More from: Meta

Getting Things Done

I just listened to the most recent Triangulation podcast episode, where Leo and Tom talked to Dave Allen, the guy who developed the productivity system called Getting Things Done. I’ve not read Dave’s books on the matter, but the general idea is this:

– Your brain is a terrible place to keep notes and lists.
– Write down what you need to accomplish.
– Break the goals into various tasks (called “actionable items” in this system).
– If you can do a task in under 2 minutes, do it right away.
– If you can’t do a task now, forget about it.
– If you have open work time, check the list for the next actionable item you have time to complete. Do it.
– Review your list every day.
– Do a more in depth review every week.

I think that’s about it. If you have the system in place, and you can trust it, you no longer have to think and stress about what to do next.

And that’s the key thing I want to touch on here; if you put something in a list, you don’t need to think about it while you get on with other tasks.

Sounds good!

Except. Except if the task is a creative one.

In Bram’s episode of Luke’s Creative Podcast, we talked about writing down show ideas. He writes down everything. I used to write down everything.

The reason I stopped writing down all my juggling show ideas is that once I did so, the idea would be “completed” and I’d no longer think about it. Just as the Getting Things Done system suggests.

But if I DIDN’T write it down, I’d keep thinking about it. And I’d think about it while doing other things, other jobs, even while working on other juggling acts. The idea would grow organically in my head, and gain inspirations from other events and jobs, and get stronger and stronger.

Of course, there are some ideas I didn’t write down, and promptly forgot. This might be a bad thing, or it might not. Maybe I forgot those ideas because they weren’t worth remembering or considering further. Maybe.

I’ve found the same thing happening in my other creative pursuits too. When I have a story idea, I sometimes write it down. When I go back to it, I’ve not been mulling it over, and it seems a bit empty. But if I don’t write the story down, and it’s a good one, I run it over and over in my head, and it can’t help but become more elaborate and complex, and more interesting, and so I think about it more.

Unfortunately this means I have, at any one time, four novels bouncing around in my head, as well as numerous short story ideas.

Thankfully I’m pretty good at getting things done, partly because I’ve developed a way to systemize my goals and tasks myself, and partly because I have waaaaay more free time than most people. Even if I waste hours and hours a day, I still have plenty of time to write blog posts like this.

Apart from my list of Plan and Goals for 2011 (which I didn’t post here on my blog this year, but here’s my list for 2010), I have a running to do list.

At the top are links to blog posts and videos that I find while disconnected from the internet (which is most of the time while working on a cruise ship) and that I’ll check out when I get home.

Next are books I want to add to my to-read list on GoodReads.com.

Below that are “creative” things. For example, here are the blog posts I want to write:

“Blog post about photo shoot.”

I must have added this about 10 months ago, as I did the photo shoot for a front cover of a juggling magazine with my old DSLR camera.

“Post 5 ball routine.”

I have a 10 minute video of a comedy routine I do with 5 balls and an audience volunteer. One day I’ll upload it to YouTube and write a blog post about it here on the blog.

“Blog post about new camera”

Right. A review of the Canon 60D. Which I’ve now had for 10 months or so.

“Kotor”

I visited Kotor, in Montenegro, and have a series of photos already uploaded. But I want to present the photos in an interesting way, which I’ve yet to think about fully. When did I visit Kotor? April 28th. April 28th in 2010.

“Controlling the Frame of Reference
– Modern Christians and their knowledge of the Bible
– The Bible as History”

Two more essays I thought about writing to go along with my Spiritual Experiences and Atheism blog post. You know, the one I wrote a year and a half ago.

And so the list continues.

Are any of these tasks important to me? Yes! I’d love to write all of them.

Yet because I wrote them down in my to do list, I no longer pondered them. I didn’t work out what I wanted to say in each one. Then, when I have some time, I look at my to do list, and these tasks stare back at me. Instead of being able to complete them right away, I’d have to think about them quite a bit first.

But I have my laptop open in front of me. And I have lots of ideas rolling around in my head. Like some photos I want to develop in LightRoom. Or a video I want to edit. Or some song lyric ideas I want to jot down. Or a website I want to read.

Or a blog post about not being able to think about stuff once I’ve written it down.

So the “already thought about task I didn’t write in my to do list” gets done right away, and the “in my to do list task” is put off for almost two years. Maybe I need to make a list of “things to think about next time you don’t know what to think about” but I don’t have that much control over what my brain thinks about.


Diary for a year – an textual analysis.

This is going to be a bit of strange blog post, but I’ll see how it turns out.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I kept a diary for a year. All of it is in text files, sitting in a folder on my hard drive, backed up on various hard drives and in the cloud.

