Multiproject Update for Q3 2022

This is a late start to the quarter, since I gave myself an extra month to work on my Q2 goals. I spent today assessing where my projects were at and what they needed most. Without further ado, here is what I’d like to get done in the next couple of months!

Research Quest

Over the past two reading projects, I got the foundation of sustainability knowledge that I’d felt I was missing. There’s always more to learn, of course, but my focus is going to be on output – writing about what I’ve learned, and picking up any additional research I need as I go.

I still have a few blog posts pending from the first reading project, and books to read (that I’m looking forward to) from the second. And most recently, I’ve been experimenting with writing public comments and letters to the editor (LTE).

So my goals are:

  • Write the last few blog posts from reading project 1,
  • Read the books from reading project 2,
  • Continue to write public comments and LTE,
  • Try to get to the next sustainability skill: writing op-eds! I took a cool class by the OpEd Project last year about how to do it, and I’ve made one submission so far…

YA Fantasy Novel

I have a fairly consolidated draft that needs more detailed editing. I don’t think I can get done with a full edit in the next two months, so my goals are:

  • edit half the novel,
  • post regular writing updates and spoiler-free ‘concept art’ (I’m using drawing to help me visualize parts of the story) over on the Fiction page.


I had such a blast doing a 10-day drawing challenge a few months ago that I definitely want to do another one. I have two ideas I just can’t choose between! Maybe I’ll leave it open, and decide when I’m ready. It’ll be a surprise, to me as much as anyone.

* * *

And that’s all! Setting goals after I’ve started – I guess that’s one way to do it.

Are you in the thick of your projects? Do you find it useful to re-evaluate in the middle of them?

Multiproject Update: End of Q2 and Start of Q3 of 2022.

I last made a multiproject update post here, listing my goals for Q2. 

I gave myself two extra weeks after Q2 officially ended, because the end of the month was chaotic-good. I went to Portland for the WDS conference in late June, and I had a huge dip in productivity right before it (because I hadn’t traveled in a while and was stressed) and a huge boost in productivity right afterward (because Portland is awesome). When July rolled around, I was still in the thick of my projects and didn’t want to stop work abruptly. 

Now that my extended quarter has ended, here is the latest on my big projects:

Research Quest

My reading line up for the quarter included a few big reports:

  • The SEC’s proposed climate disclosure rule (March 2022)
  • New IPCC report AR6, from three working groups – 1, 2, and 3 (2021-2022). Especially prioritizing Working Group 3, which focuses on Mitigation.
  • October 2021 report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) about Curtailing Methane Emissions from Fossil Fuel Operations.
  • FTC 2012 Green Guide

Of these, I was able to skim all of them (excluding the working groups 1 and 2 of the IPCC report). 

I spent a bunch of time on the SEC climate disclosure because I wanted to write a public comment in support of the rule.

When government agencies propose new rule, they often open a public comment period when we, the public, can share our views on it. They post all the comments they receive publicly on their website.

I’d never done this before, so I followed the guidelines from the Public Comment Project, and squeaked my email in just before their extended deadline of June 17th. I was worried I had bungled the submission because I didn’t see my comment on their public comments page, and I still might have, but according to this article it typically takes a month or two before the comments are posted. So I’ll be keeping my eye on that page to see if I did it right. I definitely want to keep doing these in the future, because it’s an effective way to influence climate policy. (If you want to read my comment, I’ve appended it at the end of this post!)

For the other three reports, I’m mostly stashing them away as references for future blogging. I’m still formulating what I want to say about them. I’m sure the FTC Green Guide will feature heavily in a planned deep dive into the subject of greenwashing.

The rest of my research lineup consisted of:

  • UNEP Six Sector Solution
  • Inconspicuous Consumption by Tatiana Schlossberg
  • Speed and Scale by John Doerr
  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Web Survey (of useful websites for climate and sustainability data)

I mades some good headway into the first and last of these, and they will fit into a YouTube series I’m working on. So, once more, I’m stashing them away for when I need them. The middle three are books, and unfortunately, I didn’t get to them at all. I’m looking forward to some cozy reading time, so I’m rolling those into this quarter.

In the two research quests I’ve done so far, I organized the quest by the reports. I read each as thoroughly as I could and blogged about them. This was a pretty good way of working. I wanted to be thorough and feel like I knew what I was talking about. But it was also kind of a slow and lumbering process.

Going forward, I might shake up the research quest format a bit, so I can respond more quickly to current events. More on that soon.

YA fantasy novel

In the fiction world, I had two goals. One was to finish the ‘long draft’ of my YA fantasy novel by pasting into the main manuscript scenes that I’d written in various note-taking apps. I’m about halfway through this task, so I might give myself another couple of days to get this done before I set myself a new goal.

My second goal was to finish sharing my novel’s (real-world) backstory, so that you’d be all caught up when I started sharing real-time writing updates. I did manage to catch up to the start of this year by adding two new installments to the story. One more installment should get us to the present day.

