The life-changing magic of tidying up

Summary of “the life-changing magic of tidying up”:

Marie Kondo writes the “KonMari” method. The book ends up being as much about her mistakes in learning how to tidy as it is about how to tidy. The book conveys a certain positive energy that makes me want to recommend it, but the author also brings that energy in reaction to a kind of previous stress which accompanied tidying, which she does not seem to have completely dropped–if you are mysteriously anxious and feel you MUST discard everything after reading her book, this may be why.

The primary point she makes is meant to cure it: Decide what to keep and what to discard by physically touching each item, and asking if it brings you joy.

The rest of the method:

  • Positivity. Everything in your house loves and wants to help you. If it is time to send off some of the items on their next adventure, this is no reason to be sad or anxious. You had a great time meeting, and they and you were both happy.
  • Tidy all at once (at least by category, but preferably in a multi-day binge).
  • Physically gather the category in once place, touching everything and asking if it brings you joy.
  • Find out what you’ll keep and discard before putting things away or organizing.
  • Organizing: ??? [I didn’t get any big takeaways here].

Marie Kondo’s best advice is realizations from her past mistakes–the sort of methods which seems reasonable to try, but end up being wrong for subtle reasons. They are:

  • Tidy by category, not place. Otherwise, you won’t realize everything you have.
  • “Storage” is storing things neatly, and lets you have more and more things. This is different than tidying, which is about bringing things in harmony, and having only things you love. Becoming better at “storage” can make you unhappy.

She also has encountered her clients making mistakes. For each category of things (clothes, books, etc) there are many reasons clients may not want to throw something out. Most of the book is meant to illustrate why these things are useless, and why throwing them out is okay and will make you happier.

The fun part is that many clients were more confident and more in touch with what they valued and who they wanted once they had only possessions they loved.

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DDoS

za3k.com was the site of a DDoS attack. I’m pretty sure this was because my wordpress installation was compromised, and the hacker who took control of my server was herself DDoSed.

More updates to come, but the short story is that I’ll be formalizing my install and eventually containerizing + hardening everything

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.

 

cardboard_near0.5

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.