So now what do I do with it?

Well, it’s been handy to look up names of people I’ve met, or places I’ve been, but as time passes that will be less useful.

In 10 years time I could read through the whole thing, and see how much of a dick I was, but there’s no way I’m going to read through the whole thing now.

But I want to see how much I can learn about my life when I was aged 30 years old. So here goes!

First step: combine all text files into one. I’ve done that already, using Automator on OSX. It’s handy for stuff like this.

Step two: write a python script that filters out all punctuation, line breaks, tab breaks and spaces.

This leaves me with a huge list of over 200,000 words.

Step three: modify script so it counts up how many times I’ve used each word.

Easy!

Total number of unique words in the diary: 9,608. Is that a lot? I guess it’s a pretty varied vocabulary.

The top 10 most common words:

10449	 i
9310	 the
7244	 and
7115	 to
5633	 a
2871	 it
2705	 in
2573	 of
2327	 my
2280	 but

Boring!

Step four: import into a spreadsheet where I can scroll through the words and tag each one as either a Name, a Place, a kind of Food, an Action or an Object. The vast majority of words are none of these, of course.

This is more time consuming, of course. I decided to ignore all words I only used once or twice each, as they make up about two thirds of the 9,608 words. And I’m just not clever enough at python scripting to do anything like this automagically (and certainly not while unconnected from the internet) so I tagged each word by hand.

The results?

Let’s start with food-related words. I’ll share the top 24.

267	 food
227	 breakfast
126	 dinner
97	 pizza
47	 burger
47	 eat
44	 drinks
42	 lunch
34	 eating
31	 tea
30	 drinking
25	 shots
21	 pasta
21	 tasty
18	 cake
17	 mustafas
16	 cheese
16	 chocolate
16	 hungry
16	 milk
16	 yummy
13	 coffee
11	 crepe
10	 parliamento

I think this is quite educational. I mention “pizza” more times than I mention “lunch”. This doesn’t mean I ate pizza more times than I ate lunch, but I guess pizza is more important for me to record in my diary than one meal of the day.

Burger probably ranks so high because of the 8 Bacon Cheeseburgers in 8 Days project I undertook last September. Since then I’ve eat more burgers than I normally would do in a year, mainly to see if I can find a tastier burger. And, of course, with such a project in mind I’ll write about it in my diary more often.

Mustafa’s Hänchen Gemuse Kebab? The best kebab place in Berlin which happens to be right on my street? 17 visits in the last year, I’m guessing. And 10 trips to Pizza Parliamento, my favorite pizza restaurant near my apartment.

“Tasty” and “yummy” pop up more than I would have thought. I guess “yummy” is a word I’d use more in a diary than normal conversation.

Next set of results:

Places!

139	 berlin
127	 park
122	 bar
71	 apartment
71	 hotel
65	 ejc
61	 hot-tub
52	 airport
47	 gym
41	 prinsendam
40	 london
39	 bookshop
37	 cabin
32	 hill
27	 cafe
26	 boat
25	 theatre
24	 bank
24	 ubahn
21	 port

Berlin wins, of course. But there’s a lot to learn about me here. “Park” means Victoria Park in Berlin, where I go to juggle every day when the weather is good.

“Bar” is self explanatory, right?

“Hot-tub”? When the weather is good in Berlin I go hang out in the park. When the weather is good while I’m on a cruise ship, and even when it isn’t, I usually spend an hour per day in the hot-tup and pool. On a sea day I hang out while the sun sets, otherwise I hang out while we sail out of the port.

“EJC” isn’t just a place, but an event, which I mention throughout the year as I was part of the organizing team.

“Gym” in NO WAY means a place where I get fit. Instead it means the gymnasiums at juggling conventions.

The “Prinsendam” is a ship that I perform on six or seven times a year. And other words like “airport”, “cabin, “boat”, “hotel”, “ubahn”, and “port” just show how much travel is a big part of my life.

Next results?

Activities/Verbs. A top 20:

772	 went
568	 show
565	 think
441	 work
427	 juggling
385	 going
265	 chatted
265	 said
259	 sleep
244	 make
239	 played
193	 guess
160	 chatting
157	 met
152	 tried
146	 ate
146	 feel
146	 remember
141	 play
139	 found

This seems pretty standard, I guess. And saying “I guess” might explain why I do so much guessing.

Looking further down the list, I notice “116 sex”. I know for a fact I didn’t have sex 116 times!

And then “97 shower”. I know for a fact I had a shower more than 97 times!

