Very, very early in my self-improvement journey, I tried adding a 20 minute timer to my life. Every 20 minutes of my waking life, it went off. I’d explicitly say to myself what it was I was doing (“Watching TV” or “Talking to Fred”). It’s important to have a verbal or written note of what you’re doing.
I added a specific prompt at one point: “What am I doing, and why?”. I don’t think goals are how I think about things today, but it’s how I tried to think back then (goal factoring). Today I might ask, “What am I doing, and do I want to be doing it? Do I want to be doing it this way?”
The basic 20-minute check-in process was very helpful to me. Some benefits:
Ding! What am I doing? It gave me an awareness of time. How long do things last? Our subjective sense of time doesn’t always match. For example, doing my daily chores takes about 20 minutes. A typical conversation with a friend takes 60-120 minutes for me. But the chores feel way longer to me!
What am I doing, and do I want to be doing it? Interrupting default activities (a type of inertia). Watching TV until I get bored of it takes me 2-10 hours, if I don’t have a timer. Having a timer interrupt me let me say “well, maybe this will be the last episode, then.” It’s easy to get into a low-energy state for leisure activities where you don’t notice the passage of time. And it’s important to note, I don’t have any rules. I can keep watching TV all night if I want to. This helps me avoid doing it out of pure inertia. (It also really keyed me in that TV does not really “recharge” my batteries. Other relaxation is better.)
Do I want to be doing it, or doing it this way? Interrupting bad approaches (a type of inertia). Sometimes, I get stubborn. I’ll keep trying to solve a problem in one way, for way too long. Having a regular interruption keys me into how long I’ve been doing that. I’ll notice I should maybe try a different approach or a work-around. Or give up.
Ding! Providing a check-in. I’ll just take stock, and say “hey, am I really having fun? is this even useful?”. Sometimes I’m just doing something dumb. Or sometimes I forget to have fun or take a break for too long. This is my reminder to check in with my strategic system; my emotions; my body.
One of the more useful things I did was to start logging all my technical problems. Whenever I hit a problem, I write an entry in problem-log.txt. Here’s an example
Q: Why isn't the printer working? [ SOLVED ]
A: sudo cupsenable HL-2270DW
// This isn't in the problem log, but the issue is that CUPS will silently disable the printer if it thinks there's an issue. This can happen if you pull a USB cord mid-print.
I write the date, the question, and the answer. Later, when I have a tough or annoying problem, I try to grep problem-log.txt. I’ll add a note if I solve a problem using the log, too.
This was an interesting project to look at 5 years later. I didn’t see benefits until 1-2 years later. It does not help me think through a problem. It’s hard to remember to do. But, over time it’s built up and become invaluable to me. I hit a tricky problem, and I can’t immediately find an answer on the web. I find out it’s in problem-log.txt. And, someone’s written it exactly with my hardware (and sometimes even my folder names) correctly in there. Cool!
Here’s another example:
Q: How do I connect to the small yellow router?
I scan each and every piece of paper that passes through my hands. All my old to-do lists, bills people send me in the mail, the manual for my microwave, everything. I have a lot of scans.
scan-organizer is a tool I wrote to help me neatly organize and label everything, and make it searchable. It’s designed for going through a huge backlog by hand over the course of weeks, and then dumping a new set of raw scans in whenever afterwards. I have a specific processing pipeline discussed below. However if you have even a little programming skill, I’ve designed this to be modified to suit your own workflow.
Input and output
The input is some raw scans. They could be handwritten notes, printed computer documents, photos, or whatever.
The final product is that for each file like ticket.jpg, we end up with ticket.txt. This has metadata about the file (tags, category, notes) and a transcription of any text in the image, to make it searchable with grep & co.
category: movie tickets
filename: seven psychopaths ticket.jpg
Rialto Cinemas Elmwood
Sun Oct 28 1
Rialto Cinemas Gift Cards
Perfect For Movie Lovers!
