Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Naps, Binges, Bright Lines

 Pomodoro 1. Yet another food binge yesterday. Worked late, skipped my nap. The connection of binge-eating and extended reading is established beyond doubt. This is how I read my way through the corpus of English literature. I ate my way through it. Can I read multiple hours per day without binge eating? Is there some other way to do it? I wonder.

In any case, another thing is established beyond doubt: I must nap, no matter how late it is, or I will binge. Maybe I will binge also if I nap late: maybe it will mess up my sleep: but I don’t know those things yet. I do know I will binge without a nap. We should have plenty of opportunities to experiment with late naps, as the giving season gets into full swing.

A third thing established beyond doubt: it’s all got to be bright lines and exact measurements for me. Even a slight deviation or indulgence goes straight to full-blown bingeing: there’s no in-between space. In most parts of my life, I want to eschew black-and-white thinking and catastrophizing: but in this one, it’s the suitable way to think. If I don’t want a fifty+ inch waist and an early death, it’s 100 daily grams of burger, not 101, and it’s 500 daily grams of potato, not 501. That’s just how the Favier brain works. 100 grams of burger is 100 grams of burger, but 101 grams of burger is three bowls of ice cream, multiple bars of chocolate, and triscuits with cheese. It doesn’t make sense, but sense is not what we’re trying to make here. What we’re trying to make is a functioning dietary economy.

The mantra that has worked for me has been: “You don’t have to be heroic, but you do have to be exact.”

As far as the pomodoros go, the evening pomodoros are -- at present -- simply reading, and I’m marking them by page count: the first time with a book I establish how many pages makes a pomodoro, and just go by that. Easier than tracking times. 

Pomodoro 2...8:  9:45 - 1:00  Python. Working with JSON: quite a rabbit hole here, because my Crash book did not give a good explanation AT ALL of what we were actually doing. I’m a bit peeved about that. I’m going to need a different book.

Pomodoro 9: Nickleby, 16 pp.

Pomodoro 10: Richardson, 25 pp

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

(Accountability Post)

Pomodoros 3: Handicap 4

Pomodoro 1,2,3: Heather Cox Richardson, How the South won the Civil War, 75 pp. So far a disappointing book, but at least it’s a fast read.

Monday, October 25, 2021

What is a Pomodoro?

 Pomodoros 6: Handicap 2 

Pomodoro 1: I should have explained at once what a “pomodoro” is. It’s the common Italian noun for “tomato.” The tomato is a new world fruit, and we derive its name from the Nahautl word tomatl, but when it arrived in Italy, the Italians named it pomo d’oro, “golden apple”: apparently tomatoes back then were yellow. 

But how does it come to mean “a measured chunk of time devoted to a task”? That comes from the Italian student Francesco Cirillo, who in his first year of university found himself unable to focus on his homework. He grew more and more frustrated with his procrastination and distractions, until one day he seized his kitchen timer -- one of those kitschy ones, shaped like a tomato -- and set it for five minutes, muttering, “can I even study for five minutes?” It turned out that he could study for five minutes, with a timer running: and it turned into his main method of focusing and organizing his time. And so the chunks of time became pomodoros, and he called his strategy the Pomodoro Method. I have his book on hold at the library, and when I actually read it, I may have more to say. At present that’s all I know.

Pomodoro 2,3: Python. 7:15 - 8:05. Class names are written in CamelCase; instances and modules should be lowercase_with_underscores. Every class and module should have a docstring. NB you can use forward slashes in file names and they will work even on Windows! Yay!

with open(filename) as file_object:

    For line in file_object:


Python will close the file when the “with” block finishes. Nice.

with open(file_name, ‘w’) as file_object

    File_object.write(“some text to the file”)

Fine and dandy, but if there was something IN file_name when you started, Python erases it before handing you the file_object. Yikes. There are other modes: ‘a’ is append, ‘r+’ is read-write. If you don’t specify you get ‘r’, read-only.

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation, but it’s been generalized to a common format.

Pomodoro 4,5: Palmer: finished Will to Battle

Pomodoro 6: Nickleby, 16 pp.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

And Some Days Are Just Busy

 Handicap 7, so I really can’t expect much to happen today. A plausible sighting of Kiki up on NE Davis & 87th yesterday, so there will also be some cat hunting.

Pomodoro 1: Palmer, 12 pp.

Gives me 8

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Letting "What am I really doing?" Percolate

 Handicap 2, so I come out at 9

Pomodoro 1: planning 6:41 - 7:01  Posted yesterday’s stuff. Yesterday was also a huge improvement over the past few months, so I will continue with this. Having a structure to my time and a certain amount of accountability reassures me immensely. My list of handicaps grows: I have nine now (Though I’m not going to put all of them up on the blog. Not all handicaps are for display!) I think it’s all right to let the “what am I really doing?” question percolate a while, without forcing it. It’s not settled. But the ship was not going to respond to the helm, with no way on it. Move first, steer later. I have not forgotten. And I like having these planning pomodoros to bring me back and remind me of that. The programming project is only one of the three that occurred to me, and was by no means the frontrunner at first. There’s the how-to-live project, and there’s the grand appreciation of writers project. Something like them, or growing out of them, will happen. 

