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Interesting – “Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture”

This is pretty amazing stuff. More here.

“When you have a working knowledge of economics, it’s like having a mild super power”

Scott Adams applies economic thinking to everday life at this post.

The Dilbert Guide to Personal Finance

Via FireVault:

According to Adams, everything you need to know about financial planning boils down to these eight principles:

– Make a will.
– Pay off your credit cards.
– Get term life insurance if you have a family to support.
– Fund your 401(k) to the maximum.
– Fund your IRA to the maximum.
– Buy a house if you want to live in a house and you can afford it.
– Put six months’ expenses in a money market fund.
– Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker, and never touch it until retirement.[Original Source Vanguard]

It is pretty good…nice and simple. The Asset mix should 50/50. 70/30 add more risk (variability) with little additional return.

Hmmm…I am overdue in re-balancing my retirement assets.

Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas

A buddy sent me this link entitled Why smart people defend bad ideas from scottberkun.com. It has some gems like:

We all know someone who’s intelligent, but who occasionally defends obviously bad ideas. Why does this happen? How can smart people take up positions that defy any reasonable logic? Having spent many years working with smart people I’ve catalogued many of the ways this happens, and I have advice on what to do about it. I feel qualified to write this essay as I’m a recovering smart person myself and I’ve defended several very bad ideas.


The problem with smart people is that they like to be right and
sometimes will defend ideas to the death rather than admit they’re
wrong. This is bad. Worse, if they got away with it when they were
young (say, because they were smarter than their parents, their
friends, and their parent’s friends) they’ve probably built an ego
around being right, and will therefore defend their perfect record of
invented righteousness to the death.


If you want your smart people to be as smart as possible, seek a
diversity of ideas. Find people with different experiences, opinions,
backgrounds, weights, heights, races, facial hair styles, colors,
past-times, favorite items of clothing, philosophies, and beliefs.
Unify them around the results you want, not the means or approaches
they are expected to use. It’s the only way to guarantee that the best
ideas from your smartest people will be received openly by the people
around them. On your own, avoid homogenous books, films, music, food,
sex, media and people.


The primary point is that no amount of intelligence can help an
individual who is diligently working at the wrong level of the problem.
Someone with wisdom has to tap them on the shoulder and say, “Um, hey.
The hole you’re digging is very nice, and it is the right size. But
you’re in the wrong yard.”


But the reason I mention all this is because I learned a great bit of
philosophy from many hours of playing pool in the college student
center. The lesson is this: “Speed kills”. I was never very good at
pool, but this one guy there was, and whenever we’d play, he’d watch me
miss easy shots because I tried to force them in with authority. I
chose speed and power over control, and I usually lost. So like pool,
when it comes to defusing smart people who are defending bad ideas, you
have to find ways to slow things down.The reason for this is simple. Smart people, or at least those whose
brains have good first gears, use their speed in thought to overpower
others. They’ll jump between assumptions quickly, throwing out jargon,
bits of logic, or rules of thumb at a rate of fire fast enough to cause
most people to become rattled, and give in. When that doesn’t work, the
arrogant or the pompous will throw in some belittlement and use
whatever snide or manipulative tactics they have at their disposal to
further discourage you from dissecting their ideas.

5-sentence email?

43 Folders has a short post Guy Kawasaki & the art of the 5-sentence email.

I have many times had problems when writing very short emails. Since most human communication is non-verbal, often my short email has been interpreted by co-workers as being curt or standoff-ish or mean or evil (yes, evil).

Mostly, I have been trying to make short phone calls instead of short emails, or following up a short email with a phone call to avoid those problems.

I used to complain that the real problem was my co-workers were stupid, or drama queens or hyper-sensitive dinks or just should be fired an replaced with robots, but strangely that attitude wasn’t useful.

You have to accept the world as it is sometimes and deal with others as they are, not as you want them to be.

Even if they are dinks.

At least until robots get better.

Better Email Usage? Maybe: TamingEmail.com

PurpleSlog commentator kusswords hip’d me to a resource on making better use of email: http://www.tamingemail.com

Here is a Table of Contents of sorts.

I have just started going through it – I have yet to adopt any of their ideas.

Feel free to share any suggestions, links, or comments for making better use of email.

Shredding for Better Personal Information Security

The David M. Piscitello Blog has a post on Shredding:

Before you toss these items in the recycling, consider shredding them:

  • Credit card, loan, bank statements and any correspondence on which a complete account number is printed.
  • Insurance, medical plan, and any other correspondence on which a complete social security number, claim number, or record of service is printed.
  • Pay stubs, Social Security, retirement and other “benefits” statements.
  • Credit card offers.
  • “Debt consolidation” and Cash Advance checks financial companies send you (I call these “debt expansion” checks).
  • Utility bills.
  • Correspondence that contains your full mailing address and phone number.
  • Any paper on which you or a creditor has written credit card and ATM PINs.
  • Pages or covers of mail order catalogs that contain your address and customer number.
  • Children’s school work.
  • Truly personal correspondence – love letters, cards, you no longer care or dare to keep.
  • Photographs (see “truly personal” above).

Read all of the good advice (I edited it down a bit).

I do shred…somewhat. I am a lazy shredder though – sometimes too lazy to shred.

Why I Like Affirmative References to Chomsky In Other People’s Posts…

is a strong signal to me that I need not read farther looking for useful information or analysis.

Flow and Hikaru Dorodango

Via REDDITDorodango.com says:

Hikaru dorodango are balls of mud, molded by hand into perfect spheres, dried, and polished to an unbelievable luster. The process is simple, but the result makes it seem like alchemy.