Here are some screenshots of the process. Apologizies if they’re a little big! I just took actual screenshots.
At any point I can exit the program, and all progress is saved. I have 6000 photos in the backlog–this isn’t going to be a one-session thing for me! Also, everything has keyboard shortcuts, which I prefer.
Phase 1: Rotating and Cropping
First, I clean up the images. Crop them, rotate them if they’re not facing the right way. I can rotate images with keyboard shortcuts, although there are also buttons at the bottom. Once I’m done, I press a button, and scan-organizer advanced to the next un-cleaned photo.
Phase 2: Sorting into folders
Next, I sort things into folders, or “categories”. As I browse folders, I can preview what’s already in that folder.
Phase 3: Renaming Images
Renaming images comes next. For convenience, I can browse existing images in the folder, to help name everything in a standard way.
Phase 4: Tagging images
I tag my images with the type of text. They might be handwritten. Or they might be printed computer documents. You can imagine extending the process with other types of tagging for your use case.
Not yet done: OCR
Printed documents are run through OCR. This isn’t actually done yet, but it will be easy to plug in. I will probably use tesseract.
Phase 5: Transcribing by hand
I write up all my handwritten documents. I have not found any useful handwriting recognition software. I just do it all by hand.
The point of scan-organizer is to filter based on tags. So only images I’ve marked as needing hand transcription are shown in this phase.
Phase 6: Verification
At the end of the whole process, I verify that each image looks good, and is correctly tagged and transcribed.
Used or refurbished items were excluded. Multi-packs (5 USB sticks) were excluded except for optical media. Seagate drives were excluded, because they are infamous for having a high failure rate and bad returns process.
Per TB, the cheapest options are:
Tape media (LTO-8) at $4.74/TB, but I recommend against it. Tape drives are expensive ($3300 for LTO-8 new), giving a breakeven with HDDs at 350-400TB. Also, the world is down to only one tape drive manufacturer, so you could end up screwed in the future.
3.5″ internal spinning hard drives, at $13.75/TB. Currently the best option is 4TB drives.
3.5″ external spinning hard drives, at $17.00/TB. Currently the best is 18TB WD drives. If you want internal drives, you can buy external ones and open them up, although it voids your warranty.
2.5″ external spinning hard drives, at $24.50/TB. 4-5TB is best.
Blu-ray disks, at $23.16: 25GB is cheapest, then 50GB ($32.38/TB), then 100GB ($54.72/TB).
Be very careful buying internal hard drives online, and try to use a first-party seller. There are a lot of fake sellers and sellers who don’t actually provide a warranty. This is new in the last few years.
Changes since the last survey 2 years ago:
Amazon’s search got much worse again. More sponsored listings, still refurbished drives.
Sketchy third-party sellers are showing up on Amazon, and other vendors. At this point the problem is people not getting what they order, or getting it but without a promised warranty. I tried to filter out such Amazon sellers. I had trouble, even though I do the survey by hand. At this point it would be hard to safely buy an internal hard drive on Amazon.
Spinning drives: Prices have not significantly dropped or risen for spinning hard drives, since 2020.
Spinning drives: 18TB and 20TB 3.5″ hard drives became available
SSDs: 8TB is available (in both 2.5 inch and M.2 formats)
SSDs: Prices dropped by about half, per TB. The cheapest overall drives dropped about 30%.
USB: 2TB dropped back off the market, and appears unavailable.
USB: On the lower end, USB prices rose almost 2X. On the higher end, they dropped.
MicroSD/SD: Prices dropped
MicroSD/SD: A new player entered the cheap-end flash market, TEAMGROUP. Based on reading reviews, they make real drives, and sell them cheaper than they were available before. Complaints of buffer issues or problems with sustained write speeds are common.
MicroSD/SD: It’s no longer possible to buy slow microsd/sd cards, which is good. Basically everything is class 10 and above.
