Work Journal

Work logs ceased

AuthorMark MacKay

Well, that was an interesting experiment. Writing work logs was at times self-organizing, at times a chore, and at other times a distraction. I still don't know what to make about the experiment. I consider it successful, because it was a great source of experience, and at the same time it was a failure, because it's intention was to help me produce more and better work. Yet nothing came out of it (yet!).

I have the sense that I work a lot, and yet it seems most of the stuff I work on (personal and professional) tends to go stale, and then it becomes difficult to pick up again. I feel I need to tackle simpler things first in order to get into a shipping habit.

So let that be the intention: quiet the mind, write less, ship more.

Work Journal

03-09-2018 Work log

AuthorMark MacKay

So many things to write about, where to start? Perhaps by the day activities, in this way the situation will explain itself:

I woke up at around 8am, had my coffee, and then went to the airbnb apartment that I manage. I waited for the truck to arrive, we were moving the furniture to a new house, since the apartment was sold some weeks ago and owner will take possession in the next few days. The new house is a duplex, not really in the suburbs, but quite far away from the city center, which I will be inhabiting for the next month. My mission is to paint it and do some minor refurbushing work during the month of September.

Two guys and a child showed up, and we moved the furniture in about three hours. I learned quite a number of tricks putting sofas through doors, and should the situation arise again, I think I'd be at least more adept as I was before. It's not that I have never put a sofa through a door, but one of the guys was quite experienced and he explained the principles behind making things fit, and how to know if it's simply too large for the space you need to put it through. After we were done I was quite exhausted, for Madrid's heat was in full force today, so I had a nap and then went back home.

After lunch I perceived that, if I were to put myself in front of a computer, I wouldn't be able to do much, so I put Conversations with Goethe in the backpack and hit the pool. I finished the important parts (book I and II) because the third book is not really written by Eckermann, but by a fellow named Soret, who had a more objective disposition, so instead of trying to register Goethe's exact words, he tends to describe his interactions in a more synthetic way. Where Eckermann, being a poet, might try to reenact the mood, setting and words of Goethe, Soret would simply write "Goethe discussed with great eloquence about the virtues of a moderate life", and there is not much wisdom to be extracted from this kind of writing.

But the change in narrative illuminated the fact that I swing between both styles, and that if I (or anyone) is to extract anything useful from what I write, I should take the poetic Eckermann approach, which requires one to reenact settings, sensations and activities, rather than simply marking what work was done.

The furniture was moved, but my life is still not moved into the new house, so I suspect that the next few days will be physical rather than intellectual work. I welcome this phase because the last two weeks I've felt stagnated in my current situation, so any change is welcome.

Work Journal

30-08-2018 Work log

AuthorMark MacKay

I begun the day late and after hitting the pool I went to the library at La Casa Encendida. I wrote the workplace setting quite quickly and enjoyed the experience, and then put myself to work. I needed to set the DNS of to René's server, but after much frustration I preferred to to set things up at my own hosting provider (digitalocean) and worry about transferring the host later.

While checking nginx's logs I found an unrelated error: php-fpm was raising access denied errors on my old blog and I tried to hunt down the reason why this was happening. I had set up the server to serve html files as php and it had stopped working. After much google-fu, I found the correct config file where to make the change, and soon enough things were being served without errors.

I found server administration to be a refreshing change from what I had been doing, though I sometimes wonder if being this close to the metal is truly needed. Unix philosophy of having specialized tools that do one job is at times empowering and at others frustrating. There's been times when I've gotten stuck and needed to ask for help to more experienced people, and I'm surprised that they actually have to do pretty much what I do: google the problem and poke at the entrails until it starts working again.

Work Journal

29-08-2018 Work log

AuthorMark MacKay

I've begun describing the workplaces where I do my thing, here is an example.

Method of Action120min10.560
Notebits Flow60min0.5130
Work routes120min10.560
Work Journal

28-08-2018 Work log

AuthorMark MacKay

This week I will simply state the work done. The intention is to dialogue less and create more. I'm trying a metric, time × intensity × importance.