Art and Painting

This is the one category where I crushed my goals, which were:

  1. To upload my recent watercolors and vector art into galleries in my Painting category.
  2. To make vector drawings of all the plants (and fruit and vegetables) in my house.

The Painting category of this blog is all the way up-to-date, and the vector drawings of plants are here, where you can download them in the form of a PDF booklet if you like. And you can watch the ‘making-of’ videos here, if you like drawing videos.

* * *

It’s been an intense quarter and a very, very mixed bag. I feel good about my progress, but also a need to adapt how I work, because there is a need for rapid action in preparation for the US midterm election.

 How about you? Did you have any projects planned for last quarter, and do you have any planned for this one?

The comment I submitted to the SEC (A few years ago, I used to sound this formal in my writing all the time! Can you imagine?):

To whom it may concern,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors.
I am Deepti Kannapan, an aerospace engineer with an Engineering Design background. I have a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

I strongly support this new rule, and welcome the prospect of clearer and more standardized climate-related information from companies whose disclosures have, thus far, been opaque and overly self-congratulatory.

I consider climate risk to be related to a measure of a registrant’s unused opportunities for GHG mitigation. For example, a company in a relatively easy-to-decarbonize industry that fails to take decarbonization efforts may face more customer backlash (and risk) than a company in a hard-to-decarbonize industry that makes use of best available practices. (Even though the latter company may have higher emissions overall.) 
I believe the proposed disclosures will provide useful information for making those comparisons. However, I have two comments:

1. Regarding the Request for Comment #111, I think GHG intensity should be specified per unit of production, broken out by product category.  I would consider a company with higher GHG intensity (than its peer companies) in a particular product category to have higher risk.

For example, for a company that produces both physical products and web services, I would compare its GHG intensity for physical products with other companies that produce those products, and compare its GHG intensity for web products with other web companies.

Comparing the aggregate GHG intensity across all product categories may not accurately reflect which company has more unused opportunities for GHG mitigation, since products and industries vary widely in their difficulty to decarbonize.

2. In addition to GHG intensity, I would like to know how dependent a registrant’s business model is on high sales volumes and wasteful design practices like planned obsolescence. A company that produces products with shorter life cycles and (resultant) higher sales volumes than its competition (such as ‘fast fashion’ or cheap electronic products) has more unused opportunities for GHG mitigation, even if its GHG intensity may be lower.

However, I would consider this company to have higher climate risk, since its business model may not be viable under future regulation or market pressure to pivot to more durable products. For this reason, I would suggest that a measure of product durability be added to the disclosure.
Please see below for relevant literature.
Thank you.
Sincerely,Deepti Kannapan

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, UC Santa Barbara,

B. Tech and M. Tech Engineering Design, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

 * * *

Bibliography:– Rivera, Julio L., and Amrine Lallmahomed. “Environmental implications of planned obsolescence and product lifetime: a literature review.” International Journal of Sustainable Engineering 9.2 (2016): 119-129.
– Peters, Greg, Mengyu Li, and Manfred Lenzen. “The need to decelerate fast fashion in a hot climate-A global sustainability perspective on the garment industry.” Journal of cleaner production 295 (2021): 126390.

A Multi-Project Update for Q2 2022

I last made a multi-project update post here, and I’d like to start doing one every quarter. They help me stay focused(ish) and might help you make sense of my scattered updates.

Here are my projects this quarter.

• Research quest: I have a new lineup to read, as well as a couple of posts to write from last time around. I’ve defined the project here.
I’ve made a little progress, and yet I’m feeling strangely confident about getting through it. Expect some more updates on my reading soon!

• YA fantasy novel: I’ve been sharing updates here. My goal for this quarter is to finish the ‘long draft’, which is what I call the draft that has everything I want to put in, and can then start cutting down.

Currently, I have all the scenes I want, though a few are in outline form.

So my next task is to flesh out the newest scenes and paste the material hanging out in various note-taking apps and my (transcribed) voice memos into the main draft.

My second goal is to finish sharing my novel’s (real-world) backstory, which I started here.

• Art & Painting
I don’t usually have any goals to speak of related to art, since I prefer to just draw or paint when I feel like it. But this time, I have two goals:

1. To upload my recent watercolors and vector art into galleries in my Painting category.
2. To make vector drawings of all the plants (and fruit and vegetables) in my house.
I’ve also been using my art in blog posts and other media. So I want to continue to do that.

Okay! There’s a lot going on. Let’s see how I do!

I’m Giving This Planning Thing A Try

I’ve been an engineer for 6 years now. You might assume that being organized comes naturally. You’d be wrong.

I got into engineering because I love math and science. Math is like a way to see the world in a different lens, like being able to see more wavelengths, or having a new way to describe what you see, and find connections between seemingly disparate things.

