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Updates: April 21 - June 10, 2022 - Lara L. Schenck

Updates: April 21 – June 10, 2022

Cultish personal knowledge management, gardening and not gardening, narrow design system hindsight, and more.


These are reverse-chronological, imperfect thoughts and updates recorded at the top of my Now page and compiled into a blog post.

June 10, 2022

I haven’t updated this page in a while, so here are some out-of-order, stream-of-consciousness updates that I’ve edited only a little:

The impulse to blog more as described below has evolved into some other things and potentially major changes to this website – I will probably continue to use WordPress but I am feeling pulled towards statically generated HTML pages from Markdown files. I think the cost of switching is too great, however.

Also, we had an official Jewish marriage at the end of May. It was fantastic, and I am very grateful so many people could attend and that it was not a super-spreader event. We organized everything ourselves (my parents in large part) and recovering from all of that work was a big deal.

I have started meeting with my PhD advisor and taking on my first research-related task which is a literature review of business training and workplace learning. The task related to what I’m doing at my job now, creating documentation and onboarding materials for the design system.

I was working on a post about how I am changing careers to research, but I don’t like it so far. As I’ve been reading about digital gardens and an alternative to publishing on a blog like it’s a mini-magazine/content marketing operation, I’m not sure that’s how I want the content to live.

Nepali classes were interrupted a bit during the wedding things, but have resumed. I’m getting lots of practice speaking at home.

I’m working on developing strict time and information management habits.

We went for a two-day backpacking trip in Allegheny National Forest which was delightful. There were no unplanned adventures (these are okay sometimes though), and I felt safe from bears with my bear bell. We started listening to an audiobook, Cultish, on a portable Bluetooth speaker which also helped me feel safe from bears. This is a picture of our campsite that was really great and beautiful. Now that I’ve seen the photos new iPhones take, I think all photos I take on my four-year-old iPhone look terrible:

A forest scene with sun peaking through very green trees shining on a tent. A pile of wood appears towards the front, which is the fire pit.
Our campsite for 2 nights in Allegheny National Forest.

I’ve made a lot of progress in figuring out an information management workflow with Obsidian, using the Zettelkasten method for notetaking with fleeting notes, literature notes, and reference notes. Next up is learning about permanent notes. I’ve also been using a daily note to track a list of daily start tasks and to keep notes about whatever comes up throughout the day. I’ve been using an analog bullet journal for task management, but I do list my top three priorities in the daily note and then copy them into Complice, which I learned from Maggie Delano’s process. I might look more into the P.A.R.A. method, also inspired by her – I do see a need for categorizing notes according to project, at least. As I write this, I’m reminded of what I learned in Cultish about specialized “cultish language” and that this bullet point sounds like that. The whole “PKM” or personal knowledge management online community seems pretty cultish. Not a bad thing per se, just making that connection.

I’ve been enjoying Complice so far and I purchased a yearly subscription. The goals I am tracking are: meaningful career, Nepali, healthy habits, share what I learn, finish my brother’s painting, and anti-oppression. Some of these might merge but that’s still developing.

I will post a garden update photo soon. My mother-in-law has taken over the gardening while they are visiting this month, and it’s looking great.

Here is a photo from the wedding…pretty great right? ☺️ Unfortunately for some reason the image is blurry if I make it wider…not figuring that out now, sorry. There are a lot of other amazing photos, but I feel weird about posting them publicly on the Internet so I’m not going to.

A scene from a wedding where white chairs are in neat rows on a grassy lawn with trees on either side of the photo and a large pond reflecting the blue sky with some clouds
Our wedding on the farm where I grew up.

It’s possible this will be the last “Updates” post I publish in this manner. The “Now” page updates practice might evolve into something else as I think about revamping this website over the summer. It’s possible that each of these updates will be its own self-contained content, but I’m not sure.

May 23, 2022

I keep thinking that I want to blog more. I learned about this digital garden thing (you will see this in an update below), and that sounds great. I also want to write a book, eventually. I think these recent updates that are a couple of paragraphs long could be their own posts, they needn’t be hidden on this page and lumped together in a long “updates” post. The truth is, I am afraid to publish them on my blog because it feels too public. The incubator space is valuable, but it is also a barrier, I think.

Anyway, especially after this weekend, I’m going to have some time and space to figure this out. I was reading more about this Complice app (also below) and looked into the website of Malcolm Ocean, who created and maintains it. I felt both inspired and intimidated but mostly inspired, reading through it. This post, Focus on Starting, was thought-provoking. In the past, I’ve felt frustrated by my tendency to energetically start projects and then abandon them, but it’s a fair point that you don’t finish 100% of the projects you don’t start in the same way you don’t make 100% of the shots you don’t take, or however the popular saying goes. Other posts/pages of theirs I enjoyed investigating: My Habits, Bookgantt Chart, Project Partners (I’ve mostly come to this conclusion – that projects are best with others), and The 40-Hour Work Weekend (this aligns with something I read in Bullshit Jobs about the idea that humans might work best in inconsistent spurts – or they were forced to? Also, what is work best anyway?).

