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Ask HN: What's the most valuable thing you can learn in an hour?
1460 points by newsbinator on Nov 20, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 1076 comments
A lot of what hackers do takes years of building knowledge upon knowledge. That's also true for physicists, marketers, salespeople, managers, etc.

Are there any quick wins that 30 ~ 60 minutes of intense concentration can generate?

For example an average person, if focused, can learn to read (but not understand) Korean decently in under an hour.

A person can also learn a few guitar chords and possibly play a carefully-chosen song in that time.

But those aren't valuable skills in themselves.

Do you know of any simple + valuable wins in your area of interest?

("valuable" intentionally left vague)

How to cook for yourself, really, really good food. I no longer crave restaurant food, and all of the really important things I learned about cooking take just the time to read it, hear about it and then try it. All without any special hardware.

A few examples:

1. Cooking jasmine rice: rinse it first, 1 c. water to 1 c. rice ratio. Bring to boil, turn down heat to lowest setting. Leave lid /the entire time/. Fluff the rice (look this up) when done. (about 12-15 min of cooking)

2. Baking a cake: (any square pan yellow cake) Read how baking powder actually works, then you realize you need to mix and bake quickly. Letting it sit before baking will make a flatter cake. Also, stick a butter knife in the middle to test when it's done, if it comes out with batter stuck on it, it needs a few more minutes.

3. Eggs: When frying, scrambling, put the eggs in warm water before cracking to make them room temperature first. They cook better this way.

4. Chocolate syrup: 1 c. water, 1 c. cocoa power, 1 c. sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp salt. Blend it in a blender. (sealed container works best, as it's messy) Better than store bought, super cheap, use organic if you like...


Why is this valuable? Because I am no longer tempted to waste money at restaurants any more, or buy unique expensive organic products (because I can make them now). I feel incredibly free and liberated that I get food at home that tastes better than what is at a restaurant now. (for about 90% of the stuff I like)

Also, I can teach my kids, and they start life with these skills. Great question, way too many things to write down...

My partner really picked up cooking in the last couple of years. We hardly ever go out anymore. Every time we get a craving she says "Yeah, we could go to a crowded restaurant... or I could make it better". Without fail, she does.

I think the secret is, one of the most important aspects of good food is time to table. When you make it at home, you can eat as soon as it's done or rested. Along with the anticipation factor of having worked on it yourself and having the smells fill your home for a while beforehand.

Plus, if you're an introvert who's already burnt out for the day, you don't have to wear pants. Huge points for not having to wear pants.

I do most of the cooking at home for my partner. She could cook perfectly well, but I think she's out of practice these days and I don't mind doing it.

It makes ordering or going out more of a treat, too.

Also, your comment made me realize I probably stay in pants too often.

I’m totally buying the pants argument!

You mentioned cooking jasmine rice using a 1:1 ratio of water to rice, but rice generally can't be cooked using a linear ratio like this. As you increase the amount of rice being cooked, and change the size/shape of the cooking vessel, more of the water will be lost as steam. It's easiest to use a rice cooker, which will allow you more flexibility with regards to how much water/rice you used, but if you don't have a rice cooker (or anything that can work as a rice cooker) then I'd recommend the method where you cook the rice in a covered dish in the oven.

I wanted to demonstrate that it can be simple, but you are right there are a lot of variables, but I think they are small. The size/type of pot you use may affect water amounts.

But I found it very useful to learn to cook with whatever you have available to you. And then learn to adjust. All of these things take tiny amounts of time and yield great results. (mainly through practice of course)

OP didn't say anything about ratios or scaling, just offered 1c rice as that's generally enough for 2-3 servings at a time. And it just happens that 1c water is generally the right amount for this and is easy to remember.

Good advice on the water. Similar to how people learn ovens, it helps to learn pans. The best method I've tried so far is a ~2:1 ratio (adjust to desired texture) in a 14" wide, lidded, enameled skillet. I'll try the oven again soon to compare, but that particular pan on a stovetop is hard to beat. Learn your pans.

That is a good point. I have often found the temperatures in recipes to not work great with my combination of pots and pans and need to tweak.

But you only get to the tweak stage after you start trying to cook at all. (a lot of people don't cook much or try to make meals they think are out of their reach)

The rice cooker is easiest, but there's another scheme: use an abundance of water and cook the rice like spaghetti. I learned the technique from a Lynne Rossetto Kasper cookbook, and it's never failed me.

I had never heard of cooking rice like pasta before. (going to try it next time I cook rice, thanks!) I think this is a good example of a small piece of knowledge that can possibly have a larger effect.

You can completely use a linear ratio. Google any world class chef's recommendations, they will all recommend a fixed ratio e.g.:


Rice cooker instructions also use a liner ratio.

Cooking rice isn't rocket science.

Given ordinary cookware, and picking a pot that's not completely out of proportion to the rice, the 1:1 works just fine. You don't lose steam (well, not much) because the lid stays on. Takes 20 minutes, pretty much without fail.

Yes, you can get more complex. Maybe it even produces better rice. But the secret to homecooked meals is - for most people - simplicity :)

As I understand, cooking rice usually has a constant amount of water lost to steam. You need to have a rough idea of how much water your rice actually needs to absorb and how much is lost to steam. In my experience with my setup, rice usually requires an equal volume of water and 1 lost 1 cup of water to steam. So 1 cup of water requires 2 cups of water, 2 cups of rice requires 3 cups of water, etc.

So y = x + 1 where y is the cups of water and x is the cups of rice. 1 is the number of cups lost as steam.

Each time you open the lid you lose steam, so you may have to take that into account. I use a rice cooker and don't open the lid so I don't worry about that though.

Water lost to steam heavily depends on style of cooking, or more precisely, in a covered pot, is mostly a linear function of the excess heat beyond that required to bring contents to boiling temperature (steam re-condensation on the lid/sides provides a slight buffer) + a bit lost to empty space in the pot (when opening etc).

Some stoves are hard to regulate so the food is just barely boiling, so it can be hard not to notably lose water.

From experience, the boiling of water in itself is mostly meaningless when cooking, unless you want food extra shredded. You can happily cook at 90℃ or 80℃ if you want, but it will take longer.

Note if cooking risky food: beware of required time at a given temperature to kill pathogens, not forgetting heat transfer takes time especially in solid chunks.

In general, a rice cooker is indispensable and costs about $30. Plus you can walk away from it as it cooks, and you can put things on top of the rice to steam in there as well. (It will impart flavor though, so maybe don’t put greens in there unless you want broccoli-water flavored rice.)

you guys are doing it all wrong. take it from us Asian folks. it's called the finger test. the amount of water above the rice should come up to the first line on your finger as you're touching the rice. yes you have to stick your finger in the pot.

having grown up where our main staple was rice, my parents never made burnt or soggy rice. oh and having a rice cooker prob helped as well.

I agree, and it's pretty easy to get started. My pallet is pretty easily amused, so take this with a grain of salt, but there all kinds of fun optimization problems and achievements to unlock with cooking.

For example, given the random contents of a refrigerator, make some sort of meal out of what is available. For example, I recently had a cabbage and an onion and some chicken left over. With a little ginger paste and some soy sauce I was able to make a pretty decent stirfry.

Another example is tortilla chips. I bought some tortillas from 7-eleven and tried frying them up in oil to make tortilla chips. This is fun because there are a lot of parameters to play with to try to get the perfect chip (oil type, quantity, time).

Making more involved recipies are fun too, but there is a good amount of pleasure to be found in the mundane. I also eat a lot of Jack in the Box, so I've got no high horse in this fight.

Second the tortilla chips. I used to fry them in a pan but I figured out how to get decent results in a microwave.

My go-to is to spread butter on them then nuke them.

Two weeks ago I went to Costa Rica and did a horseback/boat/hiking tour and there was a shack high in the mountains where we stopped and the guide made lunch. I was delighted to find that one of the three foods provided was fried tortillas. I insisted on helping. Frying tortilla chips in soybean oil in a wok on a wood fire in the cloud forest with no electricity or running water is a little different than nuking in the kitchen, but once you have the knack for it, it's pretty easy to pull off.

You never know when your weird cooking skills are going to come in handy!

Marksweep says:"My pallet is pretty easily amused"

I'm fairly certain it is your palate, rather than your pallet, that is amused! (although the visual image conjured by your verbal construction is very amusing.)

I knew I was going to regret not double checking the spelling on that, haha.

Yep, I think this is a natural tendency to someone who has /tried/ to cook over a period of time. And doesn't mind eating leftovers repurposed. I find myself doing almost exactly what you described, only my chips came out terrible and I have not since tried again. (I have made my own "dorito" flavoring though of plain chips, and you can make some neat combinations)

I second this as a worthy skill to have, but there aren't many dishes you can become really good at making just in an hour. At least anecdotally, just the process of learning to make a great french omelette is pretty brutal.

Binging with Babish has a great series on basic dishes


He covers the American omelette which is my go-to. Usually with spinach, red bell pepper, red onion and sometimes mushroom filling. Often with some old cheddar and they are monstrously simple to make mediocre and not too difficult to make very well.

I'm a big fan of Babish! I'd also recommend the Bon Appetit Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/BonAppetitDotCom and Chef John from Food Wishes https://www.youtube.com/user/foodwishes

food wishes is single handedly the most valuable cooking resource I have ever come across. cannot recommend enough.

I do love Chef John and Babish. I personally love America's Test Kitchen

It's Alive from Bon Appetit is a really good serie. And Brad Leone is amazing

I would die for Claire from the Bon Appetit test kitchen

Nice I’ll definitely take a look. Thanks.

Watch this, incredibly simple method that made me actually like omelettes. (I hated them growing up)


"Really good" is subjective. It's the very notion something is possible and that you can do it that I see as valuable. Practice makes perfect, nothing can be perfect the first time you learn it.

As a side-note: you should not use metal utensils with non-stick (teflon) pans.

You might be interested in this video then: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5__zptEU9vE

The guy in the video tried to replicate Pepin's omelette and documented his progress. Pepin even responded to the video.

To summarize for those who can't/don't want to watch both videos: Just because world renowned chef Jacques Pepin makes an omelet look easy, doesn't mean it is.

My experience was that it made me look at omelette cooking in a totally new light. My omelettes aren't perfect, but I actually like them now. And my wife (who loves them) approves of the new technique. (I use cast iron and don't get the exact results, but they are greatly improved)

This video with Gordon Ramsay is just as good. These two videos together will teach you basically everything you need to make scrambled eggs and omelettes.


Pepin himself starts out his video by saying that the omelet is the dish that he would judge a chef by, implying that it demonstrates all of the skills of the chef. I'm not sure how this is supposed to demonstrate that you can learn to cook in an hour.

I wouldn't say "learn to cook in an hour", but I would say it gives you the confidence that you /can/ cook, and even learn to make just one thing good enough for just you. (an actual achievable goal)

This is so important. I don't know if you can "learn to cook" in an hour, but you can probably drive to the store, buy some vegetables, come home, and make a great salad with an awesome homemade vinaigrette dressing in less than an hour. I try to eat fairly healthy, but having a salad that's easy to make that I actually crave (oh no, I've turned into an old person) most days at lunch is amazing. It's fast, and I have great energy all afternoon.

