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Why Japan’s Rail Workers Point at Things (atlasobscura.com)
959 points by Hooke 24 days ago | hide | past | web | 322 comments | favorite

I noticed the problem on myself on several occasions and kind of invented the same solution.

For example, sometimes I would take a medicament mechanically while doing something else and just a few minutes later, forget if I took it or not. Solution: say loud to myself "I'm taking a pill".

Another: sometimes I'd lend some amount money to a colleague, and a few weeks later I'd have a hard time figuring whether they gave it back, and they too. Solution: I tell them to hit me (or do some other stupid thing) when they give the money back, so we both remember.

Going even further, sometimes I have to set a reminder to myself like "take an umbrella when leaving tomorrow morning because it's gonna be raining". Putting umbrella close to the exit, or doing a phone reminder do not always work, particularly when I'm in a hurry. One thing that works is doing some notable physical disruption in the environment, like putting a can of tomato sauce, upside-down, close to the exit.

Ah, yes. The old upside-down-tomato-sauce-can-next-to-the-door-to-remember-my-umbrella trick.

That's always been a classic.

The first couple of times I tried it, it didn't work very well. I was trying to leave in the morning, and I tripped over the can, and I was all, "Who the fuck put a can of tomatoes in front of the door?" And I kicked it out of the way and left without my umbrella.

Then I realized I wasn't going deep enough. You have to open the can of tomatoes and put the open top on the floor. You have to do it fast or it spills.

The next morning, I tripped over the can and knocked it over. And now there was slippery tomatoes all over my floor in front of my door. So of course I slipped in it and fell down, hurting my elbow and head more than I wanted to at that time of the morning.

So at this point, I decided that I could just work from home. After I cleaned up the upside down tomatoes.

The moral of the story is that, no, I didn't remember the umbrella at all. But! I no longer needed it.

Wow. This is by far my most highly rated post on hacker news.

I want to clarify that this is utter bullshit, and that I don't actually do this. Well, most of this. I have easier ways of working from home. Like, I put an event on my boss's calendar that says I'm working from home.

And I hate umbrellas. I fucking hate them. If you live in New York City and you use an umbrella, I want you to go home and die right now.

You have no idea of the space that you are taking up with those things. You have no respect for your fellow humans. I hate you. And I don't want to live in this world with you.

Get a little wet. Don't stab me in the eyeball with your stupid, incompetent umbrella that you aren't paying attention to.

I have a little note next to my door that says: don't take the umbrella--It's a jackass thing to do.

Guess what happens. I never take the umbrella. The tomatoes thing was a joke, for those of you who missed it.

Wow. An umbrella fundamentalist. Is there a law of the internet that for every trivial thing you can find someone with absurdly strong opinions leaving comments about it?

>Is there a law of the internet that for every trivial thing you can find someone with absurdly strong opinions leaving comments about it?

There has to be, it's one of the few constants of the internet.

That said: you merely have to experience umbrellas in a high-density environment a couple times before those opinions are the only rational response. Umbrellas are hostile to everyone within reach. (corollary: whenever that number remains at zero, they're perfectly fine)

But it does work in Tokyo, maybe it's the people

I'm specifically talking about NYC.

It's definitely the people.

It's something quite a few people have opinions on; usually in rainy cities with crowded sidewalks. I see very few people using umbrellas in central Dublin, for what it's worth. Most annoying are the tourists who seem to think that it's raining just because it's cloudy, and open their gigantic umbrellas in response.

You have no idea how much umbrellas suck on NYC sidewalks. You literally have no clue. They are awful.

Golf umbrellas suck. Smaller umbrellas are no more a nuisance than than circumventing slow walking tourists on the street.

Umbrellamentalist is obviously the most correct word for this.

Walk around Brooklyn on a rainy day. You'll be on my side before you know it.

I am so with you regarding umbrellas. I also fucking hate them. Nasty, useless, eye-stabby, bastard things.

Preach it brother!

I am 6'5" tall (1.95m) and the number of little old ladies who think nothing of waving their sharp metal umbrella spokes at my eyes and face is untrue.

Reminds me of a Shark Tank episode I saw about "Nubrella"[1]

[1] www.nubrella.com

That's some strong thoughts on umbrellas. I like to think of them as a physical indicator of personal space, if you're getting poked in the eye maybe don't get all up in peoples' business so much, respect your fellow humans - But then again I don't live in a city.

Instead of something elaborate that's taking the place of the thing you want to remember, how about writing a sticky note with "remember the umbrella" on it?

Yeah ops method seems strangely elaborate. I do something similar but require far less to actually jolt my memory. Usually I just put a shoe upside down on my table, takes a couple of seconds and in the morning I think "Why did I do that? Oh yeah, thats right", has never failed me yet.

Or just use built in memory. If something is worth remembering then remember it, simple. I do not consider diaries that vital or to-do lists as being anything more than long term storage. It is not the same as knowing what you should be doing that day. For that built in memory does nicely as does having details at hand on a phone.

Regarding the umbrella, if I forgot it then I would be pleased with my brain for filtering that useless requirement out.

In a thread about remembering little things, you're actually advocating that forgetting them is good?

I used an umbrella on my way to work last week. I forgot to bring it home. I was sad because it was raining the next day, too. I was not pleased with my brain for filtering out that arguably useful requirement.

Why not just put the actual umbrella against the door.

Because it's wet and gets the floor wet, obviously.

But why not wait until before going to bed, and then put it by the door since it's probably dry by that point?

Because I forget to do that.

Why not do something so you can remember to put it out at night?

Well, I tried this trick I heard about a can of tomatoes...

You could move to some area that has little rain during the day in the summer and the rest of the year it's snowing or so cold you will directly notice (and regret) if you forget the hat/gloves/coverpants?

How about "doing something" like "Siri, remind me at 9PM to put out my umbrella"?

The umbrella is just one of potential examples of $thing_to_do. But for me putting umbrella next to the door didn't really work. I'd have to put it on the floor for it to work, and I don't like putting things on the floor - though it's another highly effective solution :)


For example, sometimes I would take a medicament mechanically while doing something else and just a few minutes later, forget if I took it or not. Solution: say loud to myself "I'm taking a pill".

My solution for this problem: I have a cron job which sends me an email every morning. If I see that email, I

1. Take a pill out of the bottle and put it on my laptop keyboard

2. Delete the email

3. Eat the pill.

This sequence ensures that even if I crash and lose ephemeral state (err, I mean, get distracted) I can immediately recover by looking at my laptop.

I prepare a week of pills in a 14-slot pill case (mon-sun w/AM & PM). This results in a very simple decision: if the pills are present for the current timeslot, take them (with the sole exception of Sunday night post-refill, which is easily checked because the box is full). I also get at-a-glance evidence of any missed dose. When the case is empty on Sunday night, I refill all the slots.

Process requires careful consideration when crossing the international date line, otherwise has proved robust, and does not require a laptop.

Yeah, I've considered that. But I always have my laptop, whereas a pill case would be an additional thing to bring when I'm travelling.

Obviously for anyone who has gone for more than 24 hours without checking their email in the past 20 years, the tradeoffs might work out differently.

It's a rare and exhilarating experience to go without that most basic form of messaging, but I was off the grid completely on a remote shore in Alaska for a week last year. I also cross national borders quite regularly and therefore have contingency plans in case some overzealous/corrupt official decides to separate me from my communication devices.

And of course one is not exempt from natural disasters, or the periodic collapse of civilisations.

This has a serious security flaw.

Reproducing the security flaw:

1. Create a plausible enough distraction 2. Place pill on said keyboard 3. Pharmaceutical intervention Complete!

Perhaps, this is a general flaw in the choosing of a visible, non-access restircted (presuming) place to keep the pill (also no verification if it's the correct pill).

How would you solve this problem?

1. Trivially, restrict access to this place (lock your cabin or something) or use a pill box for which you've the keys 2. Verification of pill - camera surveilance of keyboard(has its own issues lol, perhaps, if angle it such a way that you're not keylogging yourself) - weight sensitive plate on keyboard (mission impossible anyone? :D) - edible hologram on pill - SHA engraving on pill (manual verification becomes is time consuming and is not cool) - encode hash in pill weight: Have a delicate weighing balance, alter the weight of the pill by addition or removal of a neutral substance, program the balance or use an sdk for balance to auto verify this; (note SSH keys required) - Ah! laser engrave a qr code on to pill; laser engraving can be reasonable automated (presumption), verification via smartphone i.e. check the hash or qr code is a shortlink to a verifiable hash (I'm reasonable happy with this solution, moving on)

QR code on a pill sounds interesting, then you can scan the pill with your smartphone to find out if you've taken it yet.