“Combat” is mentioned 90 times. And “juggle” (as opposed to “juggling”) another 83 times, and “juggle” 80 times.

Way down the list is “uploaded” at 47 mentions, but that’s high above “downloaded” at 23 mentions. I guess this shows that uploading new content like podcasts and photography is more important. Or something.

Strangely “photography” only gets 68 mentions. I thought this would be higher, but it’s just down to word choice, I guess. That brings me on to the next set of results…

Things, objects, nouns, etc. The top 20:

375	 bed
298	 photos
267	 food
222	 room
214	 video
205	 ship
197	 music
183	 internet
183	 song
168	 club
152	 book
143	 podcast
139	 stage
130	 head
129	 shows
110	 camera
109	 game
109	 songs
100	 guitar
99	 facebook

See? Photography is very important to me. So is music and performing, and reading, and my online life.

I’m not sure what else I need to mention about this list of words.

And on to the final set…

People!

This time, to be a bit more inclusive, I’ll list the top 30.

279	 Julianne
242	 kim-nga
104	 luke
69	 kissha
68	 pola
62	 daniel
54	 declan
49	 olga
48	 eva
44	 karo
43	 alex
39	 doreen
37	 flo
35	 jeff
33	 dj
33	 nathan
33	 scott
31	 rym
29	 john
28	 billy
28	 kyle
26	 christine
26	 jesse
26	 tim
25	 jochen
24	 david
23	 nat
22	 corinna
22	 jessica
22	 jj
22	 lee

And let’s just start at the top. “Juliane” is, of course, my current girlfriend. I met her for the first time at the start of June, so she wins by quite a number of mentions in under three months worth of diary.

Second place is “Kim-Nga” who was my girlfriend last year. We were together from October to early January, so about three months again. Though “together” is funny word for a long distance relationship.

Third place is “Luke” which is me. This is because I addressed many diary entries to my future self, saying “Hey Future Luke, reading back over this diary, here’s what you did today. This is reflected in the song I wrote last September called Future Luke.

Kissha is friend in Berlin who I kinda dated in the spring. Pola is my ex-ex-girlfriend who still pops up in my life quite often. But in a good way, as we are still friends.

And then as I look down I see friends I hang out with in Berlin, people I’ve spent time with on cruise ships, people who have stayed at my place, people I’ve been to juggling conventions with, and people I met last year in New York.

Some people don’t feature much in my diary though, even though they feature quite large in my life. I’m not sure why I didn’t mention them more.

This includes:

1. Girls I met in Berlin, with whom I hoped to begin some kind of relationship, but for some reason it didn’t work out. So I’d think about them quite a bit, and mention them every now and then in my diary, but wouldn’t make it in every time I thought about them, only when I met them, or planned to meet them.

2. People I spent just a few days with on a single trip, and might have changed the direction of my life in a big way, but following that I didn’t meet them again.

3. People whom I chat with on an almost daily basis online, who are just part of my every day life but I don’t “do” anything with them worth writing about in my diary.

And then some people on this list are there for negative reasons. “Lee” was a very annoying guest entertainer I had the displeasure of spending three weeks with on a cruise in the spring. In fact, I didn’t spend much time with him, I actively avoided him, but the other entertainers kept getting annoyed with him, and all I heard from them were complaints.

Actually, I think Lee is the only negative placement in the above list.

Finally, in the 365 days I was aged 30, I had sex with 5 girls. I’ll not say who they were, but I’m glad they all made the top 30 above.

That’s it! This is such a weirdly abstract way to analyze ones life, I’m not sure if it is helpful or unhelpful. I don’t think there’s anything else I need to share about my life for a while.

Last note:

The longest “word” in the diary came out as “long-distance-non-dating-friend-with-no-benefits”. This is a specially invented term for Robyn!


Diary for a year (or “why it’s been quieter on the blog the last 365 days”)

Last year, on my birthday, I decided to keep a diary. Why? For various reasons, but for a start, here’s part of the very first entry:

“I was listening to a podcast featuring Richard Herring. In it he did a book reading, from his latest book, called How Not To Grow Up. The subject matter really resonated with me. Oh Fuck I’m Forty, and all that.

I’m not forty, but today I turned thirty.

In How Not To Grow Up, Richard talks about maturity and many other subjects. There was one part where he mentioned eating chicken, and pitying another overweight 30-something in the queue. Thankfully I don’t find myself that pitiful. Or do I?

No, I don’t.

The other thing Richard talked about was keeping a diary, alongside his more public blog. He can’t write about relationships online, as people might read it. The wrong people.

But when he came to write his book, the blog was only half the story. The diary was also very important.