Here's my default dressing: salt & pepper to taste. Bit of lemon juice. Bit of dijon mustard. Balsamic vinegar and EV olive oil. Adjust relative quantities to taste and based on what you have in your salad. Gets rave reviews and could not be simpler. ;-)

If I only had an hour, i'd focus on a simple intros of really fundamental techniques kinda like the OP indicated, and not necessarily cooking everything in that time.

Knife skills. Keep them sharp. Mise en place. The importance of salt and pepper. Searing techniques for cooking meat and how not to do it. Roasting vegetables 101. The basics of finishing pastas and reducing sauces. The fact that you can make your own dressing in no time.

You can probably cover all of that quickly and in enough time to ask the right questions moving forward and begin your jorney - IF you had a curriculum. If it's self study it takes longer to figure out what you don't know :) For me it all started with "why does my Grilled Cheese suck? This should be easy" and it's been all downhill.

The Food Lab by Kenji Lopez-Alt was a big window into this for me because of the approach around time and temperature, and the book takes you through all of this stuff by section.

> Knife skills. Keep them sharp.

Cooking for over 15 years at home and still only learned this recently despite already knowing about it. I had to grind out a chip from one of our knives, and I realised when I was done it was much sharper than I usually get them. I hadn't been doing it quite right all this time.

> Mise en place

Asian wok-based cooking is great for learning this. You don't have time to mess around. It's something I've been trying lately (my frying pan stir-fry was always pathetic so I never made it at home, but now that I have a wok I can do a decent one).

Love The Food Lab. (And I think my grilled cheese is pretty decent, at least according to my kids, which is saying something.) ;-) Agree with everything you are saying here, but I'll add that salads often have a bad reputation (I avoided them for years), but I can't think of an easier, healthier, more enjoyable thing to eat, assuming you can get good ingredients.

I regularly make my own dressing as well! I have a few basic recipes—most are pretty much the same as yours. One I like in the summer especially is a really simple one:

+ 2 parts olive oil

+ 1 part honey (try and make it good wildflower or clover honey)

+ 1 part squeezed lemon juice (add some zest as well if you're feeling energetic—I hate cleaning graters)

+ Salt & pepper to taste

I do something similar. Mine is olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a tsp of really strong mustard. I put mine in a small Tupperware in the fridge, that way I can shake it up easily to mix, and I just add to it as I get low.

I use the exact same technique if I’m trying to keep a batch going.

I actually started with a bit of honey and removed it after some experimentation. Figure any time I can avoid adding sugar and like the taste as much or more, I should take advantage. ;-) I'm with you the cleaning graters-- too lazy for that... Depending on what's in the salad, I'll adjust the proportions, or even throw in some turmeric, paprika, or sautéed garlic.

Oh I’ll have to try out those last ideas sometime soon. I can see paprika being great

Smoked paprika especially. :)

Having a dishwasher makes using a grater so much less dreadful - perhaps more than any other single kitchen implement. When I had a dishwasher at home we even got a Microplane zester. It's amazing how much flavor and aroma exists in lemon (and other citrus) zest that's not in the juice.

My no. 1 recommendation to any young person learning to cook is to master three things:

1. A good fried rice

2. A good stir fry

3. A good omelet

These three things alone will mean that you'll have substantial, delicious food at the ready. They're incredibly flexible in terms of ingredients and need minimal skill. A stir fry or fried rice can take any vegetables or meats you have at hand, and an omelet can take everything from ham to mushrooms.

Strongly second the first two, strongly oppose the third. Omelettes are far too difficult for a beginning cook. Fritattas on the other hand are trivial (you just pour the eggs/milk into the pan after you've cooked the filling a bit).

Related: Some great tips and ways to think about cooking as you would other skills: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/25770528. Examples of some good tips from there...

When using a new ingredient, try it in something you're already familiar with, so you can isolate that ingredient, rather than introducing it in a completely new recipe where you can't easily tell what impact that ingredient has vs others in the recipe.

Think about how to setup your kitchen - is it better to have all your spice containers in a group with one another, where they all look similar, or to put them alongside the items you use them with (tumeric with your basmati rice, nutmeg with your pestle & mortar, etc) so that it's easier to find everything you need for a recipe.

That cookbook looks interesting. I have run into scientific cookbooks before and understanding why and how things work (like caramelizing onions) makes cooking with them easier to get the results you want.

I've cooked all kinds of rice with different utensils under many different circumstances. The one trick I've learned is, yes follow the regular rules (rinse, boil, cook on low), except at the 10 minute mark lift the lid and take a quick peek. If it's too dry add a little water. If it's too wet cook with the lid off until it drys out then put the lid back on. (Of course, a good rice cooker does all that for you.)

I have tried to "fix" rice in the past and I have never succeeded. I am surprised this works for you. I have found that if I measure correctly and turn down heat appropriately my rice comes out the with very little variations.

Sure that's fine until you cook a different rice and then you have to recalibrate. Japanese rice for example requires less water than thai fragrant rice. I just fill up the pot with water from the tap and measure the water amount with my fingers. Sacrilege I know :)

Happy to see this rose to the top. I mean, knowing about compound interest and how to coil cables is cool and all, but the art of preparing food for oneself and others is by far the most important skill listed in here. As someone once said, “if you don’t know how to cook you’re loosing at life”.

It’s also a relatively easy way to impress a potential romantic partner. Learn how to make a few basic dishes (and perhaps a decent breakfast if you’re optimistic).

I’m years beyond being young and single, but being able to cook and being able to dress yourself (and for the occasion) will set you apart from the crowd.

Cooking is great but you cannot learn it in an hour.

Seriously. I moved out of home with 0 cooking skills and after a few years of having to feed myself I feel like I'm becoming just average. It's amazing how many variables there are to control when doing even the most basic task like sautéing onions:

Sautéing in oil allows you to really crank the heat, using butter you have to be more careful. Cutting in larger chunks is great for some dishes and bad for others. The whole timing thing is probably the hardest to nail, going easy on the heat allows you to get in some other prepwork while the onions are doing their thing, but you also don't want to spend hours cooking so you want to crank it to the point where your prep and the onions will be done at the same time.

How far do you take the onions? How far do you take them if you want to throw in more veggies into the same pan? When do you add spices if you want them to get a bit toasty aswell? And sautéing large amounts of onion (1kg+) is a whole different calculus.

Cooking is this endless fractal of problems to solve and optimize. Kinda like programming innit.

Taking a single hour cooking class will drastically up your game. Ideally you'd take more than one, but in most cities you can find classes like:

* Knife skills * Overview of cooking methods * One-pot meals * Quick meals

You can also usually find classes specific to cooking methods.

I highly recommend a knife skills class, as it'll cut your prep times down considerably, which makes cooking a lot more enjoyable.

As someone who cooks a fair bit, I tend to agree that someone could go from how to boil an egg and incrementally add things like organizational skills, knife sharpening, simple sautes, etc. in useful one hour chunks. You can't learn to cook in any meaningful way in an hour, but it's definitely a skill that you can usefully develop on a skill-by-skill/recipe-by-recipe basis pretty effectively.

I'm not sure how many cooking classes are aimed at rank beginners but there are tons of videos these days. It might even be useful to subscribe to something like Cooks Illustrated for a more structured approach rather than wading into YouTube.

I actually don't have too much experience in cooking, but with every meal I make I get better. Cooking is not programming. Some of the best meals I actually made were made without precise measurements, just by gut, sometimes in a hurry. Sure, I might have measured things by the gram the first time I made them, but on next attempt the closest 20g or 30g is more than enough. Oven 45 minutes? Sure, but it looks brown already and it has only been 35, just pull it out.

Cooking is a skill one can develop their entire life, like most skills. But in my opinion it's perfectly achievable to go from zero to one or even a few basic meals in an hour. Even more so if you have a slow cooker and follow a recipe.

Except you have to go to the store to buy ingredients, and then you have to have the right utensils (you mention slow cooker).

It's not really an hour and doesn't meet the criteria.

I taught all my kids how to cook. You are right, you can't learn _everything_ about cooking. But you can learn one meal you really like.

I pick a new one I want to perfect every few months, look up recipes and try them out over and over until I get it the way I want. (you have to eat anyways) And after doing this for years, I am always told I should open a restaurant. (but that is silly hard work, and everyone can cook)

Sure you can. If you said 10 minutes I'd agree. But if you can learn a bit about programming in an hour, you can learn enough cooking in an hour to make a yummy meal.

The simplest example is a pork steak. Throw it on the skillet and wait awhile. Turn it over and wait awhile. You now have a pork steak. It's delicious.

That's not cooking, that's following instructions. It's like saying that you can learn programming by opening Visual Studio, clicking "new console project", typing in printf("hello world\n"); in between the braces and hitting play is "programming". It kind of is, but you've learnt nothing.

With the pork steak how long is "wait awhile"? 10 seconds? 60 seconds? 10 minutes? All of those yield completely different results, and only once you've had plenty of experience cooking pork steaks, you will be able to judge what "wait awhile" is. Also you missed adding some salt and pepper to the steak - without those it just tastes like....unseasoned meat. Which is ok if that's what you want, but I doubt many people do. But you need to somehow know that salt and pepper are things that you would normally add to a pork steak, but not cinammon or sugar.

I think the only way to "learn" cooking is repetition, repetition and repetition. Not going to do a lot of that in an hour unfortunately.

That's not cooking, that's following instructions. It's like saying that you can learn programming by opening Visual Studio, clicking "new console project", typing in printf("hello world\n"); in between the braces and hitting play is "programming". It kind of is, but you've learnt nothing.

Whoa, that took me back. That's literally how I learned programming when I was 13 or so. (I'm completely serious; I begged my mom for a copy of Visual Studio off of ebay. It was called Visual C++ 6.0 back then, or something. Nehe legacy tutorials were the shit! https://nehe.gamedev.net/)

I think everyone learns differently. The first thing you'll learn is that as long as you're standing next to the skillet, it's very hard to cook a pork steak too long. It'll always end up delicious.

I love cooking and try to only buy foods that I can't make as you say (whether for convenience or lack of skill).

It always surprises me when programmers can't cook. You're just following an algorithm! Sure, the technique takes a little time, but most people can manage. I also think baking suits a logical mind more since it's often more precise with measurements and conditions.

One trick I do is rewrite recipes then print them out. Most start out as wordy fluff. You'll get halfway through a cake recipe and it lists half a dozen things to add to a bowl. I will just rewrite this like: Bowl 1: flour, sugar, baking powder, combine. Bowl 2: oil, egg, whisk. And so on.

Rewriting like this is great for learning and retention and it makes it easier at a glance to not miss anything.

If you haven't read it, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a great read. I have cooked for years and it was a short, easy read with lots of applicable tidbits. I recently tried out the Salt methods on a check steak and it is significantly better and similar to a strip cut in tenderness and flavor.

Clarifying butter and slower cooking my omelettes has been fantastic, along with salt early in the mixing bowl and letting it sit for a minute.

