Happy June 6 Review Day, fellow GHDR enthusiasts! Last month went pretty well, though I didn’t focus specifically on any of this year’s TRANSITION goals. Instead, I was really trying to deprogram myself from the binary thinking trap from last month: instead of obsessing about achievement, I would instead embrace the state of achievement. This is similar to the old chestnut The Journey is the Reward but more specifically targeted to my own weirdnesses.
Breaking the Tyrannical Morality of Doneness
To recap, the big insight last month was that I had a subconscious internal dialog that went something like this:
If it’s NOT done, then Sri BAAADD!
The emphasis on being DONE probably stems from a lifetime of working on project deadlines here the things HAD TO BE DONE OR THE COMPANY WAS DEAD. I value tangible artifacts have the ability to change the universe, and “getting to done” is pretty pervasive in the Productivity community. I think these are both fine. The part that isn’t was the guilt I felt about not being done fast, with more incomplete personal projects than finished ones. What was wrong with me?
My new theory is that there’s nothing wrong with me. Instead, I think there is a conflict between managerial mindset (which is about predicting “doneness in the Future”) and creative/learning mindset (which demands “total immersion in the Now”). We’ve discussed this before, and I thought I’d been practicing it, but I never thought to challenge the idea that not done is bad. It was just an assumption planted by years of conditioning, and it just sucks up energy that otherwise would have gone deep into achieving a flow state.
In my month of practice, I have noticed that negative reactions seem to have been reduced. I used to get upset with external factors slowing the speed of completing the work I needed to do to start the REAL work. As a result: improved chill :-) I think this contributed to several achievements this month:
Migrated a bunch of websites from an old server to a new server for friends who aren’t really using them but want to keep them anyway. I loathe server administration and saw of these activities as time thieves stealing my precious energies. Without the not done is bad mindset, these resistances seem to have disappeared.
As a bonus, I discovered that the new server really makes it easy to host different projects in once place. I was able to quickly try out Ghost as a WordPress replacement and WikiJS as a online knowledge base without the fussy markup of MediaWiki. They are both pretty great now, so I’ll be incorporating them into my web presence. They also are using technology that I work with every day, but in a different way. That’ll help broaden my professional development knowledge as an extra-EXTRA bonus!
With the new server now under my control, I am empowered to make new domains and websites for myself very quickly! So now I am positioned to move forward on those projects when I feel the urge
This is all very promising! I’ll start tracking it explicitly in my weekly intentions list so I keep this “top of mind”.
The overall theme for this year’s GHDR is Transition, which you can read about on the GHDR 2021 page. As usual, I have failed to set hard goals but in light of my !DONE!==BAD insight perhaps I don’t need them. If I think of GHDR themes as self-reflection prompts to increase awareness of my personal growth, that probably is just as good for me. I think picking a direction to explore is more naturally Sri-like. In hindsight, it is always how I’ve worked and maybe I should embrace it.
There were three directions I made progress in, Gender Identity, Grace & Humility, and Professional Identity.
Transition: Gender Identity
At this point, I am confident that I know myself to be “non-binary trans-feminine” inside, that it’s not going away, and that it actually makes me happy.
As much as I’d like to show this happiness, I’m far less confident in how to express that to the outside world. It triggers all kinds of childhood anxieties as well as fear of anti-Asian and anti-trans hate crimes. I lack the social courage to…well, I’m still not sure what that is. So I’m dabbling in a lot of things: how clothing can be combined, buying flavored lip oils and trying some bespoke hair restoration formulas.
The most difficult skill I’m dabbling in is vocal manipulation. Experimental composer Zheanna Erose has a number of videos that explain the bioacoustics of voice feminization with exercises she has developed herself. Voice manipulation is a fascinating subject in itself, whether you are trans or not! As an example of Zheanna’s approach, check out this video The Gender Dial (R1) | Exercises & Lecture to get an idea where she’s coming from. I’ve been really impressed by the model she’s developed/
While I can’t do any convincing voices yet, I have a little more control in how I shape pitch and resonance of my voice. I can even sing more easily to a higher register than before, which is very interesting. I need to resurrect my portable voice recorder so I can monitor what I sound like; what I hear in my head is affected by bone conduction of sound and therefore doesn’t help me make the sound I want. You know how hearing your voice on a video sounds wrong? Same thing.
Adding voice recorder to list. I have two of them that should work well.
