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Ask HN: Share a gem. Teach me and you.
194 points by lionhearted on July 29, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 300 comments
One of my favorite discussion threads of all time, on any forum, was "Teach me and you. Give a gem" on the Civfanatics forum. It wound up being 15 pages of insights on how to play Civilization IV well, and was really a wonderful, enjoyable, community building experience.

Here was the first post:

"Share a "one-liner" simple strategy that can help beginners, seasoned players and maybe even be a gem that one of the pros can learn from.

Feel free to explain your tip, but avoid complex, in-depth strategy."

So, care to share a gem about technology, entrepreneurship, or general Hacker News type topics?




The world is meaningless, there is no God or gods, there are no morals, the universe is not moving towards any higher purpose. All meaning is man-made, so make your own, and make it well. Do not treat life as a way to pass the time until you die. Do not try to "find yourself", you must make yourself. Choose what you want to find meaningful and then live, create, love, hate, cry, destroy, fight and die for it. Do not let your life and your values and you actions slip easily into any mold, other than that which you create for yourself, and say with conviction, "This is who I make myself". Do not give in to hope. Remember that nothing you do has any significance beyond that with which you imbue it. Whatever you do, do it for its own sake. When the universe looks on with indifference, laugh, and shout back, "Fuck You!". Remember, that to fight meaninglessness is futile but fight anyway, despite its futility.

The world may be empty of meaning, but it is a blank canvas on which to paint meanings of your own.

Live deliberately.

You are free.

- Anon (Edited)


Really? What a mishmash of meaningless platitudes. There's regularly more insightful stuff on the Dr. Phil show.

This insistence on bald self-determination will fail utterly for all but the loneliest, most isolated instances of Nietzschean uebermenschen. The reality is that mankind is a social creature, that we draw on the meaning provided by others, that we look to the molds of others for inspiration, that our definitions of ourselves vary significantly from culture to culture and society or society. But wherever and whoever you are, you won't find the secret to eudaimonia in a philosophical ramble that reads like it was written by the memetic Courage Wolf.

I know many who have tried to "make themselves" and failed. It seems to be a common thing for kids in their early 20s, fresh out of college, to try to do. Many with depression will not be able to summon the will to "imbue" their own meaning. For many, the assertion that the "universe looks on with indifference" is strictly worse than irrelevant. And so on.

And even if you have some unusual strength of willpower such that you can take the OP's advice to heart, trying to re-make yourself all at once, with no idea how to go about it, will be about as productive as banging your head against a wall, and the end result will be nothing but a terrible headache and severe ego depletion.

Indeed, I once tried the Courage Wolf approach to happiness that is advocated above. I found much better results once I decided that I don't know what I want, but by pursuing those things that seem to fulfill me, I can head down the positive path one step at a time.

Many, particularly Greeks such as Aristotle, pondered what makes one happy, free, and virtuous, with much more insight than the OP. But you don't have to read Aristotle. Just use some common sense.


  The reality is that [..] that we draw on the meaning provided by others
The reality is that that is the prime cause of suffering. People are unhappy because they cannot possibly live up to all the different expectations different people have of them.

  For many, the assertion that the "universe looks on with indifference" is
  strictly worse than irrelevant.
Which is sad, because that truth can result in the most complete sense of freedom one can possibly get. Contemplating how 'Nothing matters' sends shivers down my spine.

  trying to re-make yourself all at once
There is no need to do it all at once. There is no need to invent everything from scratch. A true nihilist won't stay alive for long, so that's not the goal. We can choose not to be a slave of society, culture and morals. That doesn't mean we can't also choose to accept parts of them, and live in full acceptance of their positive and negative aspects. The point of remaking yourself is choosing how you wish to live your life, instead of mindlessly doing what others expect.

The philosophy kashif describes can be considered to be Buddhist, Existentialist, Nihilist and probably many other things, in nature. Your interpretation and rejection of it as Nietzschean nihilism says more about how you view these things than about what kashif's quote means.


Well said. Though even platitudes from Dr Phil's alternative-universe Nietzschean counterpart have their place.

Now I'm tempted to write a self-help book called "The Courage Wolf Approach to Happiness"


Must this be the only opinion? Perhaps, there was something in my life that makes this quote resonate with me and some other folks...


I think "know thyself" is far more valuable than "make thyself", because in real life, everyday terms we have far less control over what makes us happy than it seems, rationally.

But -- we also have far more freedom than many people realize. "I can't" usually conceals a confused morass that needs to be dredged out with a vengeance.

The decision might still be "I won't", but if you know why, and have some sense of how to maintain your emotional equilibrium, etc. you're still far, far ahead in the game.

I think the quote resonates with you (and many people!) because it's so easy to be locked into near-immobility by a kind of inarticulated wash of bad feelings about how other people must be judging us, and in fact most of this anxiety is unfounded and misleading.

It's incredibly valuable to take a kind of eyes-open "5 questions" approach to big decisions, to dig out the kind of thing like "so apparently I will do almost anything to avoid being criticized by men who resemble my father". And yeah, break free from the crowds (hint: this tends to actually earn you respect, not harsh judgment), work on improving yourself, etc..

But don't delude yourself into thinking that simply because there's no god, universal meaning, etc., you'll be able to just shake it off if you realize that your choices have earned you the contempt of those you love and respect.


I'm sure. In fact, I felt obligated to respond because of the unusually powerful rhetoric of that quote. As I hinted, I spent a while hampered by similar ways of thinking--whereas they are appealing, I now consider them very dangerous.

But, hey, your mileage may vary.


I'm afraid I'm with him. There's too much anger in this, I see that as a waste of energy. None of us is really free, I can't wake up tomorrow and decide to be an NBA player or the president. We have certain options for today, this week, this month, this year... Pick the best path forward, review it occasionally and pour all that energy into doing.


Well said. I found a similar passage on Reddit the other day.

No. Every single fucking day I wake up like a goddam bull, ready to charge out and destroy everything in my path. Maybe I'll start a new business, maybe I'll buy a house, maybe I'll get in my car and drive to Texas, I don't fucking know, but I'm going to do something that makes me happy. Sure, I used to be sad and pathetic like you, not sure what I wanted to do with my life, until I realized, there is no "single thing". I want everything. I want thick juicy steaks still dripping blood, I want wide-open blue skies, endless summer, ice cold glacier water out of the skull of my enemy. I want to fuck until I scream, drive up the face of a cliff, ride horses in France, blow 10 grand on peanut butter or maybe just buy the biggest suite in the place and sit around ordering pay-per-view. It's your goddam life you spineless fuck, no one is going to live it for you. You better wake the fuck up now, or you're going to turn around, look at your Chrysler Minivan, your mortgage, your pot-belly and your thinning hair and wonder with crushing regret where it all went, how you got here, and what the fuck do you do now? Goddam, I want to slap you and wake you the fuck up. You want to know what to do? LEAVE THE FUCKING HOUSE and go explore. Fuck a midget. Create a stand-up routine and do open mike night. Yeah, you aren't funny. Get over it. Learn something new. Go out and live. Then again, there is something to be said for a nice nap.

