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the 13th letter

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  1. So according to my notes, the last time I lurked on NF was during July 2015. Yikes! Time to change that. I don't sleep well or enough. And judging by the threads here (“The Sleeping Quarters”? Really?) I'm not alone. I figure it's the best place to start re-improving my life: it should solidify my timetable, which would solidify my mealtimes, which would solidify my work timetable, which will then be more amenable to structured exercise sessions… and not this haphazard mix of is-it-work-or-is-it-distraction and let's-do-a-few-pushups-here-and-a-squat-there-and-whatever-next-comes-to-mind. Since it's the middle of a running challenge, I will call this one a “mini-challenge” with only one… Goal: In bed by 11pm, ready to sleep. Up to ½h additional reading while in bed is permitted. “Structure. Use more of it.” I see NF has new forum software (relatively speaking). I already don't like it too much: it's more of a hassle for me to type into here than with the old one. I'll get used to it sooner or later, but I do wish to apologize in advance for the lower typographical quality of my posts. Good night. -- M
  2. Although most people fall off the face of the Earth during Week 4, I tend to have my “miraculous return†around that time instead. Such as this time as well. My challenge progress table took a while to make, but now it’s finally up. I’m also working on a different progress visualization approach—namely a “character HP/MP display box†like in most RPGs—but I don’t have anything (graphical) to show for it yet.[1] Formally, I’m doing quite well: most of the time every major column group (career, exercise, sleep) has two out of three entries positive, sometimes even all three. Informally though, it’s not really that great, as I’m over-relying on the career/homework and exercise/MA columns, which is what I’m trying to break, in the long run. And sadly, most of the career work in particular is not happening during Happy Hour. However, despite the seeming stagnation, I’m not going to let it bother me too much. My first round of CS exams is coming up during the next challenge, and I’m also in the midst of landing a part-time job as a maths mentor.[2] It’s gonna be chaotic soon, so the last thing I want to jeopardize are the beneficial stable routines I already have. So just take this challenge and the one after it as a “best effort†attempt, or an experiment: I’m going to commit to fulfilling my goals, but only if I don’t hurt my exams or my part-time job doing so. Seriously guys, I am so zen on this, you wouldn’t even know… 1Since this is going to be integrated into my desktop background, I need it as an image. And I can’t find a feasible way of programmatically re-generating the image on a regular basis. And I also have practically zero experience with image-drawing software (Inkscape, Photoshop/GIMP, etc.) and only minimal experience with “canvas drawing†(HTML5 canvas, Java AWT Canvas, etc.). Not to mention that I dread the layout work necessary for the latter. So far, my best bet seems to be laying out all the elements in a web page (which I am much more proficient with) and using PhantomJS to render and “screenshot†the page. I did look at the drawing tutorial for ImageMagick, to see if there was something less heavyweight than PhantomJS, but… ugh… 2Paperwork sent, still waiting for contract and work dates.
  3. Having spent the past 3 nights on classic computer science data structures and algorithms, I’m pretty sure it’s starting to affect my senses. Everywhere I look, I always see the same thing: “Such B-trees. Many Dijkstra. Very Floyd.†I do hope this is temporary… In other news, Happy Hour is proceeding, uh, happily. Save for “minor†sacrifices in sleep due to the homework submission thing above, I’ve been happily sticking to Happy Hour for times of happiest happiness. Furthermore, like last time, I’m preparing a challenge progress table, which is hopefully both easier to read and faster for me to generate than posting an improvised-markup progress listing here. That way, everyone’s happy!⟵See what I did there? It should be up within the week.
  4. It’s Happy Hour! Happy “Bedtime†Hour: 10–11pm. Time to be in bed within that hour.Happy “Career†Hour: 10am–12pm. Time to work on advancing my career during those hours.Happy “Fitness†Hour: 7–8pm. Time to exercise during that hour.Any career work/exercise that furthers the goal is game.We’re mostly through Week 2 already, so it’s high time for this! Go!
  5. It’s been a while. As always. I was in Munich on Thursday and Friday last week, in order to (make the Courier) borrow some books from my alma mater’s library: one book on matroids (a generalized linear independence structure), one on semidefinite programming (linear optimization problems, but with positive semidefiniteness instead of non-negativity), and one on data compression (the reason why your portable audio player can hold hundreds or thousands of songs, but CD’s can’t). Afterwards, on Friday evening, we visited TKD Munich-Southwest (the Courier’s school), during a get-together of our two respective schools. My boss’ wife was there too, and having heard I was in Munich during the day, she asked me what I was doing here. When I showed her the books, she said “Put that stuff away, geez, there are kids running around here.†Go figure. Fast-forward to yesterday, April 1st, and I get a bunch of “giftsâ€, some of which I’m not sure if they’re actually April Fool’s jokes in disguise: a (1½ weeks late?) acknowledgement of receipt for my application as a maths mentor in Munich (see item #3), including that the final decision will be made after Easter; a stack of study materials (some 250–300 pages worth) for my comp.sci. studies (see item #2), including my first set of homework, due after Easter; and finally, 2–3 inches of snow, so that we can hide our Christmas eggs under the Easter tree, or something. Go figure. Bigtime. Anyway, on the “challenge†side of things… I think it’s time to get ready to learn to bake a cake. Though I am better off sleep-/food-/exercise-wise than at the start of this challenge, I don’t feel like I can boldly claim to have “nailed†this challenge. Meh. At least this isn’t strip poker. Oh, also, my challenge progress table is now up-to-date as of April 1st 2nd.
