Thinking, Learning & Activities – September 29, 2020

🤔 💬 Thinking About Problems

Good Flashcard Software?

I would like good flashcard software.
Here are my criteria for good:
– Has an elegant and easy macOS app for making the cards.
– Has a companion iOS app for reviewing the cards.
– Does spaced repetition.
– Makes it easy to add pictures.
– (Optional) imports from and exports to standard formats like CSV, MS Excel spreadsheets etc.
Suggestions? Criticisms?


My knee has been doing better. I’ve been doing physical therapy exercise and varying my cardiovascular stuff. I also started taking short breaks every hour to do 1-2 strength training exercises. I find that pretty easy to do since I want a short break every now and then anyways. Exercise can get kinda boring if you do a lot of it, but if you just do it for 5 minutes it’s actually fine.


I’ve been having trouble with Ulysses lately. These include: 1) repeated problems with WordPress integration, 2) weird graphical glitches, 3) crashiness.
I’m getting support but am wondering if anyone knows of alternatives. I’ve looked into writing apps before but Ulysses seemed pretty solid.

📖 📝Grammar

Working on Verb Tenses

I’m looking at some materials outside of Peikoff’s grammar course as reference material for learning about verb tenses. I found Peikoff’s treatment a little fast and inadequate for me to do the homework confidently. I looked at a GMAT book and talk about that below. I looked at some grammar questions in an interactive GMAT question bank as well, but have more serious copyright concerns over that than over a couple of quotes and some paraphrasing of a book, so I won’t be going through those.

Past Perfect

A Manhattan GMAT test prep book had the following sentence (all grammar examples and problems are from this book, and my descriptions of the book’s content/perspective are paraphrases unless I indicate that it’s actually a quote):

The band U2 WAS just one of many new groups on the rock music scene in the early 1980s, but less than 10 years later, U2 HAD fully ECLIPSED its early rivals in the pantheon of popular music.

Normally, when talking in the past, you use the past perfect for the earliest action in a sequence of actions. Here, U2 WAS on the scene in the 80s, so that’s earliest. But book says “HAD fully ECLIPSED” is fine because of the “less than 10 years later.” Basically that phrase puts down a marker in time, and the eclipsing is happening before that marker, so it’s okay.

Present Perfect

Another thing the book talks about is time indicators that cross into the present, like “since” or “within the past x days”. For those, you’ve got to use the present perfect.

Wrong: Since 1986, no one BROKE that world record.
Wrong: Since 1986, no one BREAKS that world record.
Right: Since 1986, no one HAS BROKEN that world record.

I guess this makes sense because the record not being broken is a continuous thing up until the present moment, it’s ongoing, so that fits with perfect tense.

The book also mentions you can use present perfect to clarify stuff like when, which can mean “at the same time” or “after.” If you use present perfect, the when means “after” (e.g.  The company will reimburse when you have submitted the report. means you get the reimbursement after the report).

Practice Questions from Manhattan GMAT Book

Mozart, who died in 1791, has lived in Salzburg for most of his life.

My answer: Incorrect – makes it sound like Mozart is still living.

Correct would be “had lived” to use the past perfect to place the living prior in time to the death.

Book: should be “lived” or “had lived”. “Had lived’ is optional because the sequence of events is obvious but it’s fine to emphasize it if you want.

My thought: I guess the thing to keep in mind there is that these tenses are for the purpose of clarifying the sequence of events. So if the actual sequence of events is clear already then it’s not actually necessary to use an advanced tense. You can just write in a more simple tense and that’s fine.

The local government has built the school that was destroyed by the earthquake.

My answer: Incorrect: makes it sound like the school still exists. Correct would be “had built”, which would situate the building prior in time to the destruction.

Book: should be “built” or “had built”. Which one depends on the time frame the writer is focusing on. With simple past “built” version, author is focusing on the time the school was “built” (book suggests that the author would just be identifying the school with “that was destroyed by earthquake” and then might go on to talk about the building process or that kind of topic). With the “had built” version, author is focusing on the time frame when the school “was destroyed”.

The editor of our local newspaper, who has earned much acclaim in her long career, has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize yesterday.

My answer: Incorrect. Present perfect continuous is inappropriate for an action completed in the past. The simple past passive “was awarded” should be used.

Book agrees.

She already woke up when the phone rang.

My answer: incorrect, should be “had woken up” past perfect to situate the waking up before the ringing.

Book: Book puts the “already” inside the verb – had already woken up:

Already woke up (simple past) should be had already woken up (past perfect). You need to use the past perfect here because the word already requires this use for a momentary action such as wake up, when placed prior to another past action.

OK that seems consistent with what I wrote about needing to situate waking up before the ringing.

It would be fine to say she was already awake when the phone rang, because was awake is a state and thus takes up time. In that case, already would indicate that this state was in effect before the phone rang.

So you can use the simple past “was” with “already” in the case described above and the “already” helps situate the being awake in time relative to phone ringing.

However, when you use already with the simple
past of a momentary action, you convey a present perfect meaning.

So there is some distinction here between momentary actions like waking up and ongoing states like being awake.