Bézier Game60min0.7142
Notebits Flow60min0.8148
Work Journal

27-08-2018 Work log

AuthorMark MacKay

Some days are not very productive because hangovers happen. When you force yourself to work through discomfort, the displeasure of work carries on and motivation is diminished. Simply acknowledge that hangovers on Monday are not a good idea. This was the work done today:

Bézier Game60min/0.5Fixed redo bug where segments were not positioned correctly
Goethe60min/0.3Underlined Conversations with Goethe
Work routesnull/null
Work Journal

26-08-2018 Work log

AuthorMark MacKay

There will be a lot of documentation work regarding the virtuegraph, and after some thought I've concluded that the best moment to write the documentation is as I'm using it. So I will change the format of my work logs so that I can use them as documentation when the product is released.

Getting Started with the virtuegraph

Most people have a long list of wishes, resolutions, yearnings, goals and aspirations. Should the average person list everything that they want to accomplish during their lifetime, and compare it to the things they have actually accomplished, it would become very clear that the rhythm of accomplishment is insufficient for their ambitions. Therefore, we must combat dispersion and put our energies into a small subset of our will. What we choose for focusing our energies is not necessarily what is most important, but it's what is most important for the cycle.

The cycle

A cycle is a period of time in which you wish to accomplish something. For example, I know that I wish to finish the Bézier Game within 30 work days. Now, the amount of days is not set in stone, it is simply an estimation to which you can add or remove days. It is best to begin having a flexible schedule. Accurate estimation is not one of the goals, through practice you will learn to become more accurate.

Choosing what is most important for a cycle

Though, like plants, we like to extend multiple branches at the same time in order to capture sunlight, in practice our self-image rarely matches reality. Though certainly I've met people who are tremendously effective, and could use the virtuegraph right off the bat, I think it's best to handle the task with the humility of a seedling.

If you had just one leaf to capture sunlight, what would that leaf be? In my case it's the Bézier Game, the reason why this is important for me is irrelevant to the reader, as long as you can set a limit on the duration of a goal, and you find enough personal relevance, any goal will do.

But, a leaf has a trunk from which more leaves can appear! What is the trunk of the Bézier Game? It is work. If the Bézier Game had siblings, who would they be? Well, I need to outline this out:

  • Work
    • Bezier Game
    • Virtuegraph
    • Notebits
    • Airbnb
    • Goethe
    • Work routes

Though clearly "Work" can have siblings too ("Exercise" for example), it is important to resist adding more branches for the time being. We need to make sure this branch is healthy before dispersing the energy into a new branch.

Registering activity

I will stub this paragraph, as a table is not the correct way to register activity, but I need to do so in order to advance

Bézier Game105min/0.5Repositioned start and endpoints upon resize and upon undo/redo
Virtuegraph75min/0.7Wrote documentation
Goethe40min/0.3Underlined Conversations with Goethe
Work routesnull/null

I will end the work day here, as it's Sunday and I have a social engagement.

Work Journal

24-08-2018 Work log

AuthorMark MacKay

I'm currently at José Acuña Library in the neighborhood of Argüelles. It's my first time here, and my first new library in a couple of days. It's a typical Spanish neighborhood library, but it has large windows with lots of natural light, and this neighborhood has pleasant architecture, so it's a nice sight. The tables have electrical outlets, which is surprisingly uncommon here. The chairs are more proper for a Spanish tapas bar, uncomfortable for prolonged work, but good enough for the work I intend to do now.

René just passed by the library before heading to Japan. I borrowed a nice 11L Northface backpack from him which will come handy. As I intensify exploration I find my incase backpack insufficient for all the things I wish to lug around. Ideally I'd be prepared with things for the gym, the pool, lunch and work, but without a large backpack I used to compromise.

In the work session I'm having at this library, I decided not to get down to work yet, but as the quote mistakenly attributed to Lincoln says: give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first hour sharpening the axe.