  6. Things are going on, even if the layers of dusts and patches of weed on this challenge thread may indicate otherwise. First of all, check out this progress table. This has been my baby for the past couple of days. The official reason for this table is to visualize my workout performance over several days, given the rotating nature of my workout program. The unofficial reason is that I started keeping track of my numbers in a text file (JSON), and then I wanted to generate (or at least template) my progress reports on NF from that. Also, using jq[1] to generate the table instead of Python[2] made for a much more interesting problem to solve. (see paragraph #3)Earlier in January, I applied for a study position at the University of Hagen, the single university in Germany which offers distance education, potentially on a part-time basis. As of April 1st, I am now officially an undergraduate[3] student of computer science. So now I don’t have to get into these “but I’m not really a comp.sci. major†talks anymore. On the other hand, it’s still hard for me to not identify as a mathematician .Despite the above, I’m still looking for Ph.D. positions in maths. During this season, I’ve sent out two applications. One was for a position in statistics in Northwest Germany, the other one was for a mentoring position for maths classes at the University of Hagen’s local facility in Munich. Especially the latter would be a great complement to my comp.sci. studies, so I’m really hoping that one gets through.My mother has stepped through another set of laptops, so I’ve inherited one of hers. I am no longer bound to my workdesk! The Live USB didn’t work as such, though, because that machine has a really weird display size (1792×768), which mucks up the display in the Live USB’s default configuration. So I installed my favorite Linux distro[4] on it. Disabling Windows 8’s “Secure Bootâ€[5] and fixing the display problems in the Debian Installer took another 4 days or so as well, but… at least now it’s working.Addendum: I would like to particularly thank 7FG for his Week 4 encouragement speech from the last challenge. It’s really the reason why I managed to post this update during week 5, and not during week 7 or so. Even if I’m technically one challenge too late.As far as my challenge goals go, well… I dunno. I’d say they’re inconsistent, if anything, but they’re not failing per se; I’d be much more cynical about them in that case. Exercise is the most critical one; that one (along with working late) blocks sleep, which in turn blocks food (breakfast). I’m focusing on getting that one straight, and the rest will follow, I’m sure. And if not, then… well… I’d better start getting a hold of a recipe for those cakes I wish I hadn’t promised. Addendum: Using technology to force-shutdown my computer on time is really the best thing I’ve done so far in this challenge. If, like me, you’re in danger of not knowing when to stop work because you lose track of time, I highly recommend setting alarm clocks to knock you out of the flow. Preferably the loudest, most intrusive and most obnoxious alarm clock you can find. And if that alarm clock is digital, then you can even add in some extra perks like auto-shutdown. 1I’ve played with this tool, but only interactively, with short-ish and simple JSON snippets (~2 levels deep, only known keys and values, etc.). This is my first larger project, where the input data is reasonably large, irregular, and must be transformed somewhat non-linearly. I’m also rather new to functional languages as well, and it’s hard for me to avoid slipping back into imperative thinking. But overall, this mini-project has been really intriguing. 2My strongest language, particularly when it comes to dealing with nested data structures. 3Since I’m doing this for shits and giggles, since I know that my maths courses won’t be sufficient to skip the full undergrad curriculum, since there are no time constraints as long as I can pay the (puny) school fees and since this way I can do more computer science, nominally, I’m doing a full run: Bachelor and Master of Science in Computer Science. Of course, I’ll be applying for skipping the maths parts, so it’ll be somewhat faster than the full run. 4Debian, in case you were wondering. 5…which should more precisely be called “Obstructed Bootâ€.
  7. I gotta do my part there and stop bribing you with sweets and fast food. (Though admittedly, bribing you with, say, cauliflower, doesn’t seem very promising either.) Yeah, well… eh. (And “breathing down my neckâ€, but otherwise, correct expression.) Actually, “CC†refers to this book, or rather the exercises outlined in it. (See this review for an outline of the book.) I would know. I got her into this in the first place.