Future improvement: We can embed the scanner inside the tongue, so it can directly tell you if you're on or off schedule (perhaps by emitting a bitter vs sweet taste).

Unless you lose state between step 2 and 3.

Then you're left with a pill on your keyboard and no email, so presumably you're supposed to take it.

If you discover a pill on your keyboard and an email, you should delete the email and take the pill.

I think this ensures at-most-once pharmaceutical delivery, but I haven't investigated formal proofs of Bicameral Generals with memory loss.

This can be addressed with a two pill commit protocol.

This is a two-phase commit protocol already. Placing the pill on my laptop constitutes logging the transaction, so that it is guaranteed to be completed even though it hasn't taken place yet.

How can we make the pill transaction atomic?

What if there's a network issue that prevented the email from being sent?

Then I notice that I'm not getting any email. The cron job runs on my mail server.

What if it malfunctions and the email gets repeatedly delivered? :-p

ahem... A "buffer overflow" is what happens. :P

You're getting teased a bit but I think this is a very smart thing to do.

The automatic processes of our brain dominate the majority of our behavior. If you're a deep thinker who often ties up his attentive thread thinking through a tough technical problem or something, you need to prime your automatic process with some surprise that triggers the association.

I think Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow does a good job explaining this. But I also like the idea of the "elephant and the rider" from Jonathan Haidt. This quora post (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-rider-and-the-elephant-met...) gives a nice summary but I highly recommend his book.

Bringing it back to TFA, I think the Japanese as a culture might have a better relationship to the frailty of human rationality. The enlightenment was a great period in Western history but it cemented a belief in the power of reason and the universality of truth.

The Japanese have a longer history of training the mind through repeated action, visualization and behavior. Western cultures just want to power through it with rationality. So, we don't point at stuff repetitively and repeat things out loud to ourselves even if it would save lives. Kind of a bummer.

I dig your upside down tomato can, man.

Vipassana meditation uses naming technique as an aid to maintain constant awareness. You name what you are doing: 'walking'. Alternatively you name things that come up to awareness while meditating: 'thought, thought, frustration, need to scratch nose, .... sadness, thought".

Japanese Soto Zen tradition has short verse for every task you do in monastery. Entering toilet verse etc.

It's easy to lose ones awareness when switching tasks or moving about.

I was at one of those retreets and they told us not to think or concentrate on a special word or phrase because this would distract us, we were supposed to use the breathing if we needed some guidance.

Different teachers and traditions use different techniques. Naming is very common in vipassana.

I picked up this nasty habit of leaving the house and feeling compelled to check to make sure the oven and stove top are off.

After years of doing this and feeling silly each time I started checking the oven before I left the house and told myself outloud, "Yes, the oven and stovetop is off". I was surprised how effective this was.

Interesting to read this article today and other's solutions to the same problem.

I used to be like that about packing before traveling. Nervous that I'd forgotten something I'd keep checking and checking.

With time I learned that (or got more practice) it is unlikely I actually forgot something. Probably I just don't remember packing it. 95% of the time when I fear I didn't pack some silly thing, there it is, in my suitcase,when I arrive. Thank you past Swizec!

A big part of it is also that I always pack my suitcase in the same way and I always put certain things in certain spots. If I am closing the suitcase and the thing is not in its spot, then I stop and put it there.

Especially important for passports and other such documents. Always put it in the same place. If it's not in that place, then it isn't packed.

This reduces the amount of checksuming you have to do.

Oh and all you really need is your passport and your credit card. The rest is replaceable.

> Oh and all you really need is your passport and your credit card. The rest is replaceable.

For some of us, depending on the destination, prescription sunglasses also fall into the category of essentials. Learned that lesson the hard way.

Oh yeah, that's why those never leave my backpack. And I only have a single glasses case that normal and sun glasses share. One is on my face, the other in my bacpack in the case. Has worked well so far :)

I do all of that as well. I also use a vacation checklist.

It's a common issue, especially if one has a touch of OCD. Your solution is good. Another one is to use a checklist. I ritually go through the house as the last thing before leaving, but it would be better to use an actual written checklist.

I also ended up instituting a physical task to track my pill taking. Need to take two pills at breakfast and I was always forgetting if I'd already taken them or not. Now, when I sit down to eat I move the pill bottles to the middle of the table. End of the meal, after taking the pills, bottles go back on a shelf at the end of the table. Not only do I no longer forget, more importantly I no longer need to remember, which is one thing off my memory list for the day.

We have a similar solution to the 'did you feed the dog (yet)?' question (twice a day). In the morning after feeding we put the scoop next to the food dish, in the evening after feeding we put it back in the bag. That way either of us can easily tell whether it was done yet, without needing to ask. Works like a charm - the dog used to be able to trick us into feeding him twice but we no longer fall for his puppy-eyed shenanigans. :P

I've tried a few different pill organizers. Still haven't found the tool that works for me. Too small, too big, too few slots, spray the pills out when popping the lid open, etc.

> I would take a medicament mechanically

This is not intended obnoxiously, but I assume English is not your first language (though your English is good) and you'd want to know: "medicament" is an incredibly uncommon way to refer to "medication." In fact, the majority of native English speakers would not recognize it.

With respect, you figured out what he meant, and then you figured out that he's not a native English speaker.

He probably doesn't need to have that fact pointed out to him.

I'm sure there's a better way you could have given the hint to the correct word for the benefit of others who didn't figure out what he meant, and done so without being condescending to the post you were replying to. Yes?

OP here, no issue, thanks for pointing it out; I even appreciate it, I'm a bit of a grammar nazi myself - but yeah people vary. I think it's ok to post that kind of comments on HN, outside of HN probably less.

The word is somewhat obsolete, but it's definitely a word and you used it correctly. Also, it obviously shares a root with "medication"; someone who doesn't know the word should be able to figure out what it means. I hate to see people discouraged from using interesting, rare words.

Honestly, one thing I like about HN is that these sorts of corrections are made, and made respectfully.

Their post was interesting because they're right: I'm a native English speaker and I paused on "medicament".

And yet it's a real word, just an uncommon one, so it's not really a correction, but a recommendation to speak differently presented as a correction. That can be fairly easy to take negatively.

Personally, if I felt compelled to point out that it was uncommon, I would have said "At first I though medicament was a misspelling or autocorrect mistake, but when I looked it up, I found out it's a real word in English, if extremely uncommon. Interesting." That's less assertive in that a mistake was made (because it might have been used for effect), and also true.

Your version comes across to me as more negative than how it was originally phrased. You trade a respectful and respectable assertiveness and directness for a passive-aggressive wishy-washiness which protects you from being wrong while simultaneously implying the other party is so tender your words can hurt them.

Yikes, this is the kind of "feedback" that ends in divorce. I would never understand your version was intended as a correction. To me, this comes across as "thanks for teaching me a new word", and I would think "you're welcome".

Because it's not a correction. An important part of what I was trying to say in my actual comment is that one should consider that there might be nothing to correct. In my version, I've conveyed my initial reaction as a point of reference in case that's something they wish to avoid in the future, and then that I discovered I was wrong.

I suspect readings of it in a negative light are because of the context of the current conversation. Otherwise, I'm not sure how something that is essentially "at first I was confused and thought you were wrong, but then I found out I was the one that was wrong" is supposed to be taken negatively.

> Solution: say loud to myself "I'm taking a pill".

Having OCD, I started doing the same when I'd leave the house and needed to be sure that I'd closed the garage door so I didn't think about it all day (otherwise I'd have to drive around the block a couple of times to check it before I could drive to where I was going).

Eventually, "the garage door is closed" just led to me wondering I was remembering saying it a different day, so I'd have to say, "It's Tuesday and the garage door is closed."

Now I have a SmartThings device attached to it so I can check any time. Of course, I worry about it displaying stale data, so I think I'm going to need a live video feed.

I too do this now, and I learned it from the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight, wherein Samuel L. Jackon's character, in order to remember where he puts things (and as a pretty clever plot device), sings it as he's doing it in a blues riff.

Whenever I need to remember to do a one-off thing in the morning, I just leave my car keys next to (or under) something that will remind me. That way I literally can't leave without remembering to do it.

Whenever I need to remember something, I switch my phone wallpaper/lock screen to one of the default ones which I normally don't use. Then I can usually associate what I needed to remember. Works better than writing a note, or adding a reminder/alarm since these notifications is easily missed/ignored.

And then you forget where you put your car keys ...

I do this too. I always leave my keys and wallet in the same spot.

It majorly screws up my routine if I pick up my wallet to pay for something online and forget to put it back where it belongs, and I can't find it the next day. Or I leave it in the office and the next morning I have to remember I left it in the office, and it's not hiding somewhere at home.

