It's a collection of daily routines of many famous and prolific artists. The surprising thing about so many of the artists is that they only work 2 or 3 hours per day, then spend the rest of the day walking around, socializing, etc. But they consistently show up and put in the work and it adds up to some amazing things over time.
This reminds me of another great book about beating procrastination: The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play
In that book, the author talks about his extensive work helping graduate students complete their dissertations. I can't cover all the great points here, but when working with these students he has them create an "unschedule" where they have to schedule guilt-free play activities as the top priority. Then he actually limits the amount of work they are allowed to do on their dissertation to only a couple of hours per day. The effect is quite amazing at turning students around from dreading and avoiding their dissertation to really trying to maximize the limited time they have to work on it. And having guilt-free play lets them really disconnect from the work and have true recovery so that they have the motivation and energy to hit the project again and again every day. Seems counter-intuitive at first, but as I've applied this to different projects, it's amazing how much more I'm able to accomplish.
The author, Steven Pressfield, describes it as some metaphorical "Muse" (God of Art) that helps inspire your imagination when you set aside some time to do work.
I loved that line of thinking since work can't happen if you don't show up. It motivated me, as indie dev that works from home, to make a concerted effort to show up ready code. Doing it consistently (whether or not it's a long time) will eventually lead to new and improved versions of software.
"This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete."
edit: the earlier version of my post used the word "agenda" instead of "ideology", but that was a bit unfair given Bret himself gives Pressfield benefit of doubt.
This article specifically mentions Gates of Fire.
For anyone that hasn’t read gates of fire I highly recommend it. It is historical fiction and a thrilling journey.
You can make up your own mind about supposed hidden agendas, or …just enjoy a great story.
Artists don't have stand ups, team meetings, planning sessions, one-on-ones, commutes and whatever other office distractions to deal with though. I suppose figuring out how to survive as an artist is distraction enough.
The theory as it went is that most artists aren’t “ahead of their time”, it’s that they see Now in a way that nobody else will understand for years. Eventually, with the aid of the lens of nostalgia we see that they really “get us”, as we now understand ourselves.
Being out in the world is how they “get” us. It’s material, not faffing about.
IMO, artistic people often see the "true nature" of things and ingest/interpret them in a way that is pretty judgement-free and quite "open". It allows them to be inspired and influenced by those things, and grow their understanding of the world around them, and thus interact with it and contribute back to it in an organic way. Again, all my subjective opinion from many years of being creative myself and collaborating with creative people. :)
But I love your theory too.
Clarity I think comes from being “part” of the world or some specific part of it. While many and most “live” through it, the Artist sees the inverse of a sorts of it - the “big picture within some lens”. Then, tries to process and communicate the unseen truths in whatever medium they are accustomed.
Dead people are mostly safe from this, though not completely - some dirty laundry might surface years after death, forever tarnishing the image, but such occurrences are rather rare.
Also, with artists, only after death you can have his 'complete' works, not having to worry about increasing supply of them, which would push the price down.
The only way to insulate yourself from that would be to be completely unsuccessful.
But then you would have to be either extremely poor, which is exhausting, or make/have money another way, which is likely to be a huge distraction.
There is really no solving for this.
A friend of mine has been a professional painter for the last 50-ish years. He makes a couple trips a year to the gallery to deliver paintings. The gallerist tries to take that chance to suggest a few motifs that seem to sell better, but doesn't get too pushy.
Most folks that sell have to arrange meetings with clients, take time to mail art, organize prints, either deal with a printer or printing their own stuff, answer customers, interact on social media... and so on. You might not be creating anything creative, but reproductions of wedding photos and pets.
The non-art parts of being an artist add up, and few folks can survive being an artist. At best, most folks have a full time job (or other income) and selling art is, at best, a side hustle.
A gallery helps with some of this. Of course, it is pretty common for the gallery to take 40-50% of the selling price, plus whatever they charge to frame the piece. You then have meetings with them, and they'll drop you in a heartbeat if you don't produce enough or don't sell well. A few will let you rent space, but you generally need to care for it.
Also, for anyone doing that kind of work, things like walking around and socializing is both vitally recuperative and indirectly productive in its own right
Hemingway would write (sober) every morning and then be drunk by lunch and for the rest of the day and early evening. But he worked every day for a few hours. People like to focus on his appetite for drinking but he got his work done first.
This comment right here adds alot of clarity for me. When worded this way, it makes total sense why this is so effective.
"A man is a fool not to put everything he has, at any given moment, into what he is creating. You're there now doing the thing on paper. You're not killing the goose, you're just producing an egg. So I don't worry about inspiration, or anything like that. It's a matter of just sitting down and working. I have never had the problem of a writing block. I've heard about it. I've felt reluctant to write on some days, for whole weeks, or sometimes even longer. I'd much rather go fishing, for example, or go sharpen pencils, or go swimming, or what not. But, later, coming back and reading what I have produced, I am unable to detect the difference between what came easily and when I had to sit down and say, 'Well, now it's writing time and now I'll write.' There's no difference on paper between the two."