  8. This just in: The Master from Heidelberg is visiting us today, and, using a (IMO) not very believable excuse,[1] he made us do seven or eight different versions each of squat-, pushup- and situp-ish variant exercises, all the way to failure.[2] I recognized squats, calf raises (in squat position), lunges, lunge holds, situps, sideways situps, leg raises, pushups, superman pushups and hindu pushups. And then there were other variants whose names I don’t know. So yeah… I’m-a check off “workout†for today, ’kay? 1“I’m not the tallest person,[3] and I’m not the most muscular either, so I’ve thought a lot about building strength and using the whole body to unleash force.†and “Now let’s do something for our arms/legs/beer belly.†2Take for example pushups: My current standard are ≈12 knee pushups, so asking me to do 70–80 pushups of even higher difficulty until failure… well… will probably be over a lot sooner than he’d hope. 3He’s maybe 5′8″. I don’t think that counts as small.
  9. Messy IRL is messy. Sorry for the radio silence. Abridged version: I’m running into a bit of trouble with the (literal) plan, but nothing “structuralâ€; it does need adapting to our extra-late dinners (meaning bed time must change) and my lil’ bro’s schedule[1] (lest we trample on each other’s feet)[2][3]. Thanks everyone for the "Linux in a Virtual Machine/on a Live CD USB" suggestion, I really hadn’t thought of it.[4] A USB was prepared today and will come into use on Monday. Hopefully by then I can write the challenge goal breakdown for the past 1½ weeks. Cheers! 1Lil’ bro is a university student, currently on spring break. And since university is somewhat nearby, he’s back here every odd weekend or so. 2Our apartment is small, so we’re forced to share a room. Which also happens to be my work area, where my (stationary) computer sits. 3As of today: Shower, breakfast, then work (via remote connection, from our living room). Workout during the first work break, roughly at 11am or 12pm. Bed time is ½h later, or maybe 1h if needed. The rest is the same as before. 4In my mind, because of how I use them, Live CDs are strictly linked to “help, I need to backup all my data because I want to reformat my HDDâ€.
  10. Day 3 (Wednesday, 2015-02-25) Hangover day. Woke up on time, but was forced out of my room, so no workout nor work in the morning. Which led to me first hanging in front of the TV, then later on my comp, and… by the time I was done with that, I wasn’t really in any working condition anyway. Like I said, hangover day. Only without the fun(?) of being drunk the night before. Working out: nay. Oh, the inertia. Eat well: yes. Comparatively easy, seeing how my Mom is a good cook. Sleep: yes. Though this is for Tuesday night. Day 4 (Thursday, 2015-02-26) Hangover day, round two. Mostly a repeat of the day before, but not quite. I slept late the night before, but got up at my prescribed time, so I was practically a zombie during the whole morning.[1] Still couldn’t get to my room, same reason as yesterday: lil’ bro is at home, we share a room, he sleeps at different times than I do,[2] so I can’t stay in there during the morning hours. And I really need my computer,[3] because I cannot stand working on our other Windows-based laptops.[4] So I took the path of least resistance: have breakfast in front of the TV, watch a show or two, and wait for lil’ bro to wake up so that I can move into my room again. Like the day before, by the time I could move back in, I was tired and unfocused, in no good position to complete a workout, and for all those hours I still hadn’t done anything noteworthy. After lunch I tried getting back into the “zoneâ€, but the best I could manage was busywork.[5] Then, finally, later at night, after a rush of “Eh, what the heck… Let’s do it!â€, I unrolled my yoga mat and did a 85% effort workout. At least that’s something. Working out: yes. Lvl 4 Flat Frog (Leg) Raises, 14/0/0; lvl 3 Knee Pushups, 10/0/0. Eat well: yes. Waking up on time makes all the difference. Sleep: nay. Leftovers from yesterday’s hangover. I don’t have a solution for my morning timetable messup yet.[6] How would any of you deal with being cut off from your work area for the morning hours? Just about the only thing I can think of is acknowledging that my “work†plan just isn’t realistic, and using that time for reading instead… like old books, or printouts prepared the night before…[7] 1Astute readers will comment that coffee would help me with this particular problem… that is, if I were someone who actually drinks coffee. 2Curiously enough, it’s the same timetable I’m trying to get away from: have a midnight snack at 11pm, sleep at 1am or 2am or so, wake up at 11am or 12pm, and miss breakfast. 3Guess who has the only stationary computer in the house…? Guess where it’s stationed…? Guess which computer is the only one running Linux…? 4Everything I need to prepare an application (a proper typesetting system, a proper email client, and some background music) is already set up on my computer. And conversely, setting each of these up on the other Windows-based laptops would be a major headache. 5The “check off emails†and “I’ve always wanted to ask Wikipedia about …†type of busywork. 6That is, beyond making sure to steer clear of the TV. Otherwise things just go downhill really fast. 7It’s times like these when I become aware again how much of my life revolves around computers…
  11. Day 2 (Tuesday, 2015-02-24) Day 2 was slightly better than day 1, in terms of work accomplished, but it’s still nowhere near where it should be if I wanted to earn a real salary from this. I’m still too easily distracted by more exciting stuff… not exactly , but something like that. But at least this time I have tangible results. Will work on those tomorrow. Concerning adapting my morning routine: tomorrow will be the first real trial run with all family members accounted for, but even from the schematics of my routine, I see where it’ll probably clash: my parents need the bathroom at roughly the same time as I need it in the morning (and they have, like, real jobs), and lil’ bro sleeps in our workroom, so I can’t use my (stationary) computer in there, and neither can I really work out in there beforehand either. The solution seems to be to eat first (giving my parents time), then shower, then work outside my room on one of our family’s laptops, then take a mid-morning break (including the workout), and then continue until lil’ bro wakes up and releases the room. But again, this is still missing an actual trial run. Working out: yes. Lvl 1 Wall Headstands, 30 seconds (beginner standard). I figured I could do them, given that I can do (one-armed) cartwheels just fine, but… damn, there’s really a lot of pressure on the head when doing a headstand for 30 seconds. I’ll need to practice this more. But I’m glad I tried. Eat well: yes. Sleep: yes.