As your spouse shakes you out of bed, you might say I already woke up, but in proper English, you should say I HAVE already woken up. In other words, the action is complete AND the effect (your wakefulness) continues to the present. In the sample sentence, since you want the subject’s wakefulness to continue up through some point in the past (when the phone rang), you must use the past perfect of wake up:

I think maybe the gist is that if we want to nail down the relative time of the wakefulness and have continue until when the phone rings, we need the past perfect. Not sure I’m following it 100% though.

Grammar Comments on Real World Writing Example

Quote is from an article by Pat Buchanan re: Amy Coney Barrett and comments are adapted from a Discord chat:

She is a non-Ivy League, Middle American and a devout Catholic and mother of seven, including a special needs child and two adopted children from Haiti.
I have issues with this sentence. “non-Ivy League,” is problematic imho.
I think it’s supposed to be an adjective modifying Middle American? but there is a comma separating it from the noun. my other reading was maybe it was trying to be a noun, like if u wanted to say “non-Ivy Leaguer“. So “non-Ivy Leaguer” would be the first noun in a series.

There appear to be three clear-cut items in a series: Middle American, devout Catholic, and mother of seven. But they are separated by and’s which is not wrong but seems a bit unusual stylistically.

Screen-time Self-Dialogue Tree

More screen-time self-dialogue. I’m adding stuff in tree form only to this at the moment. My stuff is in Red 🟥 and “Formidable Opponent” is in Yellow 🟨. Nodes that are newly added to the tree will be represented by ┈ dashed line borders. I’m not sure how much I’ll continue this particular tree. I’m getting pretty into the weeds with myself so maybe I need to take a step back and figure out a different way of organizing the discussion, heh.

PDF link for this one cuz the size makes an image or embed impractical.

🧠 🌩 Brainstorming: Things I Could Make/Cook/Sear/Crispify With a Cooking Blowtorch

  1. steak
  2. chicken
  3. fish
  4. mac + cheese
  5. pizza
  6. creme brûlée
  7. baked alaska

👨🏻‍💻 Activities


Went through more docassemble videos such as this one. I’ve been having my hand held a lot so far by these videos and tutorials but this time I actually had the experience of figuring out something on my own before the guy in the video said the answer, so that was nice. I also joined the docassemble slack and set up integration between my docassemble server and GitHub. I made a short interview and it filled in a field in a PDF, though I haven’t managed to get SMTP configuration to work yet.


Kept getting a bit distracted during today’s session (am doing 5 minutes at the moment).


I made some excellent gnocchi. I used a mix of blue cheese and cream cheese instead of gorgonzola and skipped the pine nuts. I made that substitution because Walmart didn’t have gorgonzola and I was trying to dial down the intensity of the blue cheese, which can be quite strong, by mixing it with something neutral and creamy. I also forgot to get heavy cream so I used butter + milk. Was quite pleased with the result.

🤔💬 Thoughts & Comments

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics Comments

From Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics:

I’d first met Elvis three years earlier, shortly after my first book came out. One day my Twitter feed was suddenly clogged with people telling me that someone named Elvis Duran had talked about 10% Happier on his radio show. I noticed my sales rank on Amazon—which (and I’m not proud of this) I had gotten in the habit of checking compulsively—go through the roof. I told Bianca about this, mentioning that I had never heard of the guy, and she looked at me like I was crazy. “Are you kidding?” she said. “I love Elvis Duran. I’ve been listening to him since I was a kid.”

I thought this was an interesting indicator of how much information spouses can have about each other’s interests. People can be married and say they love each other and not know what the other spouse loves and has listened to since they were a kid. And this isn’t some exceptionally bad or uncommunicative marriage, either – this sort of stuff is standard and common.

A related thought I had is that people in relationships often have various expressions of love, eternal commitment etc etc. And then when they stop sleeping together, they might never talk to each other again (either immediately or after some drifting apart). That seems a bit weird to me (objectively weird, not socially weird – socially it is normal).

A few weeks later, I went on his show. It was one of the only interviews I have ever done where Bianca insisted on joining. I was immediately impressed by Elvis. He was a stocky fiftysomething with salt-and-pepper hair—and very clearly not your usual morning shock jock. He is openly gay, and the two most prominent figures in his large crew of on-air personalities are women. The team members are nice to one another, as well as to the guests. And they do all this while still managing to be very, very funny.

I thought “they do all this while still managing to be very, very funny” was an interesting indicator of how humor is often associated with meanness. I also don’t think it’s that impressive to be able to be nice and do humor. There are people who do nice style humor. Maybe Ellen or one of the nicer late night hosts would be an example, but I don’t follow them close enough to say for sure. It’s a totally standard cultural thing though.

Another way to inject a dose of elasticity into your practice is something I call the “Accordion Principle.” It’s a combo of “One Minute Counts” and “Adopt an Attitude of ‘Daily-ish.’ ”
If your goal is to do five to ten minutes a day of meditation, one way to give yourself a break on really busy days is to do just one minute. It’s another hack that allows you to keep your foot in the game and prevent the turkey in your head from offering up pseudo-wisdom along the lines of “You fell off the wagon, you’re a hopeless case. Give up now before you embarrass yourself further.”

So basically, have somewhat flexible standards that you’re willing to lower sometimes instead of beating yourself up for failing to achieve goals that you currently don’t know how to achieve. Makes sense.

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