The secret to cooking corn: put the corn in a pot of cold water and set the burner to bring it to a boil. When the water boils the corn is done, and never overcooked. May require some fiddling, but this has always worked for us. Scrambled eggs are similar: creamiest eggs are cooked slowly. Essentially put eggs and cold butter in a cold pan and stir while slowly heating up until they are done.

You missed the first step in cooking Jasmine rice: Return it to store and buy Basmati rice instead.

These are good tips, thank you!

For rice, the rice:water ratio I follow is 1:1.25. I add a teaspoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

For eggs, I'm going to try running the egg under warm water. One thing I've observed improvement in quality of eggs when mixing it is the material of the bowl (copper provides best results) and how much air you introduce when mixing the eggs.

Try making a meringue, it's fascinating how versatile eggs can be when put through different conditions.

I have tried lots of ratios rice/water, and I think the brand/type of rice, stove and pot properties all greatly affect the results. Not to mention the subject "goal" for the results we all like. (maybe you like your rice wetter/stickier than I do?)

Do you add the oil, salt and pepper before cooking?

That is true, I haven't had the same success with the ratio when using different types of rice and pots. I achieve the desired texture that the people I cook for prefer :)

Yes, I add the oil, salt and pepper before cooking.

Yes, I follow the same ratio in a rice cooker and it's perfect.

Cooking is a great skill to have but I would say it takes more than an hour to actually be good at it. Just my opinion!

> Leave lid /the entire time/.

Leave lid what the entire time? On? Off? Untouched? Steamed-up? Half-on? Cracked? Ajar? Weighed-down?

I'm assuming "on", since I have cooked food before, but then how is there 12-15 min of cooking, 25% variation, if you're emphasizing "the entire time"? If you can't look at it or touch it until after it's done, and you can't tell when it's done by the time because the time varies, then when is done?

I meant my comment as an introduction to the idea. But yes, leave it on. You can peak and test quick, but when I was starting out cooking rice I wasn't careful about the lid and ruined plenty of rice by letting too much steam out.

Yes, time varies, just wanted to layout how simple it can be to learn a useful skill in a short amount of time.

Lids can and should be transparent.

Jasmine rice hack - put whatever amount of rice you want in the pot, level it off, place your index finger so it's barely touching the top of the rice and fill with water up to your first knuckle (the first crease on your finger, palm side).

You could call it a hack, but it's also the standard way that lots of asian families make rice if they don't have a rice cooker and how I've done it ever since moving into an apartment and didn't want a bulky machine in limited counter space.

For a comedic take see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45wHe9KdmrQ for How to Cook Perfect Rice by Jo Koy

Very cool, I will have to try this as well as some of the other suggestions. Thanks guys!

Even easier syrup: a handful of chocolate chips and cream to cover or milk to %60 height (or a combo— yogurt and sour cream can also be mixed in). Nuke it for thirty seconds, stir up and pour over a cake or ice cream.

I agree and it's the component I miss the most from working from home. Cooking is great for cultivating mindfulness plus the financial savings and health benefits.

Very useful. When I was living solo in Ahmedabad, I used to cook a lot of Khicdi (It is combination of Rice + pulses cooked) which is nutritious, light and very cheap to cook. I must have saved 80% of the money had I been ordering the food from outside.

You can improve on this by adding recipes to your Anki app so that you'll remember them after a while. It is really nice to be able to recall recipes (both the ingredients and weights/ratios) when you are working in the kitchen or grocery shopping.

At some point going to a restaurant is more of a pain in the ass than just cooking a good meal yourself. There are certain times and for certain meals that I don’t feel this way. But most of the time I loathe going to restaurants.

1 & 3 - I had no idea.

to add on to that... learn how to cut correctly where the blade rests on your curved knuckles. it pays dividends on your cooking making the prep work go very fast.

3. Just don't put your eggs in the fridge?

Who does this?

Eggs in the USA and Canada are washed before being packaged and sold in grocery stores. This washing eliminates a natural protective coating, which allows bacteria to permeate the shell. This means the eggs now require refrigeration.

Oh, thanks for the education i had no idea.

Eggs to me have always lived next to the flour and sugar in a larder. - The more you know =)

Water to rice ratio = 1 rice to 1.5 water.

4. tsp = teaspoon or tablespoon?

Teaspoon. "Tbsb" is usually used as abbreviation for tablespoon

Usually the lower case and capital 'T' is the main difference.

Confusingly also note that UK/US TBsp = 3x tsp (approx 15ml) while Australia is 4 tsp (20ml). It might be relevant for some recipes. I don't know why we are the weird ones this time.

3. Don't store eggs in the fridge, and don't frikking wash them!

This depends on how the eggs are processed prior to you purchasing them, so beware. Cf. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/09/11/336330502/wh...

More specifically, eggs in the US and Canada are legally required to be washed prior to be sold to consumers in retail locations, and thus require refrigeration.

Maybe the right advice is to just store eggs how you found them in the store. If they were refrigerated, then keep them in your refrigerator - if they were not, then keep them out on the counter.

You aren't from the United States are you? They are already washed when you buy them here so you have to put them in the fridge.

Why not in the fridge?

Why not wash them?

Eggs have a protective coat. Washing them makes them permeable and subject to taking in bacteria.

For natural unprocessed eggs you're right. But for most eggs in the US and Canada, the coat has been washed off, as indicated by ihodes in sister thread. So refrigeration is important there.

Industrial eggs are washed, but also recoated

How to properly wrap cables. A/V and cable techs are super anal about this and it takes just a few minutes to learn, it will change your life.

Cables should never be coiled in the same direction. It creates kinks when unwound and make it extremely likely for knots to form (ever leave your headphones in your pocket?).

If a cable isn't being installed permanently it should be "wrapped" using a technique called "over-under". Hard to describe in text, so here's a video:


Personally I disagree with his method, what I do is do the "over" loop by placing my palm over the cable, and on the under loop, put your palm under the loop. Then when you pull the loop to your fixed hand, you always keep your palm down when laying it. Very quick way, eventually becomes fast with practice. Also useful to unroll kinks from the cable when you wrap it, and always tie the bastard off because if one end falls through you'll get knots.

I don't think this is the most important thing out of all things you can learn in a full hour, but it is easy enough and not well known enough that I encourage you to keep spreading the message.

My father in law was very surprised when I could just walk away holding one end of the coiled garden hose and it uncoiled itself neatly with no kinks. The trick was, of course, that I was the one who wrapped it this way the day before!

The principle that induce this technique is that every time you create a loop in one direction of a cable, you twist the cable, the exact same twist that would have occurred if you held a cable with both hands and twisted one side (as if you were squeezing water out of wet cloth.

This technique as well as figure 8 with I use on guylines (when hiking with my tarp), create a counter clockwise twist for every clockwise twist, thus eliminating the tension that causes cables/guylines/ropes to eventually tangle up.

An example of that technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PicTsgj5lA

I’m also a fan of the chain sinnet[0] (or daisy chain) - works really well for storage, including semi rough handling such as tossing in the trunk...

Here is another guide [1].

Note that for longer lines, it is helpful to first fold the line in half to shorten. Also works great for extension cords since both the male/female end are handily together [2].

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chain_sinnet

[1] https://www.animatedknots.com/chain-sinnet-knot

[2] https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zXG95quOE7Q

For multi-cored cables such as extension leads I would worry about the wear on the cable of all those smallish loops.

For a bit of rope it would be fine, though.

The YouTube video I posted shows how I like to do extension cords. Lots of large , loose loops. Works great.

Wow. I was super skeptical about this thread and clicked on it "just in case I'm missing something". I was. As a nomadic developer, I'm always coiling my cables and I am always cursing my cables because they get tied up or ruined. Now I know it's me! Thank you!

Oh yeah. I've seen numerous extension cords that just twist into an unrecognizable mess after a few weeks because of internal stress, in the hands of folks who don't know better. My own cords, of similar build quality from similar big-box stores, last decades and still coil and lay like new.

You might be interested in the over-under technique that I use, it does not require either hand let go of the cable, so is very fast.

The is the best video I was able to find that illustrates it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktI0mLAoSTc

+1 I did stage work when I was younger and this was one of the most valuable things I took away from it.

Over-under is good for long, thick, delicate cables (e.g. mic/guitar cables). For shorter, thinner cables (e.g. USB cables) I use this technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXMG917XsvU

I have done it so much I can now do it quickly without looking at my hands, so I just automatically do it before putting a cable away or in my bag.

I now never have to detangle birds nests of cables. Over the course of the ~15 years I have been practicing responsible cable storage, that must add up to a lot of time.

Unless I missed a quick hand maneuver, the storage technique you demonstrate, while result in a neatly coiled cable, doesn't involve a counter clockwise twist for every clockwise one, thus creating tension in the cable. For thin cables (and guylines), the figure 8 coil is a better technique. It is just as fast to perform and each twist in the cable is canceled out by a twist in the other direction thus creating less tension in the sheath, and potentially extend the cable lifetime by introducing less inner breakage points.

Here is an example for how I store guylines attached to my tarp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PicTsgj5lA

I learnt this while working in trades. Working with trades people or handymans will teach you a lot of practical skills that are useful in daily life.

Face the wheelbarrow the direction you want to go before you fill it.

Thirded. I worked as a farm hand on a nearby dairy farm through high school, then six years as a mechanic before going to college. As a farm hand, you learn early how to arc weld, or cut steel with an acetylene torch, along simple carpentry and plumbing, as well as mechanical maintenance on equipment. It isn't all just feeding and milking cows. You also learn to deal with shit. Literally tons of it.

I'm willing to bet that cattle ranchers and dairy farmers deal with more bullshit per capita than any other profession.

but they don't even have BAs and PMs...

Seconded. I spend a fair bit it time around tradies in my current role and I’ve absorbed a ton of stuff just by osmosis.

This is opening up a can of worms akin to talking about penetrating oils (PB Blaster, WD-40, ATF/Acetone mix). I've always been and over and roll guy short of 50' cables and back in the day when we had analog snakes that were nearly 3" in diameter and 200' that lived in a road case you didn't have any choice but to over/under unless you wanted to see a half dozen guys cry at the end of the night and the beginning of the day.

> Personally I disagree with his method, what I do is do the "over" loop by placing my palm over the cable, and on the under loop, put your palm under the loop.

You mean like this?


Haven't seen the videos, but I was taught the "proper" way of wrapping audio cables when I took an audio recording class, and now I obsessively wrap all my cables that way. So much more useful!

> So much more useful!

The only cables I really deal with are network cables and extension cords and I've always just done the wrap-around-your-palm-and-elbow-method. What am I missing out on?

> What am I missing out on?

The person who showed me how to do it said, "If you've done it right, you should be able to do this"; and with the coiled microphone cable in one hand, she held one end with her thumb and tossed the rest of the coil outwards. It uncoiled in the air and landed in a straight line, no tangles or knots.

Basically, if you do this: 1) The cables are less likely to be damaged, 2) the cables are a lot more 'weildy': they don't get tangled in interminable knots, and expand very easily. The cables themselves remain looking nice as well, and don't get ugly kinks in them.