  12. Day 1 (Monday, 2015-02-23) — ¾ report I’ve only ever worked one job in the industry before, as a university-mandated internship at a pharma company (stats department). I remember spending the first half of the day trying to orient myself: the computer had two monitors (“how the hell do you use this thing…?â€) and Microsoft Office 2007 (“ugh… kill me now plsâ€), both of which I really wish it hadn’t.[1] And the other half of the day I spent on reading a developer’s manual from front to back to front to back to left to right to… you get the picture. And that’s kinda how I spent my first day at “work†here too, getting much less actual work accomplished than I intended.[2] Let’s hope tomorrow is better. And thank goodness this work thing is only a support structure, not one of my actual goals… Side note: The original morning routine (rules #1–3) is quite at odds with my family’s collective morning timetable; I’ll probably have to adapt them somehow. Still in the midst of trying things out. Working out: yes. Lvl 3 Angular Bridges, 8/0/0 (beginner standard). (This is CC “Veterano†day #2, since I still need to figure out how/where to do pullups.) Eat well: on track. Two of three meals taken, third to come later on. Sleep: yes. (This is from Sunday night.) 1Ironically I’ve been using a dual-monitor setup for the past 4 months or so, and while I don’t really use it much, I’ve grown quite fond of it. 2To be fair, not all of my non-work was frivolous. Much of it involved the auto-shutdown script I’ve repeatedly mentioned, which worked just fine when launched manually, but not when launched automatically. Eventually with the help of a morning star I managed to beat it into submission. Not that it boiled down to something as banal as a typo in the wrong place or anything…
  13. Well, no.On the one hand, this enforcer program starts out with reminders well ahead of the time of shutdown, because what I’m really trying to combat is the “oh crap look at the time I was supposed to be in bed 3 hours ago†factor. I already have a good reason to be in bed at that time (I have to “go to work†the next morning), I just want to make sure I don’t miss my time.On the other hand, in the one anticipated scenario where I do overdraw my evening—namely, I have an application due by tonight—it makes little sense to limit the amount of extra time I take; the need for time is dictated by the application itself, not my own desire.…however, this does lead me to believe that I should schedule the enforcer for every half hour, or every twenty minutes, instead of every hour, during the “manual override†period. Which I now will. Honestly speaking, there are a few (somewhat banal) reasons why my program is sectioned this way:The default is to enforce the shutdown. Asking for whether to extend the session makes the (de facto) default “yes, please extendâ€. As such, it suggests (and thus over time conditions) the not-intended response.Because of (1), I want all of the countdown plus shutdown to run as a unit. And if I do interrupt that unit, then I want execution to resume after that whole unit. In shell script, the only quick way I can think of to interrupt something and have execution continue after that something is to encapsulate that something as a separate process.In a monolithic program, if I’m interrupted in the middle of sleeping, I need to calculate when and how to schedule the next countdown, the exact details of which depend on how long I’ve already slept. That would evolve into me actually having to do some serious thinking for this project. But doing it this way, as a Cron-scheduled single-minded timer plus session terminator, the time calculations become much simpler, cleanup after an interruption becomes a no-op, and I can just tell Cron to launch the program and let Cron take care of the scheduling, That’s way less inertia.In a monolithic program, I can forcibly terminate the whole program. In this Cron-scheduled version, I’d have to terminate Cron. Cron also schedules other system maintenance tasks, so I won’t do that.I wrote the program in shell script, because of the “granularity†of the four things it needs to do: for each of them (suspend for X seconds, check if I’m logged in, show a notification box, and log me out) there is a program that, called with the right options, does precisely that, and nothing more. That’s exactly the sort of realm that shell scripting is intended for. A corresponding version in Java or C++ would take a lot longer to write and to debug. So again, low inertia. Thanks a bunch! ^^ See, the sad thing about being part of such a geographically focused branch is that I would love to say “go take a look at XYZ school, they’re colleaguesâ€. But unless you happen to live in Hawaii, I don’t know of any schools in the U.S. …and here’s the part where I surprise you by telling you that I’m not a CS major, I’m actually a maths major, and that I’m looking for a Ph.D. position in statistics or optimization. Still, thanks to an “inside man†at university and quite a bit of practical experience of my own, I’m as close to a CS student as one can get without formally being one. The disciplines within CS I want to dig deeper into are microprocessors/embedded systems as well as compiler systems/virtual machines. I also have maths-related experience with (graph) algorithms and data structures (recall: optimization), and applied cryptography, as well as hands-on experience working with and programming on POSIX-ish systems (primarily Linux, but some *BSD too).(And that sounded more like a “job wanted†ad than I wanted it to. Sorry.)
