Monthly update: Hacking the passage of time and crypto fads

Mar 27, 2021 11:01 am

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Here's what had my attention in March...

What I've been up to

πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ It's been over a year since I started writing these monthly updates, and the subheading "What I've been up to" now seems as archaic as "The telegrams I've received this week".

Clearly, I've not been up to anything. In fact, I'm astonished it's nearly April because it genuinely seems like it was only Christmas a few weeks ago.

When my wife and I used to travel for the majority of the year (full backstory here), a happy side-benefit (on top of, y'know, sun) was that it slowed the passage of time significantly. The scientific explanation is that when you have new experiences, your brain has to work harder to process them – which has the effect of slowing your perception of time.

We're currently living that in reverse: when your big choice for the day is which direction to do your daily walking loop in, your brain spends most of its time on autopilot and the days zoom by in one big blur.

For the sake of this newsletter and the world in general, I hope we'll all be able to do some more exciting things soon. In the meantime, to prevent it being Christmas again before you know it, it's worth thinking about how you can cram in as much variety as possible within the current constraints.

πŸ“† Sometimes I feel like I've been cursed to roam the earth for all eternity in search of the perfect note-taking system.

OK no, that's nonsense, but despite having a to-do system I've stuck with for the better part of a decade, I'm yet to find a method of capturing notes and ideas that really works for me.

I went back into the hunt this month, and after watching various YouTube videos of people showing off their process, I spotted a flaw: the type of people who make videos about note-taking are also the people who make money from teaching people how to take notes, so they have the time and motivation to maintain ridiculously elaborate systems that are total overkill for almost everyone else.

Anyway. I'm now a few weeks into using a tool called Obsidian with some success, and if it works out I'll put something together showing how it can work for normal people.

(Other observations: Notion is too heavy for me but lots of people love it, Bear is a good lightweight option for the basics, Roam is clever but feels like joining a cult, Evernote deserves a dignified retirement, and I never want to hear the word "zettelkasten" again.)

What I've published

– How money is created. A sort-of companion piece to my article on QE, in which I explain the counter-intuitive way money comes to exist. It's a process "so simple the mind is almost repelled", as JK Galbraith put it.

– My 10 rules for life. I save the most important one for last.

– The four-second meditation practice. Why I've found fleeting moments of meditation to be just as effective as the real thing.

What I've enjoyed

πŸ§˜β€β™‚οΈ Speaking of meditation, this article about meditation-induced mental disorders is fascinating, sad and scary.

πŸ‘Ά I read a lot of parenting books, because drawing on the world's collective knowledge is the only hope I have of staying half a step ahead of my son. Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff is one of my favourites: she and her toddler visit three hunter-gatherer societies around the world, and see what parenting lessons she can learn from them.

It's a quick and easy read, and I've already tried out several ideas that are making my weekends calmer. Although I don't have him hunting reindeer with a crossbow just yet.

πŸ–Ό In the corner of the internet I spent most time in, everyone is suddenly talking about NFTs – AKA "Non-Fungible Tokens". The basic concept involves using blockchain technology to create unarguable proof of who owns something – which could involve items in the real world (like art or property), but is currently focused on digital assets (like artwork and music files).

A recurring theme in crypto is whenever a new technology emerges, it's used for daft speculation before it's applied to something useful. We saw it a few years back with ICOs (of which 86% have lost money), have seen it recently with DeFi ("decentralised finance"), and it's happening again now with NFTs (where a digital artwork file sold for $69 million).

With all fads like this, I try to learn enough to get a rough understanding because the underlying technology will likely become important one day even if the current use-cases are silly. This podcast episode is a good place to learn the basics from an enthusiast, and for balance this article is scathing about the whole sector.

πŸ‘‹That’s it for March! It'd be great to hear from you if you've got news or recommendations to share.



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