Went looking for YouTube video's to demonstrate the throwing of said coiled rope.

This came up, though the technique for coiling looks different:


Suspecting (without trying it), that it might work out as the same type of coiling though.

You are missing out on what the previous comments and links are telling you -- you're twisting your poor cables to death.

It's a long slow death then. I have some cables (extension cords) that are thirty years old and I don't think I've had one fail yet.

Also known as "figure-eighting." Guys who do stadium setups for televised sports are champion cable figure-eighters.

Ugh. Some guys take that technique too far and destroy cabling. I had some teams do this with power cables we rented out and they could take a 50ft coil of 4/0 copper cable and turn it into a kinked, broken mess with that technique and it always messed with our coil process that worked much like other users mentioned.

A lot of teamsters, gaffers, and grips did not like having to carry a 50lb cable further than they had to so many loved they could lay the cable down, pick up one end, and walk with it to the junction in order to lay them. (Temporary power, I mean).

As the one responsible for the department looking after that gear, those figure-eight cables were a nightmare because we'd have the prime experience of re-wrapping them all so that we could store them. That caused a time-pinch when we had to handle intake and loadouts at the same time.

I don't do that work anymore, but it's personal hahaha

wrapped cables save lives!

So let us proceed to the real challenge: christmas lights. How can you avoid the guaranteed swearing the following year?

Wrap them around a piece of scrap cardboard.

Alternatively go buy a few of those orange plastic extension cable wrap things from the electrical aisle at a big box store (either the plastic ones that are flat, or the big circular ones with a handle). I've had them for a decade, and every year I wind up my cords on them, and they always unwind easily the next year.

then cut some 1" slits in it to keep them in place.

Careful coiling and then securing the coils with string in 3-4 places workes well for me. Coiling should be done while paying heed to the cable's preferred direction, if there is any tension it does not work well.

Instead of string, I use twist ties, which also come in handy for attaching the lights to things when deploying them.

Rolled up newspapers work well for this too, albeit I doubt a lot of us here get a newspaper delivered everyday anymore

I think this is my favorite video about how to wrap cables: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kda4DPAn3C4

I’ve been taught this technique as the “roadie wrap”.

>It creates kinks when unwound and make it extremely likely for knots to form

99% sure that's a side benefit not the reason.

The way the audio techs explained it to me was as a method of reducing stress on multi-strand copper inside. i.e. the reason why it unwinds cleaner is because said tension isn't there.

I have a slightly different method, but the outcome is how I've been wrapping ski ropes my entire life.

I gotta try this next time I stow an extension cord

If you've been married for a while, learn who your spouse is now. (I mean in a good way, by taking an hour to rediscover what his/her hopes and dreams are, what interests they've gained / lost, etc.)

He/she is probably a pretty different person than the one you married. It's easy to overlook that.

This is huge. I'm lucky in that my spouse and I talk regularly about everything from daily logistics to existential meaning. I view learning her (and updating her about me) as more of a habit than an event.

I'd say this is also valuable advice for yourself; what are your current dreams? Do you really still want all of the books on your bookshelf? Where do you want to go? Who of your friends haven't you seen, but need to? I find I don't spend enough time on that for myself.

Absolutely fantastic advice.

Source: married for 30 years and practicing this since we found out we needed to after years of ignorance.

The Marriage Institute has the best relationship technology that I've found:


Easy to glean the high level techniques in an hour. eg avoiding the Four Horsemen of relationship killers. But I've been working on my technique for years and feel like I'm just getting started.

I'd say that applies to being together, not necessarily being married. Nowadays, we don't all live in a religious dominant society (anymore) where it is required or normal to marry.

Marriage is not a strictly religious institution.

Very true: My marriage is legal. We didn't actually care if we were married or not, but boy oh boy immigration would rather us be married. So we are. We'd be together nonetheless, marriage was just the means of doing so.

But I think the poster's point was that this advice is basically advice for long-term relationships and really shouldn't be viewed under the light of marriage only. Since many folks don't have to be married to be a family, a good number of folks are skipping that step.

Corollary is to develop an openness toward their continuing evolution, that no one is static, and to expect and support this.

People are very dynamic, we either grow together or apart. My current success at marriage is due to a concerted effort not only to find out what interests my wife but to take an active role in it even if I don't wholesale agree. Then we can have a deeper discussion about it and that shows I care even when I don't agree.

This is a great start. You should spend an hour a week having a conversation about your shared future, whatever that may mean to you.

I don't think my spouse and I could fill an hour a week with this - plus we would dread the conversation. It sounds like work.

Don't get me wrong, we talk about it. If one of us has thoughts about it, we share at the time or soon after. But it isn't like we lead busy lives or have children or in general, have a lot of upheaval in our lives. We are both over 40, and aren't changing rapidly at this point. There simply isn't that much to discuss.

I like that. I've heard people say to always keep dating your partner, but how you said that makes me see that with a different angle.


> The implication being that you just don't communicate between the time you first met and now?

That's not how I meant it. My point is that day-to-day life can be so consistently busy or hectic, that couples can spend way less time together than at first. And when you have kids, grad school, careers, etc., you can end up with a surprisingly long stretch of being more like business partners than soulmates.

There may not be much you can do about diverging interests, or the diminished levels of crazy love-hormones that you had at first. But taking time to really pay attention to each other, and have real emotional vulnerability and care for each other, can be pretty awesome.

My partner and I had several years of couples therapy together, and I can confirm your thesis in thread is spot on, great comments. You have to be able to grow together, live through the parts where that new relationship energy and passion are burning lower than they used to (and not act out destructively because of it, lots of ways to accomplish this, limited only by negotiated boundaries of the relationship), but still be able to check in with each other to ensure each other's needs are being met.

IMHO marriage is about finding a teammate, not a soul mate. It is more of a business partnership than about fairy tales and romance, and I think too many folks don't understand that upfront. TLDR: You are looking for a life cofounder; choose wisely.

After many years and kids you start to take each other for granted. If you are together around your 20's, people might have changed when they are in their 30's. Values might have shifted etc.

I learned this lesson the hard way after my wife told me she was getting a divorce. By then it's too late to fix it.

Talking to each other about practical stuff is still different than asking how you see your life.

Actually, if you are together, you might not have taken changes into account as they happen gradually. What OP meant is a means of an additional self-reflection. Which happens on top of current communication (or lack thereof).

It is also not just that the person you're with changes. You change as well, and you might not be aware of that. I mean, we all age. Society changes, too. For example, we're all running around with a PDA with a bunch of radios these days. We weren't 30 years ago.

The self-reflection part hadn't actually occurred to me, but it makes sense.

When I met my wife, "PDA" meant "public display of affection." I prefer that to my cell phone any day, albeit not with a bunch of radios. Only a HAM operator would be into that kind of thing.

Yeah, for my partner that is also what PDA stands for (both non-native English speakers).

As for the radio comment: cell phones, smartphones, laptops, smartwatches, IoT in general. It all has radios these days. If not merely Bluetooth or WiFi.

CPR/Choking/First Aid course is probably close to an hour.

How to change your own oil - probably lots of other money-saving home and auto DIY things...

Speed reading and memory tricks can be a multiplier on learning other skills.

How to use automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT - again, a force multiplier.

You might be interested in this book https://www.amazon.com/First-20-Hours-Learn-Anything/dp/1591... - the author has a youtube video that covers it pretty well in 15 minutes - similar to 4-Hour chef, too

I’m always amazed when the “change your own oil” option comes up in these discussions as it’s a very classic example where having specialized tools s and doing it a lot really speeds you up. And it’s a dirty job without a lot of intellectual interest. Further you can get it done for you in 10 minutes for approaching minimum wage.

Unless you work on your car for fun and have things like a lift sitting around it seems like a fairly useless thing to do yourself.

I do lots of mechanical work on my motorcycle and car. To be honest, I think you're right. Changing oil is a pain. Getting ramps out and driving the car up on it and then taking the oil to autozone is more hassle than it's worth.

However, there are tons of things people should know about their cars and how to change the oil _is_ one of them. You should do it at least once, just to have done it and understand it.

I'd also recommend learning to: replace the serpentine belt, replace cabin and engine air filters, replace a battery, replace head/taillight bulbs, change a tire (including patching it), change your own brake pads and even your own brake rotors (those are real money savers), and probably learning to bleed the brakes, too.

The most complicated thing on that list is rotors. And that only takes like... a breaker bar, 4 sockets, brake cleaner and some caliper grease. Even if someone won't do that, everything else is doable and quick and cheap.

Plus you have to get rid of the old oil, which usually requires a trip to a garage type business anyway. So you're not even saving a trip.

You are right; I probably could have thought of a better example, but the oil-change seemed to apply to more people.

Personally, I'd say I've saved a lot of money learning to fix a sprinkler, replace a ceiling fan, unclog a drain, fix a leaking faucet/pipe, painting the interior of a house, etc - more of the homeowner DIY than the car owner. The equipment needed for these is usually less than the cost of hiring a professional to do them.

These are all things I wish I felt more comfortable doing. When I buy a home, I plan on getting better at all of these, and investing in doing them with my kids while they're young. I'll always remember how much money my most handy friends saved in college while always having the nicest apartments.

And then you need to find a place to take your oil.

Perhaps "being able to change your oil" is actually "knowing how to change your oil" or "why you should change your oil". The knowledge is the power in it, and it compounds into a lot of menial DIY tasks that one may or may not be interested in always doing.

THIS. My dad is a mechanic, and so is my father-in-law. They both stare at me, mouths agape, when I tell them I went and gOt mY oIl cHaNgEd.

I calmly explain that $15-$30 is more than worth it to me. It saves me an hour or so of tinkering around, cleaning my own tools, and I really, really HATE grease on my hands. Probably my #1 biggest pet peeve.

In my experience, multiple places manage to mess up changing my oil in magical ways. It's also an opportunity to do an overall maintenance check under the car.

With that said, if I spent the amount of time working on my career I spent on cars, I would be better off, so you aren't wrong.

Just explaining the reason why I STILL change my own oil, despite realizing the time cost.

Yeap. The oil change franchises pay minimum for a reason. One just removed and lost the oil change plastic door under the car and another forgot to put the cap on which led to me spraying oil on my engine on the highway and a lot of smoke...

Pay a bit more and use a competent mechanic you trust IMO.

Agreed. Which brings me to something I learned in an hour (from Ricky Yean's insightful piece on "mindset inequality" [1]) and which I'm still learning recognize in myself -- i.e. the disadvantaging qualities of a poverty mindset.

Quote from article: "Being poor makes you suck at using money as a resource. My time was always cheaper growing up, so I got used to opting to spend time rather than money. I had to fix this way of thinking when we raised our first seed round, but it took quite some time. A simple decision to hire a new employee, for example, took a very long time–to the point that it cost us growth."

When you're raised in poverty or a poor student (like I was), resources are expensive but time is cheap, so the tendency is/was to use my own time to save a couple of bucks here and there.

