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Kit La Touche
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…


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You’ve seen it before: software projects with lucid and lovely documentation, all available on So, how do? Well, the good folks at Read the Docs have made your life very easy. Assuming your documentation’s reStructuredText…
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I’ve fielded a few questions lately from folks about Sphinx, reStructuredText, and documentation in the Python world and more broadly. So I thought I’d write up a bit of an intro to how I use and understand these tools, and how better documentation makes…
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+Ezio Melega, I thought of you:

See in particular the comment about ordering piada in Rimini.
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I’ve just been reading Carole Cadwalladr’s excellent journalism on the subject of Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, and the Brexit and Trump votes. You can see the articles here and here. They’re chilling, and upsetting, and important. At some level,…
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This country likes to talk at length about how much it values democracy, as a core concept. For a long time, I’ve said that this strikes me as strange, when two out of three of our major cultural institutions are (mostly) based around (substantial)…
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Dar Williams:

You gotta admit life magazine made 1968 look great,
My father said it sucked, everybody died.
All the troops you couldn't save, no one knew how to be brave,
He said sometimes you were afraid to turn your radio on.
It was enough to make you quit that peacenick scene.
Well I heard about leaders, yeah I hear they're no longer around
Cause peace was abandoned, and bravery hanged in his town.
And they passed down a sentence
For building on the beauty of some dream.

All my heroes are dead, I got them in my head, saying
Never again, never a war, no more fighting.
So I'll stay true to them, and they'll come home again,
I'll carry the light, follow the dream, I'll remember.

The '68 convention was a singing the times they are a-changing,
Well I guess they a-changed back.
Oh I miss those peaceful folk, love and humor when they spoke, hey
Phil Ochs you still sound great, should've stuck around to hear it.

They say that compact disc makes songs come true.
But Phil I never expected that I'd miss you like a friend,
Cause I never expected that we would be marching again.
And the soldiers of peace would tumble from this life as in a war.

All my heroes are dead, and all the books I read,
Said "this is greed, this is wrong, fight your war at home".
So I'll stay true to them, and they'll come home again,
I'll carry the light, follow the dream, I'll remember.

So back to the present passion, romance, love, or simply put a lack thereof.
Shall we go on?
I don't take it personally, it's our post-modern history,
You know since Nixon was impeached it's just been hard to commit,
So we cast our allegiance left and right.
But I always believed that our souls would come through.
So I never expected that you'd take her home with you.
And I never detected, how hardened and not sorry you could be.
Don't you know?

All our heroes are dead, we got ourselves instead.
And oh my friend, all your lies, they won't do you.
You gotta stay true to them, and they'll come home again,
I miss them too, I miss them too, you know I miss them
More than I love you.


No commentary on this, except there are so many people in this category—people I knew, people I never knew—who I wish could be here to stand by my side and help us all resist right now.
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(Not the chat tool.)

To get more done, leave more slack time. Seems weird and unintuitive, must be clickbait, right?

Yeah, but also not a bad idea. One thing I've observed, and had corroborated by my reading, is that trying to fill yourself to capacity (and, let's be honest, over capacity) usually significantly reduces what you can get done. You do less than you would if you tried to do less.

Some of it is rest. You know, that thing that you never actually account for in your scheduling. Turns out that it helps people get things done.

But the rest of it is something I find more interesting: slack lets you deal with the ad-hoc crises that come up all the time in life, and not have them cost you both for the time to deal with them, plus at least two context shifts back and forth, from an already full budget.

(This is apparently something that Toyota has applied at an organizational level, which I'd like to learn more about. I bet they have a lot of research on it.)
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Well, my G+ use has been a bit disrupted due to the recent mishegas. Not gonna touch that here (that's for the Gaming collection, or more often, private conversations), but I will share this!

Ben has been writing some things on his (and to a degree, my) thoughts and observations on productivity stuff.

The most recent post is an interesting one, though, I think. What's a better word than "task" or "to-do"? They both, but especially the former, have some negative connotations. I think this is part of why GTD is "getting things done", as it's a bit more neutral.

Thoughts? I'm particularly interested in some non-native English speakers' (+Ivan Vaghi?) input.
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Dependencies and Contexts

So, if I want to look at the question of how to do more things, I have to address the question of why and when I don't do something on my list.

There are two main reasons that recur: either the task has unresolved dependencies, or I am in the wrong context. These are kind of complements to each other: dependencies are contexts on the time axis, and contexts are dependencies on the space axis.

Contexts are somewhat easier to conceptualize: if I'm not at the grocer's, I can't pick up groceries. We have an ancient tool for handling this: a map.

So we want a map of dependencies, then.

It's not always obvious what is in the way of a task. Sometimes you need to pause and consider what the implicit first steps are. GTD prompts you to answer this by asking you, during the refinement phase of processing your inbox of tasks, what the concrete next step is for that task.

I sometimes like a longer view, though. It's useful to me to see what the next three steps are, often, so that I can strategize about how to best spend my efforts. Being a programmer, I tend to look for the right data structure, and here, I love a directed acyclic graph. Lists are often insufficient. It adds some overhead, but it can help me see what is high-leverage to work on right

Do you have any tricks for managing dependencies, and maintaining a strategic view? I'd be interested to hear them.
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So, I've finally read Getting Things Done by David Allen. I've had a folk-knowledge of it for a while, but it's striking what little details I got from reading it that I hadn't gotten in the folk version.

There are two big things in it for me:

First, gracefully-degrading (onion-skin) design, such that there's a small pile of core ideas that you can pretty much always do, and then nuances and improvements you can add to better fit your needs. I'm gonna try to hold to this in anything I do in this space—it's the only way people can actually make use of something. "I'm gonna fix my life" changes rarely work.

Second, put everything you have to do in one spot. It doesn't seem magic, but it kinda is. By putting everything, and I mean everything, into one accessible repository of "things I need to do in my life", I have freed up so much brainwidth to actually do those things.

(My one gripe is that I don't have a perfect repository; I have a few problems with each one I've tried, software or pen-and-paper. Always gotta work on tools, I guess.)
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