Transition: Grace and Humility
I have been trying to be less judgmental and unkind when confronted with a situation that irritates me. I don’t like the feeling. After all, if I want to apply NOT DONE ISN’T BAD to myself, shouldn’t I treat the people around me the same way? Mind you, I’m not talking about critical missions that do require immediate action, but just everyday work things that don’t have to be that way.
A great deal of my negativity is related to the !DONE==BAD mindset. If someone does not do their job well, I tend to get frustrated then mad because NOW I am being slowed and things are OMG still not done. While my ire is usually directed toward faceless people on the Internet have written some confusing documentation, the thoughts sometime burble up while talking to people who I expect to hold up their end of things. That is bad.
I have still been catching myself judging when I don’t have to be. Needs more work.
Transition: Professional Identity
As I have been creeping along with gender transition, I have wondered what the professional difference is between Dave Seah and D.Sri Seah. Most people know me as “Dave of a certain doughy maleness”, but “Sri of a goofy femme stylishness” is the direction I’m moving in. It’s important for me to get that new identity online and out there so I am not constantly pulled back into the “Dave” namespace. It’s bizarre how depressing it is when that happens, but I have been trying to find a positive way to move forward.
First, I’ve prepared some new domains:
dsriseah.com as the sister site of
dsri.xyz to host experiments, the sister site of
I also put up
dscafe.cc for the Coworking Discord to host a wiki, which may become the basis for collaborative knowledge projects and bridge my work with the work of people in the DS|CAFE Discord.
These new websites offer the opportunity to make a clean break from
davidseah.com, but I don’t want to erase my history. I plan on keeping the old site. I have been a “Dave Seah” for many years and I want to continue to own that. For inspiration I’ve been following Mae Dean, the creator of the semi-autobiographical web comic Real Life Comics. She came out last June with a series of strips about her transition, and retained the format and humor of the strip. I believe she wrote that she isn’t going to retcon the old strips to remove her old name. I want to feel good about my past work and past self; my takeaway is that I can view that past self as a familiar friend.
I finally got a Discord Bot to work! I want to write my own custom bot to handle some of the weirder features of the DS|CAFE Discord, like our Winning the Day role that expires after 24 hours, and improved productivity timers that help pace our work sessions. The big challenge to doing this was that I could not figure out how to reconfigure my server to host both NodeJS and NGINX/APACHE/PHP servers without one of them breaking. The new Opalstack server makes this really easy. You can check out my janky source code on Github…it doesn’t do much yet but it is a promising start.
I sold my first wholesale order of Emergent Task Planners to a nice lady on Twitter who inquired about buying a bunch of them for their non-profit conferences. It was GREAT to not sell something on Amazon, though there was a freakout when I didn’t see an address change in time. Paying someone to handle the stress of returns and customer service does seem worthwhile, hence my continued use of Amazon’s fulfillment services which handles that for me. On the negative side, Amazon’s service TO ME as a user is pretty abominable, which is why I want to get out of there. Wholesale is a possibility! I don’t know how to set it up though…it will take some thinking that I don’t have the mental energy for while active projects are still underway.
The Month in Pictures
I showed this Lenovo Trackpoint II keyboard (ABOVE LEFT) last month, but I got a second one for the downstairs PC, then remapped
LEFT-CONTROL and set
RIGHT-ALT. This way I don’t have to remap my fingers between CONTROL and COMMAND.
Outside my front door I spied this bird nest right outside my door, so close that I could reach in and touch it if I wanted. A very angry bird was yelling above me, and so I backed off. Two weeks later a tiny chick appeared, and yesterday when I checked they were both gone. I wonder how long the nest will last? Will another bird use it? It’s a nice nest! It was surrounded by these purple flowers that appeared soon after.
With the warmer weather, I got the electric smoker set up again on the deck and bought a cheap chunk of pork to see if I remembered how to use it. It took about 12 hours overnight to get to 201F, and the result looked good enough (ABOVE LEFT), and pulled well (ABOVE MIDDLE). I gave half of it to a friend and nibbled at the rest of it for a week. I made a weird sandwich that had Ruffles Flaming Hot potato chips on it (they are not that hot) for a good crunch.
Meat cookery being on my mind, I got a cheap chunk of beef and tried sous vide on it. I wanted to keep the temp of the meat before 122F for as long as possible without compromising health, so I set it to 135F (medium-rare). The first result was a little more medium than I wanted (BELOW LEFT) and still tasted kind of chewy even though I cut the meat across the grain when slicing the piece on the right.