Off topic but check if your bank has e-card for buying things online. The last 20 years I have only used temporary e-cards that are limited to one-time charge and a limited amount of money. No need to worry about your card details being stolen.

Some places like paypal might be hard but I don't use paypal anyway because of all the problems they have caused the people I bought things from. If my e-card is not accepted, I can probably do without the item anyway.

I'd suggest memorizing your primary credit card number. You both don't have to remember to put your card back, and you don't have to find it before buying things online.

"I'm locking the door", "I locked the door", "I'm trying the door now to see if I can open it".

The third part is more important than some people think. They might believe you have some sort of OCD episode. But teachers often have more understanding about this, after all the tape that ends up covering the lock-bolt hole so it doesn't lock the door properly... :-)

I once discovered that a paperclip had been taped to one half of the magnetic door seal of a former employer's NOC. It was up at the top of the door, so it would never normally enter your line-of-sight, so it was very unlikely to be noticed.

After thinking about it for a moment, I put my shoulder into the (locked) door and confirmed my suspicion as to why this had been done: the additional space between the magnets weakens the field just enough that you can ram the door and pop it open, but it doesn't weaken it enough that anyone would ever notice otherwise. Pretty clever!

Level 23 trick... instead of leaving your umbrella next to the door, leave your house/car keys with your umbrella.


I bar the door with my large umbrella so I can't leave without moving it.

When running laps I keep count by holding my fingers up in front of my face and saying the lap number out loud. It feels weird, but works for me.

For running laps, I use my thumbs as dividers between fingers, which I can do with very little change to typical running form.

For other stuff, this sounds like a great idea that I should try. How many times have I thought "did I remember to lock the car," then walked back to the parking spot?

Well, it's a good thing you did not try to monetize that idea (found a startup), because technology would have rained on your parade...

" I tell them to hit me (or do some other stupid thing) when they give the money back, so we both remember."

That is great and clever. I can better understand why pointing system works.

> For example, sometimes I would take a medicament mechanically while doing something else and just a few minutes later, forget if I took it or not.

I had a similar problem with locking the office door. I would always question whether I had done it or not since I was on autopilot and not thinking at the end of the day. What finally 'solved' the problem was when I got the other lock on the same door fixed. All of the sudden I had to lock two locks and not one. The act of having to pull out another key and lock that 2nd lock solved the problem for me. My feeling was adding complexity even in a small way was enough to jar me out of autopilot for the task.

I solved the medication issue the same way by announcing I was taking it. (Later I settled for one of those pill containers..)

Reminds me how (allegedly) in the middle ages long lasting contracts where made: tell the text of the contract to a kid (better memory than older persons and more likely to survive the next decades) and slap it in the face so that the kid never forgets.

I do something similar when I'm cooking my eggs in the morning. I tell myself that I turned off the stove as I turn it off to help remind me that I turned the stove off. I don't like wondering if I turned it off or not on my way to work...not a good feeling.

> I'd lend some amount money to a colleague, and a few weeks later I'd have a hard time figuring whether they gave it back, and they too. Solution:

An I.O.U.?

Most of these can be done better by using technology. For example use an app to track IOUS .... or simply write down notes on your cell phone.

In the case of the train operators though, technology as it stands now might be a hinderance. Notice from the videos that they go through gestures _rapidly_. Recording the action each time onto a tablet or such would be a hinderance that would only delay.

Absolutely not true in my experience.

A cell phone reminder for a one-off is easily missed during my morning routine.

A physical motion and/or out-loud speech associated with the event cements it much more effectively.

To add to your argument because I agree with you quite a bit:

A post-it stuck on the side of one's monitor seems vastly superior to any sort of app based reminder. It helps that creating the post-it and sticking it somewhere is itself a physical action that is remembered much more than a few taps of a thumb.

In the case of an I.O.U., the sensible approach is to put the note in your wallet alongside your other banknotes and other things which technically count as, or can be redeemed for, money, like coupons and cards. Ideally the I.O.U. should be written by hand by the person who owes you, so the handwriting serves as authentication.

If only someone could invent monitors that sticky notes actually stucks...

Someone at work used to have a good portion of the screen covered in notes. In worst case she just used tape to get them to stick but most of them stuck without problem.

(CRT timeframe)

Yes, destroy the note immediately after or when doing the task.

Also you can keep a "queue" of tasks along the bottom/side of the monitor or maybe it ends up representing some sort of pipeline and before you know it you have your own personal kanban setup.

I confirm those "out of place object" reminders work great!

I prefer to leave/drop everything I need in front of the door. This way, even if I'm in a hurry, the door just won't open without picking up whatever item(s) it is that I need to take with me (paperwork, umbrella, notepad, etc.)

A couple days before going on a trip, I start making a pile of things to take. As I remember things, I add them to the pile. It has reduced the problem of forgetting things.

I wonder how I can use this to remember that yes, I actually have soaped and rinsed in the shower, and I don't have to do it all again just in case.

Put things on one side when you get in. When you soap and rinse, move them over.

Alternatively, when you soap and rinse, put them in the way of your exit. When you finish, open the shower curtain, move the stuff that is in the way into its proper place.

Form stateful habits.

Or rub your hair - if it feels greasy, you probably need to shampoo it again.

Why upside down?

If you don’t point to the knot on your harness when calling out that you are tied in, and we don’t audibly call out “On belay... belay on” to each other, we aren’t climbing together.

These exact same rituals have been developed for climbing because everyone, experienced, and inexperienced, can make mistakes.

The greatest climber of her generation (of any gender!), Lynn Hill, opens her autobiography with the story of how she was distracted while tying in, and nobody thought to check her, because, well, she’s LYNN HILL.

She climbed 75’ up an easy (for her) warmup climb, called for tension on the rope, sat back, and fell the entire distance to the ground. She was very lucky to survive.

I knew a climber who quit cold turkey after 10 years climbing due to a similar situation happening to one of her buddies that she considered to be an expert. She suddenly realized she was playing a game of 'when' not 'if'.

One of the most experienced climbers I know clipped into a gear loop instead of a belay loop without looking down at it and sat on it. He's only alive because he's got really fast reflexes. Checklists and rituals save lives.

Agreed. This is why, when I'm tying into the anchors at the top of a climb so that I can clean the route, I say every action I'm doing out loud as a way to talk myself through it and confirm that I'm doing all of the actions. It becomes much clearer if I do something out of order or incorrect just by hearing myself say it.

Does that say 75 feet? How on earth do you survive that?

> Hill has experienced only one major accident in her climbing career. On May 9, 1989, she fell during a climb in Buoux, France; after forgetting to tie a safety rope, she fell 85 ft (25 m) into a tree, and was knocked unconscious, dislocated her left elbow and broke a bone in her foot. She had been training hard for the World Cup and had to stop competing for a few months to recover; she was devastated to miss the first World Cup in the sport. However, only six weeks after her fall, she was back climbing. [0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Hill#Competitive_career (last paragraph)

By landing correctly; mostly not on your head, and not at a bad angle for the spine.

Soft ground beneath also helps.

What is a bad angle for the spine? I don't usually fall large distances, but something like this seems useful to know, just in case.

I've done some bouldering and although I don't know what the actual best is, you don't want to land directly on your back or front (flat) and you never want to land on your head of course. I learned to try falling with legs slightly bent in a mostly upright position. Someone with more experience can give you better info though.

Slightly off topic but this practice of talking-out-loud to get yourself doing stuff is also beneficial to people with executive dysfunction. If your executive function is impaired you generally don't have the "internal monologue" or the voice in your head. This makes seemingly simpler things like taking a shower, driving, or eating, very difficult! I'd often "forget" to eat, simply because I could not get myself to start.

I found that it helps to announce (not necessarily loud) what I am to do, and the steps to do so. ("Okay we're going to get up and walk to the kitchen.", "We're walking now")

Though for some reason I use plural pronouns for myself -- we, us etc. Does somebody else do that too? :)

This technique is also useful for software development, and is referred to as rubber duck debugging (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging). Verbalizing your problem lends you another point of view to your thinking and often allows you to discover the problem yourself.

Writing detailed commit notes can be useful in the same way. I have backed out of a commit during the write up more times than I would like to admit because I realized that I hadn't covered some edge case or I completely forgot about something (like the effect of the change on a report or other sub-system). Writing things out in a way that someone else can understand forces you to re-think through the task in different ways.

People sometimes tease me for reviewing my own pull requests.

But I am a big believer in roles. The reviewer role is different than the creator role. When I mentally switch, through the priming mechanism of my code review tool, I am often able to see the defects in my own design or code.

I sometimes do the same thing with design docs or proposals by imagining myself as the person who has the most to lose by my proposal succeeding and then commenting on my doc from their perspective.