The days between today and the end of September are 37. A bit more than five weeks. Let's remove seven days for rest, so we have 30 effective work days remaining. In order to do what I want to do, I need to reset the counter once again. I hate doing this, but it is needed. The projects which I committed to are:

  1. Bézier Game
  2. Project Arete
  3. Airbnb apartment
  4. Goethe
  5. Work routes
  6. Notebits Flow

Project 1 and 2 get priority treatment, as these are what I would like to release sooner. Project Arete needs to be unveiled, and perhaps now is a good moment to do it, as it is related to cycles, goal setting, and all these things which I'm trying to do. Rather than to present a theoretical example of what it is, I will try using it so the product can be understood from example. As my current "works for me" status requires editing json files to introduce values, it is not ready for public release, but as soon as it can be used without opening the hood I will share it.

Project Arete is called Virtuegraph. I debated a long time with myself about the name, because the word virtue is associated with a very different conception in our culture. The virtue part of the virtuegraph is the Te part of the Tao Te Ching , a kind of virtue that arises effortlessly from one's accordance to his or her nature. It can also be understood as the karma part of karma yoga, but--like virtue--it is also tremendously misunderstood in western society. Karma simply means work or action, the concept that it is a cosmic balance of the good and the bad you've done in your life is entirely misguided. In Islam it can be understood as barakah, the flowing of the spiritual presence of Allah through one's actions. Ancient greeks would have called it arete, the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential.

But Virtuegraph is not a product, it's more akin to Kanban: it's a method for accomplishing what you consider virtue.

In my case, virtue is currently work. When I'm done with this 30 day cycle, my virtuegraph will change radically. I will take time off not to relax, but to explore other aspects of virtue. I hope to continue writing "work logs" in which work has a very different manifestation.

So, how does this work out in practice? When there's enough virtue I will graph it.

Work Journal

2018-08-23 Work log

AuthorMark MacKay

I write this work log the next day, at the gym between sets, as I did during a couple of days in the past. I find great pleasure and clarity writing during exercise, though it inevitably brings a dose of self-consciousness: only a fool would do things like these. But a fool indeed I am.

Yesterday I received a mother and her daughter at the airbnb apartment. They were coming to Madrid to visit their son/brother who had just had a child, and it was their first time using an airbnb. I was treated like a friend of the family, and I soon found myself completely at ease with them. Instead of a check-in to the apartment it was personal check-in of sorts, peppered with tips about the apartment. It was obviously a pleasant experience for both parts, and we said farewell with two kisses and best wishes for the new member of the family.

I then headed to the Cabify offices to catch up with René of Notebits. As he was busy wrapping up a user research interview I waited in the lobby, and I had the chance to greet former workmates who were coming out for lunch. I also caught up with members of my former team and we promised lunch together. René and myself had an interesting business lunch in which some possible futures were sketched, and also more practical, immediate matters. We bid farewell, and I headed back home, and then to the pool to keep on underlining Eckermann's notes on Goethe.

When I came back home, Isa, my roommate and owner of the airbnb apartment, pointed out the possibility of taking charge of a new airbnb during the month of September, as the apartment that I am managing now has been sold and our last guests will be in August. I thought it would be a good idea, though this changes my plans a bit. My 30 day work log cycle was projected on the fact that I would be free during september, so I would need to finish a project in this time and then head off for some adventures into nature. This change of circumstances extends the cycle by 30 days and pushes my vacations into the beginning of October, which adds time and thus possibilities. I wish to project what I ought to do with these possibilities, and to correct the course of the current cycle as I've found difficulty navigating with these winds.

Let us see then what frontlines are active: Bézier Game, Project Arete, Airbnb apartment, work routes, Goethe and Notebits Flow. Let's dedicate some time to describe each, and then decide what to do about them.

Bézier Game

I have this advanced enough that all the interesting challenges have dried up. From now on, it will be chores. Many of them. As trite as it sounds, my creative sensibilities are hurt by sustained work on chores, and though I could engage in war to finally release this, it will come at great cost and I would need to take vacations afterwards. This was my original plan, but with 30 extra days, instead tackling all the chores in a short period of time, I can spread them out until late September. But, is this procrastination? Ballpark figure is 35 days, and before these news I was planning on completing it in around 8 days. I work around four effective hours per day when I'm in a good state of mind, so that 32 hours. One hour per day during 35 days should be enough. Commitment: Bezier Game chores: 1 hour per day.