Link: http://www.reddit.com/r/DoesAnybodyElse/comments/cm06w/dae_f...


That's some attitude, and yet I looked at the profile of the user in question and for a man who could be doing anything he sure does seem to spend a lot of time commenting on reddit.

Yes I know, glass houses and all, but I'm not the one making the braggadocious comment. My real point is not to point and laugh at this guy, but to point out that such things are easily said and not so easily done.


So, this is mostly tongue-in-cheek. But let's look at it seriously for a second anyway.

What makes him happy? Not all of these things he's writing about, of course. Though I'll bet he's happy when he writes about it, and gets the impression that people, real people out there, are reading it, getting excited over the energetic prose and maybe getting fired up and/or laughing. That's real.

But to actually try doing some of these things? Well, after half-an-hour riding horses in France, he'd have noticed they're a lot like horses elsewhere, and also be pretty chafed and ready to get off but not sure how to ask that in French. If he bought 10 grand worth of peanut butter, he'd realize two things: someone has to pay the bill, with real money that's generally hard to get, and peanut butter has an expiry date like everything else (and it's sooner than you'd think...), so he just wasted, like, $9970 that he now can't use to pay for overpriced hotel rooms and pay-per-view (if that were enjoyable itself...).

Come to think of it, this is a pretty good capture of the concept of happiness that is pushed by advertising. More, more, and more shit, all at once! -- that's happiness. If a rare, thick steak is nice, then surely a rarer, thicker steak is nicer! If sex is pleasurable, then surely more sex with more people is still more pleasurable! Doing anything that people on TV do must be amazingly fun, because they look so happy (and toned and suntanned and...)!

(Of course it's correct -- I mean, that's why lottery winners are all so happy with life. right?).


beautiful ! here is one by samuel-ullman which a lot of folks here might already have known:

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what's next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.


I read a quote on a T-Shirt and loved it :

"I am 18 with 20 years of experience"

Note : Replace that 20 with whatever you want :)


I would have written something similar, but recently came across: http://www.salon.com/life/since_you_asked/2010/07/27/back_fr..., which, including the comments, put the same message in so many different ways that I don't feel I have anything to add to it.


All meaning is man-made, so make your own, and make it well.

...and by what standard should we judge "well"?


The standards that you yourself make.


So it's circular, you're saying? I don't disagree, but this is not ultimately very satisfying to someone who'd like meaning in their life. It amounts to saying "Don't want that, then", does it not? :)


Why should meaning to your life be supplied externally ?

That's a hidden way of arguing there can be no meaning to life without a creator, a feeling that religions the world over have handily exploited.

Meaning can derive from yourself, you can feel good about your own acts within your own reference frame of morality that you have derived from your experience with the world.

There's nothing wrong with that and it is just as satisfying, or even more so than some externally supplied meaning.


I'm not sure how a creator would help provide meaning. If World of Warcraft characters were actually self-aware people, would providing fun for players really be the highest meaning they could aspire to? If not, why would a hypothetical creator's plan for us have any particular bearing on what we ought to do?

Meaning can derive from yourself, you can feel good about your own acts

I can feel good about shooting heroin, but that doesn't mean it's right (or that it's not!). It really ends up sounding like "Do what makes you feel good, and try not to think too much about why it makes you feel good". That's not necessarily bad, but I haven't seen any argument that it is good, other than that it's not necessarily bad.

If what you're looking for is what's most satisfying, I'll agree that introspection and experiment will tell you that. If you're looking for what you ought to do, what's really "meaningful", it's not at all clear to me what can tell you that. Or that anything can, or that it's even a question with an answer. At least if there's no answer, continuing to think about the question can't be wrong. ;)


A creator would be able to provide meaning for the last person 'in the system' who wouldn't be able to point at someone else to provide his/her meaning.

World of warcraft characters are not self aware, but if they were, my point is exactly that they could aspire to higher meaning than fun for players, by their own standards of morality and what they choose to be fulfilling.

You can feel good about shooting heroin, for a little while, and then you'll realise that it is not all it is cracked (pun intended) up to be. So you will most likely either revise your value system or you'll die of an overdose.

Just doing what makes you feel good is not a very good system of morality, since it obviously allows you to do good to yourself at the expense of others. People that have such tendencies are usually labelled either unable to empathise or psychopaths depending on how far they go in their pursuits.

What you 'ought' to do, is to try to define a set of rules for yourself that start from axiomatic things that any healthy and well thinking person can perceive as 'good'.

It's not a coincidence that most laws tend to start off from basic principles like 'property is ok' and 'killing is not' and work out a whole series of codified laws from there.

For a moral viewpoint on life and a feeling of satisfaction you could very well do the same, on your own almost without external input.

Some people will come up with extremely selfish sets of rules, which is fine as long as they fit within the legal framework and make them feel good, some will do much better than that.

And some will fail, and end up in jail or become ostracised from society.


Dying of an overdose or doing well at the expense of others are things that most people can agree are things we ought not to want. But I haven't found a reason that I ought not to want those, ultimately. It just so happens that I (and most people) don't.

Whenever you see yourself saying, "you ought to"/"it's good to"/"it's moral to", notice the immediate reason that the statement seems true (assuming it does) is to satisfy some goal. You have a goal of not hurting other people (or, to say it another way, you want not to hurt other people), but while that suffices for directing your thoughts and actions on this level, if you back up a level, you'll see that this goal is in service of another goal. If human goal systems were regular and consistent, there would ultimately be a topmost goal which all this was pointing at. But that doesn't seem to be the case, so we're left shifting about aimlessly, considering only that which we happen to consider (our happiness, the happiness of others, life satisfaction, or whatever) without anything to direct what we ought to be doing.

Making up your own meaning doesn't solve this problem, but only ignores it. It might be that it's unsolvable (I currently think so, at least), but in that case, it can hardly matter that one keeps looking.


You forget existentialism has a clear definition of angst, despair and inauthentic living. That tie into what is "good" in existentialism. Essentially existentialism says yes happiness is good, but happiness supplied by drugs is an external source of happiness and is thus inauthentic. Poking yourself with needles, ie the act of consuming doesn't make you feel good, the drug does. Existentialism is in this respect where Eastern philosophies meet with the West. Read some Camus, or Sartre, but if you feel the need to see what existentialism is like with a higher power read Kierkegaard.


There's nothing wrong with that and it is just as satisfying, or even more so than some externally supplied meaning.

If your philosophy is consistent, then the above statement is only true for you, correct?