It felt like busy work at the start, but it's a surprisingly powerful way of focussing the day upon a particular intention – in my case, putting everything I do in the day into the context of my religious tradition.
Personally I've always struggled with habits and routine, but I've now got quite a powerful experience of what persistence can do, with a fairly small commitment in time.
I'm better now, but these procrastination problems have plagued me my whole life. To the point that I was suicidal while writing my Thesis, I'd spend 10-12 hours in the library every day and accomplish almost nothing except self torture.
I can't imagine how helpful this "un-scheduling" would have been to me at that time.
However, the Daily Rituals book I didn't find as compelling. The information sources are not first-hand, because most of these artists are long dead. Their routines as laid out in the book is at best only partially accurate. It's far more likely that these profiles are mostly apocryphal.
But currently here in South Africa things are a little dicey, it's the middle of winter and I'm probably sleeping more than I should.
Even so I'm trying to work as many hours as possible on my own project, but some days that turns out to be only 2-3. At the very least I'm tracking my hours and expected release dates, so I have some idea of the scope involved.
Most artists I know - the ones that sell, anyway - need to socialize. They spend more time trying to sell art than they do making it because the work bits are the selling. So much of this is "soft sells": Engaging a community, curating one's image, and so on. But most folks have a day job, which is generally true of dead artists as well (so many weren't rich in life).
Socializing is part of the work.
I see this all the time with friends who pick up the guitar as a hobby. Often someone practices intensely for one week or one month and then gets frustrated at their progress. That frustration often causes people to give up. Now I see it as a mismatch between short-term estimation/expectations. The frustration is caused by overestimating how much progress they think they should make in the short-term. The quitting is caused by underestimating the progress they could make in the long term.
20 minutes + a good night's sleep + 20 minutes is often more effective than an hour of practice in one go. Possibly even 2 hours.
so, is the above more effective than practising for 8hrs40min straight?
If you do the 20 min sessions, you’ll be refreshed and on top of your game.
If you do the 8hr sessions, you’ll die of sleep deprivation in a week or two.
After some time off, I play much better the next day after practice than if I were to play immediately after practice.
Now I see 40 barreling towards me and it's hard to just do a little bit every day. Because I have experience, I can form a much bigger picture of an idea in my head and it's hard to peel off a tiny bit and make that feel like a success.
This curses me in my startup attempts but it also curses me in my work. It's hard to think like a founder anymore. I always overspec projects because I can easily guess what demons lie on the horizon.
I miss my early startup days when I could just write some code every day and feel successful. I want that back.
First, remind yourself that software is malleable. You don't need to build it perfectly the first time, and in fact you will always need to modify it as you go, so don't get stuck in analysis paralysis. You're good at writing code, so leverage that skill to iterate quickly.
Second, don't equate growth with chasing more and more powerful abstractions. Remember, "all abstractions are leaky" in the same way that "all models are wrong, but some are useful". IMHO valuable software comes from concrete use cases. So as you get more experienced you should be able to write simpler code that provides more value. Let the abstractions emerge from practice and experience rather than obsessing over them before you understand the problem.
What opened my eyes was stories on HN about projects that were little more than a glorified webform that sent an email at first. User volume was so low that it was more cost-effective to have a form send the email and have an actual human do the task manually.
When the project picked up (proving the concept had actual clients), they started automating the process at certain pain points, eventually ending in a fully automated system, which did exactly what it needed and nothing more.
As more and more ppl got involved and things started to be worth more and more money we were more or less forced to put in more safe guards as there is less tolerance for failure/mistakes. I think the trade off between speed and safety will always be there and business folks will always want both despite them being at direct odds w/ one another.
I realized that it is really easy to fall into the "but what if..." trap but doing so is not spending enough time in the present moment.
Trading sleep for extra productivity is a losing game in the long run. It’s much better to swap out some time waster activities like watching TV or, yes, browsing HN. It can be tough to reduce time spent on vices, but after the habit is established it’s much more satisfying to do something productive with that time.
I found it helps to streamline other parts of my life to recoup free time. Simple things like meal planning, using flex schedules to commute during low-traffic hours, working out at home instead of the gym, and doing grocery shopping in bulk only once per week have been great ways for me to recapture 30-60 minutes every day.
I actually delay going online for as long as possible because I know productivity will drop off a cliff once I reconnect.
This is the most productive I've been in my life, by quite a wide margin.