MicroSD/SD: Combine microsd and sd to show price comparison
Optical: Mostly optical prices did not change. 100GB Blu-Ray dropped by 60-70%. Archival Blu-Ray, too.
Tape: LTO-9 is available.
Tape: The cost of LTO-8 tape dropped 50%, which makes it the cheapest option.
Tape: This is not new, but there is still only one tape drive manufacturer (HP) since around the introduction of LTO-8.
I just wrote the first pass at youtube-autodl, a tool for automatically downloading youtube videos. It’s inspired by Popcorn Time, a similar program I never ended up using, for automatically pirating the latest video from a TV series coming out.
You explain what you want to download, where you want to download it to, and how to name videoes. youtube-autodl takes care of the rest, including de-duplication and downloading things ones.
The easiest way to understand it is to take a look at the example config file, which is my actual config file.
Personally, I find youtube is pushing “watch this related” video and main-page feeds more and more, to the point where they actually succeed with me. I don’t want to accidentally waste time, so I wanted a way to avoid visiting youtube.com. This is my solution.
I retired at 31, and get asked about it sometimes. I wrote an article about how the math of retirement, which explains how I retired early (and some some extent, why). And of course, how and why you might want to as well.
Year 0 – I filled 10 32-GB Kingston flash drives with random data. Year 1 – Tested drive 1, zero bit rot. Re-wrote the drive with the same data. Year 2 – Re-tested drive 1, zero bit rot. Tested drive 2, zero bit rot. Re-wrote both with the same data.
They have been stored in a box on my shelf, with a 1-month period in a moving van (probably below freezing) this year.
Will report back in 1 more year when I test the third 🙂
Q: Why didn’t you test more kinds of drives? A: Because I don’t have unlimited energy, time and money :). I encourage you to!
Q: You know you powered the drive by reading it, right? A: Yes, that’s why I wrote 10 drives to begin with. We want to see how something works if left unpowered for 1 year, 2 years, etc.
Q: What drive model is this? A: The drive tested was “Kingston Digital DataTraveler SE9 32GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive (DTSE9H/32GBZ)” from Amazon, model DTSE9H/32GBZ, barcode 740617206432, WO# 8463411X001, ID 2364, bl 1933, serial id 206432TWUS008463411X001005. It was not used for anything previously–I bought it just for this test.
Q: Which flash type is this model? A: We don’t know. If you do know, please tell me.
Q: What data are you testing with? A: (Repeatable) randomly generated bits
Q: What filesystem are you using? / Doesn’t the filesystem do error correction? A: I’m writing data directly to the drive using Linux’s block devices.
Here’s a list of books I read in 2021. The ones in bold I recommend.
Enigma by Graeme Base City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett Look to Windward (Culture 7) by Ian Banks Surface Detail (Culture 8) by Ian M Banks Pump Six by Paolo Bacigalupi Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Lexicon by Max Barry Mage Errant 1 by John Bierce Mage Errant 2 by John Bierce Mage Errant 3 by John Bierce Mage Errant 4 by John Bierce Mage Errant 5 by John Bierce The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake Lilith’s Brood (Xenogenesis 1) by Octavia E Butler Elegy Beach (Change 2) by Steven Boyett Curse of Charion by Louis Bujold Xenocide by Orson Scott Card Bohemian Gospel by Dan Carpenter Convergence (Foreigner 18) by C J Cherryh Emergence (Foreigner 19) by C J Cherryh Convergence (Foreigner 21) by C J Cherryh Iron Prince by Bryce O’Conner and Luke Chmilenko Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl 1) by Eoin Colfer The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl 2) by Eoin Colfer Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl 3) by Eoin Colfer Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl 4) by Eoin Colfer Space Between Worlds by J Conrad and Micaiah Johnson Little Brother by Cory Doctrow Homeland (Little Brother 