Project Arete

Project Arete has accomplished a more or less stable "useful for me" status, though not in any way shareable yet. The sexy picker is part of this project, and I would like integrate it into Arete so that it is more useful. I think that, if I dedicate one hour to project arete too I will see great advances, but I will need to make it public so that I can share the work I'm doing. I have generally disliked the experience of having some work that is private, and the main reason as to make it private was that I wanted to sense if this was the right moment to tackle it. And it has felt this way, it is the right moment to tackle it indeed. Commitment Project Arete: 1 hour per day.

Airbnb apartment

As my savings are not enough to dedicate the 100% if my time to pleasure projects, I am willing to do some work in order to extend my runway. I find that I cannot sit down eight hours a day doing focused work anymore, I'm 38 and my capacity for this has diminished. As in the case with partying, I can do it if necessary, but I must be willing to pay the price later. So I'm more than willing to sell other kind of skills in exchange for extending my runway. In the case of cleaning, I have glimpsed what it is to find pleasure in cleaning, and though I cannot reach this state of time with the regularity I would like, I think has become more or less of a challenge. There are treasures in cleaning. Receiving guests has always been pleasurable, the variety of people is staggering and everybody causes a deep impression on me. These are random samples of middle class people from Spain and abroad, who visit Madrid for the most varied reasons (probably 30% tourists) and they all come in so different patterns and personalities that I wouldn't be able to pinpoint anything in common except that they have been nice and pleasant people. It restores faith in humanity. So doing this activity has a positive impact in my mood, in my finances, and it doesn't compete with my pleasure work. An hour of computer labour takes away from my pleasure labour, but this is not the case with physical/social labour. Commitment: on demand.

Work routes

In the last few days I've been going to the nearest study hall to keep it simple. And I must confess it is also because there is a person there whom I like. I have not crossed even words with her, just a few furtive glances. But this stasis is not satisfactory in the least, I must make a move in order to free myself of this attachment. As if there is mutual interest as if there's not, this allows me to free myself to keep on exploring. So I will do something about it. Commitment: speak out and continue exploring libraries and study halls.


Since my early twenties I have not been taken away by an author as Goethe has done it. The breadth of his intellect and sensibility is staggering. When something like this happens to me, I must produce something so that the intellectual nourishing has an outlet. I will write the article which I have in mind, and afterwards, if I feel like it, I will conduct Goethe's experiments on color. Goethe has a peculiar way of doing science: he puts forth a series of simple experiments with light, and annotates his observations. He makes it very clear that you must experience them with your own senses so that you can gain insight into what he is speaking about. I happen to have Phillips Hue lightbulbs which would greatly assist in the task, but I would need to find some lamps to use them effectively. It would seem then, that the first task is to finish reading Eckermann's notes on Goethe and write the article, and then see from there. Commitment: finish reading Eckermann's notes on Goethe during my off-hours.

Notebits Flow

I had no intention of taking up freelance projects, but René's product was very aligned with my vision and the experience of collaboration was throughly positive. The problem with most clients is that they have a schedule, and the schedule brings deliverables, and the deliverables bring a plan, and so forth. Soon the creative person finds himself managing the project rather than creating it, and in this aspect René and myself have understood each other seamlessly. I have no roadmap, just a couple of open-ended tasks without a deadline that I tackle as I see fit. And it has worked out great for our own peculiar styles. We are in a state where we have an MVP already, but since we are in no rush to release it, we are allowing the grapes to age into wine. Commitment: on demand.

It seems nothing that I have on my table is unnecessary. These are enough fronts to keep me entertained for a while, and it seems the last global commitment is to convert these intentions into a Project Arete cycle. The task for today then is planning.

Work Journal

2018-08-22 Work log

AuthorMark MacKay

Today the sky in Madrid shapeshifted. Most of the time where was a dull overcast, but at times the sun would come out and shine intensely, only to yield to heavy dark clouds that refused to rain. I felt just the same. I had a nap and I dreamed about the fiestas of a Spanish pueblo. They had let loose two bulls: one was young and energetic, but too inexperienced and clumsy to be a threat. The other was old and tired, unwilling to give a chase.

In days like these I know it's best reefing the sails and waiting for more favorable wind.