Let's have an open discussion question/topic, as @machado suggested. How about:

What is something you've learned in the last 3 months? A fact, an insight, a technique - it can be something small.

I like reading these responses.

If people from other instances want to participate in the discussion, please do.

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As for things I've learned in the past few months, here's a thread with some things that came to mind.

Emus like sprinklers! There is webcam evidence. 😆


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Lapis Lazuli is used by some modern porcelain artists to create a bright blue colour. It is a gemstone, not a heavy metal like cobalt which is more commonly used to make blue ceramics and kitchen items. I knew it was possible to use lapis lazuli to make things blue, but I hadn't realized people were still doing it.

Lapis Lazuli is mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh.


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White pepper and Chinese black vinegar (also known as chinkiang or zhenjiang vinegar) are two key ingredients that contribute to the distinctive flavour of hot and sour soup.


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Hospitals don't allow visitors during a pandemic, not even close family members. When a patient is feeling well enough to text and has a way to charge their phone, they can convey some minimal information.

If someone you care about is in the hospital, there can be long stretches of time lasting days with no information about how they are doing.


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The ventrogluteal site for intramuscular injections is considered to be the safest site.

The dorsogluteal intramuscular injection site is no longer recommended, due to proximity to major nerves and blood vessels and variation in the location and depth of the muscle in different people.

However, most nurses are trained to use the dorsogluteal site since the ventrogluteal is smaller and trickier to find, and their instructors weren't aware of the newest research.


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I learned why rice from Texas, Louisiana and other southern states contains much more arsenic than rice from California or most parts of Asia.


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I've been thinking about some things for more than a year, but they've been relevant in the past few months.

For example, I've been pondering how much geology affects what's in the air, how a place smells.

It is often the single most important factor in determining what's in the background air! Soil types, geographic formations, the types of plants that grow there, and then animals that live there, it all comes from the geology.

Each geological zone I've visited smells different.


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In addition to geology, topography is pretty important too.

At times, I can walk along and smell where a stream changes direction, or where a space between hills funnels air, without directly seeing it.


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People like to burn things. They like to burn things so much.

Some people who have geothermal heating will set wood on fire every day.

It is ridiculously difficult to find anywhere in the countryside, suburbs, or city that doesn't have wood smoke, or other smoke, in the air, a lot of the time. Especially in the winter when some people use wood furnaces, but even in the summer when people burn wood for fun.


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It can be valuable and worthwhile to find out whether something exists.

Realizing something doesn't exist can be important.

Sometimes it means the assumption or expectation stops taking up space in my head. Sometimes it leads to shifts in points of view or plans.

This life lesson has applied to a few things in the past few years. It seems to be at least somewhat generalizable.


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One example is when I read @vgr's GUTS post in Breaking Smart Season 2 and realized that I live mostly in the KNOW WHY BUT NOT HOW quadrant. I'd been expecting there to be a single critical path, and feeling down that I wasn't finding it. It was eye opening to realize that a global critical path only is relevant in the KNOW WHY AND KNOW HOW quadrant.


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Another was reading Lisa Feldman Barrett's book about emotions and realizing there are no universal biomarkers of emotions, and no cross-cultural studies of emotion that indicate universality that withstand scrutiny.


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Another was travelling in a car for hours to go to a place that had a website, only to find out at our destination that it didn't exist.

The neighbour had not heard of it.

I presume the project the website talked about did not make it past the initial planning stages.


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@strangeattractor @machado Trying to introduce change to my workplace, and have to keep reminding myself to keep it incremental and familiar to get buy-in.

The fastest way to introduce change is to start a completely new organisation.

@kureshii @strangeattractor @machado I have a friend who changes corporate culture for a living. He says it usually takes about 5 years.

@strangeattractor @machado too many things to list for 3 months. One realization from last week: when suffering at engineering has persisted long past a certain threshold, then I'll start to reevaluate my approach. What got me here won't get me there.

The lesson is I could've spotted those much earlier.

@strangeattractor @machado try another one, see if it resonate with anyone.

Optimism/pessimism is not a choice. But they are a function of identity. And identities are a choice.

So an attempt to be more optimistic requires adopting a new identity.

I'm happy to expand if anyone is interested.

@ykgoon @strangeattractor

I disagree on identity being a choice. It's a thing you negotiate with your environment. Deciding your identity unilaterally and forcing it upon the world is narcissism.

Optimism/pessimism are learned patterns of interpreting the world. They can be deliberate as part of identity creation. They be the outcome of your previous experiences. An identity can form around a worldview, and a worldview can come from an identity.

@ykgoon @strangeattractor

Being more optimistic doesn't always require a new identity. More important, if you are trying to be more optimistic for reasons of identity, shit's probably gonna get dissociative.

Forcing yourself to uphold a worldview you don't believe in isn't easy, and doing it for other people will cause resentment.

@ykgoon @strangeattractor
And identity is always about other people. For example, a person alone doesn't need gender or race. Those things exist as categories for other people to compress information about you, that may or may not be accurate. Socially, you can't get away from identity. Even not having identity in a category is itself an identity, that gets negotiated with other people.

@ykgoon @strangeattractor
Identities matter only in how they affect your interactions. Worldviews are more important. They affect prioritization and risk assessment. Fuck that one up and it can get you killed.

Your worldview is too important to depend on your identity. That's the same as letting others control how you perceive the world.

Most of my learning lately is things I can't put into words yet. The easiest ones to explain are:

People are hornier than I usually assume, and act accordingly. The reverse is also true.

You don't actually have to do most of the things you think you have.

What people think of you doesn't matter, as long as you live alone in the middle of nowhere.

@strangeattractor @machado

I've learned what it feels like to be genuinely overcomitted. And that if the choice is disappointing everyone a little, or disappointing just one person a lot, I will go with everyone a little.

And I need some more non-computer hobbies

@strangeattractor 3D printing, clock construction, astrophotography, Arduino 😎

@vgr @strangeattractor (if people from outside refactorcamp are allowed):

bread, ginger ale, (not sure if within the last 3 months because I have no idea how it's September already) getting something to run on an STM32 thingy (and making it talk to the rest of the CNC whose brain I replaced - the VFD was a challenge), Groovy (jenkins stuff, not standalone), some kubernetes / helm, a little bit of Go.

@strangeattractor I find it both funny and frustrating how nonsensical american sources on emotion seem to me. For example, gratitude as an emotion. In the culture I was raised in, gratitude is about etiquette and obligation, and the language reflects that. If you start talking about gratitude as an emotion people think you're in a cult.

@strangeattractor This has a horrible impact on older people. Spending all day with limited social and mental stimuli, sometimes without even seeing human faces (because masks). They decay a lot faster.


Yes. Everyone involved encounters difficult situation after difficult situation, and the cumulative effects can be more than the sum of each individual thing.

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