A sketch of the programming project: go through the Python book; learn the GUI, go through an introduction to graphics, create a hexagonal grid world, make a history game on it.

Pomodoro 2,3,4: Python Crash Course. 7:06 - 8:35 Create “Task” class. Wow. Actually coding absorbs time like a sponge. All I did was create a class and print it out :-/

Pomodoro 5,6: Will to Battle, 24 pp.

Pomodoro 7: Python Crash Course. Had to play with print and formatting functions a bit.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Getting Meta

 Today is a work day: -4, so I come out at 8

Pomodoro 1: planning 7:35 - 8:00. Yesterday was a grand success. The main insight gained: I read at a FAR slower rate than I thought. Either I have slowed way down, or I used to spend a lot more time doing it. To cover the Dickens ground at the rate I feel that I ought to -- about a hundred pages per day -- I would need to be reading over three hours per day. So, that insight alone was worth the price of admission. Yesterday I did a Planning, a Palmer, two Pythons, and a Dickens: 5 pomodoros, bumped to 7 by my handicap. 

I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life, but at least I’m doing something. Which is a huge relief. I don’t think I knew just how much being dead in the water was distressing me, till I got a little way on the ship. Just to have a wake again, and the sea whispering under the planks. And maybe, after all it doesn’t matter so much what I’m doing: I’ll figure out what I’m doing partly by doing it.

At present, the most important thing would be either Python or the blog, I guess. The blog. I love writing and being read: but it may be that the blog is a dead end. Blog readership is falling off, for one thing; and for another, I am constrained by my past there, by the speaking voice and choice of topics my readers are used to. How many times can I run my stumbling toward enlightenment schtick? Okay, I’m overwhelmed by the intensity of beauty, and I can’t summon what it requires of me: what good does it do to say that over and over (and to exaggerate it)? My handful of readers loves it, but that doesn’t make it the right next thing to focus on. We have lingered in the chambers of the sea. Maybe the time has come to leave them.

Pomodoro 2: blogging 8:05 - 8:30.  Okay, this is getting meta, as the kids say nowadays: I spent a few minutes revising & posting my Pomodoro notes from yesterday as a blog post. In for a penny, in for a pound. Whether they’ll be of interest to my readers, I don’t know: but that’s their business, not mine. “Planning” and “blogging” may actually be merging into a single thing. I’ve always used the blog partly as a planning device -- am I doing the right stuff with my life, in the right way? Am I on track? So this is not such a radical departure as all that. And what the hell, warts and all has always been my motto. I can write up what I’m doing here and maybe fluff it up (and censor it a bit) and post it on the blog, next day: it will keep me honest, insofar as that’s possible.

Pomodoro 3: Python Crash Course: 8:35 - 9:00.pp 157-180

Just reading, this session. Classes! Object-oriented programming was the hot new thing when I was doing my computer science degree: I always expected it to fizzle -- it struck me as the exact equivalent of literary “realism” in programming -- but it’s still here, twenty years later, so I better come to grips with it. Classes and inheritance and all. I’ll make my daytimer out of a “task” class. And now -- I better get to work. A lot to do today.

Pomodoro 4: Nickleby, 16 pp.

Thursday, October 21, 2021


At present, frankly, three pomodoros in a week would be a triumph :-(

Today is an Exercise day: -1 so I come out at 6

Pomodoro 1: planning 7:40 - 8:05. Well, sticking to THAT was easy-peasy, but of course there’s first-time excitement here. Next up: Will to Battle.

Pomodoro 2: Will to Battle 8:15 - 8:40.  Note: the 5 to 7 minute break to get a second cup of coffee and wash the breakfast dishes doesn’t break the flow: if anything, it enhances it. Just add the extra time to the pomodoro. (So: 8:47). So: exactly 12 pages. Now THAT is information. A flood of light, in fact. If I read these books at the rate of 30 pages per hour, then no wonder it’s been taking me so long. I’m not entirely sure how much of my time was fiddled away on washing dishes and fixing the candle (which needed tending) but anyway, it’s a data point. This gets me, anyway, to the end of Chapter 16, and a respectable amount of the book to talk with Jarrett about. W to B is no longer “important” this week. Now I will do some exercise stuff.

