Future-proof your skills with Linux, Python, vim & git as I share with you the most timeless and love-worthy tools in tech through my two great projects that work great together.

A NamedTuple For Each Week You've Been Alive

This blog post explores the 80/20 rule, low empathy, and how the way people interact with machines is changing. I'm a 52 year old man looking for a balance between order and chaos, and I'm using JupyterLab and Python to code. I'm also suggesting journaling and tracking progress with weeks to get the most out of the experience. Join me as I explore the challenges of staying productive and organized as I age.

Finding Balance in Life: Exploring the 80/20 Rule, Low Empathy, and Machine Interaction as I Age

By Michael Levin

Monday, January 2, 2023

THE 80/20 RULE There’s a rule — I let it guide What I would do, I do abide To organize so 1/5th done If derided, still I’ve won.

Productivity should be a byproduct of things you would do out of love, anyway.

Giving Each Week in Life an ID starting with the week of your birth.

People will try to walk all over you, very unsympathetically. They can’t relate to you as a member of their tribe, and thus with their low empathy towards you comes high cruelty.

Surprisingly, it’s nothing personal. If you stand up for yourself and speak out against them, everyone will be surprised for if nobody empathized with you, nobody sees a problem. A lot of like is like that. If you don’t want to me the mush between the dinosaurs’ toes, you need some smart strategy.

So you’re bred and evolved and naturally selected or whatever to burrow underground or to become prickly or to be fast and alert, or some combination of these and other traits. An inefficient and sloppy, yet highly effective recombinant trait-bundling and inheritance process, plus a high degree of improbability, led to you.

No matter how many billions of people there are on the planet, you are unique beyond compare. What I’m going to do to prove it to you is to talk to you starting from here… opening a new dialogue and shaping a surprising discussion.

Previously, posts like this would have existed in the void. No inbound links to speak of and no SEO-juice on my site. I’m known for maybe a few things, and they’re rapidly going away. As the way people interface with machines change, so does my career, but as with the Pandemic as I put to my child, this is not bad. We are all still so fortunate and blessed to be here in this world, occupying a turn as a sentient being here on Earth, at this time and place in the history of this young Universe.

It’s not bad. It’s just new, and we will adapt. Things aren’t so bad so long as you’re still alive and living a somewhat comfortable but challenging life. If the challenge stops, we stop evolving and stagnate and invent our own unnecessary drama. We might as well move humanity forward and focus such energies on survival. Let’s not be greedy, but let’s survive.

Value and cherish our home planet. Our planet of origin is something special. It’s a coordinate of interest in the spacetime tour-guide. Douglas Adams got so very much right. If he used 137 instead of 42, he would have nailed it. That story would have gone from classic to religion-inducing epic. Maybe it actually is. Adams certainly got the gist of the thing. Boy I’m glad GitHub reignited the popular use of the term gist.

Guido van Rossum did a lot of good channeling of reality too. Things thunk down more simplified. But there’s a delicate balance at which the tool remains timeless and useful. Too much done, like a Web framework built on and it gets dated fast, a few years or so. Your career will last much longer than that, and if you stay in tech over all that time, plan on doing an awful lot of retraining and relearning and just generally have a lot about your experience, proficiencies, skills, habits and muscle memory to be impacted fairly soul wrenchingly every 2 to 5 years.

It sucks. It made me hate tech and to want to turn away from it more than one time. Coleco Adam, Commodore Amiga, Microsoft ASP, Macromedia Flash. I mean, come on. How much can a guy take before he flips off an entire industry that seems to have a cruel sense of humor towards modern tech plumbers and carpenters?

Can you just not be a hands-on implementation dude or dudette without having to repeatedly rediscover religion? Can’t what you do in tech both feed your soul and last a few decades, perchance a lifetime? Can’t I just keep getting better. That’s a thing I love about Martial Arts with its katas and sparring. You exercise in 2 very different ways, but the tools, weapons and implements are pretty well standard. It’s a big deal when a sport changes its equipment specification. All past records are broken and the game gets boring. Being balanced in the vibrating edge is where you can efficiently covert potential to actual with a hard-won time-honed skill.

It’s a very satisfying live image in my head, and it’s the one I pursue today at fifty-two years old. I’m over half-way there. I should be feeling my midlife crisis sometime soon I suppose. It’s never too late to start. Look at want Stan Lee did starting the 2nd half of his life. And my goals ain’t near so big. Or in a way, they are. And they riff off of Stan Lee well. Yo kin Stan.