When you're no longer a poor student, this poverty mindset can actually work against you if you apply it to everything. It can be growth limiting step. When you have money, time is much more precious and and the time/money trade-off looks very different. In many situations, money is "cheaper" than time. One therefore needs to learn how to redeploy that money to access cheaper less expensive resources than time. But if you have a poverty-mindset, you never learn how to do this and hence are at a disadvantage in life, even as you become middle-class or better.

Take oil changes for instance. 5W20 non-synthetic oil costs about $10. An oil change costs about $25 here in Chicago, and can be done in 15 minutes -- and done impeccably. The difference is $15. If I were to do it myself -- without the right tools, plus I don't have a garage and it's really cold outside -- it would take an hour and it would be a sloppy job. $15 is a fraction of what I make per hour, and I figure if I pay someone to do it, I can redeploy that time (plus any number of 1 hour chunks spent on things where I have no competitive advantage) to thinking and cultivating myself or even just relaxing (idleness is crucial to creative thinking), the culmination of which is top-line growth, and I figure I'd make back that $15 (3 times a year = $45/yr) many times over.

It's ok to DIY for fun and for self-enrichment (I admire handy people), but as a universal prescription, it can potentially be a rate limiting step for many people.

Side note: if you're landlord/homeowner however, DIY is very high leverage (vs. paying tradespeople) and one's payback can be huge. One has to make that calculation for oneself.

[1] Silicon Valley founders who grew up poor can’t shake “mindset inequality” https://qz.com/602770/silicon-valley-founders-who-grew-up-po...

I'd be careful with those "impeccable" $25 oil changes. The only time I've ever tried one, they threw out the filter housing along with the old filter, and just "installed" the new filter without the housing. This was immediately before a 400 mile road trip through the middle of nowhere. Good times. Never again.

As with everything YMMV. Oil changes are so commoditized that it is more likely for nothing to happen. I don’t know where you live but 25 is kinda of a standard price in most places I’ve ever had an oil change at.

I agree with you for most DIY home projects you maximize your own earnings more by paying someone. Mowing the lawn is a great example when I think about my parents refusing to pay someone else despite being able to afford it.

I still think as a landlord there are some things you come out ahead on though. You can learn to fix a sprinkler and do it in an hour (maybe 2 counting home depot run). You'd probably have to pay someone a few hundred dollars for even a basic fix. If you own 50 properties of course this wouldn't make sense, but if you are a first-time homeowner then I'd say do it at least once.

Everyone should have that moment of a broken sprinkler head spraying you straight in the face while you figure out where the water shutoff is.

Absolutely -- most landlords either have to be handy or they have to access to cheap contractors (they "know a guy who knows a guy") to make any money at all on rentals. Otherwise repairs will eat up most of the margin.

I would add a few things I learned to improve your memory:

1. Care about the subject

2. Focus on memorizing it: This may seem dumb, but how many times have you forgot where you placed your keys? If all you do is momentarily state to yourself "I set my keys here" when you put them down, it's almost hard to forget.

3. Don't eat white sugar or white flour processed, or other foods that may cause you to loose concentration. (I tested this theory when trying to memorize stuff. Crazy the effect it has)

4. Associate a picture (with an action or something outlandish) with the item. You can take a list of 20 items where most people get only a max of around 4 items, I can memorize the entire thing by making a story with the items. No practice needed, it works the first time for most people. Works for memorizing directions as well. (too long to explain the entire process in a comment)

These are just shortcuts though... (from a few memory courses I took in the past)

Also another trick (without going full formaliser spaced repetition): reread the same thing the next day, and then a week after. Boring but very effective for long term retention.

I would argue you better practice recall than rereading, i.e. put some notes after reading, make an abstract, expand on it with new thoughts next day, in a week etc. Just rereading might be a) boring b) constantly giving you a sense of familiarity, which is not knowledge. When I have to reread something that is not too deep I sense that I have made a mistake first time by not really thinking about the text.

I've always been confused by people talking about losing things like keys/wallet a lot. I take them out of my pockets and put them on a flat surface when I get home which means they are always in one of like 4 different places tops, but in two of them the vast majority of the time (dining table or desk).

Surely there are natural places those things end up?

> I take them out of my pockets and put them on a flat surface when I get home which means they are always in one of like 4 different places tops

Must be nice :)

We have a similar technique, I put my stuff in the same place all the time. But only because I was sick of misplacing them for many years.

I think there are a lot of people that don't have tendencies towards systems/self rules to solve issues like this, so they casually smash through life care free and forget where they put their keys "this time". (based on many people I know)

It isn't a system I developed to remember though, it is just... I put them somewhere sensible where they won't fall behind something or scratch anything etc.

My keys are often in different places, it is just that the list of "sensible" places isn't very large so if I have forgotten checking them all takes practically no time

EDIT: I should say not a system I developed consciously, I do have ADD so my habit of putting things in sensible places generally might be an adaption to that, though if so it happened before I even had keys to lose

We may be mincing words, but when I say "system" I mean "I decided to try and only place my keys in reasonable places, always... and these 4 are the most reasonable."

Where other people may have made no considerations at all where they put stuff.

I feel like "System" is a bit of an extreme term. "Sensible" also means natural. Like, either they go on the kitchen counter, the dining table, or my desk, or occasionally the arms of the couch usually because those are the places that have space to put things like phone/keys/etc when I empty my pockets.

The only considerations are: Is the place convenient (read nearby when I'm likely to be putting things down)? Are they a flat and stable surface?

That's it. I feel like if people don't make those sorts of considerations surely they are just dropping shit on the floor

I've always been under the impression that for people living in multifamily housing, changing oil yourself isn't an option. It isn't "your" driveway (everyone else parks their car in the same garage), and I've never seen anybody do it. Lease terms might actually prevent oil changes, but I haven't confirmed that any place.

I can add that 3 of 3 multi-family dwelling leases I’ve signed in Texas have a specific prohibition to changing oil.

My lease in the bay area explicitly forbids it. That said, my neighbor does all kinds of work in the carport and no one has narced on him yet.

> CPR/Choking/First Aid course is probably close to an hour.

What can you teach in only an hour? I work with some people who teach basic first aid, and the shortest course any of them does is 4.5 hours.

Step 0: Tell a specific person to call 911, or do it yourself if you're alone.

If the person isn't responding and doesn't appear to be breathing, move them to a hard, flat surface (if possible). Put your hands one on top of the other (both palms facing down) and interlock your fingers. Place your hands in the center of the chest (at approximately the level of the nipples) and push hard and fast, letting the chest recoil fully between each compression.

If you're pushing hard enough, you will feel popping and cracking as the bones and cartilage of the rib cage move/dislocate. If you're allowing the chest to recoil back up fully between each compression you really can't push too fast (going too slowly is the far more common failure mode).

There... those are the important bits of adult CPR (for the layperson).

The courses are hours long so that the Red Cross/AHA can justify the fees and sell textbooks.

All accurate but you missed the real step 1, which is arguably the most important - Check for danger. It was drilled into us repeatedly in our course because it's extremely obvious but always easy to forget during a situation.

Our first aid teacher told us a lovely story of a child on his bike who got zapped by a downed power line. The next two family members trying to help him also died because they just rushed in. Not a great day for them.

In other situations, something as simple as pulling the park brake in a traffic accident can save a world of problems. Regardless, don't even get close enough to physically check them if you aren't sure it's safe.

DRSABCD (Doctors ABCD) - Danger, Response, Send for Help, Airways, Breathing, CPR, Defibrillator.


There are certainly special considerations, but in the vast majority of situations where CPR is necessary, there is no external hazard to worry about, it's just Uncle Jim's diet and lifestyle catching up with him.

Often it's obvious, and checking takes no more than a second or two. It's just important that you do it.

Even if you find Uncle Jim on the floor at home, don't run in assuming a heart problem because maybe he tripped on some water and you'll do the same :) But if he starts choking right in front of you, go to town.

I don't disagree with you, but as someone who walks into a _lot_ of emergency scenes, it's really rare for there to be a hazard to worry about. Is it a thing you should consider? Sure. In reality it doesn't come up often enough to warrant "top billing" in a high level overview of how to do chest compressions.

In any emergency scene, the first thing to do is check for traffic to prevent the victim or yourself from getting run over (sometimes merely because you need to cross the street: while running to provide help in an emergency situation, you're likely to forget looking both ways).

If any one of those emergency scenes was outdoors and you didn't think of this, you're doing it wrong. And even if you've always remembered to do this yourself, it's essential that you explain it to others so they will remember it as the first thing to do.

Step 0 is the really high-yield tip here because it applies in so many emergencies. The natural shout of "someone call 911" is so often less effective: even if folks aren't halted by outright shock or confusion, their disorganization and/or assumption that somebody else will do it introduces miscommunications and delay. Nearly everyone takes to direct, simple instructions much better and faster.

How to call an ambulance, what kind of info to give, how to put people in a safe position, how to determine if they're breathing or not, how to protect yourself when offering first aid to someone else.

The American Red Cross has Adult CPR/AED/First Aid classes where the classroom portion is only an hour. There's an online component that you have to do beforehand, so the whole class is probably closer to 4 hours, but I think if you took only the classroom part you'd come out with a decent idea of how to perform CPR.

They listed three things, and they're all different.

Choking & CPR in an hour - easily. When I did my course it was a few hours but in a smaller group there'd be no problem covering it in less time. Though to be fair, we did have to read a document and answer a 70 question assessment before being allowed in the room.

First Aid? Probably not. I did a full day course. Here in Australia that includes bandaging for snake bites, what to do for jellyfish (don't pee on it, thanks), how to handle crushing injuries, etc. Apparently in the US they focus more on weapon trauma wounds though we did a bit of that too.

A broad first aid course will take more than an hour. (The Wilderness First aid courses I've taken are a full weekend.)

However, you can cover a lot of the basic things you're likely to encounter in civilization pretty quickly (if very cursorily). Probably most important is the basic approach to take, things to watch for, blood safety, etc. It's not going to be a real first aid course but a quick familiarization of things to watch for and actions to take. (Cleaning wounds, etc.)

A basic Life Support Course is like 2 hours (maybe 3). Actually did it in the morning then spend the afternoon testing everyone.

A Essenial First Aid at Work course is 8 hours (this is the legal requirement for FAW in the UK)

A Full First Aid at Work is 32 hours.

A EMT-B in the USA (min needed to do, to get on an Amblance) is 50 hours

The basic training for amblance in the UK is about month with a week training in driviong with blue lights

Want to be a Paramedic well that is a 3 year degree

Want to be a Nurse that again is a 3 year degree (and no you can't do one and swap for the other)

Want to be a doctor well that 5 years plus a few more years training on the job.

Ok if you want to get a medical Gas Qual well you looking at about 8 hours or so. Patient and casualty handing are both about 2-3 hours each.

I’m always curious how people use IFTTT, Zapier or aletrnatives (e.g. Shortcuts on iOS). I’m a developer and I like to automate a lot of the stuff I do, either with bash commands/script or nodejs/python for more complex stuff, and user scripts in the browser. I can’t find a good use-case for IFTTT and I feel like I’m missing out on a big part here. I’m not sure if I’m not thinking about it right, or if it just doesn’t apply to my workflow.