So I thought “I should write a diary too!” Who knows, maybe in a decade I can look back at this part of my life and write a book based on my diary, and my blog, and the photos from the time. That probably won’t happen, but this could be fun. Maybe I’ll only keep it up for a week. Maybe a month. A year would be awesome. Or maybe until another random life event.”

That was on August 26th, 2010. It’s now August 27th 2011.

And it turned out that keeping a diary for a whole year was a fun experience. I wrote in varying detail about what I’d done each day, who I’d met, and the various bits of media I consumed.

More importantly I ended each day with “Thoughts:” and tried to set out what and how I felt about my current life, work, play, relationships, health, etc.

I learned a HUGE amount about myself. It’s like having an ultra-personal conversation with someone every day, and it made me think through many aspects of my life that previously would go unexplored.

Simply put, I think keeping a diary made me a better person.

And now I have 365 text files, each named for the date in a 20110826 format. So what next?

I’m going to stop writing my diary. The reasons are pretty simple, I think.

1. I’ve become way better at thinking things through. At the end of the day I’ve developed the habit of considering what I’m doing in life, and the actual writing it down is secondary to the mental exercise.

2. I think doing something like this for more than a year makes into a chore rather than a fun activity. I’ve set my self year-long goals before. For example, in 2002 I spent the entire year sleeping on the floor. The only time I slept in a bed was when invited in by a girl, and I thought it would be a stupid move to ask her to join me on the floor for the sake of a pointless challenge. And in 2003 I didn’t drink alcohol for an entire year.

So yeah, a year of doing something rather than not doing something is fun, and it lets me prove to myself how well I can stick at something.

3. My life has settled down a bit more. When I started writing the diary I had no girlfriend, and wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted out of life. Now I’m in a very enjoyable relationship and I’ve found some kind of direction again. Or re-affirmed my previous ideas.

4. TIME and ENERGY!

This is a big one. I’ll write up another blog post about just how much I wrote. But it took time out of every day, and if I fell behind it would take more time as I had to remember back.

In total I wrote, in the combined text from 365 days of diary entries, 210,019 words. That works out at 453 printed A4 pages.

If that was a novel, it would be a really chunky novel!

And as I also like to write novels, all my writing time, and all my writing head space in the evenings, was all going into my diary rather than into fiction writing. And even then I wrote about 50,000 to 70,000 words of fiction in the last year.

And not only fiction writing, but blog posts too. I used to get my thoughts down in writing when I had something to share here on the blog, but for the last year all my thoughts have gone down in my blog first… and then I’ve not written them up for a public audience.

So, for all those reasons, I’m going to stop writing my diary. Look out for way more content on my blog, and please don’t mind if some of it is slightly personal in nature. (Though not TOO personal, don’t worry!)


Nigel Green vs Jesus (comment conversation)

Here on my blog I shared a podcast I recorded with Rym and Scott of the Geeknights podcast. In it we talk about the Jesus Myth Hypothesis, which looks at the character of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible, and questions whether it is based on a real, historical figure.

I got an interesting comment from a listener, which you can read in full here.

I emailed Endre a response, but I thought I’d share it here too…

Hi Endre,

Thanks for listening to my rambling podcasts. The Geeknights one was especially jumbled because I hadn’t actually planned to go into any specific details, and instead we just had a conversation.

“I recently listened to your Geeknights podcast about the historicity of the bible. It is a bit jumbled, and a great deal of it I don’t have any issue with, but I think I would recommend you to reconsider your position on the historicity of Jesus (as a historical person, not a magical saviour that can turn water into wine).”

I think I made it quite clear in the podcast that I’m not convinced either way about the historicity of Jesus. If pushed, I would say he probably didn’t exist, but it’s always a question of probabilities, right? And my main point that is even if the very first story of Jesus, however far back you can take it, was based on a real person, there is no evidence at all that all anything we know about the “character” of Jesus could apply to him at all. The things he said? To me it looks like collections of sayings from the various sects and philosophies of the first century. The things he did? Well, either he did miraculous things, or he did nothing. And if miracles don’t exist, he was nothing but a faker or magician. Or, more likely, the stories told about other characters were applied to him.

So at the root of all the made up stories (which isn’t a pejorative accusation, by the way) what do we have? Some guy, who probably didn’t do anything credited to Jesus, and probably didn’t say anything credited to Jesus. What is the point of even valuing him at that point?

Also, you say:

“My main problem with this issue is that if the stringency and hyper-critical evaluation of sources in examining the historicity of Jesus was to be applied broadly to ancient history, we would pretty much wipe it out as a field of study – our sources on a lot of the ancient world are extremely sparse.”