  14. A branch of Tae Kwon Do that associates neither with the ITF nor the WTF. It’s the result of one Korean grandmaster “importing†the art into Europe, and Germany in particular, so this branch is practically only known here and nowhere else. See this entry (footnote 1) for an explanation of our heritage. For those to whom that doesn’t make sense, we do Tae Kwon Do—which is a striking art with an emphasis on kicks and precise strikes, but without grapples—in a non-contact style to emphasize health, correct posture and body control. Yeah, well, eh, I’d prefer to not be responsible for mass food poisoning of family members. But on the other hand, I reckon that engineering students are fair game. /troll-face I was actually somewhat hesitant on setting such a lofty goal of 10:30pm; I had imagined it would be much harder to get you on board as well. Well, that’s one problem down. Insofar as I can get away with it: Nononononononono! Over my dead body! Here’s a sneak peak: the aforementioned tool for automatic shutdown at 10:15pm.#!/bin/shrp_running (){ pgrep -u "$USER" -c ratpoison >/dev/null}countdown (){ rp_running && DISPLAY=:0.0 notify-send -t 10 -u high shutdown "$1"}countdown 'in 15 minutes'sleep 10mcountdown 'in 5 minutes'sleep 3mcountdown 'in 2 minutes'sleep 90countdown 'imminent'sleep 30rp_running && DISPLAY=:0.0 ratpoison -c quitSince most of you probably don’t speak shell script, here’s an English version:Display a notification "15 minutes until shutdown" if my desktop session is running.Wait 10 minutes.Display a notification "5 minutes until shutdown" if my desktop session is running.Wait 3 minutes.Display "2 minutes …" if …Wait 1½ minutes.Display "imminent shutdown" if …Wait ½ minute.Terminate desktop session if my desktop session is running.Now, this script is scheduled to run on weekdays at 10pm. For good reasons, I could stop this automatic shutdown by killing this script while it hasn’t terminated my session yet. So I’ll schedule this script to run hourly between 11pm and 5am as well, so that killing the script buys me only an extra hour instead of a full night.As far as rules #4–6 go: the idea is to replace the “desktop icon†for email with a script that asks for confirmation (rule #4) and records the time of successful email-after-job-search, a background job that regularly checks if email has already been checked today (via the rule #4 enforcer) so that I can have lunch (rule #5), and another script that periodically shuts down common candidates for soft work until I have confirmed I have already had lunch (rule #6). I think the tricky part is to avoid making a habit of bypassing the confirmation dialog, like how the "Are you sure you want to delete this file?" dialog doesn’t stop me from deleting the wrong files because I’m so used to bypassing it. For that, I’m thinking of a longish confirmation sentence instead of a button, such as "Yes, I hereby confirm that I have already conducted a search for Ph.D. positions today.", requiring exactly that phrase, punctuation and spelling and all. I estimate only a couple hours until I have these ideas codified as software.
  15. In the context of this recent challenge, yes, this is quite true. I’m strong enough to do what I need my strength for (my martial arts classes), I doesn’t really matter if I sleep late and wake up in the middle of the day because there’s nothing in the morning that I could miss, and the application thing was actually seemingly going very well (and thus follow-up on other positions did not feel necessary) until it exploded in my face. So yeah, I know I had it coming. My “foundationâ€, as solid as it was supposed to be, was built on quicksand. And that is why for the next round, I’m trying to invest more interest in it by making it a lot more painful to fail and easier for me to look at this from a more challenge-empowering perspective. The larger picture behind this is about crafting an environment (in this case, a timetable) that encourages building those other foundational habits because they fit into the picture, not because I try to transplant them from a different situation in which they fit into another one they don’t fit into. Despite the grim message, thanks for checking up on me, Kishi! Part of what keeps me coming back to the forums, even if only to stumble and fall again, is seeing people who don’t “know†me per se still cheer, provoke and otherwise show concern for me. And you are one of the best at doing just that! I’d probably have dropped off the face of the earth long ago had you not stopped by so often to congratulate me and offer wisdom. (Oh, and the kicks to the ribs. Those too.)