I've read that adding the "BUGS" section to man pages in the early days of UNIX had a similar impact. The developers got so embarrassed by the content that they decided to fix the bugs instead.

It is similar with the product we are developing. When I need to explain to the user how some feature is used, I often end up redesigning said feature so that explaining should not be needed. Makes for a much better UX. :)

I try to explain my motivation behind change in commit log and avoid technical details myself.

But I have another checkpoint. I always diff the code and review it as if I had to show it to a reviewer. If I need to explain something, it should be made better.

I'm certain the value here comes from changing your focus and mindset. If you switch to a mode of thinking of "I ned to give you (the rubber ducky) context and explain concepts so that you can see intention and reasons for this code chage/ bug behavior". This change of mindset allows you to view and reason about things better.

I learned about that once when someone turned around, started explaining the bug, and during the explanation, realised what the issue was. He then said, "Thank you for being my rubber duck."

"Your what?"

"Look it up."

Indeed :). The background of the term is said to be in some university, which had a rubber duck near the CS teacher rooms. It was mandatory there to first ask help from the rubber duck, before bothering the real teachers. According to the tale, more than half of the students left after talking to the duck.

I take notes when I deal with a hard bug or write a email I never send.

I usually start making a Stack Overflow post and if the subject is general enough I'll end up posting it.

Sometimes if I find myself task saturated, I'll say to myself something like, "OK, what am I doing. We need X, Y, and Z. X is most important, so let's do X," as a way of regaining focus. Then again I work from home, so if I didn't think aloud from time to time, my vocal cords would rust from disuse. :)

I apparently so this a lot when I'm cooking. I never noticed it until my wife watched me cook for the first time.

This actually describes me a lot. I never had a word for it, but I often describe my ADHD by telling people that I don't have the internal monologue that tells me to eat, take out the trash, or what I was doing before I was distracted by HN. I've actually been in the middle of typing a word and had to remind myself, out loud, what I was doing. It's very strange to see something I thought was very specific to me be described by sometime else

Regarding the plural first-person, that's perfectly natural: just think of it as a heads-up to the legion of symbiotic gut flora and face-dwelling mites that you're carrying along for the ride. :)

And any scientific writer. Even with a single author you would still write "we" everywhere.

Ah yes, scientific writing and making sure your bodily ecosystem don't feel left out. :)

"Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their head." -William James

On twitch, the streamers like to say "we." I've never understood it. I wouldn't bat an eye at it being an unusual thing one streamer did, but it seems like they all do it.

I think it seems phony, in that context.

In yours--I think it's uncommon, but I can't think of a reason why it would be a problem.

"We" in a context like this refers to the speaker and the reader/viewer together, to me.

on youtube a lot of single people operation use the "We" pronoun a lot. I guess it' a mix of wanting to look bigger, wanting to include the audience, but now it's become a trend.

this isn't because of Youtube. this is because it helps to envision the "you" you as a different entity from the "you" you. I know that doesn't make sense :) It's like saying there's two of us: the one who forgets to do things like lock the door, and the one who really wants to lock the door. "We're going to lock the door right now," we say, because we know one of us will probably forget.

I'm a serial talk-to-myselfer, and I've been saying things like "ok we're going to get gas for the car now" or "we're making french toast this morning" since I was twelve.

I "we" too, the cause of this is imo because it's your brain's desire/automatic function and your brain's thinking part that are not entirely connected. Yet they are both an I, and 2 I's make a we.

Alternatives to we that also would work imo: Me and you( you being directed at one-self), Me and me, Me's (as in plural), I's (as in plural).

> Though for some reason I use plural pronouns for myself -- we, us etc.

It's just a special case of the inclusive "we". I think here "I" would evoke more of a sense of plurality: it suggests an addressee distinct from the speaker.

I always use the inclusive "we" when talking to myself about a program or writing comments, even when I'm the sole developer.

> If your executive function is impaired you generally don't have the "internal monologue" or the voice in your head.

You're assuming here that all people even have that in the first place.

I have a strict rule that I must touch my keys before closing the front door, because I discovered the keys in my memory don't open the door as well as the keys in my pocket.

Same. I have a "keys-wallet-phone-pad" routine in which I make sure my pockets contain all of: my keys, my wallet, my cell phone, and the 7-inch tablet that I carry everywhere. I've gotten into the habit of doing it every time I get up if I'm not at home or at my desk at work.

I used to have a doormat that said "mobile phone, keys, wallet" (in Swedish) https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/7f/58/df/7f58...

These days I just tap my pockets. I freak out if I do that check when I happen to be holding onto my phone or keys

I use this technique too. Very, very effective. Unfortunately I often cary a pocket radio, which I unconsciously note as either wallet or phone. Have started to use its clip to attach it to my shirt.

When 100% jet lagged traveling with a colleague we setup the "coat, phone, creditcard" check as a joke whenever we were walking out of a place. Surprisingly it saved a phone twice and a coat a million times because the destination had great weather.

I do the almost the exact same thing, minus the pad. I repeat "keys, wallet, phone" (in that order) as I touch each one when I'm leaving.

Bonus, when you get into a good enough habit of doing this, you even do it automatically when you're drunk.

That is exactly what I do, "keys, wallet, phone" in that order.

2007 before leaving the house: "Wallet, keys, cell phone, iPod, blackberry" oh how far we've come.

Another thing that helps, and I do it as well. Is to have dedicated pockets for each item. E.g. Car keys in back-right, house-keys in back-left, cellphone in front-right, and wallet in front-left.

I do the tap phone and keys check, but I keep my wallet in my backpack tied to a string on a carabiner, so it's always in my bag, except when in my hands.

Same thing with my glasses, either they're in my bag, or on my face.

Yes, the usual triple tap routine

I add passport when I'm heading to an international flight. Wallet and passport.

spectacles testicles wallet & watch (originally a joke about the sign of the cross, but it's how I remember everything when I leave and also some fun blasphemy for the whole family)

If anything a bit of blasphemy is going to make it even more memorable, so it is a good strategy!

I do something similar. I touch my keys, wallet, and phone through my pockets, and then check my fly before I walk out the door (four things). Every now and then, I'll wear a belt, and I always end up checking my keys, wallet, phone, and belt (four things) and then walking outside with my fly down.

I add a pants zipper check to that routine. I do a very quick touch to make sure my zipper is up after leaving the house and any time I leave a bathroom.

In the days before cell phones the common check-list was 'testicles, spectacles, wallet & watch'

I take them out of my pocket and put them in my hand (often the keyring around finger) as I close the door. Also: if I'm in the car, and the car isn't running, the key must always be in my pocket; never in the ignition, cup holder, etc. I should probably get a spare just to open the car door, and put it in my wallet.

My variation on that is to only ever lock my front door or car using my keys from the outside. It's a bit less convenient than using the lock on the inside, but is guaranteed to avoid lockouts.

I have a rule that I only close the front door with the keys inside the lock and after having turned them in the unlock position.

Has served me very well so far.

I spin my keys to see if I'm in base reality.

I leave my front door keys in the front door on the inside. That way those keys also have a place.

I live alone, so there is no one else using the same technique who I could deadlock (pun intended).

I do not push the key all the way in. Pushing it all the way in could prevent someone else unlocking the door from the outside.

Yep, I do the same. Keys, wallet, phone.

The ADHD Triple-Tap

Mine is quadruple. Pocketknife, phone, wallet, keys, in order of importance.

I used to have five, but smartened up: keys, wallet, phone, smokes, lighter

I do the same. Every time I leave the house, before I close the door, I make sure to tap my phone, wallet and keys.

Same when exiting my car, I make sure I have my keys in my hand when I close the door (I don't have remote locking).

I just bought a new car with a RFID key. The key never leaves my pocket. As I put my hand around the door handle, it unlocks. Once I'm in the car I press a Start button and it's ready to run. When leaving the car I press a special spot on the handle and it locks all the doors. If I were to leave the key in the car and lock it from the outside, it wouldn't matter because I (or anyone else) could unlock it simply by grabbing the handle again.

On the other hand, I know of people who have problems with putting their keyless entry dongle down in the car and having trouble finding it when they try exiting. I've never had that problem with keys.

I do that with my keys and wallet whenever I travel because I'm paranoid about losing them.

Traveling is its own house of horrors in this regard because not only is losing something much more disruptive but also your common items tend to be out of place. My keys are never actually in my pockets when I travel, e.g., so my usual pocket patting routine trips me up.

And you can't even keep stuff in one place! I'm stupid about my passport and I end up moving it to 5 or 6 different places at different stages of my trip (security, airport gate, etc).

It drives me nuts, because I'm really not that worried about it, I just want to be able to check that I didn't leave it somewhere.