• Info¹ documentation, which I read directly in Emacs. (If you have ever used the terminal-based standalone “info” program, please try to forget all about it. Use Emacs to read Info documentation, and preferably use a graphical Emacs instead of a terminal-based one; Info documentation occasionally has images.)
• Gnome Devhelp².
• Zeal³, using up-to-date documentation dumps provided by Dash⁴.
• RFC archive⁵ dumps provided by the Debian “doc-rfc“ package⁶.
This checkbox is the single coolest thing I've ever seen on the Internet.
If you find your time in the afternoon isn't productive but you find it fulfilling to be around the people you love and that's enough for you, then you don't need productivity advice and this kind of reading isn't for you.
If you are tired from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed again, you’re suffering from depression or an incredibly bad diet, go see a nutritionist.
And I said the opposite of ‘’[we] spend too much energy on things we’d rather not spend’’ - if you’re already spending time on things you love to do like being with your family and you just want to do more in the limited time you have, either carve the time out of one of those things you love to focus on something else, or learn to accept there’s only so many hours in the day.
By the end of the experiment, I'd seen the majority of algorithms and data structures problem classes that I'd likely ever see in an actual interview. Just doing the daily practice was enough to keep my muscle memory sharp, and in an interview setting, being quick to bang out an algorithm almost always gives you good marks.
To test it out further, after I did my first interview (and felt I aced it), I did not do any daily practice for about 3 weeks between that and my next one. The difference was shocking. I was noticeably slower at answering very similar questions, and occasionally got stuck on things I knew I should know.
How much ever unfit one is, just showing up for a long period of time changes oneself. All one has to do drag oneself to the class, day in and day out, and then universe takes over..
I've been doing strength training once a week since the pandemic startet, and it has been great. Obviously I could have made much more progress with more frequent training, but I still look much better naked and more importantly, I feel much better. So many random aches and pains have just disappeared.
This works amazingly well with a home weightlifting gym. Even 15 minutes before a meeting on a busy day can be gold.
This is without much immersion (due to lockdown then traveling), and the instruction is online, and I've been a lazy bum about additional study.
It's made me pretty optimistic about learning new languages in general, and I'm 50 so the brain isn't exactly a sponge anymore. More like a sieve.
The best thing is that even if some weeks or even months I do not feel like studying at all, I can just continue with the Anki decks for 5-10 minutes a day to make sure I continue to retain what I had already learned. It has not become my bedtime routine/habit.
The Grand Canyon was created by little drops of water bouncing off rocks for millenia. Consistent effort over time is one of the greatest forces in the world. Persistence beats focus, inspiration, and genius 90% of the time.
There is an amazing book called The Slight Edge which is based on this very principal and it can really change your life. Here is a small excerpt from it that really resonated with me:
It sure would be nice if, somehow, you could do something dramatic. If you just wake up tomorrow and have it all turned around—snap your fingers and change it. That might happen, in a movie.
But this is your life. What can you do? What happens if you add one small, simple, positive action to the success side?
Nothing you can see. What happens if you add one more? Nothing you can see. What happens if you keep adding one more, and one more, and one more, and one more ...
Before too long, you see the scales shift, ever so slightly. And then again. And eventually, that heavy - failure side starts to lift, and lift, and lift ... and the scales start swinging your way.
No matter how much negative weight from the past is on the other side, just by adding those little grams of success, one at a time (and by not adding more weight to the failure side), you will eventually and inevitably begin to shift the scales in your favor.
The Slight Edge is about your awareness. It is about you making the right choices, the choices that serve you and empower you, starting right now and continuing for the rest of your life, and learning to make them effortlessly.
It's not a question of your mood or your feelings. And it's not a question of will power. It's a question of simply knowing.
Simple things you do every day, in fact. Or, as the case may be, don't do every day. Time will be your friend or your enemy; it will promote you or expose you. It's entirely up to you.
If you're doing the simple disciplines, time will promote you. If you're doing the few simple errors in judgment, time will expose you, no matter how well you appear to be doing right now.
A goal might be - lose weight! But a system might be - batch cook steamed veg with some healthy condiments, and eat that only during the day by having it always within reach.
By having a system for preparing easy, health food, you compound the effect instead of having a seemingly impossible intimidating goal that you keep putting off.
Other stuff that resonated with me were doing things that keep your personal energy as high as possible, stacking skills (be in the top 25 percentile at multiple things), and the idea that your brain is a moist computer that you can actually program in a desirable direction. The book really resonated with me.
And, after committing the sin of telling you that I’m a vegetarian in my first sentence, I hope it can be useful for someone :)
Gee. Steamed veges (potatoes, corn, broccoli, beans, carrots, brussel sprouts etc) with a lil vegan butter, salt, and herbs or minced garlic on top is one of my favourite things in the world.
I just hear some people saying “I don’t like vegetables” and often my question is “how have you had them?”