As I’ve experimented with dorodango over the past few years, I’m struck by how these objects, created from such humble material, are nearly the perfect expression of process refinement. Over time, I’ve added my own changes to the technique; you can find these in the create section. The gallery section displays dorodango that I’ve created from different soils found in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This is an example of the concept of Flow. Think of the cribsheet definition as: its the journey that actually matters, not so much the destination.

Lazy Computer System Administrators Rocks

From Approach.Botonomy.Com (ht REDDIT), an article of the philosophy of successful computer systems administrators:

This is also a case of something being good for the team and good for the individual at the same time. For the team, process automation yields greater consistency and predictability. For the individual team member, automated builds, scripted deployments, and the like often mean the difference between going home and watching The Simpsons with dinner at 7PM, or going home and watching it Tivo’ed with your re-heated dinner at 9PM.

Good SysAdmins automate everything. There is nothing fun about repeating mundane tasks every day or week, nor is it fun “fixing” the same thing over and over again.

The Lazy SysAdmin wants to minimize wasted activity – things that add no value, and take time from activities that add value.

Working new projects adds value.

Learning new things and honing existing skills adds value.

Making problems go away for you boss or your organization adds value.

The Lazy SysAdmin is really a Lean Sys Admin.

Sounds Like Personal OODA Loop Tuning

Dr Sanity Writes:

Occasionally, I find no corroborating evidence in their behavior for such feelings, and in those cases I simply file the emotional data away and make a conscious decision not to act on it for the time being. Sometimes I find negative evidence that contradicts my primal emotional response. Both situations are cues to me that I must try to figure out what it was that triggered my emotion, and the first step is to look within myself for an explanation. Does the patient remind me of someone I have ambivalent feelings about? Am I upset at something going on in my life? Am I having a bad day? Because it is important to realize that gut feelings can be communicating false data about others, but correct data about one’s self.

Sounds like OODA loop tuning or intraspection to me.

Continue reading

Elevator/Lift Hacking Reference

Hacking Elevators:

“The designers of some elevators include a hidden feature that is very handy if you’re in a hurry or it’s a busy time in the building (like check-out time in a hotel). While some elevators require a key, others can be put into “Express” mode by pressing the “Door Close” and “Floor” buttons at
the same time. This sweeps the car to the floor of your choice and avoids stops at any other floor.

This might be old, but it is new to me.

Amtrak Traveling

Ted Tang is taking an Amtrak traing to Las Vegas for a trade show. He is planning on…

…bring both my NAVMAN GPS and my Delorme, because it would be nice to just whip something out and see where you are and the Delorme is so small anyways. I loaded all the maps onto the SD card that the train is covering, plus some games so I do not have to bring the Palm.

I love taking the Amtrak long distances, it sure beat flying. It does take longer though. I do suggest that Ted brings along some other things:

  • iPod or other MP3 player of choice with small collapsible headphones (I hate ear buds)
  • 3for1 electric plug extender
  • good earplugs (in case it gets loud and you want quiet)
  • good/Comfy eye shades (aids in slipping)comfy
  • clothes that you can sleep in (take off your shoes at night)
  • bring some snacks or breakfast bars
  • I like to bring a big bottle of water with me
  • 2 or 3 used fiction paperback books (leave them wherever you are, whenever you finish with one or give up on it)
  • handy wipes
  • tooth brush and tooth paste

[From FLickr: Originally uploaded by †NS3013†]

Sudoku Template [Updated]

Update 11/22/2007: Go here to get the blank grid as a PDF.

Sudoku Template

Use the full-size view through Flick to get a larger grid.

I originally made this in MS word, and usually print it out when I need a blank puzzle sheet.

Send me an email if you want a copy as a PDF.

Occam’s Razor

Noted: Occam's Razor explained.

Crunch Mode

Via REDDIT: Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work: 6 Lessons.
Here is the Executive Summary:

When used long-term, Crunch Mode slows development and creates more bugs when compared with 40-hour weeks.

More than a century of studies show that long-term useful worker output is maximized near a five-day, 40-hour workweek. Productivity drops immediately upon starting overtime and continues to drop until, at approximately eight 60-hour weeks, the total work done is the same as what would have been done in eight 40-hour weeks.

In the short term, working over 21 hours continuously is equivalent to being legally drunk. Longer periods of continuous work drastically reduce cognitive function and increase the chance of catastrophic error. In both the short- and long-term, reducing sleep hours as little as one hour nightly can result in a severe decrease in cognitive ability, sometimes without workers perceiving the decrease.

This excellent article goes into interesting detail.

Here are the 6 lessons:

  • Lesson One, then, is this: Productivity varies over the course of the workday, with the greatest productivity occurring in the first four to six hours. After enough hours, productivity approaches zero; eventually it becomes negative.
  • Lesson Two, then is this: Productivity is hard to quantify for knowledge workers
  • Lesson Three is this: five-day weeks of eight-hour days maximize long-term output in every industry that has been studied over the past century.
  • Lesson Four is this: At 60 hours per week, the loss of productivity caused by working longer hours overwhelms the extra hours worked within a couple of months.
  • Lesson Five is this: Continuous work reduces cognitive function 25% for every 24 hours. Multiple consecutive overnighters have a severe cumulative effect.
  • Lesson Six is this: Error rates climb with hours worked and especially with loss of sleep . Eventually the odds catch up with you, and catastrophe occurs. When schedules are tight and budgets are big, is this a risk you can really afford to take?

I must confess I have gone against these lessons on a regular basis (through my own initiative or under direction/suggestion of management).

The takeaways for me here as a knowledge worker who always tries to maximize his own individual productivity, is greater awareness of negative time effects upon my efforts.

I recomend this article to all