— (p)latitudes

Can you clear a to-do list?

During particularly dull moments I wonder things like “can you reuse silica gel?”, or “can you remove every item from a to-do list”.

If nothing interesting happens to interrupt the thought process, I usually think about two main factors that seem to interfere with doing so:

  • Recurring admin tasks like shopping, laundry, tidying, paying bills
  • The bedrock of background tasks that demand too much time / energy: organising old storage boxes, DIY tasks

In a recent dull moment, I decided to run an experiment for the next 4 weeks to complete everything on all my various scale to-do lists.

The first item: establish a list of all non-recurring tasks

The second: do them all by midnight 8th June

The piddly recurring tasks will be removed to prevent a perpetual state of uncleared.

I’m interested to see whether the bedrock of uncompleted tasks lingering in the background can be cleared or whether it’s a constant. And if the former, whether there are any noticeable benefits of clearing it – better morale, less stress, granting of a superpower. Or whether you feel the same and it’s just chasing the productivity dragon.

Note: you can reuse silica gel

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Here are a few things I’d like to do after having done a bunch of camping recently, and reading /r/hammocks, /r/campingandhiking and various other camping dispatches.

Make pemmican
This is a food invented by Native Americans comprised of dried meat and various berries (whatever was available). It’s designed to be super nutritious and dense, and to last for a long time. There are loads of recipes online, although doing it as authentically as possible would be great.

Stack hammocks
I slept in a hammock between two trees with a very trustworthy George in a bivvy bag on the ground below. After seeing various bad-ass pictures of multiple-storey hammock towers, I’m keen to test this out. At first I wondered how the people at the top got up there, but I recently noticed the climbing ladder on the right tree:

- credit to Reddit user thebasic

(Although what happens when they need the toilet midway through the night remains to be answered!)

Build a water-powered rotisserie
This is the best example of outdoor innovation I’ve ever seen, and is a true thing of beauty:

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Bill Bryson was my introduction to ‘travel writing’ as a genre.

His prose style is a great mix of funny and informative; it makes for compelling reading.

It’s tempting, consciously or subconsciously, to see the world through Bill-tinted spectacles after reading his books: to see the wacky side of things and to wonder how he’d perceive a place and its people.

I’m midway through a book called ‘Things I Like About America’ by Poe Ballantine. His writing details the mundane side of American life – looking for itinerant work at the red topped chain restaurants lining highways, watching the fiellds pass from cross-country buses, bringing work home of an evening to distract from temptations of a potentially damaging social circle.

It’s more personal, more gritty. It’s also interspersed with more poetic descriptions and more inwardly looking accounts of events and conversation.

Seeing how the tone and focal points of two guys, born just 4 years and 600 miles from each other, highlights nicely the benefits of encountering multiple world-views: assimilate too much of one, or close yourself off to seeking others, and you risk stifling the development of your own in favour of just reciting someone else’s.

There’s a great (and brief) line in Cloud Atlas that summarises it well:

As many truths as men

It’s one of my favourite quotes from that book (or any).

Too philosophical for a Friday evening, apologies :P

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These are some books mentioned on the Wikipedia page for We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

Putting them here as a reminder to read them later:

The Iron Heel by Jack London:

Generally considered to be “the earliest of the modern Dystopian”, it chronicles the rise of an oligarchic tyranny in the United States. It is arguably the novel in which Jack London’s socialist views are most explicitly on display.

Love in the Fog of the Future by Andrei Marsov:

The book tackles the themes of the impossibility of attaining personal happiness and finding love under a totalitarian, socialist regime

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut:

It is a dystopia of automation, describing the dereliction it causes in the quality of life. The story takes place in a near-future society that is almost totally mechanized, eliminating the need for human laborers. This widespread mechanization creates conflict between the wealthy upper class—the engineers and managers who keep society running—and the lower class, whose skills and purpose in society have been replaced by machines.

Player Piano by Ayn Rand:

It takes place at some unspecified future date when mankind has entered another dark age. Technological advancement is now carefully planned (when it is allowed to occur at all) and the concept of individuality has been eliminated.

Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov:

The novel takes place in a prison and relates the final twenty days of Cincinnatus C., a citizen of a fictitious country, who is imprisoned and sentenced to death for “gnostical turpitude.”

The Foundation Pit by Andrei Platonov:

The plot of the novel concerns a group of workers living in the early Soviet Union. They attempt to dig out a huge foundation pit on the base of which a gigantic house will be built for the country’s proletarians. The workers dig each day but slowly cease to understand the meaning of their work. The enormous foundation pit sucks out all of their physical and mental energy.

Chapayev and Void by Victor Pelevin:

The book is set in two different times — after the October Revolution and in modern Russia. In the post-revolutionary period, Pyotr Pustota is a poet who has fled from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and who takes up the identity of a Soviet political commissar and meets a strange man named Vasily Chapayev who is some sort of an army commander. He spends his days drinking samogon, taking drugs and talking about the meaning of life with Chapayev.

And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave:

And the Ass Saw the Angel tells the story of Euchrid Eucrow, a mute born to an abusive drunken mother and a father obsessed with animal torture and the building of dangerous traps. The family live in a valley of fanatically religious Ukulites, where they are shunned. Euchrid’s mental breakdown includes horrific angelic visions, and the story builds towards Euchrid exacting terrible vengeance on the people who have made him suffer.

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Controversial opinion from The Guardian:

Search engine optimisation (SEO) was always a flawed concept. At its worst, it means making web content less engaging for the reader but supposedly better for search robots and for the mysterious algorithms that determine the order in which results appear for a Google search. At its best, it means no more than following best practice in creating clear, accessible web sites with intelligible content, meaningful titles, descriptive “alt” attributes for image, no broken links, and the rest of what makes for a high-quality web destination.

Not sure I agree :P

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