There are other things in live besides yourself and the empty universe, you know. In particular, other people are something external to the self that typically supply a lot of meaning for many.


Yes, and nobody will stop you from incorporating them and their feelings in to your rules to live by.


Ok, let's pretend for a moment that you're an intensely weird person who finds meaning in others due to a conscious decision to self-actualize. "Hey honey, we've been going out for a while, and so I've decided to gradually incorporate you and your feelings into my rules to live by. One step at a time, of course."

Then why aren't we allowed to integrate religion into our rules to live by? Are some things "external to the self" allowed, and others disallowed?


I'm perfectly ok with you integrating religion in to your rules to live by. But you don't have to and it is nonsense that you can't find 'meaning' in life without that.


Would you prefer if someone else had already decided the meaning of you life?


The scary thing (for me) is that I suspect the answer for a very large number of people is 'yes'. With setting your own rules comes the added burden of being responsible for the results, and plenty of people would like to be able to point to some third party when things go bad.


It's a trick question. :) If someone else had already decided the meaning of your life, you would prefer that, because they would have decided what you preferred, ultimately.


This decider could decide that you prefer otherwise, couldn't it?


Could they could arrange it so that your purpose was X, and that you preferred that your purpose was not X? I'm not sure if that's actually consistently possible. It's certainly possible for humans to want X and not want to want X, but something with a specified highest goal might not actually be able to hold both.


What's your net worth?

(For many, someone else has decided, and quantified it.)


Start the standard with happiness, add sophistication as necessary.


Just don't confuse happiness with pleasure. Sometimes what will give you the most happiness you won't find pleasurable at all to do.


What an amazing find. Thanks!


Not bad, but I don't like the "no morals" part.

Ethics come from the satisfaction of preferences.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preference_utilitarianism


Probably inspired by Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus.


Or by existentialist philosophy in general.


I don't know if this is the source, but this is all I could find.

http://www.writesomething.net/post/1260672/



Saving.

That is the most liberating thing I have ever read in my entire life.


I picked this one up on Hacker News.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1398805 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_depletion

The title says it all. Self-control is exhaustible. So when you're trying to make changes in your life, keep it to one simple thing at a time. Over time the one thing you decided to change stops being self-control and starts becoming a habit. Once it becomes a habit? Start training something else. You'll rack up positive changes in no time.


I wish this had been the first advice I'd received when I started dieting. After flailing around for years, I started calorie counting, and then made lifestyle changes once every few weeks. Smaller portions, whole wheat instead of white, simple things like that. Doing them one at a time made all the difference, and I finally got back down to my college weight.


Ah, and the whole dieting process has a nasty trap built right in, because your willpower diminishes as your blood sugar drops.

I don't have the study in front of me, but I recall the effect was pretty clear.


If the coefficients of a polynomial add to zero, then (x-1) is a factor.

For example, let's try and factorise f(x) = 2x^3 + 9x^2 + 4x - 15

What happens if we set x = 1? Then f(1) = 2 + 9 + 4 - 15 = 0, so (x-1) must be a factor.

It's much easier to get f(x) = (x - 1)(2x^2 + 11x + 15) = (x - 1)(x + 3)(2x + 5) if you know one of the factors in advance. This was useful at school, at least. Not so much now.

* See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polynomial_remainder_theorem


As a corollary, on the same lines of thinking,

If the co-efficients of the odd powers and the even powers are equal, then (x+1) is a factor.


Either somebody picked up the telephone while you were online typing this out, or I need to take more math classes.


Surely one of you hackers can offer us a practical application for any nifty math tricks on display in these comments.

I'm, ah, coming up blank on this one for now.


The secret to customer service is "I'm sorry" and putting a period after it ASAP to avoid undoing all the good you just accomplished. ("I'm sorry you couldn't figure out how to..." <-- failed.)

Relatedly, buy yourself a puppet and route all email through the puppet.


And, how can I fix the situation. Yesterday, had a coffee shop say, sorry we make mistakes and that was it. Some companies work to resolve the situation very well. A simple, we can throw that out and make you a new one would have been nice, to which I would have passed but felt better about the service.


They didn't offer a new coffee? That is standard operating procedure for every coffee place I have been too. A lot of my friends were baristas when I was younger and as such I have spent a lot of time in coffee shops.

Did you order a blended drink a few minutes before closing? (that really pisses them off) Also, don't take this the wrong way, but did you tell them about it rudely? I have no way of telling from your post so I am just putting that out there.


They didn't stop after the "sorry".


A puppet (account, domain) to route email through?


A little bit of cloth and stuffing with no ego, no cares in the world aside from customer satisfaction, and the patience of Job. He handles the CS because if I had to I'd have been driving stark-raving mad years ago.


I'm laughing but not really certain what you were originally advocating here.


He suggests creating a persona in your mind that bears the brunt of the pointlessly cruel emails, the adamant, but content-free bug reports, etc, etc. If these prickly letters in your inbox stop affecting you personally, you can be the calm mediator between your customer and said hapless persona. What's the kindest way we can elicit this web-illiterate customer's underlying problem? This other raving lunatic clearly wants an apology before we can address his issue. No sweat!


Helpful and friendly, thank you. I wasn't really getting the oblique way he was describing it. :)


Just a tip from a customer service pro: Don't use "I'm sorry." Instead, use "I apologise," this accomplishes the same end while taking the personal subtext out. And, as the commenter above mentions, it should be followed up with "what can we do to fix it"!


Not sure if it is a 'gem' but it certainly is useful:

tail -10000 somelogfile | cut -d ' ' -f 1 | sort | uniq -c | sort -n | tail

Quick one liner to get a fix on who is currently messing with your server in ways that are 'counter-productive', also a nice way to show newcomers to unix how you can string together existing unix commands to create new ones on the fly.

As for start-up advice that would fit in one line:

A practical, bug ridden, bad implementation of something trumps a theoretical, perfect implementation of the same thing.


To generalize that a bit: learn the unix cmdline utilities and how to use them together. Something as simple as

  grep "some pattern" * -R | cut -d' ' -f1 | 
    xargs sed -i -e 's/some_other_pattern/replacement/g'
will save you 15 minutes of painful searching and replacing through numerous files.


And keep a cheat sheet of the ones you've found really useful.


And always, always, always! test commands (or queries, for that matter) before executing them. For instance, my example would run 'sed' multiple times on files containing multiple matches of the string grep searches for. And it should have been cut -d':' -f1. Running it without the 'sed' command would have made both those things clear immediately. If you think you know for sure it does what you intend it to do, but you didn't test it, then it doesn't do what you think it does.


A good trick for that is to type in the whole command with 'echo' as the final one in the place of the command that actually makes changes. Then you replace the echo with the 'real' thing on the next run if the results where what you expected them to be. In the case of 'rm -rf $1. *' that would save you a lot of hunting around for backups ;)


This also works for SQL commands: use SELECT before UPDATE/DELETE with the same WHERE clause for sanity check.