> Nothing you can see. What happens if you add one more? Nothing you can see
Having been on a journey to change the direction of my life for a few months now this perfectly sums up how I've been feeling about it.
I'm gonna give the book a read because I think it's what I need to hear right now. Thank you for making me aware of it.
Like smoking pot. I love smoking pot, but wow can it cascade errors in judgment (only realized upon looking back)
* I can't prioritize tasks properly (both within work and outside e.g. fitness)
* I become passive as a leader, which isn't good leadership
* I evaluate situations based on emotional resonance rather than factual data
There are more, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind. These led to bad decisions, poor productivity, and ultimately hurting my trust with the team.
Just being bored doing nothing on the time that you used to be smoking will drive you mad and use a huge amount of will power.
Doing something that you enjoy on that time, even better if it’s something that uses your hands (as opposed to Netflix) could not only help you get rid of the habit you doing, but also add something that quality to your life. To my mind comes woodworking, gardening, sports, RC Cars, model airplanes building… just something that you enjoy.
Also great chapter in The Psychology of Money about Warren Buffet. He's been investing since he was a child and is now in his 90s -- He's been compounding returns on a longer timeframe then anyone else alive.
That is selection bias at its worst: he really is an outlier. There are plenty of investors that beaver away every day and do not get his returns. I suspect you could pick one of his decades and only find a few people that exceed his ability.
There are very few investors who consistently manage to exceed average market returns. It doesn't negate the importance of consistently investing.
You say that like it's an accurate condemnation of Buffett's investment skill.
A 30% - or higher - average annual return like the old days means Berkshire would have to go from a $636 billion market cap to a $8.7 trillion market cap in one decade. Yeah right.
Berkshire no longer competes with the market. It is the market. The larger you get, the harder it is to keep high returns going; Berkshire got really, really large. In terms of value it's also overwhelmingly an operating holding company, not an investment portfolio. The investment side of the business is not what drives Berkshire's stock higher, and hasn't been the primary driver for decades, operating results are.
When I first got into home cooking a few years ago, the learning process was painfully slow. It must've taken several attempts spread across a week just to learn how to make basic scrambled eggs the "proper" way. Now after a few years of experience, every ingredient I learn to work with seemingly unlocks a dozen more dishes that I can easily assemble. The rate of learning accelerates evermore.
Software is very much the same. And the cool thing about software is that the domain of knowledge is effectively infinite. No one person can ever run out of things to know in this field. You can only learn more and get even better.
It was very important to me to be smart so that people looked positively at me, now that I'm getting older, I'm having a hard time letting that go as I know more and more about less and less.
* It gives you successful experiences early in the process. It can be really disheartening to spend hours making a mess of your kitchen and end up with something unpalatable. Following tried and true recipes gets you to that amazing feeling of "I created something delicious" as quickly as possible, and I think you need that to keep motivation up.
* There are definitely many systematic aspects to cooking. Things like the French mother sauces, the role of acid, Maillard reaction, etc. But also, a lot of cooking really is just "we put these ingredients together because we've always put them together". When you think of food you love, part of the reason you love it simply is history and cultural association. Rote learning of that lore is an important part of the process and recipes are good for that.
* Much of cooking is technique—literal physical and low-level skills. Knowing how much salt to add to meat based on how the salt feels in your fingers and eyeballing the size of the cut. Knowing whether your onions are a little smaller than usual so you need 1 1/2 of them instead of just 1. Developing good knife technique so you can cut veggies efficiently and safely, which makes all cooking easier. How quickly to stir a sauce to prevent it from burning. How much to mix a batter to get it smooth but not tough. Recipes give you a safe space while you learn all of those important fundamentals. We tech nerds tend to assume all knowledge is discrete and encodable in words and concepts, but so much of cooking is not that. The nonverbal intuitive techniques are a huge aspect.
* Humans are incredible generalizers. Trust that as you "blindly" follow a few recipes, your brain is hard at work spotting patterns and commonalities. Without even realizing it, before long, you'll start seeing connections. Once that happens you'll begin tweaking recipes, and then making bigger changes, and before too long you won't need them at all.
Don't feel that you need to reinvent the entire culinary arts from first principles. There's a reason that generations of cooks have used recipes and watching each other cook as the primary ways of passing down that knowledge.
If you start making enough dishes, you will start to see the similarities. You start realizing that making something like chicken marsala is just like cooking almost any other protein and making a "pan sauce"- First you brown the meat with some oil (causing Maillard reactions) in a pan, then take the protein out and brown some onions, and maybe soften some garlic, then throw some liquid in the pan, typically chicken stock and/or wine, to get all the brown bits stuck to the pan up and unlock that flavor (called deglazing), then throw in other things to make it flavorful, whether it be herbs, mushrooms, veggies, whatever, and then you let that reduce down to a much thicker consistency, and then thicken with a fat like butter or cream, or maybe even mustard or roux- butter and flour mixed together and cooked briefly (finishing).
