Fabio de Sousa

2022-1-22

What happens when you (don't, oops) measure

I'm trying out a loose interpretation of OKRs as a way of building some better habits. Because I'm me, I've set them up in Airtable and use Apple Shortcuts to ask me what I've done at the end of the day. Because I hate myself, I set up different key results to only be tracked on different days of the week (some are work-related so only happen during the work week, while some weekly ones only get tracked at the end of the week). That needless bit of complication broke as I fiddled around with my Airtable formulas (in pursuit of a timezone bug, of course), with the end result being that only the things that were set up to be tracked every day actually got tracked.

Surprise surprise, those were the things that got done, while almost everything that wasn't being tracked was forgotten and ignored.

I know the internet is full of cautionary tales of this type of observer effect, but it's always fun to experience it yourself.


2022-01-05

Automating personal OKRs with Apple Shortcuts and Airtable

I swear I'm not one of those people that learns some productivity technique or management philosophy at work and then tries to apply them to their personal lives. I just like the core premise of grouping smaller, measurable indicators (key results) under larger goals (objectives). Applied to my personal goals, this looks like a very broad objective (e.g. establish healthy habits) with some very to-do style key results (e.g. avoid sweets for 4 days a week). I track them in Airtable, and to make logging easier I use an Apple shortcut (combined with an automation that runs it every day at 8).

What makes this possible:

  • Airtable's formula fields and views, which let me have views only for key results that are currently active and should be checked today
  • Airtable's API, access to which is available on the free tier
  • The Get Contents of URL action in Shortcuts, which lets you make any API call
  • The Repeat for each and if/else actions in Shortcuts, which let you (unsurprisingly) loop over items in a list and do things conditionally
  • The Choose from [list] and Ask for [text, number, etc] actions in Shortcuts, which handle user input

Basically, at 8pm every day the shortcut pulls all my active Key Results that should be checked today from Airtable, and then goes through each one and asks me if I've made progress today (in Airtable I have a column on the Key Results table that stores the yes/no question form of the Key Result, for example, "did you avoid sweets today?"). If I answer yes and the Key Result is flagged as allowing notes (for cases where I may want to remember something, such as what I read for a KR about reading every day), it asks for a note. Then, it fairly simply adds an entry into the Logs table of Airtable and then the Rollup fields take care of reflecting my progress in the Key Results table.

I would share more about this, but my baby is still measured in weeks so I don't have a ton of time for writing. That being said, getting into the habit of writing is one of the things I'm working on—and tracking—this quarter.


2021-12-31

2021 in Review

tl;dr: A whole lot happened in 2021

Major life events

  • Bought a used car (my first)
  • Bought a house (our first)
  • Had a baby (our first)

Lesson: The universe is hard to predict

  • When we were buying the car, we thought we were wildly over-paying and that in a perfect world we'd wait for prices to go down. If we had done that, we'd be paying almost 15% more than we did.
  • When we were buying the house, we thought we were wildly over-paying and that in a perfect world we'd wait for prices to go down. If we had done that we'd be paying almost 20% more than we did.
  • So much about pregnancy and birth is unpredictable, I may expand on it later but for now I'll say that the biggest thing I've learned on this particular journey is that you need to be flexible and roll with the punches. No matter how much you plan, circumstances will change and you'll need to adapt. Also if the birth is at the hospital and you love yourself at all, bring your own pillows.

Media

I did a bad job of keeping track of what I read/watched/listened to this year, so a lot of these are hazy impressions that have lingered, and I've definitely forgotten a huge amount of what I've consumed.

