DIY Hard drive carrying case

Today’s project was a hard drive carrying case. I wanted something to securely store hard drives. When I looked around on ebay and amazon, I saw some nice cases and some crappy plastic molded ones. Even the terrible ones were at least $50, so I made my own.

HDD Carrying Case Exerior

I bought a used ammo case at the rather excellent local army surplus store. Then I padded all sides. I had spare EVA foam “puzzle piece” style mats from a gym setup lying around. I cut out the pieces with scissors. That’s it.  I was expecting more steps, but nothing needed glued in place. I was planning on adding inserts for the empty slots, but it seems secure enough. If you’re making one, you could also glue the top onto the lid, so you don’t have to take it out manually.

HDD Case Interior

Time management: Optimizers, Satisficers, Minimizers

I want to talk about three different mindsets for time management and what constitutes “success”. In all three, I’ll talk about an example problem, let’s say “writing term papers” for a student who finds this difficult, and see how each might approach the goal. My goal is not to promote one of these as best, but rather to illustrate that all three exist. Each may be favored by one person or another, or by a single person depending on the situation. I hope that by describing them, I can help people understand one another’s motivations, so as to facilitate communication. The first mindset I will call optimization. The optimizer tries to spend their time gaining resources. For example, they might work to get money. They also attempt to increase the rate at which they can gain resources. Some optimizers even try to increase the rate at which they can e.g. network or learn skills. The intuition here is that most goods are somehow fungible, and that you should try to get as many fungible goods as possible. Example of term papers: An optimizer might try to learn to write term papers, or get faster and faster at writing papers. If they got good at writing term papers, they might try to write even more (for example, taking classes heavy on papers) to take advantage of these skills. Heuristics:

  • Get nowhere faster: Get where you’re going faster, even if you don’t have a specific goal in mind
  • Level up: It’s always good to learn things and develop skills
  • Experiment: Never be content with the status quo. (Choose explore/exploit explicitly and dovetail, for principled experimenters)
  • Accumulate multipliers / Seek good trade routes: Be able to buy all things with money, learning, whatever you have most of. Try to maximize the rate.
  • Get money: Anywhere you have a resource coming in, increase the income rate, or trade rate you’re getting it for.

Failure modes:

  • Butterfly: Ends up unfocused and with no immediate or terminal goals.

The second mindset I will call satisficing. The satisficer is goal-oriented, and tries to stay focus on the goal at all times. Traditional goal-based time management like GTD encourages satisficing. Example of term papers: Their specific goal might be “Get an A on all papers until I graduate”. If they can write well enough to get an A, they probably would not learn to write better. If they can’t get an A, their goal might be better served by learning to write to rubrics. The question of learning to write better vs spending more time editing on each paper would be decided by the amount of time each would take for the actual number of term papers the student expected to write for their immediate goal. Heuristics:

  • Get to the goal as quickly as possible
  • No lost purposes: One of the strengths of satisficing is to avoid “rabbit holes” which don’t contribute to any end goal
  • Munchkin: Think about what will actually contribute to the goal, as well as what won’t.

Failure modes:

  • Tunnel vision / inflexibility: Not contributing to the immediate goal is not the same as being useless. Can lose sight of the big picture (supergoal or unrelated terminal goals) and ways to work toward that other than via the immediate goal.
  • EA Bot Syndrome / Don’t smell the flowers: Excessive goal focus can lose sight of human involvement, and end up giving the satisficer low life quality.

The last mindset I will call minimization. The minimizer will try to minimize the amount of resources spent on a particular task or problem. They will especially try to avoid any indefinitely-big cost. Example of term papers: The student might try to spend the minimum amount of time possible on the paper to get an A. If they knew they were going to write several papers, they might study how to write papers faster, so as to spend less total time–even if they expected the time learning to write faster would be greater than the time to write the immediate papers (“but what if there are more papers someday”). The eventual state of the minimizer will probably be to have set things up to avoid term papers, or write them very quickly. Heuristics:

  • Automate / Offload for free: Spend only a finite amount of time on something
  • Eliminate recurring costs
  • Asymptotic improvement: Any finite number of mistakes is okay, as long as you end up optimal eventually
  • Deal with it permanently: If you’re not closing things and returning to them indefinitely, you’re spending infinite time and attention on it
  • Timebox: Only spend a finite amount of time on something, and then consider it resolved forever

Failure modes:

  • Bad at goals: Minimization deals with recurring activities, but can fail to offer any positive motivation for one-time end goals
  • Negative mindset: Heavy focus on mistakes and resource use

Roasted Chickpeas

roastedHere’s how you make roasted chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans):

  1. Set the oven to 400F.
  2. Drain and empty a can or so of chickpeas into a collander and wash them
  3. Dry the chickpeas (this is the hard step). I use paper towels, but I haven’t figured out a way to not use a billion of them.
  4. Put them in a short pan in the oven and cover them in olive oil. Toss them some with your hands to get them coated.
  5. Cook for 20-30 minutes, shaking the pan so everything turns every 10 minutes. I like them crispy so I do 30 minutes.
  6. Take them out and transfer them to a bowl. Add spices. I like salt, garlic powder, and pepper.


Cardboard mail holders

Our house has seven people, so today I made some mail holders to put on our doors.



I basically had some long cardboard boxes, and cut them in half. Then I added new ends and separators in the middle.

I’m not sure if they’ll actually get used. Mail on the floor looks bad, but these aren’t that hot either. If you make some and want to improve the look, you can cover everything in paper or cardstock.

Review Habit

When I’ve talked to successful people, the one habit they pretty much all have is some kind of daily review process. Often journaling as well, but very specifically some kind of review process. I want to be a successful person, and I can understand how this would help, so I want that. I’ve tried to set it up before, but I never end up journaling every day.

The typical way to set up a habit is to link it to another existing habit. For a daily habit, you try to link it into an existing part of your daily routine. Here’s the problem: I don’t have any major daily habits. I don’t eat every day. I don’t brush my teeth at night every day. I don’t take a shower every day. I check my email, which is how I tried it before, which worked OK but it turns out I don’t do that every day either.

Daily: Wake up and go to the bathroom to put in contacts. Grab my journal and write a daily review for the previous day. The contents of the review are

  1. What I remember doing the day before
  2. Which aspects were good
  3. Which aspects were bad
  4. Changes I can make to get more of the good and less of the bad. I’m not allowed to name a change I’ve named before.

I’m making sure to write down

  • Good/bad aspects I have no idea how to affect
  • Things I did which were both ‘todos’ and things that used time (for example, derping and talking to people for a long while)

I’ve also been writing my daily to-do list at the same time.

Weekly: Every monday evening, talk to <name> on Skype. Discuss the general direction my life has gone the last week and where I want it to go, and how to make those two accord. Can be as long/short as I want. I designed this to be with someone else because I didn’t anticipate doing it on my own. I haven’t done this one yet, although one Monday did pass.

Monthly: Spend two hours on the 2nd of the month (the 2nd so I notice dates). Review how the daily and weekly systems have been working, and how they need to be revised. I haven’t done this one yet. I’ve publically precommitted $100 to do this the remaining months of the year.