Personal Tools, Broken Situations and their Consequences.

I have a small set of Emacs lisp functions for implementing something called a Zettelkasten. It’s about 250 lines, comments included. This concept has gotten quite a bit of popularity as of later on sites like, and of course, I also have opinions strong enough to prevent me from using an off-the-shelf solution (despite there being quite a few now, especially in Emacs/Org).

Clearly, this is something that’s pretty important to me, how I read books and contextualise stuff, in other words, how I deliberately learn things that interest me. It’s also been non-functional for about five months. Not because it’s hard or complex to write, but because it sits at the intersection of various issues, motivations and external circumstances.

The last few months have not been particularly kind to me, but not unkind enough to make fixing such an important tool impossible. The issue has been at the intersection of two things:

  1. Usually the times in which I want to read are not the times in which I want to fix code that I want to have ready in order to read.
  2. Usually when I want to program stuff for fun, fixing up something broken that does not exactly have an easy reward function is not high up the list of projects to open.

The natural response to this is to make it an explicit project and to prioritise it getting done, which is something I did in response to noticing this situation… today.

What happened before today is:

  1. I wanted to sit down to read, and found my Zettelkasten system dysfunctional. Thus didn’t read as much or as thoroughly as I wanted to.
  2. I wanted to program something for fun. Thus I chose something that was more fun to write than a blob of Emacs lisp. (For example, my RSS reader that I also still need to finish)

Thus it never got fixed. The broken Kasten gated my reading and learning efforts, and the only reason that happened is because I didn’t notice how severe the effect was.

I wonder how many other situations in my life that applies to.