You've probably already optimized most of your painful workflows, but as a developer, you could probably be saving a ton of dev time using your own Zapier integrations.

I use the following workflow all the time for slackbots and prototyping a new feature:

Step 1 Zapier Webhook - Triggers on POST request to hooks.zapier.com/abc123 (Zapier provides this URL for each "Zap" while you are setting it up)

Step 2 Zapier Code Step - (python or javascript) basically a lambda function - parse your incoming POST request and do whatever with it

Step 3 Some sort of Output - send email/slack/sms

Realworld example - I submitted an iOS app that got rejected because of their community management policy - basically I needed to add a way for users to report abusive content. It took me 15 minutes to add this using the above Zap. I probably could have added it to our API in a similar amount of time, but forwarding each report to slack and aggregating them in airtable would have added to this - not to mention building out a web frontend somewhere to see/review them.

We also have a bunch of slackbots to pull stats and run jobs. Zapier enables us to do a lot of "chatops" with less code and more flexibility.

edit - I used to work at Zapier - loved the product before I worked there and still do

my gf's daughter (age 5) had a cyanotic spell last night (turned blue from being frightened and crying). She straight up stopped breathing. Having the CPR steps drilled in to my head put me on autopilot, which was really reassuring, even though it's been awhile since I last took the class. Thankfully the sternum rub caused a lot of pain and her to start crying (and thus breathing) so I didn't need to call 911.

Without a doubt, CPR.

I'm not so sure. You're probably a lot more likely to actually save someone's life with an abdominal thrust than you are with CPR--outside of some specific scenarios like drowning.

Setup and learn how to use Anki to practice spaced repetition. Going forward you can now decide what you would like to remember (so long as you are willing to spend 5-15 mins a day reviewing)! People's names, that command you always look up, your credit card number, interesting statistics (e.g number of passenger miles per death for bicycles vs cars vs planes) foundational facts in your field that will allow you to ponder and recognize them over and over (e.g multivariate Gaussian distribution).


Anki is the compound interest of learning. It makes learning far more rigorous and less stressful and makes it possible to remember things years after you've initially memorized it.

There's also Quizlet which is similar but I find it better because you can preview entire pre-built card decks on it which makes it searchable on google


Quizlet is great if you're looking for pre-built decks, as you mentioned. As far as I'm aware, there's no spaced repetition feature, which is the main value in Anki.

Also, one of the values to me in using Anki is creating the cards myself. It allows me to mull things over and decide what part of a fact is important, and how I'd like to recall it.

Relatedly, the value isn't necessarily in reading someone else's study guide before a test, it's in creating your own study guide. That process helps you understand and retain the material far better.

Like you, I used to think that creating my own decks is better than using someone else's.

But then I listened to a podcast episode, by The Learning Scientists, in which they say that research evidence shows that your time is better spent doing only retrieval practice (reviewing flashcards) than creating cards + retrieval practice.

Retrieval practice and spaced repetition (which is what one is doing when reviewing cards with Anki) are the most effective methods for learning for which we have strong evidence, according to the same podcast.

You can pretty easily search for quizlet decks and then import them into Anki so long as you don't need two-way automatic sharing. Google for extensions, depends on Anki version

Maybe be careful putting your credit number into a card in the web service though...

I just realised that, years ago, I have used a paper-based version of Anki technique to massively increase my vocabulary in a foreign language in a very short time span.

Understanding compound interest thoroughly.

Compound interest is probably the most powerful "force" governing out lives.

It is crucial when borrowing money, especially for longer terms.

It is crucial when saving and investing.

It is crucial in self-development, where a tiny 5% improvement in some area of your life per year can mean that you are twice as good at something in 15 years.

It is important when evaluating any kinds of improvements in personal life or in business.

The trick is that the percentage never sounds like much. The number of years always sounds like a lot. Nonetheless, the years WILL pass whether you want them to or not, and what tiny life choices you make throughout have a huge impact on where you will be in the future.

Being aware of that does not take much. An hour of intense concentration should be enough to get this insight. Of course, this depends on your age and math background. However, I feel confident saying the above as this to the Hacker News audience, as the above requires nothing more than an imagination and the ability to add and multiply by decimals.

Since really grasping compound interest I've noticed it apply across almost all aspects of life, which is what OP is saying. It shouldn't be reduced to the financial aspect which is probably the better-understood aspect of it.

Think about things like your education, your professional skills, your interests and hobbies, your health, your friendship and (professional) social network, hell, even your kids. Whatever little you put into any of these today will compound over time.

If I set some time apart today to better learn a programming language (or a text editor) I will be more productive with it over the next few years. If I develop a healthy exercise and nutrition regimen in my youth, I'll have less trouble maintaining that as I get older and a better starting point. If I try to go out and meet people then I'll have a large network of contacts to draw from if I'm ever looking for something specific in the future. If I've dabbled with a number of different hobbies in my youth then I'll have all these experiences which shape, and ultimately improve the outcomes that I have when tackling a problem today. And lastly kids: If I spend quality time with my kids in their very early formative years (reading, singing, talking) then by the time they enter school they will already have an above-average level of education and that difference will continue to compound for them in their life.

The underlying concept that applies to much of life is feedback loops. Compound interest is just one example of a feedback loop.

The 'rule of 72' is a quick and easy rule of thumb to determine how long an investment doubles, and improve how you think about compound interest. For example it takes approx. 10 years to double an investment at 7%, or 7 years at 10%.

We are currently in a world where it is very difficult to find interest rates >2%. I found a tezos staking pool at approximately 5% recently.

The S&P500 with dividends reinvested has averaged a real (post-inflation) return of 7% annually over the last 100 years or so.

It's currently up 24% YTD.

> The S&P500 with dividends reinvested has averaged a real (post-inflation) return of 7% annually over the last 100 years or so.

TBH I don't think looking at the last hundred years is particularly valuable. Nobody invests over a hundred year timespan. Most importantly, look at a graph of interest rates over the past 40 years. There is a fundamental "new normal" of extremely low rates (or, rather, negative rates for much of the world), making it extremely difficult to earn that 7% without taking on a very large amount of risk.

Look at the bast 10-20 years, it still holds true

That's fine if you are prepared to take on significant risk - it took six years for the index to recover after the 2007 financial crash. If anyone was looking to retire on their investment then they'd be screwed. At least with a bank your savings are guaranteed.

This sends the completely wrong message:

It may be true only for the people that have invested ALL their money as a lump sum right before the index crashed (at the worst possible time).

For anybody else, those that say invested in the previous few years into a passive index fund, and continued to invest in the next few years they would have broken even within two years then probably quadrupled their money by today.

Keeping the same amount in a bank would have turned it into 30% less - a decrease similar to what the "crash" would have caused.

The 2007-2008 period was actually the time to invest even more aggressively, if you could stomach it! Historically, those big drops rarely happen. And when they do, they rarely last for long. You have full recovery in a few years. My investments from that time, mostly Total Stock Index funds, like VTSAX, have tripled.

People need to be taught not to be afraid of investing. I know many smart folks, some who are engineers, who were scared of investing until they were in their mid 30's. My dad taught me about investing when I was a teenager. You do this right, you can retire in your 40's or 50's, never have to work again if you don't want to.

You might luck out, maybe hit it rich on startup stock options by joining the next FAANG company. This is unlikely to happen. Investing in the stock market, week after week, year after year, decade after decade... It's almost guaranteed.

> I know many smart folks, some who are engineers, who were scared of investing until they were in their mid 30's.

One of my biggest regrets, coming from a family/socioeconomic group where nobody invested, is not beginning to invest as soon as I had enough disposable income to safely do so (in my mid-20s) instead of in my mid-30s.

Yes! It's too bad none of this is really taught in schools, outside of the occasional "stock market club." It's foundational stuff and people should be educated on it.

That's why fund balance and risk tolerance is a thing. If you're 55+ and looking to retire that 2008 drop will force you to eat cat food. But if you're 50+ most of your money should be in bonds, holding wealth.

If you're 33 and working in IT, you should be holding stocks and hoarding that fantastic growth (and slowly, over time, scraping the gains off into bonds).

You bank savings are only guaranteed by FDIC to $300k. Chances are they are not giving you an interest rate that will keep up with inflation, either. At best it's not gaining value, and is in all likelihood losing value by tiny amounts as inflation eats away at it.

Holding your age as % of investment in Bonds is a standard I hear alot.

The only problem with that is we are living longer and longer, but wanting to retire earlier... it's really an individual thing, and you have to make sure that whatever you're invested in, you will have the principle + earnings to be able to cover your needs for however long you live.

Keep in mind that costs for elderly care have gone nowhere but sky-high in the past decade or so. It's not crazy to plan on paying 10-25,000/month once you reach your 80s or 90s (or more if inflation rises).

That's why you take on riskier investments early on and transition to "safer" ones as you reach retirement age (or whenever you're planning to access the money).

I always found this slightly wrong (for a non-outlier case). If you're young and you have some earning/saving power, why would you want that to be risky? Keeping it "safe" in an index fund means that it is compounding longer than the assets you'll get later in life!

The confusion is probably coming from your idea of “risk”. When people say stocks are risky they mean their prices have higher variance. But they also have higher long term growth rates. If you’re young, you have more years left until you will need to sell your investments in retirement. That means you should care less about the short term variance and more about the long term growth rate.

Guaranteed to loose value over time. Ever since central banks forced gov fiat currency on us all, we're stuck investing just to save for the future. Back in 1905, most people could save in gold, and very few invested, but now that dollars/euros/yuan saved loose value over time, we're all forced to use equity as a money-substitute for savings.

You are gaurenteeing a loss of purchasing power by putting your money in the bank. You are only risking a potential loss investing in the S&P, and you have a potential significant upside. It's a no brainer.

Risk depends on how long you have until you are going to start pulling on that money. The only people screwed investing wise from 2007 were the people who pulled out. If you can keep a level head, which might preclude some people, investing in stocks is hardly risky. Specifically using index funds, because there is a lot of risk in picking a few stocks.

Yes, guaranteed to lose value to inflation over time.

Indeed, keeping the money in a bank would have caused losing the same amount of value over long as the temporary stock crash did.

Only these losses are permanent :-/ whereas the stock market recovered and quadrupled...



"What is the average annual return for the S&P 500? ... roughly 8%"

That’s only if you need almost no risk. The whole US stock market is definitely risky (it could go down fifty percent or more in a year), but it has averaged significantly over 2%, even after inflation, even in the last few years.

This is also noted. Do you consider the downside risk higher than the potential upside over the next 12 months? I am currently viewing downside risk as a higher probability than the potential upside due to a number of macro issues. Plus Warren Buffet just went to a cash pile.

If your time frame is longer than seven years, then it just about always makes sense to leave your money in the market. Even if the market drops 20% in a crash, the market is up more than 20% now since people started majorly talking about fear of a recession a year ago, so it would’ve been better to put money in then than to avoid the market for fear of recession. There might be a recession in a year, but the market’s gains in that time might be bigger than the drop.