This one is super important. I just got burned by this a couple of days ago. Sometimes I blow by the WHERE clause because I have a happy Enter finger.

It's also not a bad idea to do a quick mysqldump of the database you are working on, just in case.


I always thought the missing where defaulting to all records was a bug in the spec, and would have much preferred it if 'where true' was a mandatory thing on deletes and mass updates instead of the current default.


Yeah, I made it a habit to start entering a query by typing 'WHERE', before anything else.


I put my cheat sheet in a folder called ~/bin, which is in my path.


Care to share or put them on github or something? You don't need to comment them or anything. I find that looking at other people's scripts really helps me learn new ways to use the shell. Thanks.


Actually I just checked and there's only one in there -- I guess I use shell scripts a lot less than I used to. Here it is:

  #!/bin/sh

  # reform = re-format code to use different indentation
  # Usage:
  #    reform oldIndent newIndent source destination
  #
  # e.g. reform 3 4 fred.py fred1.py
  
  unexpand --tabs=$1 $3 | expand --tabs=$2 >$4
Incidently, this is typical shell script for me -- anything that requires loops or control structures, I do in Python. The predominance of comments over code is also typical for me.


I like to alias commands and put them in ~/.bash_profile for the ones that are useful. Then to see what you have saved you just type alias to get the list of all the current aliases. if there is one that could possibly do harm to your system and you dont want it to run you could do a alias possiblyBadCommand="0 && whatever command you want to save but never run." If you accidentally run possiblyBadCommand it will just exit out saying -bash: 0: command not found


    ... | sort -nr | head
...may save tail(1) some work.


I love this snippet. Awesome! Anything else you care to share?


A productivity gem from Jerry Seinfeld, heavily paraphrased.

For anything you wish you were doing every day, like working out or practicing violin or working on your startup: Get a big, yearlong calendar and put it on a wall in your bedroom. Every day you complete your task, mark a big, red "X". Eventually, you'll build up a big string of X's and won't want to break it. That incentive will push you more than you think.


And before everyone gets too excited, it's been created as a web-app already a few times!


Web app has an important downside: it's not hanging on your wall. Out of sight, out of mind.


Unless you're looking at your web browser more often that your wall.


Amen. That's why, when I was seriously dieting, I had a calendar where I would write my weight every day.

Worked much better than the excel spreadsheet I had tried before (the one from the Hacker's diet).


Could you share a link?


If you store code on Github, you can also enroll in a Seinfeld tracker there: http://calendaraboutnothing.com/

I'm having a decent month: http://calendaraboutnothing.com/~telemachus




There's also an iPhone app for this called Daily Deed.


and Streaks.


Also, joesgoals.com


I used to have really yellow teeth because I brushed my teeth really rarely (thank goodness I never smoked). I've had some periods where I brushed them more often but I'd quickly fall back into hopelessness.

Then I hung a small calendar in the bathroom where I cross each day that I brush my teeth, and the "I don't want to break my win streak" feeling is so RIDICULOUSLY compelling that it's been many months now and I brush my teeth almost every day, in fact I didn't miss one day since 1 month and 3 weeks ago.

DON'T underestimate the sheer POWER of "win streaks".

My teeth are almost white now!


Strange, my teeth are light yellow and I've hardly ever missed a day. Most days I brush twice.

From this I'd gathered that tooth discoloration is permanent.


Well, I consider that they're "almost white" in relation to the piss-yellow I used to have. But the difference is dramatic nonetheless.


I have such a calendar in my binder but I only do a few weeks at a time. I use the stopwatch feature on my watch to count hours worked and mark that down daily.


A few gems for easier computer use:

1. Buy a 50gb Dropbox account, put all the folders you care about in there (all your projects, documents, music, etc.). Makes life so much funner when you know you don't have to worry about losing your important documents ever again.

2. Start using a password management tool like Keepass. Makes you rely less on memory, which makes life on a computer less stressful. I wrote an article about this recently with some tips and tricks (http://www.loopycode.com/solving-sign-up-anxiety/).


I just paid for mozy (http://www.mozy.com) and it automatically and constantly backups the folders you choose with unlimited storage at a very reasonable price. It seems to me like a much better solution (for backup) than dropbox. However, I also have a free dropbox account for shifting files between computers.

I've been doing a lot of work on backups -- A few months ago I had a crash of a nearly new harddrive. Nothing could be recovered from it. I did have important stuff (like source code) backed up but it was still unpleasant. My advice: spend a few days working on your backups.


I wrote up my ideal Dropbox configuration: http://giantrobotlasers.com/post/684259169/the-ideal-desktop...

I'm told the symlinks should go in opposite directions, but generally this setup is very clean.


Regarding Keepass, how do you log in to some service when you're not at your work station? Is there some way to distribute the database it uses to mutiple computers?


Well you can keep the database file in Dropbox :)


How do you deal with either working from your Dropbox folder ( convoluted) or having duplicate folders (local syncing)?


No need to choose. Create a symbolic link.

You can create these via drag and drop in Linux (ctrl+shift in Gnome) and OSX (command+option), and via some other trickery in Windows.

http://wiki.dropbox.com/TipsAndTricks/SyncOtherFolders


One note for Windows users: Dropbox doesn't work well with symlinks. So you'll have to put the actual directory into Dropbox, and create a symlink to it from wherever it is you want.


Great question, I spent a lot of time thinking about that. Eventually, I realized that it wasn't convoluted to work from my Dropbox folder. At least the problem wasn't keeping project files there. After all, most projects are just lots of source code, and it doesn't matter where it sits.

The big problem with keeping projects in there is that each project might have computer-specific configurations. I try to keep those to a minimum, by e.g. using relative directories whenever possible. For the few things that I can't keep completely relative, I rely on environment variables that I set on each computer I work on.

Other than that, I haven't run into any problems working right out of my Dropbox directory. At one point I considered running all my software from Dropbox (using portable versions), but that really did cause a lot of headache (most programs have session-specific configuration which would cause problems on different computers).

Have you run into any other problems with keeping projects inside Dropbox?


Mostly I found it annoying to switch from ~ to ~/Dropbox while on the command line.

Is there any way to change the folder Dropbox? If so, I guess it could be the same as ~.


You can do it with a registry hack, but I didn't/wouldn't go down that road.


When I did the same thing, I just moved my filesystem into it, set everything to download into it, and away I went. It also helped me actually do something with info, rather than leave it there and not touch it.

However, I bet on a mac you could rsync or cron it to keep local and DB together.


Solve the problem before you code the solution.

That may be obvious to this crowd, but I learned it the hard way!