Books

  • Rise and Shine [Patrick Allington]: At some point in the summer I picked this up from the very excellent Tombolo Books based on the cover and the blurb. The premise was interesting, but it failed to pull me in. I'm not sure if it needed more room to breathe, but it left me feeling somewhat ambivalent towards it.
  • Project Hail Mary [Andy Weir]: I really enjoyed reading the nuts-and-bolts approach of The Martian applied to First Contact and a intergalactic civilization-ending threat. A very fun and quick read.
  • The Ministry for the Future [Kim Stanley Robinson]: As sobering (and horrifying) as the depictions of climate change-induced disasters were, somehow this book ended up feeling too optimistic about how we'll respond to the climate crisis as a species. Especially with regards to digital responses to the crisis (a decentralized Facebook-killer? Built by an NGO? Phaw). I did appreciate that President Obama recommended it despite the book lightly dissing him.
  • Tigana [Guy Gavriel Kay]: Once you get past the thin reskin of late Medieval/early Renaissance Europe, this is a wonderful read. It felt both familiar and refreshing, with just a sprinkling of fantasy elements going an immensely long way.
  • Wheel of Time (series) [Robert Jordan]: In November I started re-reading the Wheel of Time books in anticipation of the TV show. This is my third read-through, and 11 books in I have to say they've gotten better each time. Yes, some of Jordan's writing is repetitive, but this time around I've even gained more appreciation for the middle books that I used to think were a slog.
  • Bobiverse (series) [Dennis E. Taylor]: I don't remember how I heard about these books, but I'm very glad that I found them. They're smart and irreverent, with each entry in the series finding a way to stay fresh.

Online writing

  • A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry: Despite the bad name, this blog by Bret Devereaux is the only writing that I make sure to read every week. I don't care if he's writing about inacurrate depictions of history in pop culture or the nitty gritty detail of ancient/medieval textile production—Bret writes entertaining posts that always leave me knowing more than I did before.
  • WrathOfGnon's Substack: A newsletter about traditionalism, sustainability, localism, and urbanism. It's a great way to learn about traditional construction methods, with an emphasis on existing examples that have lasted (at least) centuries. This is the type of content that makes me want to get a plot of land and start making clay bricks.

Podcasts

  • Fall of Civilizations: These 2-3 hour episodes (13 total so far) by Paul M. M. Cooper each cover the rise and fall of a (usually ancient) civilization. It's fascinating, and it happened to be the perfect thing for me to listen to while passing the time in the hospital (due to Covid restrictions in the NICU I ended up having to kill a lot of time during the days). Each episode stands well on it's own, but listening to them all got my wheels spinning trying to draw parallels in a way that not much else has recently. Excellent voice acting for the historical sources takes it over the top.

Television

  • Wheel of Time, Season 1 [Amazon]: It's definitely not great, and I would probably like it way more if I had never read the books, but I think (and hope) it's good enough to gain some more steam in later seasons. I thought the casting was fantastic and am very sad that Barney Harris (Mat Cauthon) had to leave the production mid-season, as I thought he in particular was fantastic.
  • Ted Lasso, Season 2 [Apple TV]: Ted Lasso is great and despite a few weaker episodes this season, overall I loved the season and am excited for more. Also, nothing in years has made me laugh as hard as the Christmas episode scenes with Roy, Keeley, and Phoebe.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe shows [Disney]: I'm grouping these together not because they're all the same (in fact, I appreciated the range), but because I don't have the patience to write that much. I loved pretty much everything about Loki. Hawkeye was an easy and fun middle-of-the-night-with-the-baby watch (and Florence Pugh is immensely funny). Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier were okay-not-great (the former because it still ended up being a laser light show at the end, the latter only because the antagonists were vague and the pacing was iffy)
  • Brooklyn 99, all seasons [NBC, Fox]: Yes we were late to the party but we watched it all and this is such a great comedy. It's in the same tier as The Office and Parks & Rec—in many respects I think it's even better.
  • Arcane, Season 1 [Netflix]: As someone who used to play League of Legends back when it was in beta, I came into this with skepticism but left thinking it may be some of the best storytelling and animation I've ever seen (and I like-but-don't-love animation for adults).

Movies

Right now for some reason I'm drawing a blank on what I've watched this year other than Shang Chi (excellent, especially Awkwafina). So, I'll just continue to insist that everyone stop everything and watch Emma (2020) and Little Women (2019).


2021-12-30

Hello, world.

This is a test.

This site (fabio.desousa.studio) is a simple gatsby site. My primary goal here is to focus on writing. No overarching theme, just a journal. I'll slowly build out features over time as I feel like it, but I don't want to let the site not being "done" get in the way of writing.

We'll see how it goes.