This is the basic process for making a pan sauce, and you can start experimenting from there.
For more specific advice, after cooking a bit, you can read a book like How to Cook Everything by Mark Bitman or Ratio by Michael Ruhlman that goes over some of the fundamental ideas of cooking. One interesting thing I have learned as I have gotten more adventurous is that many ingredients are often thrown together because of climate, geography and history- Tomato and Basil are like peas and carrots because they thrive in the same climates and are naturally harvested at the same time. Thyme rosemary and tarragon are heavily used in French cooking because they grow like weeds there, particularly in the south. With our modern supermarkets, you can get a lot more creative. But that's for later and you have to prepare yourself for a lot of failure in that process :)
They have a couple of "Basic tips & tricks everyone should know" type videos and I definitely recommend those. It's stuff like, "pat down your chicken before cooking it or the water will make it steam instead of sear", "tenderize your meat so that it cooks evenly", "salt your veggies to reduce the water content, it will cook better and faster", "adding salt to boiling water doesn't just season it, it makes it boil faster too".
Lots of good stuff that you definitely won't get from recipes.
I suppose you mean to add salt after the water boils instead of at the start? Why would the water boil faster without salt with any significance to cooking?
I looked it up again and apparently
The temperature needed to boil will increase about 0.5 C for every 58 grams of dissolved salt per kilogram of water
How long does it take a regular stovetop to heat 4l of 100C water to 100.5C?
The good enough answer to that is that it's not noticeable for you even if you had wasted this much salt on your pasta or potatoes or rice or whatever. Never mind that nobody would/should eat this food any longer as you've just cooked your food in saltier than ocean salinity level water. With the proper amount of salt it would be even less noticeable of a difference. Less time than it takes you to get the salt and put it in.
Just to make it more clear, in case I wasn't, the 'common wisdom' as also perpetuated in the parent's statement is indeed about the faster boiling time. It's all over the internet too (and youtube).
The 'problem' with it is that it it is actually factually true. That water will definitely boil faster without salt added to it at the start. It can be calculated to the T if you know all the input parameters, like initial temperature, power output of your heating element, amount of water and salt. The fact remains that it's only by maybe milliseconds for common water and salt amounts used in cooking. So pedantically, whoever mentions it, is right, but it doesn't matter and is not how it's commonly referred to. It's more used to throw around your knowledge about cooking, giving 'tips' etc. I don't doubt that many of the other 'common wisdoms' of cookery are similarly unfounded if pedantically true. Not all of them probably.
The thing I most appreciate about Mike's work with Pro Home Cooks is that he shows what _doesn't_ work and what he would do different next time. I find that's the most important skill to hone when learning to cook.
He also does a ton of improvisation during his videos. Things like, "I was going to put broccoli in this but all I had was kale, but I still want a little more substance so maybe I'll make kale chips and roast some cashews too." Creativity in the kitchen is a huge part of the fun, and I haven't seen other cooking education sources that demonstrate it effectively.
I've not read Salt, Acid, Fire, Heat so I can't comment, but I assume it takes a similar approach.
Highly recommend anything Kenji does (previously he was the main force behind seriouseats.com) and also does a lot of first person point of view cooking videos on YouTube where he explains why he is doing things while he is doing them.
The Flavor Thesaurus does the same for ingredients -- you want to do something with figs, what dishes have figs in them, what complements them? The books cover the Western world, and Niki is the most witty writer among the dozens of culinary books I have.
Outside of that I like the "Perfect" columns by Felicity Cloak in the Guardian. Felicity takes a well-known dish and analyses all the differences in recipes, e.g. 6 cookbook authors have 6 different takes on coq au vin, what works best and how do they end up differently to each other? Like on Serious Eats, there's always well-spirited discussion.
ATK's best recipes and maybe some of Alton Brown's books (though I'm less enthusiastic than some are) are probably better than most at breaking down the steps and the reason for doing certain things.
1) The Professional Chef - This is the textbook used in culinary schools. It’s advanced but it starts out from first principles assuming no prior knowledge and just methodically walks through literally every concept one could ever encounter. Not for everyone but if you’re the type that likes to just RTFM this is it.
2) Cooked by Michael Pollan - This is basically the opposite of the textbook I recommended, it’s all high level and narrative and conceptual but as someone who was just starting to cook seriously I found it life changing, it did so much to contextualize what I was doing, so it wasn’t just procedural recipies. This helped me a lot in learning how to open up the fridge pick some ingredients and just know what to do next. Also it’s a breezy read.
