Juggling projects with org-mode

It has taken me an embarrassingly long time to realise that I am bad at juggling multiple projects. And when I say ‘bad’, I mean, really bad. My natural mode of working is to focus intensely on a single project at a time. This is unfortunate, because academic life mostly consists of juggling a large number of different projects simultaneously. I love (almost) everything else about academia, and I’m generally good at my job (I think), but I struggle constantly when having to switch between projects. Last year, I read about Shawn Blanc’s 8-week work cycles and was jealous. His ‘monk mode’ sounds like heaven to me. I do what I can with the wiggle room I have to carve out blocks of focused time on particular projects, but I still needed some way to — if you’ll forgive me for extending the juggling metaphor — avoid dropping any balls in the process. Since I’ve been using Emac’s org-mode a lot recently, I decided to see if I could help me.

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Finding serenity

The past few weeks have been somewhat busy and disruptive, with a lot of different projects on the go at work, and renovation work on our bathroom at home. As often happens at times like these, I’ve been daydreaming about calmer, more serene times whenever I’ve had a moment or two to myself. I kept finding my thoughts going back to a particular experience on holiday in Pembrokeshire.

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How to cross the road

On Thursday, I arrived back from another work trip to Indonesia, this time to the island of Sumatra. The trip itself was amazing (as ever — this is my third trip to Indonesia, and my first to Sumatra), but the travel involved was exhausting. We had multi-leg flights with stops, punctuated by all the getting out of bags of liquids and x-raying of laptops that modern air travel involves. After a while, it was hard to know where we were and what day it was.

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Backward looking fashion

Finding myself in that rare position of having an unspent book token recently, I was browsing around in a bookshop and picked up 19th-Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnston. Now, the idea that I would look twice at any book with the word ‘fashion’ in the title would have made me roar with laughter a few years ago, but since I started sewing, I have become fascinated by construction techniques, and with borrowing ideas from previous periods in which different body shapes were celebrated.

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Jeans and freedom

Morgan jeans - closeup of front

“Can girls wear trousers too?”

I remember it with great clarity. I was about four years old, my Dad holding me up at the window, as we looked out at the street. I had seen a girl, wearing jeans, walking down the street, and the though suddenly struck me for the first time. When my Dad answered that of course girls could wear trousers, it was like the sun coming out. I really wanted to wear trousers, and had no idea that I could. That was the beginning of my love affair with jeans.

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Pitt Rivers Museum

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We recently spent a week in Oxford for a family wedding, the first extended period of time we’ve spent there since Mr. Bsag and I moved away nearly 13 years ago. We spent a few wonderful days wandering around Oxford re-visiting favourite old haunts, one of which was the Pitt Rivers Museum. I’ve written about the museum before, but it continues to fascinate and delight me. I also find the collection quite moving. I think the typological display of the collection emphasises the shared humanity of disparate people. There are — of course — many interesting differences between cultures in the objects they make and use, but much more striking are the similarities. All humans make clothes, musical instruments and objects related to their religious practices, whatever the differences in the types of those items. Unfortunately they all also make weapons to kill and injure one another (of which more later). The overwhelming impression you get is that human material culture is driven by our shared needs, beliefs and fears, and that the differences tend to be rather superficial.

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Slipstream and micro.blog

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I seem to be continually tinkering with different ways to bring together my various bits of activity on other social media platforms (e.g. bookmarks on Pinboard, photos on Flickr, reviews of films on Letterboxd, and so on) into some kind of vaguely coherent stream, somewhere that is under my own control. The last bit of tinkering about 18 months ago resulted in a cobbled together system in which activity on various sites triggered IFTTT recipes, which created formatted text files in my Dropbox, which I could then tweak to post on a Hugo-generated blog.

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Blackbird singing at the break of dawn

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We’ve just got back from another peaceful break in North Norfolk. It has been an incredibly busy start to the year, and I am off on a work trip to Indonesia next weekend, so it was something of an island of tranquillity in a sea of turbulence. Or something like that. As usual, we enjoyed walking (I’ve posted some photos on Flickr), eating some amazing food, and getting the best and most uninterrupted nights of sleep we have had for ages.

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No more silence

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I enjoy quietness. I always have. I like a quiet working environment, and very rarely listen to music when I am focussing. However, for the past year or so, my peace has been broken by an insistent, pulsing, singing, hissing sound.

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