Me? I’m just some guy. Piecing it together at long last. Switching my algorithm output from explore to exploit, such as it were. Terrible word, exploit. But alternatives aren’t snappy. I’m switching from winding the catapult to cutting the ropes. But it’s not that entirely clear. There’s no condensed moment of release. I’m blogging a book out finally, I guess. Maybe but not really. I’ll just keep writing, but for once in my life, I’ll start organizing. I’ll get organized, or something like it.

In the battle between order and chaos, my alignment is pretty neural. And chaotic isn’t evil, you D&D-heads. I could never play an evil character in D&D and I see the same pattern in my kid, and that makes be proud. They’ll likely have little interest ever in way Dad does, but I’m holding that someday they do. I’ll do my best to make it age well. I’m battling the flavor of antiquity. Whatever Windows version you’re on now, or Mac or Linux Desktop too, it’s bound to be ancient to the point of unusable to future generations.

Can’t there be ancient and usable? Isn’t there anything in tech that transmits down through the generations in tech and ages well? Well yes. There are a few things as it turn out that meet these requirements quite nicely. They’re not perfect, but then what is? They are however the beneficiary of someone at some point channeling well balanced medium-granularity of tools. To precise and the things you assemble from scratch will be fragile and take years to build. Too broad, and everything looks like a nail, and all you’ve got is a hammer.

The LISP meta-language from the 1950s and 60s hit a fundamental first, but it failed to catch on except insofar as it’s principles and techniques of layering-on highly specialized domain-specific languages, such as CSS, JavaScript & HTML is alive and well today in the form of full-stack Web Dev. Go read some Paul Graham essays. Got it? LISP is a language for making sub-languages that break a problem down and tackle it from different angles like HTML, CSS & JavaScript.

Everything you learn there is highly keyed to today’s realities and hardware and communication systems. Everything in Web development assumes a lot and ties the skills of those who learn them to a very particular time and place on Earth. Your knowledge, know-how and very expertise becomes quickly perishable — certainly more quickly than you deserve for the work you put into having gotten there.

Back when we used JavaScript is what this epoch will be known as and these coordinates labeled with in the Hitchhkers Guide.

Can’t we be the Samurai warrior of tech — oops, they died out from changing tech realities. Bad example. Maybe we should or a skilled master craftsman… I mean skilled main craftsperson, without 3D printers that print cities and food and art making all human endeavor pointless? Watch WALL-E. We don’t want to be like the humans on that colony ship. Balance population by eating your dead while robots pamper you is not an enticing future. Keep some challenge in your life.

How long is your life? How should you track your goals? How do you explore your thoughts do that you even know who you are and what you want? Journaling with a pen on paper, piling up with the awful combination of attributes of unsearchable and insecure. They can be lost and are not easily backed up. And what are you going to get out of them if you can’t search through them super-easily for the rest of your life? I mean isn’t keeping a journal well sort of a source of super powers this day and age?

Indeedy it is. I’ve kept journals on paper form starting 1988, when I was 18 years old, moving out of my idyllic childhood house. I was like Craig in Craig of the Creek. I made the map, at least in my head setting out a different direction each day and going as far as I could go, right across technically neighbors properties and all. We were aware. We just knew how to be polite and skirt. And people maybe cared less then. A real 80s stereotype orange-couched household. That was us. When it all ended, I was 18 going off to college, but still living from home (not committing). So I’m might have been moving out anyway, but as it turns out I moved out with my dad into Philly-burbs apartment life.

How long ago was that? Well, let’s see… shouldn’t there me a way in human though to just calculate all this? Keep track, calculate, coordinate and organize? Is everything about the human experience just wisps of un-captured thought, not really layering up anywhere to become a tangible physical asset besides inside your head? Hmmm. Vim.

Vim for you, I assure you it’s true. You won’t think so at first, then you’ll be super-great duo I talked you into just getting over that weird, initial awkward terrible hump. I’m going to get you to vimtutur fast, because the very thing that is the barrier to entry is the thing vim’s built-in vimtutor addresses. So have hope of your exposure to vim-users so far had been intimidating and disheartening. They got there slowly over the years, I assure you. So the sooner you start, the better.