It's a great book. Most of the recipes do need to be scaled for home purposes (eg. soup recipes are one US gallon, mains are "makes 10 servings").
One of the neat things about the book is that many of the techniques illustrated end with "evaluate the quality of the finished product," which serves as a reminder to check what was done and how it can be improved.
In the "How To Cook The Perfect"..., series, she tackles standards. She gathers the opinions and recipes of various authors and chefs, and tests them against a tasting panel. She then settles on her chosen recipe; but you get to decide whether you prefer to go with chef X or author Y, in respect of (e.g.) the capers.
I've learned a lot from Cloake. And her writing suits my cooking style - I don't like to be tied to a recipe past the first attempt.
1. Cook what you love
2. Continuously sample stuff before/after adding spices so you get a feel for what each spice does
3. Follow the recipe closely the first time. Make the same thing again several times and make small tweaks that you think will be better
After a while I gained a really good intuition for what worked and what didn't, how things would be affected by stuff, etc.
The other recommendation I could make would be to "Cooks Illustrated" magazine. It's a monthly magazine but they're the kind of thing you could keep around for years as a reference. Besides the usual recipes also lots of "how to" and they usually have a seasonal focus so you can learn to cook things in season.
I'd be surprised if these programmes can't be found on e.g. Youtube.
I strongly suspect there is a book or two in print with the same title.
Delia's recipes work. She's not a purist; she does shortcuts (but always from-scratch - no tinned Cambell's Soup).
If "How To Cook" is too basic for you, her website is full of well-explained recipes for all kinds of standards.
[Aside: One of the things that pisses me off about online recipes is the fifteen paragraphs of gush that seems to be required if you want to be a paid food "influencer"; Delia doesn't do that.]
Another person in this thread mentioned the Master Classes with Gordon Ramsey and Thomas Keller and I can concur that both of those are really great in teaching technique that is reusable across just about anything you cook.
Cooking is pretty easy once you get enough of it under your belt and are confident with different techniques. It's also quite liberating as many things go with each other and it isn't a mystery if something will work. You can begin to target "profiles" you want your food to take on.
Thomas Keller explaining his techniques is more than worth the entire price.
I recommend you check out Ethan Chlebowsk's channel in particular. His recipes are pretty damn tasty, while remaining approachable to the average joe.
Essentially, you learn one dish really well. To the point where I'd understand every action perfectly. Say it was a dish with chicken breast fried with some veggies, sauce, then tossed with pasta. They'd show you what the chicken should look like before you add the veggies, then how the veggies should be cooked before the sauce is added. Then the rest would be adding the sauce, pasta, and plating.
Once you had one dish down, you'd then learn the dishes which are permutations on that one dish. So chicken with peppers and onions in a garlic butter sauce, chicken with onions and mushrooms in a red wine sauce, chicken with tomatoes and peppers in a spicy sauce, etc. You get the picture. So every night for a week or so, whenever those four dishes would be called, I'd take them, that's all I did.
Most proteins pan fry about the same, the biggest difference will have to do with thickness and appropriate doneness determines how much heat you use. But for the most part, food is forgiving, especially when served with a sauce.
Veggies are tough. Cooking a veggie correctly is mostly in the prep and cutting, with moisture being the other big consideration (wet veggies macerate initially when fried). The good news is, you probably eat like five veggies regularly, so focus on learning how to cook your Big Five veggies first and you'll be good. You can use frozen steam veggies to supplement your diet while you learn.
Baking dishes is fairly straightforward. Generally small things require lots of heat and short cooking times, while large things like casseroles require lower heat for a long time.
Grilling is easy-ish. Commercial gas grills are hot up front, cool in the back. So you'll generally first oil the grates with an oil rag, then put a protein on the grill for 4 minutes, after which you turn it 90 degrees for another 4 min. This will produce grill marks you get in nice restaurants. Then flip it over and move it to the cool side of the grill until it temps out. Very large proteins (like pork tenderloins or thick cut chops) will be finished in a hot oven or covered with a cloche to get to temp without burning.
Pastries, breads, cakes, etc are their own specialized domain. If line cooks were JS devs, pastry chefs would be doing C++. My advice is to buy Duncan Hines and focus on decorating.
Learning to cook is not that different than learning most other skills. Start with simple things to develop fundamentals, then slowly add more fundamentals to your repertoire.
It is 100% okay to follow recipes. In fact, i highly recommend it because most recipes will use fundamentals. America's Test Kitchen is great. As is Serious Eats (the website), especially for foreign/fusion cuisine. I do a lot of cooking out of the Better Homes and Gardening cookbook as well, especially backed goods. If you're an American mid-westerner whose mom/grandma was a great cook, there's a good chance she was making dishes from that cookbook.