This also applies to aviation. While pilots execute the same checklist several times each day, year after year, it is still required to verbally call the items on the list. It feels a bit strange doing it when you're sitting in a cockpit alone, but it does really improve accuracy and ensures you're following the same procedure every time whether there is a co-pilot, instructor or nobody sitting in the other seat.

I've never learned actually pointing at the instruments, but I can imagine it helps to focus for example very clearly on doing a check of a specific instrument instead of just saying "checked" out of habit. The problem of course is that you need your hands for other things at the same time, so pointing would be unsafe to do at the controls of a plane.

My wife got yelled at by an instructor today for verbalizing "airspeed alive". Something she does as she rotates to determine if she wants to abort before she's committed.

After she relayed the story I mentioned this thread and we both decided the guy was nuts.

If you watch an old aviation movie, they have a verbale procedure to go through before starting the engine. "Switches off", "contact", "clear", etc.

When debugging in production environments (which is always a bad idea) I use a technique where I always work together with a coworker and before I'm about to do something destructive I say out loud what I'm going to do and ask for agreement that I should continue. I started this after reading what happened at Gitlab a month ago.

Yup, any destructive production change, I always bring in another engineer as a lifeguard. Call out the environment you're on, the machine you're shelled into, and the action you're performing. Can even be an engineering-adjacent role as well.

I do that on Slack—sometimes with a coworker keenly following along, and sometimes when I'm the only one awake.

That is a good idea: to do it in Slack even if no one is there. Forces you to slow down and be conscious of what you are doing.

This is a great tip. I'm going to start using this.

I think that the root of this goes back all the way to Zen-type of thinking. In Zen, it's often taught that mind is elusive/delusive and action matters. "Mindlessness (mu-shin)" is often thought of the best way of carrying tasks, and I see a similar principle in many traditional martial arts/craftsmanship; a new learner should just do certain tasks without thinking/questioning, and eventually their muscle memory will learn it. It's conceivable that people applied the same principle for safety.

I also think that this illustrates the difference between the Western religions and Japanese (or Asian) religions. Western religions are mostly declarative; you need to believe such and such statements. Whereas Japanese religions are procedural, i.e. doing rituals is more important than believing.

It does sound very similar to plane checklists where the pilot has to call every item verbally.

Yes, you're right! My father was an Air Force pilot and then flew a private plane into his 60's. for 40 years he religiously followed the checklists, calling out and pointing to the relevant part of the plane for each item on the list: "windows and doors, check; wing flaps set for takeoff; seats latched; seat belts locked; etc."


I work on medical software now. It's kind of a well known story now how doctors are resistant to using checklists, like pilots do, even though it has been proven in studies to reduce medical errors.

It's an interesting idea that maybe we could employ a form of point-and-call checklist system in software development or operations.

> It's an interesting idea that maybe we could employ a form of point-and-call checklist system in software development or operations.

Maybe copy/pasting. Highlight part of the code, copy. Go to gedit (or whatev) and paste. Doing this while "calling it".

Collaborative general purpose editors nowadays show one user's text selection to other users, so this is straightforward to implement.

I was going to say, it reminded me of those classic scenes from Dr. Strangelove of the bomber crew going through their procedures. Which I assumed to be pretty accurate for military environments. I think it's so exotic to my American eyes because there is something to the idea of putting the good of the collective ahead of your own ego that is so foreign to the American culture of fetishization of individual liberty, except maybe in our military.

It's been applied to surgery with 90-99% reductions in line infection rates. Head nurse calls the surgeon out on checklist violations.

Extending the metaphor, some of the older Mesoamerican religions are imperative, in that they involve a lot of telling people what to do. Contrariwise, hermetic magic is purely functional, in that the practitioner expresses a series of state transformations with no side effects.

Could you elaborate on the idea that hermetic magic is purely functional? How does a practitioner make a state transformation in oneself?

It's a joke, the meat of which is that hermetic magic involves complex series of esoteric invocations that consume time and effort to no meaningful result.

I didn't work it out very well, though, and it didn't land. So it goes. The next one will be better.

lol, thanks for the clarification.

One example might be that spirits are said to be bound by arbitrary functions (bizarre ritual ingredients being a famous example). That they respond to and recognize cues.

Another aspect of spirit lore is that the more central or higher in the hierarchy, the less different "pointers" or cues may be required for evocation, and stronger expression of those fewer cues may result. The lower/more numerous spirits might require more specificity or larger seed.

Transformations at a minimum: by inducing a receptive trance state, then by self-suggestion.

> doing rituals is more important than believing.

Erm, catholicism?

À propos, there are Jesuit priests who are Zen masters...

The US Navy uses much of this as well. For example, here's an aircraft carrier launch from inside the "bubble" (the control area that actually triggers the steam catapult). The officer repeats the mantra aloud for each aircraft and points at the people he's checking. If you watch a similar video taken above deck you can see each responsible person point at the system they are monitoring before giving the thumb's up.


The comments have an explanation of each phrase in the mantra (e.g., "104 set match" refers to a steam power of 104 (units unclear) and that it matches the board for cross-checking).

More on the Navy usage can be found in David Marquet's book: "Turn the Ship Around" about his time improving training / operations on a submarine he commanded. Every one had to announce their intention to do an action before actually doing it, this gave others the chance to identify when someone was going to take an incorrect action before it happened.

It's a really great, short read that I'd highly recommend.

Wow this is fascinating. Clockwork, like everything else in Japan. I first noticed this when in Kyoto. The driver would point at the schedule, speedometer, sensors and all else. I found it slightly odd but made a mental note to google it later, which I eventually forgot.

> I found it slightly odd but made a mental note to google it later, which I eventually forgot.

See, that sort of thing doesn't happen with pointing-and-calling :)

>> made a mental note to google it later, which I eventually forgot.

Perhaps you should have made a large "search" gesture while calling out potential keywords.

It's funny because that's probably how "googling" will be done in the future.

I think the "clockwork" reference is somewhat overrated. Local trains are often late due to wind or snow ..

Do you live in Hokkaido? Or maybe on a really local branch? I live in Tokyo, take around four trains a day on many different lines and that is just not the case here.

My experience with Tokyo (I only visit about once a year, live in Kyushu) is the trains there are always off-schedule due to "accidents" :/

Sendai, Miyagi it is. Trains come in from a bit more country side.

I'd like to think of Tokyo As the exception to Japan. Having said that, all the pointing and calling is happenening everywhere.

In Japan they might be a little delayed. In Boston the trains just don't come at all. One time I was stuck on a train for four hours because a switch was frozen (normally a 40 minute trip).

I do this (subvocally) when hopping between dev and prod. "I'm looking at production. I'm checking this query is the one I think it is. I'm running it now. I'm closing production."

I make the same mistakes when looking at code from two different but similar projects.

There is a similar situation in NYC [0].

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9jIsxQNz0M

It's more than just paying attention: if the conductor can line their finger up with the zebra board for their train, they've guaranteed that the train is completely within the station. Opening the doors where there is no platform is one of the few fireable offenses (others include using a phone on the job). The zebra boards have the train model written on them -- in this case, R160 [1]. While it would be easier for the driver to just stop the train at the very end of the platform, this would be pretty inconvenient for passengers on the end of the platform when a shorter train rolls in.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R160_(New_York_City_Subway_car...

Having the driver stop at the end of the platform wouldn't really be a substitute. What counts is that the conductor in the middle of the train physically observes that the train's registration is correct before they open the doors. (Drivers never open the doors.)

Yes, the article we are discussing here spends​ two paragraphs discussing exactly this.

I know this is just a bunch of kids taking the piss, but little things like this make a boring day working on the train a bit happier. Thank your local transit workers if you have them.

It's related to the checklist system used by pilots, which is incredibly effective at reducing mistakes.

The Samurai sword making system is also very ritualized, which enables the complex procedure to be memorized and carried out without mistakes.

Other systems of reducing mistakes are making things rhyme, which adds a bit of redundancy not unlike error-correcting digital codes. Double-entry bookkeeping is another scheme.

This is the same as they do for climbing. "on belay" and so forth. I think it's also like trigger discipline for firearms, in the broader sense of developing habits that make accidents less likely.

My dad's side of the family are a bunch of sailors, and there's a lot of verbal clues you give to other people on the boat when you're sailing. "Ready about" means we're about to tack.

My uncle was sailing a multi-day solo race, and he felt like he was just getting scattered. He started saying everything he would have said outloud-- saying "ready about" to no one, ordering himself to raise the spinnaker. He said everything ran much more smoothly once he started doing that. :D

Six Flags Magic Mountain does this before launching a roller coaster. An operator announces "Visual Scan", points their hand at one end of the cars, and sweeps it along to the other.

