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Monday, March 19, 2001
By Paul Ford
2 intervals from 19 Mar 2001 (Nuclide Ensnares Greeting Supplier)
The brain is like a computer, but which one?
Fitter, happier, more productive
Ways to stop killing time.
1/Monitor Web usage and have the computer report on trends. Much of my time-wasting comes from absent-minded Web browsing; when I'm at the computer, nothing is easier than to see if MetaFilter has something new or whether there's been a train crash or nuclear explosion on NYTimes.com.
I plan to use a Perl proxy framework to intermediate all my Web browsing, logging all of it to a database. Then I can easily add comments to any pages I visit. I have other ideas along this line. I did a demo of this and found that, on a given day, I might visit 600 unique Web pages. It sounds like a lot, but I bet many of the people in the world do the same. 600 unique nodes of information, each with dozens of elements - it's several thousand /things/ coming at you every day. It's too easy to be distracted by All Your Base are Hot or Not garbage, and then go off on a big meme-tracking expedition with no practical results. For all its good points, the Web encourages bullshit reading and research.
Then I'm going to analyze my Web usage behavior to figure out ways to make it more productive. The auto-logging framework will be useful; for instance, I'm trying to write up a worksheet on Richard Lanham, and if I could just enter comments on all the links I visit quickly, without leaving the browser, tagging the entries with a topic-word like "Lit/Lanham", I could quickly build out resource pages, and cut/paste/edit around the output to work it into the larger framework of Ftrain.
2/Wake up at a regular time. Why is this so hard? What is WRONG with me? Why, GOD, WHYYYYYYY! !Y!@YRT_@#_)PH (Sound of Ford leaping from 3rd floor onto fire escape, then shame-facedly going back through the window.)
3/Work part-time. I need some stabilizing fiscal influence in my life; plus, it'll be nice to have regular formalized vaguely meaningless human contact. I've gone out and gotten a part-time job, which makes me feel a little less worried about the recession, even though this job doesn't pay the big bucks, but hey. Whatever.
4/Automate processes to free time for thought. Abstract our repeated tasks. To this end, I've started splitting up my projects and lowering the resistance to working. When I have an idea or concern, I just type "journal," and I'm in the file you're reading now with a timestamp. That file is in pure ASCII, and is converted to XML, with the hours structured into days, automatically whenever I process Ftrain. I want there to be more of that - disparate pools of varied content which are merged at runtime and compiled into a Web site, along a pipeline. I'm getting there.
5/Get in the practice of boring work. It's fun to think, less fun to write and annotate. It's fun to program, less fun to debug. I have a million 1/2 finished projects. It's time to get in the habit of sitting down for 4 hours, getting a thing done, then going for a jog or doing some sit-ups, then coming back and doing 4-8 more hours.
6/Take notes. Make more reading /informed/ reading. I probably read and listen to 250,000 words a day. I bought a digital camera to record visual ideas; I'm buying a minidisc player to record aural ideas. And edit like crazy.
7/Eat clean food. Sugar and refined starch are /narcotics/ and slow down the brain. I feel like I live in a cloud when I junk up on sugar.
8/Exercise. Otherwise I can't focus. Pushups, situps in the room. Squash? But squash if for pussies. Box.
9/Focus on making human relationships productive. Don't go to any more bars. Go for a walk, visit and cook, /do/ something. Enough sitting around bullshitting. Go see a talk, go to a library, collaborate. Enough dinners out babbling about great plans and goals. Enough talking pussy in bars. Enough, enough, enough. Spend less time on the phone; see people and make it worthwhile.
10/Take advantage of NYC. Visually, emotionally, culturally, intellectually this is the most intense city on earth, the worst and best of America.
11/Stop worrying. What's the point? I always pull it together in the end, and as for all the guilt, I'm not going to kill myself, so I might as well drop it.
12/Fuck em. Fuck the audience. Tell the stories you want to hear. Continue to keep out of other people's weird social situations and relationship angst. Be vigilant against bullshitters creeping into your life.
13/Set some standards and show the love. If someone asks for criticism, give it to them. If someone is being week-kneed or a jackass, tell 'em. (Most) people are redeemable and we're all pathetic slackjawed assholes sooner or later.
14/Stick close to the middle-class roots. What am I? I am a fat white fellow who loves to read. Conceptual art bores me. I just want a good story about eating, fucking, and computers.
15/Night is for sleeping. Day is for working. Figure it out.
16/Only do the devil's work 2 times a day. No more. Motherfucker!
17/No TV, no exceptions. Not really a problem except for CSpan, but even that is a sucker's game. Same for radio. Enough, enough.
18/No more being scared of the future. You won't be homeless. You'll find someone else to sleep with. That's it. Do what you need.
19/Drink wine every day.
20/Create a curriculum and stick to it.