Okay, I got vim out of the way. Vim itself is not a fundamental. It’s the vi text editor from 1976 that is today written into the Unix standard that is at root here. But the particular implementation vim isn’t that bad because you’re going be be investing a lot of your life into keyboard macro recording, playback and editing ability. Macro implementations vary by version of vi-clone. Vim’s the most popular, quite usable, and built-in on most Linux distributions. Learn vi(?m) and you can control text under most conditions, and many beyond what VSCode are keyed towards.

Forget plugins. You don’t need them. Don’t depend on them. Plugins land on the wrong side of API-granularity thunking. There’s some fuzzy text-matching for navigating files (such as nerdtree) that will be allowable under extreme conditions, but why’d you let your files get so messy? Don’t you instinctively just know where everything is? Get your dumb ass organized so you don’t rely on nerdtree-like vim plugins.

But things can not just end here at “learn vim”. That would be ridiculous. Where’s your level-seeking dopamine hit going to come from. Learning to quit vim, which you should totally learn how to do soon, won’t give you that massive sense of accomplishment soon scrolling has taught us to expect in all pastimes in the modern age. Good news!

The Jupyter Project’s got your back. Tech is all about accessibility. If it’s not of immediate use without investing much time into learning a user interface, what good is it? I mean, get with the times daddy-o. Oh, okay. Concession granted to Jupyter “Notebooks”, which are the Free and Open Source Software’s (FOSS) solution to specialized expensive college-student and scientist software called MATLAB. Or is that Mathematica? Jupyter’s Python on a Web browser. It’s most excellent.

Onlu with such highly accessible FOSS systems that come from such wonderful people with so noble a goal as the Jupyter Project that I make my first major deviation from my Linux, Python, vim & git mantra. Jupyter more-or-less fixes science by casting a spell of clarity and reproducibility. All processes be one-click re-runnable with the same results. And you can mix the code with the documentation with the data all in one big beautiful stew. Oh, and the visualization tools are top-notch, JavaScript-based as they are. You get to outsource all that messy visualization code to JS-nuts willing to do it. You just configure iPyWigets and such.

So Jupyter’s okay. Not so much Anaconda anymore because look at its licensing. But Jupyter appears to be escaping that surprise licensing change. Use Jupyter without Anaconda. In fact, use Jupyter without Windows, but for the Windows browser you use to access it. Where it runs should be of little concern to you, except insofar as you not wanting to code-in unnecessary dependencies — especially that most terrible one of it being able to be taken away from you either by not paying a could bill or deprecated APIs. Just run your code local and on Linux.

The good news is that we’re in a golden age. Microsoft lets you run Linux for free and pretty darn well right on your Windows desktop on such a way that the door to old and still very powerful ways are thrown wide open before you. It’s true! Everything that was always just a little bit difficult and convoluted in the past have recently, and I’m talking only in the last few months recently, become mainstream easy doable.

Why would Microsoft do this so suddenly? Answer is, it wasn’t suddenly really. It’s been in the works since 2017. And Apple got MacOS onto Unix 10 years before that. Microsoft is actually late to the game, but they’re superbly well positioned… to first embrace Linux. Then to displace it with proprietary paid-for seductive services you can’t live without. For a paid GitHub account? Microsoft’s got you. Microsoft 360? Gotcha again. Oh but you only use VSCode? Worst of all, they got you by your editor.

Microsoft independence is very difficult in the short term, because GitHub at very least. But in the long-term, such Microsoft (and other vendor) independence should be a first principe goal. Shape your systems so that your descendants can instantiate them without a licensing issue. Could I make that clearer? Andy code that belongs to you potentially belongs to your children too in usable form. If you plan carefully, not merely information, but running instances of iinfotech systems become hereditary attributes. If you only run it on your home servers and only keep it on GitLab on those servers, nobody even need know it exists but you and yours.

So keep a journal. Start using Python in JuputerLab running on Linux on your Windows laptop. Undertake new endeavors in such a way that little breakthroughs have big long-term life-improving effect. Make the abstract real with examples. When taking inventory of one’s own life, approximately 5200 records is about right. Measure it in days and the number’s too big and loses meaning to the human brain. Measure it in years, and there’s not enough granularity to pinpoint important developments in your life, comparing one to another within the same year.

Weeks is about right. Let’s look at weeks.