how she decides what to write about,

How to choose one’s subject is so incredibly personal. A writing professor of mine at the University of Virginia once gave my workshop the best advice.
He said to wait to start writing until we felt like pots boiling over.
I really try to live by that advice.
It seems to me that when an idea is true and right, it sort of takes seed and grows. Some ideas SEEM great, but leave me cold when I think too much about them.
It’s the ones that make my heart beat faster that are the ones to pursue, I’ve learned. You have to pick something that you’re going to want to stick with for years.


Study, Day 2

Just did the MIT course all day today, because my next problem set is due tonight and I did not want to fall behind again.
Got distracted a bit, but a lot less than yesterday with the way Nikola renders headers, and youtube videos of sausage making :P
Now that I am going through the class, I realise programming is not what I imagined.
It is at once, much simpler and a bit more complex than I thought it to be.
More than that, I realise I can do this. :)

The day isn’t over yet. Will attempt to solve the problem set at night.

French

  • Did a review session
  • Made 25 flashcards

MITx, 6.00.1x, Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python

  • Good programming
    • More code is not necessarily a good thing
    • A good measure is the amount of functionality, the utility, your program provides
  • The notion of abstraction
    • like a thing you know how to use.
    • the details of how it is internally are irrelevant to you
    • the box provides utility and you know how to use the controls to get what you want. that is all that matters.
    • like a phone. or a tv. or a scooter.
  • The notion of decomposition
    • i can take all those dumb black boxes that I know how to use
    • and mcgyver them together to do something I want.
    • use independent pieces of codey things that each do something and then glue them all together to get the program I want
    • or to invert, can i break my big problem down into small independent pieces that I can write, or use other folks’, that I can stitch into my own little frankenstein?
  • Decomposable Code, divide code into modules that
    • are self contained
    • are reusable
    • keeps you and the code organised
    • keeps things coherent
    • can be done with functions or classes
  • Abstractable Code, build a black box that
    • cannot see details
    • does not need to see details
    • does not want to see details
    • hides the gory details from you. or just the fact that your magical thing is made of small boring pieces :)
    • can be done with function specifications or docstrings
  • One new aspect of functions I learnt was that they have specifications.
    • Thinking back, it’s a well, duh! point, but I’m glad I learnt it explicitly.
    • there’s a contract between me, the author of the function, and its users
    • there’s a set of assumptions that the function has. this is what I expect, this is what I want, these are the values you need to pass, this is what the environment needs to look like, what is the phase of the moon?, yadda, yadda
    • and if those assumptions are met, there are guarantees I can make about the output.
      • pass these numbers in, in this sequence, and you will always get this output. put the dough in the oven, when the new moon is rising, and you will always get delicious pizza
    • in python, a docstring documents what the function assumes and guarantees. good programmers do this to help other folk using the function and to save their own future dumb selves
  • I learnt recursion
    • from what i understand, this means that i take something i know and then use it to repeatedly tackle a complicated problem, if said problem, lends itself to being broken down that way.
    • break it down until i reach a step where i know i can do all of the operations on my own.
    • multiplication is a good example.
      • I know that if when a*b when b is 1 is just a.
      • so I can write a function that keeps adding a to itself while decrementing b until b reaches one and et voilà, that value of a is my answer
      • I got that backwards. I know that i need to repeatedly add until b is 1. so i just keep adding a to a function that just asks if the value of b is 1. if not just add a to that same function where the else states that I reduce b by 1. when b is 1, i just return a which will be the first of the added as and the function then begins looping outwards and backwards adding a. I realise I have horribly explained it, but it’s somehow more intuitive and more elegant to my mind and fun to watch, so I’ll let Professor Grimson do it much better than I can
      • I still don’t totally get it, but I get that this is cool and makes tackling hard problems easier. Hopfully more understanding will come with time.

P.S. A note to student planet readers, if you miss some posts in that feed, check the site to see if I wrote anything (or manually subscribe to the main feed.) I might be uncomfortable pushing certain language or frustrations of mine to other learners at large.


Study, Day 1

Day 1 is an disaster of fantastical proportions.
I did lots of stuff.
But I got nothing of consequence done.
Save one big thing.
I managed to buckle down and study for six hours.
That counts as a win, a big one in my book.
Will hopefully get more done tomorrow.
If you are following this blog, the days might soon seem out of sync.
That’s because I’ve decided that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are my days of study. Monday & Tuesday are for work, while Satuday and Sunday are for home and family.
I need to practice what I preach and have margins and boundaries in my life.

French

  • Created cards and a review sesion

Python Problem

  • I decide to tackle this first thing in the morn and sank like a stone.
  • I yak shaved for 2 hours (git issues, setting up a dedicated desktop space for study, rsync issues, syncthing issues, crontab issues, more git issues)and then took nearly another hour trying to remember things and then by the time I had some idea of how to tackle the issue, it was lunch time. Hopefully better luck tomorrow

The MITx, 6.00.1x, Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python course

  • I am hopelessly behind and playing catch up.
  • Already missed the deadline for the week one exercises.
  • Hopefully will be all caught up by this time next week.

I learnt

  • that iterables are things that can be counted. like beads in a string, or on a rosary.
  • strings are a form of iterable.
  • Bisection searches to find square roots are much more efficient than having to go slowly guessing our way up.
  • I should not compare floating point numbers (e.g. test for equality). Their internal representations might just be subtly different. Instead use the absolute value of the difference of the two floats. abs(x-y) instead of x==y
  • Start with a basic set of code, check to see what it runs on, and then see if small changes to the code can solve other similar problems or improve the efficacy of existing ones. (Newton-Rhapson better to find roots than Bisection guess better than incremental exhaustive guessing)

The Best Writing Advice I Could Give You

Sometimes Seth Godin makes it easy for me to do the newsletter.
There’s a pithy post that says everything I want to say.
So, to the kids I coach, this is the best writing advice I could give you!
(Everything below the break is Seth, (emphases mine))


Decorating a car with bling, mudflaps and an airhorn is a form of signalling. You can show your peers that you have the resources to waste on superfluous adornments.

(Did you see what I just did there? I could have said, “You can show your friends that you have money to burn,” but I didn’t.)

Overwriting has a long tradition, particularly among academics. Make it a bit more complex and wordy than it needs to be. Write run-on sentences. Apparently, complicated writing must be more true.

One reason for this commitment to overwriting is that it keeps the hordes away. It’s difficult to read and hard to imagine writing. And so scarcity is created.

And yet, the articles and books that stand the test of time are straightforward. They’re memorable. They can be understood by the reader you seek to serve.

Simply write.

Write simply.

As few words as you need, but no fewer.

But simply write.


Subscribe to read more every week!

French, Week 5

Similar sounding words are an absolute murder on the ears.
I can’t figure out moo and moue, kip and keep, and lots of bonne and bun.
Keeping at it though. Keeping at it. :)