Warren Buffett recommends that the best way for the average person to build wealth is to invest in an S&P 500 index fund. Read some John Bogle and you'll get a good grasp on index investing and you'll learn that "time in the market, beats timing the market." Most people get timing completely wrong and end up selling at lows and buying at highs. You're better off dollar cost averaging and investing money consistently over time.

Berkshire Hathaway (not Warren Buffett) is not who retail investors should be modeling their portfolios on.

If you wanted to model after Berkshire Hathaway, you could just buy shares in them.

In India is between 7 to 8 %, it was even higher a few years ago.

It's not specific to interest, it works for any compounding percentage, include stock or real estate appreciation.

Of course, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance. But as a mental arithmetic trick, the rule of 72 generally works.

I think a seriously overlooked application of this principle is in nutrition and dieting. Over- or under- eating by a small percentage of your required intake might not have a discernible effect immediately but really adds up over time, both for weight loss and gain.

It is not how it works at all.

The fallacy here is that a human body is a machine with well-defined intake and output.

How would one even know what is "exactly" the right amount?

Over a year we consume 1 million calories. If one were just 0.1% off of systematically eating more (or less) than required then according to your model one would end up being 200 pounds fatter or 200 pounds leaner ... do you think that anyone can regulate up to 0.1% accuracy to what they actually need?

eating a little more or less has absolutely not discernible effect the body adapts to it.

0.1% of 1 million calories is 1000 calories, which corresponds to about 0.3 pounds. If someone gains or loses 10 pounds in a year, that means they were around 35000 calories away from equilibrium throughout the year, which is more like 3-5%.

So a 5% calorie deficit or surplus would have a fairly small effect during a single year, but over a decade or a lifetime the effect is huge.

oops, I sure got my digits wrong

It is exactly how it works, and you're taking "a small percentage" to a ridiculous degree to fallaciously disprove it. Try eating 10% more or less than what you need each day, not 0.1%.

Another question to pile onto this. Maybe you're the right one to ask.

I was always taught that the body uses up its glycogen stores before burning fat. But if that were true even a small calorie deficit would gradually use up our glycogen stores and we'd be walking around without any after that.

Plus before losing any fat you'd have to experience a glycogen crash/wall which most small deficit dieters don't experience.

Very roughly...

Generally what fuel your body burns depends on the intensity of work you are doing, so if you're walking you may be burning 80%+ fat, but if you're running a 10k you may be 80% glycogen.

However, if you eat too many carbs at a meal (beyond what you need in the next few hours), your body needs to get that excess out of your bloodstream, so it will do a combination of: - fill your muscle/liver glycogen stores (limited size) - burn any excess carbs in preferences to stored fat - convert any excess carbs to stored fat

Once it's got rid of the excess carbs from your bloodstream, it will return to burning whatever the normal ratio of fat:carbs is for you.

Consequently, if you always eat too much carbs, you'll gradually pile on the fat, unless you're doing large amounts of training which depletes your muscle/liver glycogen, e.g: elite athletes.

Actually, that IS how it works.

It may not be possible to know or calculate the exact intake and output values, but those values are not needed. Your body gives you cues.

> eating a little more or less has absolutely not discernible effect the body adapts to it.

Yes, the body adapts to it by storing or eliminating fat (among other things).

No, if that was true people would be always over or under the weight as it's impossible to know exactly how much calories the body consumes.

> Yes, the body adapts to it by storing or eliminating fat (among other things).

No, it compensates by changing your metabolic rate mostly. You eat less, you will feel more lethargic, you eat more and you will fill (and be) more active

1 billion*

2 - 2.5 million calories a day is normal for people with a normal level of physical activity.

In the US, we tend to use food calories, where 1 Calorie == 1 kilocalorie. The capitalization of Calorie is intended to show the difference in units, but in most written language, often isn't used.

You’re talking addition and subtraction, compounding deals with multiplication.

To reap the benefits of compound interest (in your favor), you need to stick to a plan. You can't dump your investment portfolio after 5 years. It's these small, daily decisions that add up over time. So while the output is multiplicative, the necessary input is only linear.

Yes but the linear input is not the relevant part. The compounding is.

If you had to put in compounding effort, the compounding output would seem far less intriguing or worthwhile. If investment returns weren't exponential, or required exponential input to receive exponential output, it'd be far less useful of a concept.

The word 'add' is overloaded for both mathematical and non-mathematical purposes.

Multiplication is just a specific form of addition operations and is easily writable as such.

But that's not compounding in the sense of compound interest.

Sure it is, if you think about how much harder it is to run at 225 pounds vs at 200 pounds.

Yeah, it's easier to run, but nah, because diminishing returns.

I am pretty sure that only applies to certain people. I stay fairly skinny no matter what, though I do move about a lot.

How old are you? My father was thin until he turned 27. He was never huge, but at 27 he was 170lbs (6'2") and at his peak, around age 65, he was a little over 200. He warned me about that. At 27, I was also 170 lbs (6'2") (I am nearly a clone of my dad), and then slowly gained weight. I briefly ballooned to 215 around age 31, but hammered that back down to 185, but since then it has slowly climbed to 200 (at age 60). I am back down to 196. In my early twenties I could eat a large 'special' pizza by myself in about 45 minutes. Metabolism changes with age. I dearly miss being able to eat anything I wanted at any time with no consequences.

When I was in my mid-20s I could also eat anything I wanted, and a big challenge for me was finding pants that were long enough (36” inseam) but also had a narrow enough waist. This was pre-internet, so the options were limited (I discovered early that Big & Tall stores required you to be both).

Fast-forward 20-ish years, and I’m still just as tall but I don’t have any problem finding pants that fit me. Sigh.

Start lifting :)

45 now.

Nonsense. Eat 4000 calories a day, every day, and lift heavy weights. You will quickly gain lots of weight.

Confirm. Went from 165 lbs running 55km races to 235 lbs with a 1,405 lbs powerlifting total in 5 years. I started this month to reverse the process, going to run a 50 miler next time this year.

So that would be close to double what I usually eat. I doubt I would find that easy, and it would probably involve lots of unhealthy crap.

I think the same applies principles apply as with bigger people saying they can't lose weight. You need to change your habits, and that is hard.


Adaptive thermogenesis says otherwise.

There is this nice book called "The Slight Edge" which builds on this whole idea in general and how it is applicable at every facet of life. It is really an insightful book and atleast you will slightly change about how you think about stuffs.

I'm reading *Atomic Habits right now and the author talks about how building small improvements on top of each other can eventually deliver great gains. The trick seems to be identifying just what it is to work on.

Added to my reading list! Thanks for the suggestion.

The way I look at it is compounding just changes the effective interest rate.

Continuous compounding is e^rt. Just subtract straight interest from this and you discover the maximum return of compounding over just collecting interest. Most compounding periods are much less than continuous.

I think this would take less than an hour. ;-)

Compound anything is powerful. Interest is... really slow these days though. Seems to be around 3% return after inflation. And with all the countries taking really high national debt, who's to say it will get better?

The whole compound concept applies very well to startups though. 3% a week adds up.

3% is the high-end of the “consumer” (aka “chump”) interest rates. In fact, since inflation is about 3%, over time your money doesn’t grow. (Though, if you’re earning less than inflation your money is actually decreasing in value, so maintaining is better than that)

I got a 2.9% rate for my car loan and a 3.625 for my house. both pretty close to 3. Are my banks chumps?

The S&P500 with dividends reinvested has averaged a real (post-inflation) return of 7% annually over the last 100 years or so.

100 years isn't really "these days," though.

Not sure what that is supposed to mean. It's ~9 % the last ~5 years.

But only ~4% over the last 20 [0]. If you cherry pick start and end dates, you can make stock market returns look as good or bad as you'd like.

[0] https://www.portfoliovisualizer.com/backtest-portfolio?s=y&t...

Also learn about opportunity cost when spending and saving. It is tied to compound interest in many ways, but also deals with addressing wants vs. needs, and also scoring your wants.

It is true. It is crucial to understand any kind of growth situation which are predominent in life. For instance, one of my friends who is a teacher wanted to explain sustainable development to his highschool students by showing the effect of cutting too much trees if this doesn't match the trees growing rate. He asked me to solve the not so trivial equations with a series and found myself returning to the same maths used for the interest computation.

compound interest is where the bank say's its 3.5% interest but if you do the math you're paying 180% for a house. I don't have any idea how that became acceptable/the norm.

I have many reservations and am very critical of the financial system. But the concept of interest on loans is not a "scam'.

The interest in it's simplest form is just a value appreciation of the time value of money [1]. Would you rather have $100 today, or $100 next month? How about $100 today vs $102 next month? Still rather in the today camp? How about $105 next month? That is the interest. It is the value derivative of having the money 'now' vs having the money 'later'.

Where things can get scammy is in the complex type of credit products on offer (tying in all sorts of opaque references to things presented as neutral which are far from), and how things are communicated to the borrower.

Tip: If you are considering a loan, always ask for a full repayment plan showing you which payments are due each month, and the resulting reduction in the amount due (your payment first covers the interest accrued in that month, and only after that covers principal reduction). If there are variables in the loans formula, ask for simulations that cover the most likely evolution scenario, as well as the extremes. Every financial institution has such a payment plan calculator. Long ago I have written one which afaik is still in use today in a non-trivial financial services company.

[1] https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/timevalueofmoney.asp

Good comment. I sometimes describe borrowing as renting money, where interest is the rent. Its a mathematically interesting construct because, for one thing, the value of the thing you rented goes down with cumulative rent paid. It's kind of a degenerate money cycle if you loan money to someone who uses it to pay you interest on the loan. I suppose only taxes (serving as friction, removing energy) prevent this from being a kind of economic perpetual motion machine! I'd be stunned if this trick wasn't a) very old, and b) have about 1000 modern variations.

I didn't say interest on a loan was a scam I think compound interest on mortgages is. A fixed price interest would make sense like you borrow £100 , you pay back £110. 10% interest. But my understanding on a compound interest mortgage is the bank says something like 2% interest. and they take the £100 and x by 1.02 and just spam ='s on the calculator until the actual interest percentage is like 180%.

You shouldn't have to spend an hour learning how the bank are gnna screw you.

While I appreciate your concern, the problem with what you call 'actual' interest percentage is not what reflects the financial transaction.

As stated above, money has a 'time value'. Getting $100 today has a different value to you than getting $100 somewhere in the future. So to know whether a deal is interesting, I do not just have to know how much I will be getting back in return for my investment, but when. Getting back $180 as a single lump sum payment in a year is different than getting 12 monthly payments of $15 each month for the next year, even though in both cases you will have payed me back $180 looking back.

The interest rate the bank quotes, in your example 2%, is the percentage amount by which your outstanding IOU to them will be increased at the end of the month, before you make your monthly payment.

Now this was an example of a simple fixed interest rate. In practice there are unlimited kinds of formulas that can have variable interest rates over time tied too other things, capped or uncapped, and even then that is just one of the things that goes into a payments plan. So unless you have nailed down all the other factors, comparing just interest percentage A with interest percentage B, typically in the final haggle, tells you little.