Next I tested a theory with the remainder of the meat, which was to see if I could minimize the “gray ring” that comes from reverse-searing a sous-vide roast. I put it in the refrigerator overnight, then in the freezer 15-minutes before searing it (BELOW MIDDLE). It worked! One thing I noticed, though, was that a lot of moisture had been lost overnight; medium-rare is probably still too cooked. I think I’ll do it around 131F next time. At that temperature it will take a couple hours to completely pasteurize.
Searing meat continued to be on my mind as I came across a mention of a flat-bottomed carbon steel wok. I have an electric stove so it’s terrible for stir frying, and to compensate for the lack of thermal power I had tried a cast-iron wok from Lodge, figuring that this would be able to retain heat better for prolonged searing power. It didn’t work out, as it doesn’t retain enough thermal energy to make much of a difference AND it’s super heavy. I can lift it, but I can’t toss in it. Bah. Maybe I can turn it into a planter or giant candy bowl.
Anyway, I hadn’t been aware that there were improved Asian-style carbon steel woks with flat bottoms. Before I had seen westernized versions that were by all accounts terrible. They’re relatively cheap too, so I figured why not try it?
The particular one I got was the well-regard Helen’s Asian Kitchen 14″ wok (ABOVE LEFT). It has the helper handle that is vertical so it doesn’t get in the way, wooden handles that don’t get hot, and a pretty solid-yet-thin milled shell that heats up FAST on the bottom. This is what I need for wok cooking, I think: instead of retained heat, I need instant burn in a vessel that is tough enough for high heat abuse.
You’re supposed to season the wok, much like a cast iron skillet. The carbon steel woks ship coated with a lacquer coating to keep it from rusting, and it’s difficult to scrub it all off. I did my best.
Next, you heat the wok up over medium heat and put a thin layer of oil over it, letting it smoke for about 30 seconds, then letting the wok cool all the way down before doing it again 3-4 more times. The first passes (ABOVE MIDDLE) got the bottom part brown, but the sides were still unaffected. So I tried pressing the sides down on the burner bit by bit, and this sort of worked. I haven’t tried cooking on it yet to see if the seasoning will hold, but if it doesn’t I can just scrub it out and start again.
I’ve been trying to improve my portion control and have been using my bento trays again (ABOVE LEFT). It holds about two cups of food, split into two half-cup chambers and one full cup main chamber. I have been putting rice in one of the small chambers, and more protein in the large one.
This past month I’ve had difficulty getting out of bed, suffering from a kind of brain fog that is like a semi-paralysis. I can only get out of bed if I somehow “shut off my brain” by not thinking of anything, but recently that didn’t work at all! When I finally crawled downstairs 3 hours later, I ate something and felt markedly better. Was it possible that I just needed some food to de-fog the brain? So I prepare a medicine pill box of gummy bears to keep by my bed, so I pop one in the morning. I’ve only done this once so far, but eating two gummy bears seems about right. MORE THAN THAT MAKES ME SLEEPY, which I know now from direct experience. Note to self: refill TUESDAY through THURSDAY before going to sleep tonight!
I had an old Stanley 15′ tape measure that was part of some crappy combo toolkit. It stopped working when I dropped it, so I ordered a tape measure (ABOVE RIGHT) with features I didn’t know I needed: inches marked with actual fractions and double-sided printed numbers. Awesome!
The Month in Tomes
Again I didn’t write in them, so maybe this is a non-starter. I think it’s just too inconvenient to write in them because it involves loading up WordPress, which I dislike because it feels slow and bloaty. Maybe this is some of the first content to move to the new dsriseah.com website.
The Month Ahead
I will continue to reflect on how not being done doesnt mean I am a bad person. I noticed that the improvement in my mood helped me deal with confusing documentation better; instead of blinding rage, I was able to have less of a reaction. Gotta keep working on that.
There are exercise and posture goals I want to start moving toward, but I’m not quite able to muster the energy to start. It might be due to a resistance I have to starting projects when all the pieces are not yet in place; I find the thought of collecting all the prerequisite bits inconvenient enough that I am reluctant to start. Perhaps by de-emphasizing “done” I won’t feel quite so rushed or irritated by that. There are some possibilities here!
That’s about it. The main direction for June is to keep practicing chillness with regards to not being done. Hopefully it continues to prove helpful!
About this Article Series
For year 15 of Groundhog Day Resolutions, I am writing about TRANSITIONS. All related posts on this subject are posted on the 2021 Groundhog Day Resolutions page. You can also find the link under the INVESTIGATIONS menu item on my website.