Pomodoro 3: Python Crash Course 10:05 - 10:30.  Pp 148-150

Parameter name of *args is a tuple of arbitrary length for passing who knows how many elements to a function

Parameter name of **kwargs likewise, is a dictionary of arbitrary length

“Python matches positional and keyword arguments first and then collects any remaining arguments into the final parameter”

Well, that time went by quick, but it was also just two pages :-)

Pomodoro 4: Python Crash Course 12:10 - 12:35.  Pp 150-162

import file_name  … all functions available; invoke as file_name.function_name()

from file_name import function_name  … brings the name into this file: invoke as local function

from file_name import function_name as fn … likewise, but the local name of the function is now fn

import file_name as fn … does the same as the first but invoke as fn.function_name()

from file_name import *  … makes all the functions in file_name local ones, with possible havoc. Doan’ do this.

Pomodoro 5:  Nicholas Nickleby, 16 pp

Planning Notes 

Approximate values (how many fewer pomodoros to expect on days of particular sorts):

Work day -4

Exercise day -1

Soup-making day -2

Shopping day -1

Massage day -1

Dad-in-Eugene day -6

I can adjust these as I actually get data

Current projects: 

Planning (metapomodoro)

Reading Will to Battle

Studying Python / to-do project / hex-map project

Reading Nicholas Nickleby

Writing blog posts

Is there a limit to how many projects I should keep current, or will that be self-regulating? I guess the Pomodoro idea is that you re-evaluate what the most important thing to work on is at the end of every session, so things will just naturally come and go. I don’t really need criteria: a minute’s honest reflection will tell me what the most important thing to work on is.

Open question: do I want to keep studying Spanish? If so, how? I guess the main thing is, I don’t want it again to displace everything in the pomodoro space, which is what it did before: I do want to do it, but I don’t want it to be the main thing I do. If it were a third of my pomodoros, that would be fine. Half is not fine. Most is very not fine. It becomes in that case a form of procrastination. So I guess the rule here would be I only do a Spanish pomodoro after I’ve done two non-Spanish pomodoros. But if I have the “most important” rule, and observe it, I might not need any other. Today I guess the second pomodoro will be reading Will to Battle, since I want to be sure to have enough to talk about with Jarrett on Saturday.

This is actually very exciting: I feel like I’m finally coming to grips with this thing. The most important two things generally, here, are going to be the planning and the python: really half of my pomodoros, in general, should be devoted to those two (Planning hopefully falls off rapidly -- I won’t really have that much planning to do. But I do have some!) And it’s not all meta-planning: there’s planning within the projects to be done. The basic, real aim here is to put my weight where I want to be putting it: NOT to let myself be diverted into the vales of vague self-improvement, but to actually be making things, and developing skills that I will immediately use.

I may want to make a radical distinction between morning pomodoros (only Most Important Things) and day/evening pomodoros (Anything Is a Win).

Saturday, October 09, 2021

The Quiet and Dark of Winter


She's gone: missing three days now. Martha thinks she's just hunkered down somewhere. My conviction immediately was that she is dead: that she sensed the onset of heart failure, or kidney failure, and crept under a bush somewhere to be still. I walk around the neighborhood, making my little "come get dinner!" clicks, and calling softly, sometimes. But I'm not really calling: I'm summoning the past. 

We've done all the things, of course. Now the days just drift by. On one of them we'll wake up with the new reality as settled business. Not quite yet though. 

A rare, obscure impulse to take a selfie on Sunday: there I am, still embodied, with a mask around my neck.

The rains are here, finally, but the lawns haven't even yet entirely greened. Still, this battered little city seems to have escaped the drought summer without a major smoke event, so we can count ourselves lucky. And now we go on into the quiet and dark of winter. 


And, just like that, two weeks gone. I didn't feel like posting this right away and getting a lot of "hope your cat's okay!" and "my uncle's cousin's stepbrother got his cat back by posting tuna fish pictures on the internet," and so forth. Also actually posting a picture of myself as an old man held me up. I keep thinking there's some mistake: I can't actually be old. If I come back to the post, and the picture, surely something other than an old man will be looking back out at me? But he's still there, so -- out into the world he goes.  Whoever he is.


How am I to live? I don't even know if that's the right question. Or rather, I suspect it is a question that answers itself: as a directional indicator, at least. If you wake up wondering, "how am I to live?" then you can be confident that you're moving, or at least facing, in the wrong direction. At present the sun is obscured in a pure white sky, so it's difficult to guess where the it might be. And likewise, every way I face seems to bring the same question. The failure of orientation is so complete that it suggests a sensory breakdown. If no attempts at light bring anything but darkness, then Mr. Occam would suggest that the problem is not a lack of light, but a lack of sight.

So "how am I to live?" has a simple and direct answer, valid under all circumstances. "Not this way."


Lear.  ...who is that can tell me who I am?

Fool.  Lear's shadow.

Lear's mistake is to try to lay down his burden. He thinks that he has earned a rest. Nobody earns a rest. We just go to our rest, when we are called. All that trying to lay your burden down ahead of time does, is deliver you to the mercy of hellkites, and take your true and loyal daughter away from you.  You may not understand it, but you are holding something together. It is not your job to second-guess the future. It is your job to pay attention to your nearest and dearest, and use whatever meager discernment the years may have given you.