  16. (i.e. “if you still don’t feel like doin’ it, raise the stakesâ€) The stuff I don’t feel like doing Working out: Going to martial arts class is second nature, but working out at home in my room? Eh. Workout goals: Convict Conditioning "Veterano" program, minus the rest day and handstand pushups, with at least one set at my current exercise level. Eat well: I'm already scrawny, and I tend to skip breakfast. Eating goals: Eat at least three meals per day. Also, gather recipes while watching my parents cook. Sleep: All those prejudices about gamers and TV watchers and sleep… they’re all true. And once I then oversleep and wake up at 1pm, I miss breakfast, adding to that sore point as well. Sleeping goals: Rise by 7:30am, sleep by 10:30pm; if I’m out at 10:30pm, sleep as soon as I’m back. The stakes My “student lifeâ€: I’ve been unemployed since Jan 2014, living at home with my parents. My parents agreed to support my search for a Ph.D. position through 2014, and afterwards, I had agreed to look into the (non-academic) job market. During Dec 2014, they agreed to extend this support until the then-recent application in Austria came through. (Which it did, earlier today: “no.â€) Once my parents remember that my student “lease†has expired, my student life as I know it is probably over. My “savingsâ€: I have upcoming expenses to pay by April, which I can only barely cover. And without an income, I’m pretty much stuck being broke. My “innocenceâ€: I’ve never baked a cake before. And I’d rather not try. Which makes it a perfect punishment. So, I pledge that if I don’t follow through with my goals, I’m going to bake two cakes, without asking for help: one for my family, and one for the Courier. The thing that’s different this time so that I don’t repeat the same mistakes This search for Ph.D. positions and my applications to those? I’m making it a proper job. Complete with scheduled work/break hours, dedicated time tracking, and reports to my CEO (i.e. my parents). I have sequencing rules for my activities, both to help turn some of them into a ritual and to otherwise make sure everything is considered. Those rules are: No shower before working out. No breakfast before shower. No “screens†before breakfast. No email before the first Ph.D. position search. No lunch before the first email check. No “soft†work before lunch. (“Hard†work is either searching for or writing an application for a Ph.D. position. “Soft†work is any other work that will indirectly help me get such a position, e.g. preparing a portfolio of projects, or rearranging my C.V.) No “clock out†without posting on the NF forums. (That’s still a major flaw of mine.) As a programmer, I can write tools to help me with my compliance. One such tool would be an automatic shutdown at 10:15pm. It’s currently in development. And I have ideas for how to technologically enforce rules #4–6.
  17. Not good, I’m afraid.I’ve been spending a lot of my attention on things other than my challenge goals; I can barely clock 2 or 3 low-volume workouts, a single day of conscious early sleeping and a single sent application. Some of those other things I focused on instead were noble: I had a Ph.D. job interview in Western Austria, my first interview in 10 applications or so, and I spent time on polishing my C.V.[1], revisiting old course materials and preparing responses to anticipated questions. And some other “other things which weren’t my challenge goals†weren’t nearly as noble, like my TV marathons watching ABC’s “Castle†series, which I now know a lot better than I probably should.And as I heard today, even those noble things were mostly in vain: my application got rejected. There’s of course some value in the now-improved C.V., and my interview preparation will surely benefit my next interview. But getting to that next interview will be a struggle by itself.So, while this wasn’t technically a no-show, that silver lining that’s supposed to be there feels awfully thin.1I know that “polishing my C.V.†is normally a euphemism for “procrastinateâ€, but I’m serious here: I had a recently employed colleague (in the industry, not academia) look over my old C.V., then show me hers, and then gather some pointers as to how to effectively highlight what employers are looking for in a hire, combined with my best side. My parents and I went through two iterations of the newly revised C.V. until we all agreed that it properly highlighted what it was supposed to highlight. I truly believe it is not a coincidence that the first application to use my new C.V. resulted in a job interview.
