• Josh

New Month Resolution #10

Updated: Apr 1

This is part of an ongoing series of monthly self-experiments; see the full list.

Update from Last Month (July 2020)

That little COVID bump from last month? It has grown into a monster.

The hope is that we’ve plateaued, but it remains to be seen. Source: JHU.

So, that’s not great. Israel has mostly not responded, merely increasing fines for failing to wear a mask but keeping most businesses / restaurants open.

Personally, I’ve started preparations for leaving Israel in September; my new job in Japan has informed me that I may not be able to arrive before my start date in October, so until then I will be working remotely in the US. When the borders reopen, I’ll make preparations to move to Japan, which may not be until 2021 (who knows). Until then, I’m excited to see family and travel with my girlfriend.

As for the blog, last month felt a bit light in terms of writing, but a highlight was a fairly detailed post about COVID exit strategies. My Links posts haven’t panned out so well, so I may turn them into part of the NMR posts, merging my monthly rituals into a single one, but we’ll see. I have several works in progress but haven’t had so much time for reading research or diverse learning, in part because of my Resolution from last month to read physical books. So, overall it’s been sababa, but we’ll see how this month goes.

Last Month’s Resolution

(+) Reading

Main resolution (+) was to read physical books, in particular the three books Law’s Order, Homo Deus, and Fooled By Randomness; the first two I had started and the third was from the beginning. To finish all remaining pages, I calculated that I’d need to roughly read 20 pages / day for the 31 days of July. How’d I do?

Blueish: ≥20 pages. Redish: <20 pages. Green highlight denotes finished book.

On 15/31 days, I completed the challenge by reading ≥20 pages, with an average 16.1 pages/day. But on days that I succeeded, I averaged 26.1 pages per day; mostly those pesky 0-page days killed the total average. Three of the five of the null-days were days that I was teaching (which makes clear how tired I am after teaching). In the end, after reading a total of 498 pages this month, I finished the first two books and am ~halfway through the third.

Did I enjoy the books? In brief, yes, they are all worth reading for different reasons.

  1. Law’s Order is a classical economist perspective of the study of law, using incentives and rational analysis of behavior to see why / whether current application of law is understandable; it is impressive how much can be understood on the basis of very simple premises.

  2. Homo Deus, written by the author of the bestseller Sapiens, is about how we can learn from history to make broad predictions about the direction of mankind, particularly in light of advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence; he rehashes some of his favorite arguments from Sapiens (e.g. about how religion, money, and nations are all “myth” and can be treated as part of the same category), but his conclusion about (SPOILER ALERT) the end of humanism and the rise of data-ism is worth thinking about.

  3. Fooled By Randomness is (so far) my favorite of Taleb’s writing; he outlines arguments for ignorance, why we should not be overconfident in predicting what will happen (particularly when it never has before), and how we can be smart and hedge against this uncertainty. This, plus his other work Antifragile that I read previously, make the point salient: Don’t leave yourself exposed to left-tail (negative) risks but keep any possible right-tail (positive) “risks” in hand.

Downside of this Resolution was that I consumed fewer ideas from other sources: blogs, podcasts, and the like. I also wrote less. Overall, I think I’ll keep reading physical books in the near future, though I may try to finish only one book per month at most; this month was a good jumpstart to the habit but I don’t want to give up on other good resources.

  1. Commitment: 4/5

  2. Difficulty: 4/5

  3. Results (+/- relative to my expectation): +4/5

  4. Likelihood to do it again the following month: 3/5

(-) Gluten-free

I gave up gluten for the month. Full disclosure, I made mistakes: (1) twice when I went out with my colleagues I drank beer with them; (2) the last few days of the month I fell off the wagon completely; and (3) I straight-up didn’t realize how many things have gluten in them! Did you know that sushi often has gluten (tempura and soy sauce)? Did you know that granola often has gluten? Did you know that many fried foods have gluten (because of the frying batter)? Did you know that many vitamins and supplements are made with starches, some of which are glutenous? I do now! (Here’s another good list of unexpected sources of gluten.)

Mostly gluten appears in certain kinds of grains, so things that contain wheat, barley, or rye are the main ones to avoid. It is possible to substitute flour of these varieties for gluten-free versions made of almond, buckwheat, teff, or the like. There are gluten-free versions of most foods; this month I tried GF pizza crust, bread, beer, pasta, cookies, and more. While there was often a difference in texture, and sometimes in flavor (GF version was usually less flavorful), overall I didn’t mind the change. I also ate more non-carbs to compensate for the carby calories I didn’t eat: meat and vegetables mostly.

One noticeable advantage was that I felt lighter, less weighed-down than I do when I’m eating glutenous foods; I tend to get tired after eating a carby meal, and with the GF options I felt less so. Maybe it was a dose problem though; when I eat pita I tend to overdo it and crash. I played with it to see if it was correlation and not causation by adding some gluten back and then dropping it in the middle of the month, and noticed the same: when I didn’t eat gluten I just generally felt better.

I learned a lot from being gluten-free, and saw how hard it is to really stick to it; I don’t envy those with celiac who really need to avoid as carefully as possible. In the future I may opt for gluten-free options just for the added energy benefits, however slight. I’ll be eating a gluten-free burger this week. 🙂

Up Next

In part because I’m moving soon, my room / life are a mess. I have things all over my desk and the floor of my room and on top of my keyboard:

Proof. At least I made the bed (kind of).

But my digital life is just as disordered, if not more:

Chrome, browser 1.

Chrome, browser 2 (where this blog lives).


Not pictured: My email inbox containing dozens of emails that I’m saving “for later”.

So this month, my resolution is all about organization. I am instituting a “clean desk(top) policy”, which extends to all surfaces of my room and my email inbox: nothing out of place, and put things away when I’m done with them. This means reducing to zero both my open browser tab count (closing browsers when I’m done) and my email count (snoozing when necessary). In my room, my desk will be cleared of all clutter whenever I walk away. I’m hoping this will help keep me focused and motivate completion of projects.

I expect it to take ~a week to get my act together, and after that I will keep myself organized.

Resolution #10

Starting August 1, until (at least) the end of the month, I will institute a “clean desk(top) policy”: no clutter on surfaces in my room, and browser window tabs / email inbox at zero. In the first week, I will clean each of these sufficiently to respect the resolution, and for the remaining days I will keep them organized.

Results and new Resolution will be given on or around September 1, 2020.

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