This is why I advice always looking at the series of monthly payments that you will have to make over the duration of the loan repayment, and compare these with the series of monthly payments due under a competing proposal.

Banks will screw you over in more ways than you can imagine, but quoting a compound interest rate as opposed to a total amount repaid at the end of contract (which btw is often much longer than the repayment period or even unlimited in time but that is another story) isn't where it is at.

The point that you don't pay the total back at the end resonated with me. I agree holding the money has time value

The thing about loans is that they should also be cheaper if you pay them off sooner. I could believe that they should be simple interest instead of compound, but that’ll get to 200% in only a bit longer (50 periods of 2% interest instead of 35), and banks would want higher interest rates on simple interest anyway, making it equal out. Plus, there are many great loan calculators online to use too.

That's what the 'A' in APR means. It's pretty clear.

If I take out a £100000 loan with an APR of 2% and pay it back in full at the end of the first year, then the total amount I pay back is £102000. Apart from any early repayment charges, the original total term is irrelevant.

When taking out such a large sum, over such a duration for buying your home, the total amount to repay is not the important aspect. It's not like taking out a loan to buy a car or a holiday. You don't have the option of choosing between buying now with a loan, or saving up for a few more months or years to buy without one.

Affordability of the regular repayments over the duration of the loan is the key thing.

There is absolutely no way I would take out a loan of that size with fixed interest in the way you describe. It would be far too expensive, and give the bank too much power.

I'm relying on the fact that I can make large overpayments in order to own my home outright halfway through the original term. That couldn't happen without an annual interest rate. In fact, the most logical thing to do in that situation is to stretch the loan out for as long as possible, so that inflation makes your repayments cheaper.

For a rough example -

Imagine you bought a house for £100K 5 years ago, the interest is such that over 20 years it will cost £150K total (e.g. 3.5% over 25 years).

You have probably paid about 30K, taking about £15K off the capital.

You sell the house for the same amount you bought it. With annual interest, you owe the bank £85K, you give them that, and use the spare 15K for your next home.

With a fixed price, you still owe the bank £120K. You give them the £100K you got from selling the house, and you somehow have to find £20K to pay them the rest.

That last bit made sense to me. I still think it's expensive and the banks have too much power. But you make a good point

This is a good example why one should understand compound interest. Through in a payment schedule and amortization as well.

The bank is giving you $X to buy the house. You’re paying off a piece of it each month (your mortgage payment). Part of that goes to the interest on the loan, the rest goes to principal. The interest each month is based upon on the remaining principal. That means your payment starts off being mostly interest and gradually becomes mostly paying off principal.

You could say, “But I can just save the full price and then buy the house with no interest!”. Sure you could. But you’re forgetting that you’re living in the house (or renting it out...) while you’re paying it off.

"Part of that goes to the interest on the loan, the rest goes to principal."

That's only one kind of mortgage though - for a while there were mortgages available in the UK where you only payed the interest on the principal but you also payed into a separate saving scheme with the idea that when the latter matured it would pay off the former.

No idea if these are still available, but for a while in the early 1990s you used to get a very hard sell on them - we had one for a five years or so. In reality they are a terrible idea as you are paying interest on a non-decreasing principal which is a shockingly bad idea and then there is the risk of the saving scheme performance as well.

Edit: Of course you got a hard sell on them as they were clearly a terrible idea from the borrowers perspective but were far more profitable than a normal mortgage for the lender.

These are still around and pushed pretty heavily, but they are primarily for "Buy to Let" mortgages in my research. And offer an astounding TERRIBLE rate on top of the astoundingly terrible concept.

That said, the interest is a great write off for a landlord, especially if they are personally the originator of the loan to their holding company.

I understand it and i conclude it's a complete racket, along with the whole world

Considering also the Time Value of Money, a mortgage is really not that bad at all.

Just seems like a massive scam thats become the norm. You're paying off interest on the first month, as if you've already had the money for 20 years. They take liberties from day one.

Let's break this down with a simple example: You get a 30yr mortgage for $100,000 at 5%

If you paid $0 on principal your first year, the interest would be $100,000x0.05=$5000

Make it monthly: $5000/12=$416.67 rounded up to $417

On an amortization schedule, the fixed payment is calculated at $537, with $120 going to principal and $417 going to interest on your first payment. Exactly what you would expect to pay. The interest isn't front loaded, it's just the actual accrued interest of what you have borrowed.

When you pay the $120 in principal on your first payment, your debt reduces to $99,880. $99,880x0.05/12=$416 rounded. Therefore, your next payment, still at the fixed rate of $537 is now paying $121 in principal, and $416 in interest.

In short, when you have a large debt, you pay larger interest, when you have a smaller debt, you pay smaller interest. This isn't exploitation, just mathematics.

I conclude that they should just work out the total repayable and be honest and say this is a 70% mortgage. not claim it's 2% but just keep re applying that 2% every month or week or day as they see fit.

Most of the time, the total interest paid is included in the amortization plan. It's also easy to figure out. Using my example, the exact payment was $536.82.

$536.82x12x30=$193,255.20 Total($193,255.20)-Principal($100,000)=TotalInterest($93,255.20) give or take a dollar.

And so according to your desire, you'd want them to say it is a 93% mortgage.

The reason they don't is that interest rates and compounding are typically done annually. You also have the ability to make extra payments sometimes, which can pay it down faster. The faster you pay the debt, the less interest you pay.

For instance, if you win the lotto, receive a life insurance payout, or inheritance, etc and pay off the loan within the first year, it's no longer a 93% mortgage but a 5% one.

To me, it makes more sense to say, you owe $100,000 your first year, or $98,398 your second year, and that you'll be paying 5% interest over that year.

reading some of the replies , I understand a bit better.

Hey, kudos to you for admitting this! I mean that seriously. There are very few folks who actually try to learn and understand things: it appears that you're one of them.

> work out the total repayable

But that depends entirely upon how long you take to repay it. If you pay the loan aggressively up front, you pay less; if you make minimum payments for as long as possible, you pay more.

Lets break this down , 537 per month , 360 months = 193320. Thats 93% not 5%.

It’s 5% per year because you are charged interest on some schedule based on how much you have paid off. 5% is a rate, 93% is a total amount and it only applies if you pay the whole mortgage off at exactly the prescribed rate. Many banks’ mortgage calculators will show you the total amount paid anyway so it’s not like they’re hiding it.

Your point seems to be basically that because you can’t do the maths, the mortgage is misleading. That is maybe a fair argument in some cases with financial products. Investment banks are notorious for obscuring the true cost of deals with complicated maths. However this doesn’t seem like a case of that. If the interest rate is 5% APR and you are free to pay it off as fast or as slowly as you like within some bounds, for example, it is absolutely essential that you understand what a 5% rate means to know how the mortgage works.

edit: not to mention that 5% is already a contrived figure not representative of how the interest is actually applied, designed to make it easier for you to understand what you’re charged. Your interest is probably calculated monthly or daily, not yearly. They could present you a nice hypothetical yearly figure, or a nice just-as-hypothetical 93% three-year figure. What’s the difference? Neither of them are real. Your interest is charged monthly, so they’re equally fake and misleading.

Just as well, you get to start acting like you own the house from day 1.

That is wonderful phrasing on the idea. Thank you.

Why should there be no charge for borrrowing the money for 20 years? That doesn’t make sense, you have had the money for 1 month when you make the first payment, and so you are charged for it.

You do already have the money for 20 years - that’s what the lender “pays” for you on day one.

I don't understand this. You have negotiated to pay a fixed payment per month so why does it matter whether the money is paying off interest or the principal first? The bank didn't force you to get the loan.

It matters to the bank. Also, the interest can be written off against income taxes, which helps people more in practical money left over to use when they are earlier in the amortization, and probably their career.

Bank didn't force me. Society has made it virtually impossible for me to own a property without one. Which seems unfair when a lot of people got their property 35 years before I was born for the equivelant of 2 years salary.

That’s clearly a completely separate issue to how mortgage rates are presented

If you lend me $X at 3.5%/yr for 30 years and I can earn 7%/yr elsewhere, like by investing in a S&P index tracker. Say there's no minimum payment on your loan, just to keep the math easy. In 30 years, I'm going to owe you 2.8 * X (via 1.035^30). My investment of that $X loan has grown into 7.6 * X (via 1.07^30). After tax, call it 6.5 * X. After I pay you off, I've earned about 3.7 * X.

If the initial loan was $400k on a $500k house, then yeah it sucks that I've payed you $1.1M, a clear overpayment, but I wont be sad because I'm coming out ahead by about $1.5M.

In reality, loans come with minimum payments, so you can't come out quite so far ahead. What this all means is if you can do something better with your money, (e.g. market tracker at 7% on a 3.5% loan), then just pay the minimum and do that better thing with the rest. If you can't (e.g. market tracker at 7% on an 8% loan), then pay it down as fast as you can, or don't take it in the first place unless there are other factors.

Depending on your country, the law may require the bank to actually print the total cost of the loan on the contract as well. You'd have a better argument with revolving credits, the rates of which are generally much more predatory.

You need to adjust for inflation.

inflations a big scam too, stop printing bloody money

The printing of US dollars in the last decade had zero effect on inflation.


That is because of how the QE was executed, pouring money directly into the financial markets with negligible impact on the real economy.

In the markets where the money did end up, like the stocks and bonds markets, inflation ran rampant with NASDAQ and S&P history shows.

That isn't inflation. Inflation is about consumables. If the valuation of assets rise, that is actually the opposite: If you sell the asset, the returns can buy you more consumables.

And neither S&P nor NASDAQ had anything resembling rampant gains, BTW:

S&P: https://www.macrotrends.net/2526/sp-500-historical-annual-re...

NASDAQ: https://www.macrotrends.net/1320/nasdaq-historical-chart (you have to click on the "by year" tab).

In neither of these charts a person unaware of QE could identify a trend.

In the last ten years the NASDAQ index went from 2.000 to 8.500 and the S&P500 from 1.000 to over 3.000 in what is generally referred to as the "10 year rally".

Inflation as in the rise in price of a basket of goods is generally used in reference to the consumer price index, but can also be used in reference to stocks, and baskets of those such as the indices.

And before S&P went from 400 to 7000 largely uninterrupted, and NASDAQ from 350 to 7100. But as those are compounding values (i.e. there is not a linear realationship between year n and year n+1, but an exponential one) one can gain more insights from comparisons of the annual returns - that is the reason why I linked those. The annual returns are not unusual, though. Please have a look at them!

If the prices of assets rise, that is appreciation. If stocks or houses appreciate, you can sell them and profit: Your purchasing power rises. If consumables experience inflation, you can not sell them for a profit: They are either immaterial, like services, or can rot, like food. This isn't pedantry, these are different concepts.

At the end of the day, if consumable prices are the same despite having more pieces of paper to buy them, you did not get inflation.

But what about wealth distribution?

Or maybe real inflation is more like 7% where USD should have been deflating by 4% if left alone. QE is just taxes with an extra step.

How do you discourage hoarding and encourage spending and investment, thus keeping your economy flowing, without inflation?

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