I competed in the ACM programming competitions in college, so I did lots of practice problems. When I coded up-front, I would first represent the problem description as data structures and solve it from there. This is obviously flawed, since I had no idea whether any of it was useful! Sometimes they weren't, and sometimes I missed obvious tricks and wasted a lot of time. When I first worked out a solution on pencil and paper, I always knew what code needed to be written.


Coders do two things: Thinking and Typing.. the more you do of one, the less you do of the other


Unless you're writing Java.


But the more typing you do, the more time u'll have to spend on thinking later.


Ah, well said!


Solve the problem before you code the solution. That may be obvious to this crowd, but I learned it the hard way!

That's likely far from obvious to this crowd (if it has been paying attention). Paul Graham advocates the exact opposite: "exploratory programming", where you start writing the program without even knowing what the problem is, let alone the solution.

I personally agree more with you than with Graham, though.


Those two things aren't contradictory. The first is about answering a well-defined technical question. The second is about deciding what program to write.


Sometimes we get stuck, writer's block kicks in. Do yourself a favor, get up and go do something else. The magic elves will come and fix whatever you were stuck on, I promise.


As Confucius said, 三人行,必有我師焉 ("wherever three persons are walking, my teacher is surely among them"). I can learn from anyone in my environment, and other people always have a lot to teach me if only I will listen.

(Adapted from

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1295342

where the first person to reply to this quotation that time reminded me that not everyone on HN takes advantage of this, but where other HN participants got Confucius's point.)


Another of his, "To know what you do not know is the best."


You only need one. You only need one business venture to work right to be considered successful.


I first heard this from Mark Cuban wayy back in '05. http://blogmaverick.com/2005/05/30/success-and-motivation-yo...


Nice read, I have written a post about it:

http://chegra.posterous.com/you-only-need-one


Once - you are lucky, twice - you are good.


Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure. - Earl Wilson


A deal, particularly an investment, isn't done until the money is in your bank account.


And if you use PayPal, it's even worse than that.


"Birds fly; fish swim; deals fall through." http://www.paulgraham.com/startupfunding.html


This is excellent advice. I usually mentally add on (and cleared transferring to another account.)


And after tax paid.


If you are selective about which arguments you inspect for flaws, or how hard you inspect for flaws, then every flaw you learn how to detect makes you that much stupider. It gives you one more chance to fail each time someone presents you with a new argument, and you face the challenge of changing your mind. Intelligence, to be useful, must be used for something other than defeating itself.


Could you go into more depth on this?


Here's an article in which he does so:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/he/knowing_about_biases_can_hurt_peo...

This is also relevant:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/km/motivated_stopping_and_motivated_...

Both articles are an interesting read, and it's sobering when you catch yourself doing the things they describe.


It boils down to 'cynicism is not science'.

It seldom occurs to us to pick apart the things we already know are true, so our logical and rational strengths become torches with which to defend our held beliefs rather than lights to shine upon them.


Most of Eliezer's writings about rationality can be found here:

http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sequences


He elaborates on that argument in Knowing About Biases Can Hurt People: http://lesswrong.com/lw/he/knowing_about_biases_can_hurt_peo...


The only reason why another person will do what you want, is because they want to do it. Look at their viewpoint as well as your own, when you ask them to do something.

If there is nothing in it for the other person, you're just wasting time, both his and yours. 'Because I want it done!' will only get you a half-hearted effort or worse.


Read the spec before programming.

(This might seem obvious, but I find that it is tempting to "just see if I can get it to work" before I read the documentation. I always end up with worse code than when I take the time to read up on the technology. A similar advice is The Pragmatic Programmer's "Don't program by coincidence")


Be willing to spend money on things that are valuable. Don't kill you business by being a cheap bastard.


People regret things they didn't do more than things they did.


On the other hand: there's an infinite amount of things you can't/won't do in your life, vs. a finite amount of things you will do. Don't spend your time worrying about all the things you haven't done: that gets in the way of actually doing things.


On the third hand: of the infinite amount of things you can't/won't do in you life, there is only a finite amounts of things you want to do, and you won't regret not doing things you don't want to do.


On the fourth hand: of all the things you have done you would for regard some of them.


Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret...


And even if what you end up doing was horrible, you will be able to laugh about it later.


Laugh, and more importantly, learn.


The trick is that, a lot of the time, doing one thing means not doing another. If I'm working on my business, I'm not spending time with my girlfriend. If I quit my soul-crushing dead-end job to do a startup, I'm not pulling in a steady paycheck. If I exercise in my spare time, I'm not learning guitar. Which will I regret not doing tomorrow? I don't know.


For a quick and practical advice do things you regret, more often than things you dont regret.


On a related note: it's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.


This is certainly not universally true. (Have you ever had someone take this approach with you and your life? Ignorance combined with an intentional lack of communication can lead to mistakes that can never be really forgiven, and lost trust that can never be regained.)

That said, taking an option off of the table simply because you'd have to "break a rule" to do it can be foolish -- just be aware of why the rule exists, and what you're actually risking in breaking it.


Oh, that reminds me...


Back everything up. Now.


Occasionally try restoring your backups and check that the really important stuff is still in a usable form.


Also, every few months take a few minutes and make sure that you really are backing up what you need.

I had a client a few weeks ago that had a drive failure. We went to restore from his offsite backup copy and found that some of the files he needed weren't being backed up. A quick review of the backup job would have caught this.


And conversely, make sure you aren't backing up what you don't need.


Amen! You only know how painful this is if you've something very important. Not-backing-up cost me, shoot I don't know, at least $4,000 once, and probably more than that.

Also, answer this question: If your home burns down, will your backup still work? I like to have one or two hard copies, and one cloud copy of the most important things.


Great thread.

Heres mine :

Look after your mentors. Anyone who takes time to give you guidance, help or advice, go far out of your way to display your appreciation.

If they have children, buy them presents. If they like wine, ask a wine expert for help, and buy them a great bottle of wine.

People so rarely do this that you will absolutely make their day.


I second this. Strongly.

I had 2 amazing mentors in high school who supported me in rather extreme ways. After college I had started a company making high end stereo equipment, using a lot of what I had learned from them. 10 years after I graduated high school I had dinner with them and gave them each one of my products, telling them how much they had influenced my life and how thankful I was.

A week later one of them died suddenly. So don't waste time in doing this.


Mentally accept that bugs with your code are your fault. You'll end up fixing them faster.


Excellent advice. I'd go one step further: accept the problems in your life are your fault (responsibility). You'll end up fixing them faster.


The opposite of that is the root of a lot of trouble in this world.


If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month. - Theodore Roosevelt


Better yet: start calling "bugs" defects.

Also, accept that humans are imperfect and no code (whether yours or another's) will be defect-free. Fixing is more important than blaming.


For a constant growth rate of r%, the formula for the doubling time Td is given by log(2)/log(1 + r/100) which can be simplified to approximatly 70/r.