Could this update be its own blog post? What is the value of publishing half-formed thoughts like this, and for whom?

May 22, 2022

I started using the website/app Complice for goal tracking, and I think I like it. One of my ongoing/long-term goals is to blog and share what I know. I added a subtask of updating this page with garden photos and a photo of some kinda complex Nepali sentences I wrote. This subtask is overdue and I don’t feel inspired for it, but it’s easier to just do the task than to figure out how to go back and change or remove it. So, here are the photos.

My backyard garden (which I will dearly miss) was really full of weeds. I did not plant any seedlings inside this year since we are moving, but I did end up clearing out the weeds and planting some seedlings grown by a class from my high school and some flower bulbs from Aldi. How cute.

Now, for a special surprise. Last year, I found several almonds in the garden that were from compost or something, and they were sprouting. I kept a few in the ground, and a few of them have sprouted into fully fledged almond trees. One is about five feet tall. We’ll see what happens.

An almond tree that grew from an almond in my backyard garden.

Finally, an update on my Nepali study. Progress feels slow, but I’m actually learning at a pretty fast pace. My parents-in-law are visiting now, too, so I’m getting lots of speaking practice. Here are some sentences using the Nepali words for “because” and “but” (there are some mistakes that my future self will be able to identify immediately):

I’m feeling like I might need to have a different place to add this content besides the Now page because I’m not sure the purpose of the Now page is entirely being satisfied.

May 10, 2022

I am learning all about the re-invention of digital gardening via learning about the Zettelkasten note-taking method, which revealed Roam Research and Obsidian, tools for creating linked notes, the latter of which revealed the LYT (Linking Your Thinking) framework.

All of this is generally under the umbrella of personal knowledge management systems and the idea of building a second brain to store and surface information using digital tools.

I go back and forth between considering that reading this deeply into note-taking and prescriptive models for note-taking is a Complete Waste of Time and thinking, hey, this is fun and there might be something useful that comes out of it. I’m about to be completely inundated with new information when I start school in August, so might as well see what’s out there. The digital garden idea feels right, and I like how the garden is always a work in progress. It feels like the effect I try to create with this website.

…and I watched this talk from Maggie Delano where they share how they tracked pomodoros throughout their entire PhD. And I looked at their tech stack, which has this very interesting sounding Complice app for goal setting and all of these things…yikes!

There are three things coming up for me now:

  1. Maybe I can figure out how technology is useful for me instead of something that causes anxiety.
  2. Figuring out an information management process that works for me and developing healthy work habits/boundaries so that I can have the weekends off during my PhD could be time well spent this summer. Painting, reading, and learning Nepali are also time well spent, and maybe these things are not exclusive to one another.
  3. All of these apps and workflows and things are exciting, and I feel like I need to use them…and I have learned to be very suspect of urgency and feeling this kind of “need”. I’ve done just fine so far. This stuff might be helpful, but I certainly don’t “need” it, and it is not “urgent”.

May 4, 2022

I am here, writing, for procrastination purposes. This is a medium to low energy week. I’m hungry.

I’m working on a talk for my team called “Larva Design System: Past, Present, and Future”. It’s amazing to look back at the last four years and see how tightly each step comes together as a story – or at least that’s what my brain is doing as I look back. It certainly didn’t feel that way all the time, but then again, I was so passionate and optimistic (and, in hindsight, naive) in those beginning stages that I think the story was there for a lot of it. But then I changed, and the things that energized me so much before just don’t anymore. I sometimes feel a flicker of the design system passion, but for the most part, that light is out. Or maybe it has evolved into a passion for something else.

And if I’m really honest, even my passion for CSS has greatly dimmed. This might have to do with the fact that I rarely write CSS these days, and interestingly, that’s by design. A core goal of the Larva design system was to: Stop writing CSS. Yes, that’s worked well for specificity and the health of our codebases, but I guess I didn’t consider that would mean I never get to write CSS anymore. Could an alternative approach have been: Teach the team to write CSS?

This makes me sad. There was a thing I loved, and I engineered it away for the sake of speed and efficiency. That’s a pretty narrow perspective of what I’ve done with the design system, but still.

May 2, 2022

Pittsburgh Half Marathon complete! My time was 2:02:17!

I learned about this Race and Technology: A Lecture Series from Microsoft Research and wow, these look like great talks, and they are recorded and freely available!

April 29, 2022

I’ve gotten a couple of books from the library lately, and I’m an avid user of Libby, the app for the library audiobooks. I’m considering a commitment to entirely stop buying books (mostly) and only use the library. I’ve noticed the spontaneity of when you end up getting the book is cool and makes it more meaningful. Or, if I have an “urgent need” for the book, I’ll buy it and then donate it to the library.

Also, I saw the Good & Bad project from an agency called Wildbit. I had such a visceral reaction of anger to this concept at first, which lessened as I read more about it. I’m still thinking about it and will report back.

April 25, 2022

Great read to start the week: A new vision of artificial intelligence for the people.

April 21, 2022

Just published an update!