Edit: oh yeah, buy a probe thermometer! Seriously, it's the best cooking investment you'll make. 90% of the compliments I get on my cooking are because I'm cooking meat to the appropriate temperature.
The recipes are designed and written so that they are hard to screw up.
It was a least effort path that worked for him: no videos or books (so a different option than the majority of answers so far!). Mostly I believe it is just the desire to cook - even if just making one _favourite_ dish. Good luck!
Most of those don't really describe me, especially pre-pandemic, and the one time I tried Blue Apron it just didn't work for me. About half of three recipes were OK. Another one was incredibly fussy for a burger.
I know there are a million services out there and some probably better align with my preferences though they're all pricy.
A much more accessible source is Harold McGee who wrote "On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen". McGee reviews the science but also some history. He also reviews some of the cooking tips your mom gave you and why they work or don't work.
He's good for sous vide. You don't need much to do it at home (just an instant pot) and he's basically just telling you how to program it and leave it sitting for two hours. Not hard.
Most other cooking is imprecise and you have to learn to read the spirit and not the text of the recipe, or something. (Not baking though. You have to actually get that right.)
For beginners I'd instead recommend his book Keys to Good Cooking. It takes all the information in On Food and Cooking and distills it down to the practical lessons a cook will need to improve their cooking.
Things like don’t put things into cold oil/pan, don’t over mix dough, here is basics for gravy etc
What I started doing was rewriting my projects over and over trying to chase down the core first principles. I would take my previous iteration - MyProject12 - and create a fresh one - MyProject13. The idea would be to use the prior copy as a reference point for the new one, and to only use it for the little nuggets of value I think I still want to carry forward. I have VS solutions with every iteration of that project in it so I can quickly do a sln-wide search for something I discovered previously.
I repeated this process about 40-50 times for an application framework. Fast forward 3-4 years and we are now talking about setting up a license agreement between myself and my employer for purposes of using this IP in next generation products. It is incredibly nice to have permissive employment contracts so that I can freely explore my interests without fear of reproach. Seems this has very powerful win-win mechanics.
It may sound strange that this is what someone would do in their free time after work, but I actually do derive pleasure from indulging the fantasy of being allowed to rewrite code piles. If I were to take this tendency into my professional work, everyone would have quit by now. It seems to be a good outlet for me.
I don't know if the current project will turn into anything useful to others or not. But it feels satisfying to look at the list of little "done" cards and see how each of them has contributed to something tangible, while both the product and my skills are improving with each deployment.
When I'm ready for the next project, this year of work is reusable to launch something new super quickly. And the infra cost is close to zero while I work on it thanks to static site hosting and serverless tech. If it ever gets enough traffic to bill me I'll be happy to pay it because that will validate something useful is there.
My next step is to make it "good enough" to share it in the wild. That part is still scary. I'm almost there though.
The long stretch in the middle was when I had to figure out how to deal with the main character dying half-way through, due to the logic of the story. That took a fair bit of revising previously written prose and setting things up for a sequel character, as it were (the main "protagonist" of what was intended as a series was an organisation, not an individual; as it turns out, there's a reason that is not a common format).
But having a change of protagonists in "continuous time" actually was not easy to pull off, and I am not sufficiently happy with the result to consider it worth distributing wildly.
Nonetheless, actually keeping at something means it's surprisingly easy to amass results over time.
Having the wisdom and patience to see something through to the completion is difficult.
Most folks seem to think it's fake. I have learned not to give a damn.
Some of the days with the fewest commits are actually the ones where I worked hardest.
I can imagine committing code nearly every day, but what with the occasional travel day, sickness, etc, there would always be some holes, unless keeping it green and making at least one commit was explicitly important to me.
It's not about keeping the activity graph green; it's about constantly coding, so it is as natural as breathing.
Best if you turn off Dark Mode on GH to see the empties. They look like faint greenies in Dark Mode.
1.01^365 = 37.7834343328
A person doing a drunken Saturday 18 isn't going to improve. A person going to the range and focusing on technique 20 minutes a day will improve, with far less net time spent.
I think of it in terms of the "10,000 hours to mastery" - how many masters of driving do you see on the road? Most people are just barely not crashing from place to place, not focusing on skill.
And in geological time, an every-10,000-year event may as well be like every day to us.
Valuable work, like many things in the real world, is not normally distributed, but skewed or following alternate distributions, such as power-law. This is likely what occurs within "torrents" of work: work that is has significantly more leverage than other work.
Nonetheless, the implicit bedrock of the just-showing-up heuristic is that the valuable work cannot get done without the consistency of simply showing up; indeed, expert performance is often a function of deliberate practice plus persistence (time); one without the other rarely nets positive results.