You can see pool lifeguards do the same visual scan with pointing. Their gaze sweeps over the pool in a pattern, following their pointing finger. It seems effective in making them look at individual swimmers instead of just looking at an area of the pool in general.

Yeah, theme parks are where I've seen this too

I actually just paid real attention to this pointing technique on my way home today for the first time. This isn't just a puff piece for a technique that only a few workers do.

I've taken the bus often and the driver always announces when he breaks, accelerates, and takes curves, is this for the same reason?

People have explained to me that the driver announces everything so that standing passengers don't fall over, but I'm skeptical.

> People have explained to me that the driver announces everything so that standing passengers don't fall over, but I'm skeptical.

That makes sense actually, especially if many passengers are elderly. Around here the bus drivers don't announce what they do, but they take off and brake significantly less abruptly when they have unseated elderly passengers (either looking/reaching for a seat or standing to get out).

Every taken a Muni in SF? I sometimes suspect the operators are intentionally trying to get passengers to fall.

Yeah that's for passenger safety.

We had the same sort of routine as this as factory workers in Japan so that we wouldn't forget to check/do soemthing. These explicit motions help you hit all the necessary components each time when working with hundreds of repetitions a day.

It was also doctrine for emergency procedures and anything at a heightened level of care as an engineer at a company (in hkmurakami's neck of the woods, at a company in a region where a certain large automobile manufacturer sets a lot of the engineering culture).

"Xyz Yoshi!" Right? ;)

(Yoshi = good/clear)

I remember a lot more 作動開始/作動確認! than よし but it has been a while.

Ohh Kakunin! Brings me back!

There are quite a few comments here on the use of checklists. Dr. Atul Gawande wrote at length about their usefulness in "The Checklist Manifesto".

We've released an iPhone app, Koantify Checklists:


It's a voice responsive app (i.e., Siri-like) for creating, maintaining, using, and sharing checklists.

(Based on the post we're commenting on, I guess our next step would be to recognize gestures like pointing...)

The app steps you through tasks by voice or text, and responds to your voice commands (it tries to provide optional "hands-free" operation as much as possible).

When you complete your checklist, the app optionally emails you (or a list of people) a detailed record of completion of the checklist, showing steps you completed, skipped, or possibly had to repeat.

For organizations, it's easy to export/import checklists. You can distribute by email, via iCloud, or you can download checklists from web links. For training, use of a checklist provides important reminders of how things should be done.

Feedback, comments, suggestions are most welcome.

Been living in Japan for a while now and I've noticed this too. I always admired it. It suggested a high level of conscientiousness. Made me feel safer on public transit. Interesting to learn of the real world benefit of these type of mnemonic tricks. I do some things like this when doing operational work as a devops engineer. Helps me avoid fat finger mistakes. I also do the classic, "wallet, phone, keys" check whenever I leave the house.

My father used to (and probably still does) call out "spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch" before leaving the house.

Testicles == zip your fly?

I've lived in Japan off and on for a number of years. "Pointing and shouting," and other similar gestures, are used all over the place. I typically heard it referred to as "yubisashi kakunin," which basically means "confirm by pointing with your finger." I've seen elevator attendants do it when operating the buttons, and cashiers will verbalize the counting of change, and hand it back in a very animated way, which I believe is the same sort of thing.

Where I live, I think a company would have to really work to get their employees to do it, but in Japan, it seems to have become a part of the culture. My wife, who is from Japan, does it while she's cooking to make sure she hasn't left anything out.

Very interesting! The word 'embarrassing' comes up a lot, but I wonder why this would be perceived as embarrassing compared to, say, the ritual bowing to empty carriages that takes place on Japanese trains. Or simply compared to the gesturing that takes place in other professions like the construction industry.

Without knowing the psychology behind it, a good guess would be that it derives from the sense that observers may not understand one's intent in pointing, and could prob be alleviated by using some kind of beacon like those used by aircraft marshallers.

Good point. If it's seen as professionals doing their job, then it ceases to be embarrassing. In turn, you can then dismiss people that giggle about it as ignorant fools and, well, ignore them.

When I watch a referee in a sport I don't know, the shouting/pointing/gesticulating seems funny, but nobody would consider the referee's job to be embarrassing.

In Sanskrit, there's a poem about hand gestures:

"Yato hasta stato drishti"..."Where the hand is, the eyes follow"

"Yato drishti stato manaha"..."Where the eyes go, the mind follows"

"Yato manaha stato bhava"..."Where the mind is, there is the feeling"

"Yato bhava stato rasa"..."Where the feeling is, there is mood"

In aviation there are similar methods of doing checklists:

Say - Do: pilot not flying says the task, pilot flying verifies verbally after doing it.

Challenge - Response: challenge the check list, verbally respond (do the action)

Flow-Confirm: Do all required actions then verbally confirm.

In any case, the verbal and physical confirmation is needed to move on in the checklist.

When flying solo I do "Say-Do"

This is similar to a yoga in the Hindu religion. I read about this a while back. When performing this yoga, you call out every action silently or quietly. So, for example, when picking up your cup of coffee..."I am going to pick up this coffee", then.."I picked up the coffee".

I have to go look this up again.

It's a form of meditation practice. Calling out events makes mind focused on the present.

Yoga in itself is religion. Can be done irrespective of one being Hindu or not

Yoga is just a practice in itself. One need not subscribe to other practitioners' beliefs.

I consider the article's title to be clickbaity. The fact of the story is why the workers point at things and there's an interesting explanation behind it. Saying they can't stop, however, isn't a true statement and would have been much better if they stated the real affirmative.

I think it's playing on a meme of "Kim Jong Il looking at things" and similar.

Atlas Obscura is all click bait in my opinion.

God that's cool. I have a habit that seems like a variant of this. Every change I write has a description of how it's tested. Sometimes that can be as brief as "unittests," but for riskier changes I sometimes write several paragraphs.

I was in Japan eight years ago and saw this but never understood what was going on. I have a video of a conductor pointing over and over and over again I made a gif out of. I am enthused to know what was going on.

Reminds me of "talk to your rubber duck"...

I realize that I've been doing it naturally (although not all the time) when reading check lists in the cockpit (I'm A-340-330 pilot). I'll do it more consciously from now on.

That's very interesting. I do it myself, but not because I had any idea it really worked, it's just habit. When I am hitching up our trailer and getting ready to set out on a road trip, I walk around it pointing at things and calling them out loud to myself -- hitch pins, safety pins, sway bars, various things that have to be stowed, etc. Now I can tell my wife it's not because I'm senile, but because it works :)

So, in Japan there's a superhero franchise on television called Super Sentai (you might know it as where Power Rangers gets their source footage from). Each year, they do a different Super Sentai series with its own distinct theme. Well, in 2014, they did a train-themed series called ToQger (ToQ being a cutesy spelling of Tokkyū, meaning "express train"). The show is absolutely full of references to everything to do with trains; the theme is present everywhere.

Pre-battle poses are tradition in Super Sentai, and ToQger was no exception. Specifically, the pose ends with the team's leader dramatically pointing while calling shuppatsu shinkō, which basically means "all aboard!".

I always wondered what the pointing was for, and now I know.

You can see the pose here: http://i.imgur.com/0DugYRe.png

Edit: And when they combine their mecha together, they point and call as each of their vehicles link up: http://i.imgur.com/Lct4XQl.png

      If your memory is going bye bye......and you want it to come back! 1st. Go on YouTube and watch these videos there about 30 or more. Each video covers a specific topic. In one episode the demonstrated how eating berries improves your short term memory. Look for.....BBC The Truth About Food....
2nd. Eat healthy and exercise. 3. Step away from the TV/Computer/ Cell Phone about 2 - 3 hours before bed. The light from these electronic devices will keep you awake! 4. Try to get 7-8 hours sleep daily. 7-8 hours?.....Imagine your brain to be like your workshop. When you wake up in the morning(after a great nights sleep) its nice and clean. Everything is accessible and easy to find. By the end of the day the place is a mess. Now if you leave the place a mess....your brain stays cluttered up. Then when you go to sleep.....and wake up the next day.....you have a hard time getting right to work because you have to search for everything! When you get a great nights sleep.....7-8 hours.....your brain gets flushed by chemicals that clear out all the clutter. Think defragging a hard drive. When a hard drive is not defragged it slows the computer down. When you get poor sleep your brain starts getting overloaded with clutter...and in time that clutter compresses and starts affecting your memory. 5. There is a great book called The 150 Healthiest foods on earth. You should go look it up and see what it says about blueberries. Blueberries are the only food known (as far as I know-from this book) to grow new neurons in our brains. 6.I've worked crazy hours for almost 10 years traveling. Each day was different. I had no set hours and slept when I wasn't working. I put on quite a bit of weight and ate to sleep and ate to stay awake. I averaged 4-5 hours of inferior sleep that affected my memory. I also ate crappy food because I was traveling all of the time. Now that I am home and eat healthy I find that eating oatmeal and honey 2-3 hours before sleep helps me fall asleep easily and I average about 7 hours of quality sleep per night. I also eat a lot less, exercise and eat blackberries and blueberries every morning.