* See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_72 for more info and background/variations that improve on accuracy in certain situations.


Buy that very technical book of something you wish you knew. Spend some of your lunchtime each day reading 5 to 10 pages.


I have a copy here at work of "The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe" by Roger Penrose for this very purpose!


Great advice. Books these days, especially technical books, are expensive. However I've rarely ever regretted buying a book, even the (very) few I bought but never read. Probably due to the fact that buying technical books has a minimal and bounded downside, but a huge upside.


Or put it in the bathroom.


Whiteboards are always a good investment.


To add to this, use shower board from a hardware store. The cost is usually <$20 for a 4'x8' sheet. The quality varies but the price is hard to beat.


Or, alternatively, place 4 mm thick window pane glass over your walls, or the much cheaper cellophane.


If you find yourself worrying too often, ask yourself "Does what I'm worrying about truly matter? Is it really worth obsessing over? Do I even have any control over it?" If the answer to any of these is no, put it out of your mind. It seems like fairly obvious advice, but if you can remember it, it can make your life a lot less needlessly stressful.


Writing books and giving talks is really easy. It's just that most don't have the guts to put themselves out there.

Or more generally: you can stand out by doing what others are afraid to do.


Innocence is more powerful than experience. "Experience keeps a dear school but fools will learn at no other." Ben Franklin

Keep your heart pure. Do everything without arguing or complaining. Guard your tongue. Speak in private of people only what would be helpful for them to hear in public. Keep your word. Do not criticize people in positions of power. Pray for them. When the moment comes that you meet them, and have a chance to influence them, your voice will be authentic and honest. Your voice is like a violin, played well for many years it can develop an incredible resonance.


Never forget that success if always a collective effort, so invest your time and energy in relationships with others.


"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost


That quote was apparently making fun a friend of his that obsessed about such things where important. Sadly, the original sarcasm seems lost on most people.

Edit: Minor choices may have major impact on your life though random chance. But, most of them don't, and there is no way to know ahead of time (or after the fact) which choice is the right one.


The literal or ironic interpretation? Or maybe a little of both?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken_(poem)

Personally I've always appreciated it in it's literal interpretation. Maybe this is why I could never truly appreciate poetry.


It's the simplest and least convoluted interpretation. On that note:

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." --Albert Einstein


The "literal" interpretation is only the simplest and least convoluted if you ignore the entire rest of the poem.

If you go by that interpretation, you have to explain what every other line in the poem is talking about. It's all about how the two roads were completely indistinguishable, and Frost is very explicit that neither was perceptibly more traveled than the other ("the passing there / Had worn them really about the same").

That's why "I took the road less traveled by" is something he'll say "ages and ages" in the future: At the moment, he can't tell any difference between the roads, but in the future he will have built up a mythology to support his arbitrary choice.

I've never heard a good explanation for what the rest of the poem is talking about if his fuzzy memory at the end is meant to be a true recollection.


That Einstein quote is a great one. A few other in my list that are (more or less) relevant to hackers:

There are two ways of constructing a software design; one way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies, and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. - C. A. R. Hoare

Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all. - Douglas Adams

"Begin at the beginning," the King said gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop." - Lewis Carroll

If you're going through hell, keep going. - Winston Churchill


I think you want 'figurative' not 'ironic' there, Alanis.


No, in this case irony applies. Click through to the link, and have a look for yourself. Specifically, the ironic reading is that it has in fact made no difference at all which road he took.


"Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind." - Henry David Thoreau


Should read "dispensable."

Probably true. Physical discomfort when you're trying to think deeply about anything is a huge detractor -- hence the importance of taking care of your body even if your interests are mostly "mind".

But that said, throw out your TV, don't thoughtlessly collect expensive shit that you then have to worry about fixing/protecting from theft/maintaining, etc..


Should that say 'indispensable', or is it a word like 'inflammable'?


dispensable= easily replaceable indispensable = not easily replaced not indispensable = not not easily replaced = easily replaced.

Luxuries are easily replaced and also hurt the progress of mankind.


Achievement comes from continually building something, not repeatedly starting new projects.


For every gem, there is equally effective anti-gem that works for at least one person.



To be a king you only need one crown. Magic moments are magic because they are the exception to routine days, not the rule. Coin too many gems and their will be transformed into simple rocks.



Approach difficult problems with a curious attitude. Many problems that at first glance seem beyond your skill set or nigh impossible turn out to be easily decomposed if you play with them a little.


It is more than ok to reinvent the wheel. What if the guy who invented the wheel hadn't reinvented the block?


bash control-r. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go try it.


Always wondered: press control-r and type ls, it shows the last command where I used ls.

I press up to get the second-last command where I used ls, and instead it shows me the second last command used, full stop, outside control-r mode. How does one cycle through ctrl-r results?


keep hitting C-r to keep cycling backwards.


Press Ctrl-R again.


looks like it searches history for a match and puts that command in


That's amazing. I wish I'd known about that sooner.


This has saved me so much pain.


A little humour can always make a bad situation a lot better.

Best example is something that happened last year that I don't think I'll ever forget. I was in China (Chengdu to be more specific) with a few friends, working for an IPTV company broadcasting from a big event out there. Everything that could possibly go accidentally wrong did. First our connecting flight in the UK was an hour delayed meaning we had to run to catch the flight to Asia. On arrival in Chengdu three of us were quarantined by the government for swine flu (which we didn't have, and were released an hour later). Having got outside the airport and tasted the smog one of our taxi drivers proceeded to drive a few of us to the wrong hotel on the wrong side of the city (small thing but.. it all adds up). This went on for the few days before the event, including half our team getting really nasty food poisening, and 95% of our video equipement (worth six figures) getting lost by the airline we shipped it with. Anyway, it was all pretty tough with seemingly everything going against us for no reason, but the turning point was the most insignificant thing that happend that trip. A few of us were walking back to the hotel the night before the event was starting, going through a large open space, not many people around, and after a few seconds of discussion about its appropriateness... Iain just shouts "CxxT" at the top of his voice. It broke the tension so easily and from then on we really did find it much easier to look on the bright side...

Humour can help defuse problems so often, that example just happens to be my favourite (from what was probably the most eventful trip I've ever been on).


Mine : Remember a pay cheque goes a long way in alleviating the horrors of a corporate job. Not everyone can afford to be a struggling hacker waiting for the big pay-off.


Goes a long way where?


Sitting in your day-job having to use (a very flaky) ClearCase instance working on a monster code base that has no tests and has a non-deterministic build process. Think of the pay-cheque at the end of the month. Get paid, save/invest properly and use your evenings and weekends to work on "that" project.

Course, this is my personal motivational technique.


Some people, when confronted with a problem, think “I know, I'll use regular expressions.” Now they have two problems, fortunately, one solves the other.