In engineering, the math and analysis fit into a larger picture with many moving parts: teams working on different aspects of different modules, many stages of design and testing and manufacturing, and schedules to get through each phase, and funding that’s available for each phase. Those are factors that decide what math problems you get to work on and when, based on what is needed to get the project to the next phase.

All of that context dissolves when I get in front of the math problem. Then it’s just me, a page full of symbols, and the colors and geometrical shapes and curves in my mind.

I can’t ‘math’ my plans

Superficially, planning looks a bit like math and science. It’s a bit like modeling the process of making something, similar to how a scientist might model a chemical reaction or a geologic process. That similarity is what tripped me up.

Predicting what I’ll do tomorrow is not at all like a geologic process. It depends on more factors than can be modeled, including my energy state, whims, what other people I meet, the state of the economy and news, etc.

If one were to even try to model that (which I never would; the mere thought chills the blood), it would require massive amounts of information I don’t have. I’d have to know the state of every neuron and blood cell in my own body, and in every other person’s who might be on my team, every variable that governs the economy and what tasks my company assigns me, and so on. 

Even if one could collect all that information, it wouldn’t be enough. The system that governs your work life is what we’d call ‘chaotic’, meaning that its outcomes depend on the slightest change in one of those variables. Commonly known as the butterfly effect.

Anyway, that is an aside to say planning is not at all like modeling, but I wanted it to be. I would never guess or rely only on intuition when answering an engineering problem (though intuition plays a huge role), but that is all you can do when planning. You can collect data on how long things usually take, and try to be a bit more rigorous in predicting what might happen, but deep down, I knew my projections were based on guesswork, hope, and good-enough reasoning. And I hated it. It felt like lying.

Novel projects are great for planning practice

Novelists have it right. There are lots of resources on how to plan writing a book, but the essence of it is to divide the project into ‘drafts’ (first draft, second draft), estimate the length of your book, and then schedule out writing sessions over a few months with a word count target.

This process defines the basic unit of progress as ‘words’ and the only goal is to produce them, or revise sections of them. The ultimate goals of defining the story, solving plot problems, improving the prose, etc. are not official goals  –  they are too hard to quantify and too mysterious to plan. But the task of showing up and writing every day is enough to achieve all of them.

When I wrote the first draft of my novel, I made a spreadsheet word count tracker (which you can download here if you’d like to try it). I needed to customize it because I was writing in multiple documents for separate story threads, and needed to add all the word counts together. A pretty graph ticked up every day as I added words, and was motivation enough to keep going when the story seemed full of problems. Best of all, I had a sense of how much there was left to do in this draft – the number of words left to get to my target.

Now, just writing that number of words doesn’t make a draft complete. I considered the draft complete when I got to the end of the story since I already had an end in mind. But the word count correlates to that, since I had rough milestones in the story that were expected to occur at specific percentages of the book, so I could tell if I was running short or long depending on where the milestones hit. I ended up with a shorter draft than planned, but that doesn’t matter since the word count was just a metric for tracking. The story came, which is what really matters.

For subsequent drafts, I’ve been adapting the process even further. There isn’t as clear a metric of progress as there was in a first draft (discovery draft), since I jumped wildly from world-building, plotting, drafting, researching, and every other process.

I’m a ‘methodological pantser’ per  Ellen Brock’s categorization of writer styles, and figuring that out has been a game-changer.

(You may have heard of ‘plotters’ and ‘pantsers’ – Ellen expands this categorization to better capture the variety and specificity of writing styles. Methodological pantsers use a lot of systems and methodology, but we jump around from one to another as inspiration dictates.)

As a methodological pantser, I tend to switch between processes as needed. For each process, I figured out a unit of progress, like:

  • Number of entries added to my worldbuilding wiki.
  • Number of research materials read.
  • Number of words of brainstorming or tone experiments.

Those were the equivalent of my pretty word count graphs that told me how far I’d come. At the basic level, the planning unit was the same – writing sessions. The plan was simple. Sit down for ~20 minutes some 8 times a week. Each time, log the units of progress. Occasionally project forward to see how many more pages or references or chapters there are to go. The end.

Now I approach engineering (and all projects) like writing

The science and math and design of an engineering project tell me what is needed to be done. Write this piece of code, solve that equation, order such-and-such tool. The writing-inspired planning process tells me how to do it. Figure out the unit of progress (which is usually the number of discrete tasks left to get to the result)  – schedule out some sessions, work on the next task for 20 minutes or so, and log how far there is left to go.

This is a squishy, unpredictable, human process in the midst of a bunch of predictable and precise physical and mathematical processes. It always was, but at least now I’m letting it be true to its (my) squishy, unpredictable nature. Progress in a project is something you can only describe. You can’t model or predict it, and I don’t try to. Improving my ability to understand what I’m doing and how far I am from my goal has made a huge difference, not least because I can ‘feel’ the progress even when I’m stuck and the symbols blur together on the screen.

Engineering and science were always a creative endeavor of inquiry, and approaching them like a novelist is the best way to embrace that.