  18. Ugh, first I was procrastinating answering, and then I got sick. Not a great start. Like trying to drive with an elephant tied to your car.Back now, but still not fully recovered. Thanks everyone! I do plan to stick around longer better than the last time(s). Re unconventional places, yeah, it does make for some funny stories, but it's actually somewhat risky, so I wouldn't want to do it unless I'm sure no one will notice (except those who don't mind).A little context: Germans are, on the whole, friendly people, but one thing they don't react to too well is looking like a weirdo. Just about everyone I know is extremely judgemental about things that seem weird to them. I've had quite the opposite experience with my two short trips to the U.S.: "You gotta have a bit of fun every now and then," as one of the Portlanders told me. I actually believe that a "typical" U.S. citizen would, if they see someone dress or behave out of the norm, shrug and move along, or not even pay attention to it. On the other hand, a German would probably stare at that person while walking by, with an expression on their face bordering on disgust.Of course, these are only tendencies, not absolutes. Those who come into contact with other cultures, whether by having a mixed heritage or being best friends with immigrants or through work or the like, they all tend to be a lot less judgemental towards weirdos. And I'm not denying that there might be Americans with that same typical-German behavior I outlined above but whom I just haven't met during my two trips to the U.S. But I do think that this constellation of country-typical behaviors is closer to the actual truth than the reverse is.Which brings me back to working out in unconventional places. Back in 2013, when I still lived in a student dorm and dragged the Courier out to a playground to do pull-up variations on the gymnastics bars there… well, we usually went in the early evening, right after it had turned dark. Why? Well, two reasons, actually: First, we didn't want to look stupid, publically, in broad daylight. The playground is at the edge of an appartment complex, so we have quite a few onlookers during daytime. Second, at least for me, I'm pretty sure that had we actually hung around the playground during daytime, when there were real, actual children there, any parents who were there as well would have become extremely suspicious of just what the bloody hell those two overgrown wannabes were doing on their playground… and, in the worst case, have called the police to deal with those suspicious weirdos. That's not something I really want to deal with during a workout, even if we haven't done anything wrong per se. So we avoided going in the daytime. It's just not worth the trouble.Same thing for that Sunday's workout near the delivery room: I paid close attention to people coming and going. Had e.g. a nurse walked in on me, I'm pretty sure they'd have asked me if I needed any kind of (medical) attention, and if not, just what the flying f**k I was doing there.Final, more recent example: On Monday last week I was traveling within Munich by train late at night (9pm-ish), and I hadn't done my workout yet. The train's seats are arranged in blocks of two facing each other, at a good distance, which makes them very suitable for doing bridges on them. But… no deal. The train, although almost empty, was boarded from the get-go by two security guards. I'm quite certain that, had I started, they'd have forced me to leave the train, for disturbing the peace of all… 2 other passengers. Oh, right, and their peace as well, which is what matters here.TL;DR: Unless I'm sure no one gives a shit/there's no one around me, I won't be doing workouts outside of gyms or my own home, because Germans get easily freaked out by people acting weird, up to and including calling the authorities. It's just not worth the trouble. Spelling looks okay to me, but heck, what do I know? I have, but I've decided against it. I have, at various times in my previous 9 challenges, managed to get each of my three goals "CC bodyweight training", "sleep wtf…" and "OMG applicaitons!" to levels where I could actually feel the benefits. So I know it works, I know it's good, and dammit, I want them back in my life, so I have to work on them again. Now, for this over-overtime challenge, I feel like I'm already doing the basics of the basics, so to speak, and all three things are important, and "urgent enough". There just aren't any other viable candidates.Now, if you're asking whether I have considered doing something differently, then… well… that's a whole other story.I trace a lot of my failure in keeping to my goals to a failure of keeping track of when to actually do the deeds. Specifically, the only time I think about my goals are… when I think of my goals of my own volition. I have no visibility built into my system. No temporal or visual reminders.[1] Nothing. Not really a smart idea… but on the flip side, a very obvious place to start tweaking.Coming from a different angle, I'm again going through a huge library of blog posts and books on the topics of productivity and goal-setting, and I'm pretty sure I already have the answers. Maybe even too many of them.[2] Time to start digging again, throw them onto a pile, plow through the pile and make sense of it. It's called “researchâ€!So on the surface it might look pretty much the same, but underneath, I'm trying out things to make it work.1I don't have a smartphone or similar device, so "apps" are out of the question. So are alarms. I don't wear a watch anyway. And I don't have a whiteboard, or a pinboard, or anything similar. My computer runs Linux[3] (so neither Mac Apps nor Windows programs work with it) and because of my customization, it's closer to a Linux server than a workstation (so most standard Linux programs will run poorly, if at all).So, the best thing I can do is a desktop wallpaper, with a calendar, say. And probably a few Post-Its on my monitor.…and, if I manage to avoid it being a distraction, I could always write a program or two. For example, I've had a rough sketch for a bare-bones timer program for quite some time now.2In no particular order:Michael Hyatt's speeches, blog posts and podcasts about leadership, goal-setting and intentional living (in particular, the promo videos and the Q&A session of his "Best Year Ever" program)Scott Young, whose early work deals extensively with self-improvement via goal-settingThomas Frank has quite a bit to say about goal-setting in a college settingSteve also has, minus college settingCal Newport mostly tries to reduce friction towards doing something, and thus advocates lo-tech solutions like Post-ItsMatt Might tries to lower the resistance to doing the most productive thingLeo Babauta, back when he still talked about goal-setting, talked about looking at the barriers to completing or not completing a good or bad habit, and adjusting barriers to encourage completing good and not completing bad habits and to discourage not completing good and completing bad habitsThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about planning your week in advance, and aligning your goals and actions with your characterthe 13th letter, uh, may or may not have forced himself to work by otherwise promising his roommates some money3Technically "GNU/Linux", but if I called it that, you'd be even less likely to know what I mean.