2) by Cory Doctrow Children of Chaos by Dave Duncan The Alchemist’s Apprentice by Dave Duncan The Alchemist’s Code by Dave Duncan The Alchemist’s Pursuit by Dave Duncan The Cutting Edge by Dave Duncan Upland Outlaws by Dave Duncan The Stricken Field by Dave Duncan Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst Vita Nostra by Maryna and Serhiy Dyachenko How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason Malazan (Malazan 1) by Steven Erikson Daughter of the Empire by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts Mistress of the Empire by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts Servant of the Empire by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts Dragon’s Egg (Cheela 1) by Robert L Forward Mother of Learning by Domagoj Kurmaic/nobody103 Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman The Midnight Library by Matt Haig The Warehouse by Rob Hart Forging Hephestus by Drew Hayes Super Powereds, v1 by Drew Hayes Super Powereds, v2 by Drew Hayes Super Powereds, v3 by Drew Hayes Super Powereds, v4 by Drew Hayes Johannes Cabal by Johnathan L. Howard The Medusa Plague by Mary Kirchoff Six Wakes by Muir Lafferty King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence First Contacts by Murray Leinster Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem Tuf Voyaging by George R R Martin Memory of Empire by Arkady Martine A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine Middlegame by Seanan McGuire The Host by Stephanie Meyers The city & the city by China Mieville *The House that Made the 16 Loops of time by Tamsyn Muir Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik The Last Graduate (Schoolomance 2) by Naomi Novik Stiletto (Chequey, book 2) by Daniel O’Malley Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett Jingo by Terry Pratchett The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett Monsterous Regiment by Terry Pratchett Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett Night Watch by Terry Pratchett Snuff by Terry Pratchett Sourcery by Terry Pratchett The Truth by Terry Pratchett The Woven Ring (Sol’s Harvest 1) by M D Presley Years of Rice + Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson The Torch That Ignites the Stars by Andrew Rowe Sleep Donation by Karen Russell A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V E Schwab Vicious by V E Schwab Vengeance by V E Schwab Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith Why Is This Night Different Than All Other Nights? by Lemony Snicket Dark Storm (Rhenwars 1) by M L Spenser Anathem by Neal Stephenson Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson Nimona by Noele Stevenson Hunter x Hunter manga v1-36 by Yoshihiro Togashi Worth the Candle by Alexander Wales Educated by Tara Westover Soulsmith (Cradle 2) by Will Wight Blackflame (Cradle 3) by Will Wight Skysworn (Cradle 4) by Will Wight Ghostwater (Cradle 5) by Will Wight Underlord (Cradle 6) by Will Wight Uncrowned (Cradle 7) by Will Wight Wintersteel (Cradle 8) by Will Wight Bloodlines (Cradle 9) by Will Wight Reaper (Cradle 10) by Will Wight The Crimson Vault (Travelers Gate 2) by Will Wight *Dinosaurs by Walter Jon Williams Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson Thousand Li by Tao Wong Thousand Li 2 by Tao Wong Thousand Li 3 by Tao Wong Thousand Li 4 by Tao Wong Thousand Li 5 by Tao Wong Sorcerer’s Legacy by Janny Wurts (see also Feist) Heretical Edge by ceruleuanscrawling Mark of the Fool by UnstoppableJuggernaut there is no antimemetics division by qntm Only Villains Do That by Webbonomicon Worm by wildbow
Compiling with Continuations by Andrew W. Appel The Rule of Benedict by St Benedict (read the front material only) Programming Pearls by Jon Bentley Whole Brain Emulation Roadmap by Nick Bostrom Data Matching by Peter Christen Attack and Defense by James Davies and Akira Ishida Engines of Creation by K. Eric Drexler Class by Paul Fussell The Food Lab by J Kenzi Lopez-Alt Primitive Technology by John Plant Monero whitepaper by Nicolas van Saberhagen Secrets and Lies by Bruce Schneier The Cuckoo’s Egg by Clifford Stoll