I listened to a podcast about police doing something similar. When two officers we're approaching a situation way office would call or multiple times before taking an action. For example, "TASER! TASER! TASER!". this helps the other officer from mistaking the sound of the taser firing for a firearm.

MTA train conductors need to do something similar in the New York metro, as there is a striped black-white sign they need to point to at each stop (it gets recorded on camera):


It's in the article :)

It makes a lot of sense, you are performing a physical act, a visual act and a verbal act together, all reinforcing each other. Once it becomes an ingrained habit, anything that doesn't match the common result sticks out. I presume overcoming your fear of looking stupid is the hardest part.

> Japan’s rail system has a well-deserved reputation for being among the very best in the world.

While "pointing" might contribute to its reputation, they should give credit to being accountable to market forces! In addition to the extensive "private railway" network, JNR was privatized in 1987.

Next time your on the NYC subway watch for the conductor as the train comes to a stop. They always point out the window at a marker that helps them know where to stop the train. Seems to be a very minimal version of what this article is taking about. But I always get a kick out of it.

A notable exception is New York City’s MTA subway system, whose conductors have used a modified point-only system since 1996 after then Chief Transportation Officer Nathaniel Ford was fascinated by the point-and-call system during a business trip to Japan. In the MTA’s case, conductors point to a fixed black-and-white “zebra board” to confirm a stopped train is correctly located along the platform.

According to MTA spokeswoman Amanda Kwan, conductors were quick to adapt to the new system, and within two years of implementation, incidents of incorrectly berthed subways fell 57 percent.

Yeah, I never noticed it until I was made aware by this video. Now I always see them doing it :)


Suppose you've gotten used to doing this and have the pointing and speaking sequence and associated actions such as reading gauges thoroughly memorized.

If at that point you replaced actually pointing and speaking with just visualizing and audiolizing [1] that you are pointing and speaking, respectively, would you retain the performance improvements?

[1] There does not seem to be a widely accepted word for the audio equivalent of visualizing. Some discussion: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/1635/visualized-e...


I've been playing this "brain training" game called Peak and one of the tasks is to memorize the names of some places that I don't even think actually exist. I struggled to remember it until I started mentally writing out each name. My finger, even though it wasn't moving, felt each word as it was written. I went from recalling approximately 80% to almost 100% of (so far) 9 places to remember.

It totally increases your consciousness and once you actually realize what's happening, you want to be that present everywhere. Unfortunately, I am a machine :(

In Saitama I saw an old guy on a pedal bike (not a train) who did this the other day!

In fact, I made a note specifically to ask a Nihon friend just what the hell he was doing (so I'll just ask HN instead)...

I understand stopping at an intersection and looking both ways. But making a specific pointing gesture and verbally calling out while doing it I thought was just a bit odd. Particularly cause he was the only person at this quiet little 4 way (no lights) stop. Sounded like he said "hayougush... hayougush".

Retired train conductor?

In Cycling Proficiency lessons in the UK in the 1980s we were taught to point and say our intentions at roundabouts and junctions.

I still so and it often earns a wave of thanks from drivers. I assume that forcing the subconscious lip-reading onto the drivers is part of the 'connect as humans' psychology

On the other hand, if you're looking directly at a vehicle and _pointing_ at the vehicle, you're more likely to actually _interact_ with the driver of the vehicle if they're alert. If they point back, you know they see you. If they don't, did they truly see you or do you just assume they did? Now you're more alert than you were before.

If I'm entering an intersection and there's a driver that I suspect hasn't noticed me and may take a turn, I'll make eye contact and point, then signal a full hand for 'stop'. Seems to work.

Bus drivers and taxi drivers do it sometimes too (depending on the company), so probably he's a professional driver who just thought it was a good idea. I won't speculate on what he was saying, though.

I do this sometimes when I'm really in the zone. Back in the 90s, I was in manufacturing, both making things and planning, programming.

When I had not used a given machine or process for a while, point and step check just came as part of entering and maintaining flow.

Exploiting this seems obvious in retrospect, like most good, basic helpers are.

Nice. Love the ethic. Take care of the people, run it on time. It's good to know somewhere the little stuff does matter.

As a hockey player, I never understood why referees would point to each goal, calling out each goalie's existence before the game. This helps explain it.

Ive been working on a new design.....and would like to know if there is anything that I may have missed in my re design besides the chancing of poking someone or poking there eye out.

And if you don't use an umbrella! Do you wear a raincoat? Or do you prefer getting soaked!

This helps a lot when coding too! Specifically when debugging. I am lucky enough to have my own office so I can do it without disturbing others.

If you want to improve your memory. go to youtube and search for these videos. BBC the truth about food. In one of the episodes they point out how eating berries everyday improves your short term memory

It's a little late in the game to get this seen, but they do this in the NYC subways too. It made for a great video!


Thanks for the link.

Btw. one of the subway drivers explains in the YT comments that NYC had this gesture first, Japan copied it in the mid 1990s.

  Conductors point at the board because it is required by TA 
  rule. This idea was adapted by the Japanese subway in the 
  mid 90's. We point because if the window of your cab is 
  somewhere within limits of that board, it means the Train 
  operator, the one who actually moves the train, has stopped 
  at his/her mark for the correct number of cars the train 
  has. We also have to point because supervision does move 
  around in the field and yes they actually WATCH us to make 
  sure we comply with this rule. If we don't, well then its 
  not going to be a good day at work...

I doubt that is true. Per the article, it goes back to the Meiji dynasty in Japan, which ended in 1912.

Interesting, you see a similar action (I believe for the same reason) in cockpits [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEX0ZYDziiU&t=13s].

I was also struck with the similarity to procedures in aviation. During the checklist you frequently call out the item (aloud), and then check it while either pointing at it or touching it.

This also reduces the temptation to rush and just say "check" and assume it's ok - most of the time it is ok, of course, but the point is to actually look and check and make sure. If you do all the "work" of actually finding the control and touching it, you might as well look and check that it is set as expected.

As a further side effect, this also re-inforces "muscle memory": you don't need the alternate air valve or the fuel shutoff valve very often - but if you actually touch it (and even open/close it) before every flight, then you will find it quickly and without much thinking in case you do need it.

Attentiveness in self driving cars is/will be an issue.

I wonder if there's anything like this that could be applied there. No ideas come to mind, though I often think about how trains on tracks have mechanisms for maintaining driver awareness.

This is why many are worried about Level 3 autonomy vehicles -- that is, driver assist where the car can drive ~95% of the time, but the driver may need to intervene at any moment. So far all the studies I've seen indicate that the driver loses attentiveness whether they mean to or not, and the disengagement times are in multiple seconds.

Personally, I think a system needs to work well enough to drive itself the whole trip, or be dumb enough to act as cruise control with some crash prevention built in, but otherwise force the driver to be on task.

I wonder if there's some way to apply this to coding. Besides annoying my co-workers, would verbally talking about what I'm coding improve the quality of my code, or productivity? What about physical gestures?

Not verbal, but I think of strict adherence to coding and commenting standards in this spirit. A single character out of place can distract the reader from a fatal bug. Also, acknowledging one's fallibility and handling cases that should never happen:

  else throw("BUG: ...")

It feels like our equivalent would be Rubber Duck Debugging.

I do that sometimes when I'm coding. I want to debug something, or just check some particularly important or tricky part and I say the lines outloud while doing some hand movement pointing to the lines kind of rithmically.

> pointing-and-calling is known to reduce workplace errors by up to 85 percent, according to one 1996 study.

If it is supported only by one study; it seems like cargo-culting: performing a ritual without a solid proof that it actually works.

Another quote from the article:

> According to MTA spokeswoman Amanda Kwan, conductors were quick to adapt to the new system, and within two years of implementation, incidents of incorrectly berthed subways fell 57 percent.

The meaning of that sentence is not that there was only one study done on this topic though; just that the author is aware of that particular one, performed in 1996, that makes the 85 percent claim. The use of 'one' here may even imply that the author is aware of more studies that confirm the usefulness of this technique, but that referring to more than this particular relevant source would be superfluous for this article.

When looking for something I use my phone's torch and point on the floor. Last time I found back a little magnet lost by my kid in the 50 metres of alley to our place. So yes I guess it works to force the mental focus.