My favourite variation:

Some people, when confronted with a problem, think “I know, I'll use regular expressions.” Now they have three problems, the original problem, the regular expression, and dealing with the annoying developer who isn't that good at simple regular expressions who will repeat this phrase everytime he comes across a regex in any codebase rather than actually figure out how they work.


(This was originally posted on Craigslist as "Advice to Young Men from an Old Man")

1. Don’t pick on the weak. It’s immoral. Don’t antagonize the strong without cause, its stupid.

2. Don’t hate women. It’s a waste of time

3. Invest in yourself. Material things come to those that have self actualized.

4. Get in a fistfight, even if you are going to lose.

5. As a former Marine, take it from me. Don’t join the military, unless you want to risk getting your balls blown off to secure other people’s economic or political interests.

6. If something has a direct benefit to an individual or a class of people, and a theoretical, abstract, or amorphous benefit to everybody else, realize that the proponent’s intentions are to benefit the former, not the latter, no matter what bullshit they try to feed you.

7. Don’t be a Republican. They are self-dealing crooks with no sense of honor or patriotism to their fellow citizens. If you must be a Republican, don’t be a “conservative.” They are whining, bitching, complaining, simple-minded self-righteous idiots who think they’re perpetual victims. Listen to talk radio for a while, you’ll see what I mean.

8. Don’t take proffered advice without a critical analysis. 90% of all advice is intended to benefit the proponent, not the recipient. Actually, the number is probably closer to 97%, but I don’t want to come off as cynical.

9. You’ll spend your entire life listening to people tell you how much you owe them. You don’t owe the vast majority of people shit.

10. Don’t undermine your fellow young men. Mentor the young men that come after you. Society recognizes that you have the potential to be the most power force in society. It scares them. Society does not find young men sympathetic. They are afraid of you, both individually and collectively. Law enforcement’s primary purpose is to suppress you.

11. As a young man, you’re on your own. Society divides and conquers. Unlike women who have advocates looking out for them (NOW, Women’s Study Departments, government, non-profit organizations, political advocacy groups) almost no one is looking out for you.

12. Young men provide the genius and muscle by which our society thrives. Look at the Silicone Valley. By in large, it was not old men or women that created the revolution we live. Realize that society steals your contributions, secures it with our intellectual property laws, and then takes credit and the rewards where none is due.

13. Know that few people have your best interests at heart. Your mother does. Your father probably does (if he stuck around). Your siblings are on your side. Everybody else worries about themselves.

14. Don’t be afraid to tell people to “Fuck off” when need be. It is an important skill to acquire. As they say, speak your piece, even if your voice shakes.

15. Acquire empathy, good interpersonal skills, and confidence. Learn to read body language and non-verbal communication. Don’t just concentrate on your vocational or technical skills, or you’ll find your wife fucking somebody else.

16. Keep fit.

17. Don’t speak ill of your wife/girlfriend. Back her up against the world, even if she’s wrong. She should know that you have her back. When she needs your help, give it. She should know that you’ll take her part.

18. Don’t cheat on your wife/girlfriend. If you must cheat, don’t humiliate her. Don’t risk having your transgressions come back to her or her friends. Don’t do it where you live. Don’t do it with people in your social circle. Don’t shit in your own back yard.

19. If your girlfriend doesn’t make you feel good about yourself and bring joy to your life, fire her. That’s what girlfriends are for.

20. Don’t bother with “emotional affairs.” They are just a vehicle for women to flirt and have someone make them feel good about themselves. That’s the part of a relationship they want. For you it is a lot of work and investment in time. If they are having an emotional affair with you, they’re probably fucking someone else.

21. Becoming a woman’s friend and confidant is not going to get you into an intimate relationship. If you haven’t gotten the girl within a reasonably short period of time, chances are you won’t ever get her. She’ll end up confiding to you about the sexual adventures she’s having with someone else.

22. Have and nurture friendships with women.

23. Realize that love is a numbers game. Guys fall in love easily. You’re going to see some girl and feel like you’ll die if you don’t get her. If she rejects you, move on to the next one. It’s her loss.

24. Don’t be an internet troll. Got out and live life. There is not a cadre of beautiful women advertising on Craigslist to have NSA sex with you. Beautiful women don’t need to advertise. The websites that advertise with attractive women’s photos and claims of loneliness are baloney. All they want is your money and your personal information so that they can market to you. The posts on Craigslist by young “women” seeking NSA sex, and asking for a picture are just a bunch of gay troll pic collectors. This is especially true if the post uses common gay lexicon like “hole” as in “fuck my hole” or seeks “masculine” men, or uses the word cock (except in the context of “Don’t send a cock shot.”) There are women on Craigslist. They are easily recognizable by their 2-5 paragraph postings. Most are in their 30's or older.

25. When you become a man in full, know that people will get in your way. People who are attracted to you will somehow manage to step in your path. Gay guys will give you “the look.” Old people will somehow stumble in front of you at the worst time. Don’t get frustrated. Just step aside and go about your business. Know that these are passive aggressive methods to get you to acknowledge their existence.

26. Don’t gay bash. Don’t mentally or physically abuse people because of who they are, or how they present themselves. It’s none of your business to try to intimidate people into conformity.

27. If your gay, admit it to yourself, your parents, your friends and society at large. Be prepared to get harassed. See rule 14. If someone threatens you or assaults you, call the cops. Have them arrested. You have no obligation to self sacrifice because of who you are. As a gay person, you’ll have more social freedom than straight men. Use it to protect yourself. Be prepared to get out of Dodge if your orientation makes your life unbearable. Move to San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, or New Orleans. You’ll find a welcoming community there.

28. Don’t be a poser. Avoid being one of those dudes who puts a surfboard on top of their car, but never surfs, or a dude with a powder coated fixed gear bike and a messenger bag, but was never a messenger. Live the life. Earn your bona fides.

29. Don’t believe the crap about the patriarchy. More women are accepted and attend college. More degrees are awarded to women than men. Women outlive men. More men commit suicide. Men are twice as likely to be victims of violence, including murder. If you consider sexual assaults in prisons, twice as many men are raped as women (society thinks prison rape is funny). The streets are littered with homeless men, sprinkled with a few homeless women. Statically, women are happier than men. The myth that girls are being cheated by are educational system is belied by the fact that schools are bastions of femininity, mostly run by and taught by women. Girls outperform boys in school. It is the boys in school getting fucked over, and prescribed ritalin for being boys. Real wages for men are falling, while real wages for women are rising. Just because someone says something enough times, doesn’t make it true. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

30. Remember, 97% of all advice is worthless. Take what you can use, and trash the rest.


> 27. If your gay

28. Whether you're gay or not, learn to use apostrophes correctly. Ditto for other common spelling and grammatical errors. There are plenty of pedants out there, and if one reads your application and it's full of mistakes, you won't get the job.