Here I completely disagree, but in a subtle two-fold way.

First, I think that every claim and story and character should be looked at in a hyper-critical way. And, if it seems there isn’t enough evidence to support their existence without any doubt, what should we do? We should doubt. Doubt is good. Especially with sparse sources. Some characters are more probable more truly historic (Socrates) and some are less probable (Hercules). As a quick side note, I see Jesus much more in the vein of Hercules than Socrates.

And I have good reason to doubt EVERY source, and EVERY claim. You know why? Every time a newspaper reporter has written about me, they have made three or four major mistakes. And every time I ever read any newspaper story about a subject or incident I know a lot about, I see loads of mistakes. So everything I read in the media is through a lens of doubt, because just because I don’t know enough to know WHAT the reporter is getting wrong, I know they are getting SOMETHING wrong.

Also, back in 2001 I created a character on a newgroup called rec.juggling. I think it took just 12 posts under the name of Nigel J. Green, and he was one of the most famous and controversial characters in the online juggling community. At the British Juggling Convention in the spring of 2001, I had Nigel Green write that he would be there, but only during the day as he was staying with a friend in Cardiff (the city where the convention was held). During and after the convention, I heard many people talking about him, and some said they saw someone that was probably him.

Even after I exposed the entire hoax, Nigel Green kept popping up in other situations. And now, 10 years later, in every show I do I talk about “My first juggling teacher when I was a young boy, who was much better than me at juggling at the time, called Nigel Green.” That means every year thousands of people hear about Nigel Green, and they have no reason to presume I’m lying. Why should they? I use the name Nigel Green because the real name of my first juggling teacher was Daniel Cock, and I don’t want to say Cock on stage.

Second, I don’t think holding every element of ancient history to critical evaluation would wipe it out as a field of study. In fact, I think the opposite. Or at least, I think that tracing the ideas and elements and memes of the stories about the characters is just as important and interesting as the historical figures themselves.

As I hinted before, the true Jesus, if he really existed, was probably way more boring than the Jesus we know and understand today. But what I find so fascinating about history is how we’ve come to have the Jesus we know today.

Because the conflicting reports in the gospels doesn’t mean we know less about Jesus, it instead means we know more about the different religions and sects and philosophies and movements of the first and second century. Just using the gospels we can track different formulations of divinity, and see the modes of thought as they developed. Each of the Gospels comments on the others, either directly or by talking about the kind of people who would later compile other gospels.

So we give up Jesus, but we gain people like Polykarp, Simon Magus, James the Just, John the Baptist, Marcione, and so many others. It’s the same with the old testament writings too. We give up pretty much everything before about 700 BC, but we gain new understanding about the true people and religions that developed in Canaan in that time.

And it’s the same with Nigel Green. We give up some guy who bullied other jugglers online, and we gain a new understanding about the story of online and real-life juggling subcultures.

I’m not going to read your sources, as I’ve no intention of delving into online discussion forums. I already know all the problems with the Christ Myth Hypothesis. I have problems with it myself. But I have problems with the wholesale acceptance of him as “probably historical” and then letting that frame any debate from then on. I want people to be honest about this. I don’t have a dog in the fight, you know. I’ve not written books about the subject arguing either way, nor am I religious, nor do I have anything against people with religious beliefs.

I hope you don’t mind such a response to your blog comment! Thanks for letting me clarify my position.


Wrapping up plans and goals for 2010.

Soooooo…. that was quite a marathon of blog posts about what I did in 2010! Maybe soon I’ll get round to posting my plans and goals for 2011. Again, this shit is as much for me to keep track of what I’ve done than for anyone bored enough to read the more wordy posts to this blog.

At the end of my original 2010 blog post I reduced the entire list down to 2 points, the two most important plans and goals for 2010:

The first was to continue working on cruise ships, and continue improving my solo show. This has been a great success, and I’m better than ever, with many prospects for the future.

The second was to work very hard on my Room Theatre Project, which has been a failure considering my lofty expectations at the beginning of the year. I think I set my goals too high.

In fact, I think I remember saying that the two goals worked against each other, as one relied on me being away from Berlin, and the other relied on me being in Berlin. It turned out “away from Berlin” won out, and whenever I was in Berlin I was concentrating on other projects, and socializing, and just relaxing at home, rather than trying to work on entire new show.

Again, I’m going to let this inform any plans I make for 2011 and beyond.

In conclusion: 2010 proved to be a very productive year! And a lot of fun. How can it not be fun? I have the best job in the world, one which leaves me almost as much free time as it is possible to have.