For the umbrella haters please tell me everything that you hate about them besides getting or possibly getting poked in the eye.

Is that the only problem?

people talk to themselves all the time on the trading floor (the kanko part of the shinsakanko). rather look like a weirdo than lose a couple thousand bucks (or worse) on a 100% avoidable error.

edit: to clarify, when submitting orders to an electronic exchange, traders will call out (to themselves) the price size direction and instrument before sending the ticket. I personally also mouseover all the important parts so i'm not just going through motions.

this method seems particularly effective for work that is routine but never in the same scenario. Ever since I picked up this habit I have applied this to everything else I do - booking flight tickets, hotels, buying things on amazon, etc. avoiding errors is so much of a good thing - for those of you with really bad experiences firefighting at work will know the importance of not being in the position where you need to firefight at all.

When Im debugging and I turn nothing up the first look through I often speak out loud what Im thinking. I find it helps in most cases, it also helps Im at home while doing it.

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I lived in Japan for several years (in high school) and never really noticed this or thought of it as being out of the ordinary.

The United States nuclear navy follows a similar procedure called "point and shoot" according to Covey's Turn the Ship Around.

I keep much better track of laps when jogging in the park after I started saying each lap number out loud when completing it.

I feel like adopting a version of this system could help avoid those occasional forgotten-child-in-car tragedies.

Do they still have smoking sections on Japanese trains? That's amazing.

The Swiss train system is similarly renowned. How do they do it?

Well, they definitely don't do any pointing-and-calling.

This might be a good subject for a study - compare both rail systems, does this really lead to higher performance and lower accidents?

Maybe in the end it all just boils down to how much money is allocated to run the systems...

As an April Fools next year I'm going to experiment with writing code this way to see how my coworkers react.

Pointing at screen and shouting: "It should throw an error if the input is NaN". types furiously

It's a form of reinforcement. We've all seen flight attendants going through pointing drills during a safety briefing before takeoff. Pilots do this too when walking the ground for preflight checks.

its so nice when you post to this website and half of your post disappears

This is news? They do this on the subways in New York and Toronto too.

Don't they do this pointing on the NYC subway system too?

Seriously, they point when they get to the station. http://www.mta.info/news/2013/11/12/subway-conductors-point-...

Theory: Any task benfitting from this can be fully automated without a very intelligent program.

In the meantime, let's swallow our pride and do this, seems like a good idea.

I think I'd go insane if that was my job. It seems so utterly dehumanizing to have a human do that job every day. I don't mean just the pointing but the standing and doing things that surely computers and cameras could easily do.

Wow, my reaction is exactly the opposite. Good on the Japanese railways for employing intelligent and responsible adults to care for everyone's safety instead of cheaping out with cameras and computers. These are solid, respectable jobs, and it means there will always be competent people around to help when things go awry.

Is it really "cheaping out" when you computerize a system. CBTC systems cost in the billions, and as such NYC's subway is almost entirely running on 1930's relays. It's a solid system, but it requires the drivers to be on point 24/7. Very little pieces of the system enforce speed limits, as this has to be done mechanically with trip cocks, and while trip cocks will often pull the brakes if a driver runs a red signal, there's usually nothing that prevents the driver from going the wrong way on a one way track [1][2].

But ignoring that, computerizing the system can lead to better headways. Right now most systems, and almost all of the NYC subway, use a fixed block system to enforce braking distances. That means it doesn't matter if a train is 1001ft away or 1999ft away, the following train can't enter the next block until the train completely clears it. It's a safe system, but it means trains can bunch up in a stop and go pattern. Modern computerized systems can behave essentially like our self-driving car dream, where they match their speed safely to the train in from and keep the breaking distance block moving. For people in the Bay Area, BART uses fixed-block signaling (but is actually computerized), and Muni uses moving-block signaling. The difference is especially notable on the BART, which tends to speed up and slam on the brakes when there's train traffic ahead.

Also, it's federally mandated that we computerize trains, anyway, [3] mostly because of incidents like the Metrolink collision.

[1] http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/08/25/mta-a-train-operator-...

[2] http://nypost.com/2015/04/06/rookie-subway-operator-reversed...

[3] https://www.fra.dot.gov/ptc

Should a human being have his life's work be forty years of checking if bags are caught in a door? Modern society is weird. Automation can free us from humans having to be automatons.

That sounds crazy. Someone should help them transition to a more modern and healthy lifestyle of spending forty years improving the conversion rate of small digital advertisements.

BAM! Well done. :D

Couldn't said it better myself.

Quite a strawman.

Before I respond to your comment, you should understand that the job that these people do is not just looking for bags. They help people get where they want to go. They help people with disabilities. They help people understand how the train schedule works. I've even seen them help passengers figure out alternative connections in the rare cases when their train is late. But a big part of their job is simply interfacing with people who have dropped something off the platform and are likely to do something stupid like try to get it back (losing their heads to a passing train in the process). They literally save lives.

Having said that, it's a job that requires a lot of interpersonal skills, but not a lot of mental ability. But if we want a "humanised" society, we have to realise that there are a lot of people who like that kind of job. It's not for me, but I know quite a few people who would be very unhappy doing something else.

I was watching a TV program the other day. There was a guy who started a very small company to make kompeito. It's basically just sugar, but it is tumbled in a certain fasion so that it is knobbly and doesn't melt easily. Anyway, this guy used to work in a normal company doing accounting or something like that (I can't remember). He gave it up to spend 8 hours a day drizzling sugar water on his candy and making sure that it is tumbling perfectly. He takes a 10 minute lunch break and then rushes back to work because he wants to make sure that the kompeito is perfect every time.

I could not do that job, but he loves it. Why is that bad? There are lots of people who want jobs where they can be helpful, but where there isn't a huge amount of stress every day. They don't want to work with their minds, they want to work with their body. Or they want to interact with people. This doesn't cheapen them. Why must we destroy these kinds of jobs?

On the contrary I find it humanizing: everywhere you go there is a human that can help you. As an anecdote, I was amazed to find someone at the train station of a an Osaka suburb at 11 pm. He was of great help since with his very precise map of the surrounding area I found the place I had to go for which the GPS wasn't of any help.

I think for people doing this kind of job having a job -- regardless of how stupid it seems or is -- really mean having a social life. Japan society is really harsh with non workers and living without the regularity and human contact of a job it really hard too. In a sense compagnies hiring for very low-productivity jobs are doing what the social welfare is doing in European country except self pride included.

I have seen for numerous times that said human also help tourist (although local tourist, because most of them don't speak English well) confirm this is the train to take, and also help signaling the conductor that there are more people running to board etc.

They are not there just for checking bags. There are customer service providers.

I think this is a key philosophical difference: if you think of the job as finding the cheapest way to avoid bags in the doors, with low respect to match, you're missing out on so much that a human can do. If the job is smoothing operations and helping people, however, you get a much better return.

It's a caring profession. People spend their working lives mopping floors, wiping noses, changing bedpans, picking up road kill, helping little kids cross the street, caring for the elderly and disabled. Others -- repetitively -- cut up chickens all day, fasten on car doors, or fill out tax returns. How is that any different as a means of earning a living?

You can't let go of the American upper middle class conceit that you are your job. Many people find meaning, worth and dignity outside the workplace.

Automation must not be not become destiny.

I would not choose to do that job. Neither would you, of course. Yet there are many who do willingly sign up for such work. And there is little doubt that they are largely fulfilled and do contribute to society.

Should people care?


Automation can free people from this basic work, and it very likely will too.

But, it's not about that. This ethic means people will just care about other things.

Rituals can be tricky things: when perceived as meaningful they can be beneficial, engaging, focusing.

When perceived as futile and hypocritical they become soul crushing.

Please be aware of this instead of just downvoting JohnJamesRambo's comment.

This is a cultural difference. Nothing dehumanizing if you consider the stakes and increased safety that results from this.

It's not even really a cultural difference. It's perfectly normal and ordinary for a job to be repetitious, and most people do spend their entire lives going through one or a small number of set routines. That's not dehumanizing, it's the human experience.

And, at least these rail workers get to travel. Most developers sit at a desk that doesn't even move, and maybe they get to see a window, out of which the view never changes.

I dunno, it seems a dramatically more reasonable response to preventing accidents than the disaster that is PTC[1][2], which has cost billions and will probably never work properly.

[1] https://www.aar.org/policy/positive-train-control

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_train_control

Works just fine on the NEC, where it's been in use for over a decade. The real problem is that this was a huge unfunded mandate imposed by Congress on the railroads, both public and private, which is why they've been less than eager to meet the deadlines. In some particular cases, notably Caltrain, it's been a disaster, but that's because they decided that they have totally unique requirements and want a totally custom system rather than going with either of the relatively proven solutions.

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