> 30. Remember, 97% of all advice is worthless. Take what you can use, and trash the rest.

I took this 3% as the take away from the entire post :)


I'm getting a strong whiff of "people keep telling me this is sexist for some unknown reason, so I'd better put a little effort into justifying it".

A few useful ones in there, but too much crap to wade through.


30. Remember, 97% of all advice is worthless. Take what you can use, and trash the rest.

3% of 30 is just less that 1, so I took part of this one and trashed the rest.


Silicone Valley = San Fernando Valley

Silicon Valley = Santa Clara Valley


Lost me at #4 since it contradicts #1.


Don't antagonize or pick on your opponent.

Perhaps fight an equal.


If you read #30 it wouldn't matter.


Who ever said rules don't have exceptions?

The reasoning for #1 should be obvious. The reasoning for #4 is so the experience makes you grow as a person: you will be much less afraid of other people if you've been in a fight, because you know you can live through it.


If you're male, check for possible signs of testicular cancer regularly. If you're female, check for possible signs of breast cancer regularly


This too shall pass.

Works for everything in life, which is both a blessing and a curse.


"entropy" ;)


Stand up and stretch now. You don't do it half as often as you should.


And do a few pushups!


it might be worth noting why you should stretch.

When muscles aren't used, they contract. When you sit down a lot, some of the muscles that attach to your spine are probably contracted. This leads to lower backaches and worse.


Sleep is good.


One of my first hacks as a kid was to change the opening copy for Civilization by editing the game's text files to read that I created the universe.

One of my next best hacks was discovering King Solomon's Proverbs: http://bit.ly/aJpmva


Say your name as a statement.


"The prisoner falls in love with his chains." — Edsger Dijkstra


I'm not sure of the value of metaphorical platitudes that aren't actually true in the real world. Find me an actual prisoner who's in love with his actual chains and we can talk.


stockholm syndrome


Still metaphorical. A prisoner may, under exceptional circumstances, grow to love his (or more likely her) captor, but the chains?


Due to homeostasis, a diet or exercise programmes effectiveness is inversely proportional to the length of time you have been using it.

Average minds think alike, great minds think differently.


if you're going to have to sit down and power through a task that will take you a long time (cramming for an exam, a weekend marathon coding session, etc), operate in cycles of 20-30 minutes of focused work and then 5 minutes of something unrelated (preferably something entertaining/distracting/social). your mind will stay sharper, it'll be easier to focus, and you'll last longer before you burn out.


10 000 hour rule & Deliberate practice written about in "outliers" by Malcom Gladwell and "Talent is overrated" by Geoff Colvin.



Perfection is the enemy of good. Good is the enemy of at all. (I attribute the last bit to Paul Buchheit)


I've heard it as "Perfect is the enemy of done."


What does it mean?


If you're trying to make it perfect, you'll waste all of your time in tiny unimportant details (and you won't even manage to make something good). There are a lot of would-be writers with beautifully polished first chapters, and nothing else. Software is the same.

Likewise with making it good -- everything takes longer than estimated, and so life will likely intervene to stop you working before you even have anything working at all.

Lesson: get it working first (however badly), and evolve it from there.


Just do it, basically.


If you're a man, consider switching to the traditional wet shaving. http://www.youtube.com/user/mantic59

It will make your mornings so much more enjoyable and give you a precious moment of self-care and contemplation every (other) day.


"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." -Wayne Gretzky


- Ask a question. Define the nouns.

- Sleep 2 hours extra.

- Find a purpose that means something to you (not success/cool/clever).


* - Ask a question. Define the nouns.*

Would you explain this, please? Where you means 10ren, or anyone who has an explanation, and this means the quoted sentence.


Assuming you aren't only mocking: when you're lost in a problem so complex that you don't even know where to start, you can focus your efforts (ie. narrow the scope) by trying to express your concern as a specific question (just one; trying to answer many questions simultaneously is a source of complexity and perplexity). Sounds simple, but this can take a surprising amount of work. It doesn't actually have to be a question - it can be a task, provided it's specific - but the question form really seems to help, perhaps by emphasizing that there's something you don't know, and that that's OK.

A question is usually about how to do something to something - ie. the stress is on a verb. It helps to understand what that really means by defining what it is about - ie. the nouns. Defining the nouns is usually pretty straightforward, and often reveals what it is that has made the problem difficult to think about. For me, the nouns are often an input data structure (eg. a grammar + constraints), and an output data structure (eg. another grammar, or a particular function with certain qualities).

I tend towards being anti-functional programming, but I have to admit this is pretty much a declarative, mathematical, functional approach. It even feels functional, in that you end up creating new "variables" for new states (ie. immutable not variable), and although there's an explosion of names, things become very clear to express when you have a convenient and precise name for everything (ie. every noun).


Not mocking, and that was a very helpful explanation, thanks.


Use more than one operating system on a regular basis.


When People stop growing, the organization stops growing and then the decline starts ...


Accept the defaults. Or, at least, get so that you can use a computer within 5 minutes of being given the default configuration. It makes your life so much easier. A more general form of this is: choose your battles.


Years back I saw a programme on TV with a British Presenter/Comedian, Griff rhys jones, talking about anger. He'd get wound up about so much trivial stuff it's unreal and he just seemed to be going through life being angry and upset.

So my gem is this: Stop getting mad or angry about what happens, especially if you can't change it. If someone screams at you, don't waste the energy screaming back, it's done, there's nothing you can do to change it. Just work out what you want to do next to get the best result and do it.


Increase efficiency (and maybe avoid injury to the wrist) by minimizing use of the mouse:

1. Vim / utilize your IDE's keyboard bindings

2. Vimperator for Firefox

3. Vimium for Chrome

4. FreeCommander (or any Norton Commander clone)

5. Activate Gmail keyboard shortcuts

(Edit: added #1 and #5)


Consider a tiling window manager if you're a Linux user. Doubly so if you're a console jock. I find it's a great way to cut down on mousing time.


Mine: Occasionally buy a can of compressed air and a soft cloth to clean up your computer. The few dollars will keep your expensive kit running in better condition and lasting longer.


Never pick up anything by it's top.


There are no sunk cost in life. Even if you got really good at something, if you really want to do something else, you can drop them and start today!


Do your toughest thinking, try to solve your hardest problems, and envision your biggest dreams while on the toilet doing a number 2.

Something about it just works.


On related body hacks: holding your crap back bumps mental capabilities by 50-80%.

(Yes, I've got a couple more of these. yes, you can ask for it ;) )


there's at least one show-stopping bug lurking somewhere in your code.


Always do ls, before running rm (or rm -r).

Similarly, Always run SELECT query before running UPDATE/DELETE query, with the same WHERE clause.


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