Example from in our great-grandparents lifetimes. There's a cool place called the Bridge to Nowhere in Southern California => https://goo.gl/maps/XMerBpT3J2caLJ696 / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_to_Nowhere_(San_Gabriel.... The bridge was built as part of a massive project to build roads through the San Gabriel Mountains in the mid 1930s. Only a couple years after the bridge was completed, there was a massive rainstorm washed away most of the newly built roads. The bridge stand about 120 feet, roughly 36 meters, above the river below. I was talking to a park ranger who said there were reports that the flooding nearly reached the bridge. While this bridge stands over a river that's been slowly eroding the valley below for (millions of?) years, every now and then Mother Nature says "I'm bored, let's hit the biblical flood button and see what happens!" What kind of boulders could a violent rush of 20m-30m+ flooding move? Big ones I'm sure! Who the heck knows what kind of freakish rain storms or natural damn bursts have happened in the time that the Grand Canyon has been forming!
For anyone in the SoCal area, the Bridge to Nowhere is a fun day hike. It's about 5 miles (8km) one way from the trailhead. It's a very cool hike. If you're going in summer time, bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and some head protection. It gets toasty in that canyon.
As a metaphor it is reasonable as ‘tiny drops’ is not a scientific unit. And a boulder is any non-monolith greater than 256mm…seventy feet is not particularly large in a scientific sense just in an ordinary tourist talk one.
Unless of course they were trying to defend an incorrect comment on HN.
E.g.: Did you hear about the tiny drops of water that washed away that small coastal town?
Both of the books I wrote, one of which includes two complete implementations of a programming language, were mostly written in sessions of less than an hour. Occassionally I get longer ones and very often they are much shorter.
Learning to task switch and suspend efficiently is also a really valuable skill that improves with practice. I have kids, so if I couldn't make progress while being interrupted, I'd never be able to do anything.
And I wonder how you do it. How are you able to suspend and resume work on a complex project like this? How are you able to stop thinking about it when scheduled time is up, and then pick it up the next day, without paying a huge time cost of loading yesterday's state back into your head?
Could you elaborate on this? I'm asking seriously - I myself wish I could do that. The way I work today, in irregular but long bursts of high focus, is somewhat effective, but doesn't lend itself to having a balance in life (work-life balance, but also "personal interests - life balance").
There is an apocryphal story of what Newton said when he was asked, "How did you come up with the theory of gravity?" replying: "By thinking about it all the time."
So you cannot really do a torrent of work on grand canyon scale.
but the fact that her code comments were all about how she was feeling at the time, and were completely unhelpful with discerning what the code meant/does...
Of course, it's nice when the pedants are self-aware, as is the case here, and acknowledge the pedantry of their tangent.
Normalize polite pedantry!
Like, compounding is magic, except realistically, one or more of the following typically happens:
- Interest rate is so small that it doesn't add up to a meaningful difference over your lifetime. See e.g. most people and regular savings accounts.
- You aren't able to keep systematically saving / learning / etching a canyon for long enough for the compounding to matter.
- There's a natural decay process that is stronger than compounding.
Whether it's digging a canyon, learning new skills, or amassing wealth, it seems that concentrated but unfrequent actions are much more effective than a steady but weak trickle.
I mean, accomplish a lot, politely, eh hem.
Excessive steady and consistent work has rendered me delirious, clearly. I’ll see myself out.
But I don't think that's quite what was going on here.
munificent was using a metaphor in service of his plea, his encouragement, his advice that you really ought to consider making regular efforts at what you care about. To me, that feels a lot less technical and a lot more human than an argument does.
The difference between metaphors and examples might be that the important part of a metaphor is how it functions in context, how it adds to the metaphrand, and the important part of an example is how it functions out of context.
To give an example of metaphor: many Native American tribes besides the Lemhi Shoshone have stories that claim Sacagawea as one of their own. The stories—themselves metaphors for tribal values—are, of course, wrong, but they serve an important instructional purpose, nonetheless, transmitting values and custom in a narrative that inspires. In that case, it seems less important that the children of these tribes are hearing something factually incorrect, and more important that they are inspired by and identify with the story.
To give an example of example: if you're making an argument in court, you have to reference examples of past rulings that support your position. The strength of your argument depends completely on the validity of your examples, as they occurred outside the current context.
If you think I'm full of hot air, you're right, but anyway here is a list of famous authors explaining how fiction is truer than the truth itself: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/01/27/famous-authors-on-t...
Thanks for coming to my TEDxHN talk.
1) Julian Jaynes, in the beginning of "The Origins of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", does a lovely segment on how we only learn via metaphor, and in which he develops the terms metaphier (commonly, the metaphor itself) and metaphrand (the thing being described by the metaphor).
I'm probably misunderstanding but if you mean you want to collapse comment threads, click the [-] next to the timestamp of a comment.
Everyday mistakes that people make every day.