  19. When I’m not slacking (and that like totally never happens…), I follow the Convict Conditioning calisthenics philosophy. And that has taught me two very good ways to quickly make whatever bodyweight workout you have quite a bit harder: Slow down your movement to half speed.At the most disadvantaged position, hold that position for about a second.Do note that those two suggestions are in general independent of each other.
  20. I feel like I should have noticed that. But, in my defense, it’s been a long time since I gave you a piggyback ride/borrowed you for a “barbell†squat. Well, for starters, I should probably stop dropping off 1 lb of sweets whenever I visit her…
  21. On my way to bed, not dead yet. Does that count?
  22. Not quite sure about the challenge yet, but I do want to quickly tell a story, before I forget. So the original plan for my glorious wrap-up post for the last challenge was to tell tales of my heroic efforts at securing workouts for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, if nothing at all. That… didn’t quite work out as expected: I did manage a workout on New Year’s Eve, but soon afterwards everyone wanted to go to bed, and then I had a late-night chat, and… eh. The only two places left to do workouts at night when everyone’s asleep—the kitchen and the bathroom—are not really sanitary enough to lie down on. So, no New Year’s Day workout. However, with tomorrow being the start of a new challenge and all, I found an unexpected opportunity today to sneak in a stealth workout while no one was looking. My Mom came out of the bathroom earlier complaining of lower body pains… would someone please send her to the hospital/gynaecologist? Me being the good son I am (and ’cause my Dad was tied up with my Grandpa) I drove and accompanied her to the gynaecologist. This hospital had them situated right next to the delivery room (I believe this is the right name for this…?), which was, at 9.45pm on a Sunday night at the end of a holiday season, pretty damn empty. After twiddling my thumbs for a minute or two, I came up with the idea of sneaking in a round of push-ups in the waiting room. Which I then did. Yes, I didn’t warm up properly, yes, I did them somewhat sloppily, and yes, I felt horribly out of place. But I did that workout. And that was my first workout in 2015. Go figure.
  23. It’s been long enough. Now it’s time for all-out war! Same old same old, but different. Still need to think about the “howâ€, though.
  24. Some impressions from this challenge—or rather, Nov/Dec 2014: Out of sight, out of mind. In my case, a small selection of places/things I look at means I don’t consciously remember things… sometimes even important ones. No mirror in the vicinity? Might take me a while to realize I’m still in pj’s. Those dirty dishes from breakfast and lunch that are piling up on my desk? I don’t see them, ’cause all that matters on my desk is my computer monitor. That yoga mat I use for cushioning for my knee push-ups? Safely tucked away in a corner in my room which I don’t ever need to look at. So I know this is a thing, but how do I circumvent it? Computer-enforced interruptions, maybe? Post-It Notes on my screen? Need to experiment.Sleeping on time, without having a logistical reason to do so, is hard. Some people have reasons to be up early… such as work, or doctor’s appointments, or the like. Me, I have neither. Which probably means I need to find such a reason soon if this is supposed to work.Grandpa is feeling worse. It’s nothing unexpected, but seeing it and still taking care of him is draining the energy of us all. Like how after coming home from a day of work, you see that full basket of laundry and dishes and clothes to iron and the like, when all you want to do is drop into bed instead.Finding a Ph.D. position is hard. Or at least, it’s harder than I’m currently treating it. My Mom, who’s been involved in pretty much every effort I’ve made to find a position, laughs at my efforts. Probably because she’s been involved. “It’s way too little,†she says. Nevermind that, it’s not like I get much feedback on what’s going wrong anyway. And what I am getting indicates that it’s because of my grades, which are set in stone anyway, which makes this whole exercise pointless in the first place. Le sigh.If nothing else, after whining about life above, the least I could do is work out. Which I did, before posting this. Even if I’m 5 weeks late.This thread needs more Doge pics. But since no one stepped up yet, I’ll have to deliver. See attachments.Long story short: We’re not done yet.
  25. Nasty. But very Cheechoe. … And maybe this would sound more convincing from someone who hasn't only barely posted some 4 or so updates over the last two challenges combined.
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