Posts Tagged ‘Personal’
I find that habits are best made and broken in sets. If I want to form a new habit, I’ll try to get rid of an old one at the same time. I don’t know why this works, but it seems to. Perhaps I only have room in my head for a certain number of habits, so if I want a new one, then an old one has to go. I’m sure some combinations are better than others.
I’m currently working on changing some habits, including:
- Start exercising, swimming three times per week
- Stop drinking alcohol entirely
- Start a consistent flossing routine
I’m thinking of adding a reading habit to the set, but it’s going well so far and I don’t want to overdo it. I feel good, and am forming a new routine.
The flossing is definitely the hardest of the three. I hate pretty much everything about flossing. It also unbalances the set, so that I have a net gain of one habit. Maybe that’s the real reason, and if I broke another habit, it would get easier.
Does anyone else have this experience? What sort of tricks do you employ to help you change your behavior?
Having invested in some introspection into my reading habits, I made up my mind to dial down my consumption of bite-sized nuggets of online information, and finish a few books. That’s where my bottleneck has been for the past year or so. Not in selecting books, not in acquiring books, and not in starting books either. I identify promising books, I buy them, I start reading them, and at some point, I put them down and never pick them back up again.
Until now. Over the weekend, I finished two books. I started reading both in 2009, and they each required my sustained attention for a period measured in hours in order to finish them.
Taking a tip from Dustin, I decided to try alternating between fiction and non-fiction.
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
This was the first book I had read by Tom Robbins, and I am in no hurry to read any more. It certainly wasn’t without merit: its themes were clever and artfully interwoven, and the prose elicited a silent chuckle now and again. It was mainly the characters which failed to earn my devotion. They spoke and behaved in ways I found awkward at best, and problematic at worst. Race, gender, sexuality and culture each endured some abuse on the wrong end of a pervasive white male heteronormative American gaze.
I really wanted to like Priscilla, who showed early promise as a smart, self-reliant individual, whose haplessness was balanced by a strong will and sense of adventure. Unfortunately, by the later chapters, she was revealed as yet another vacant vessel yearning to be filled by a man. She’s even the steward of a symbolic, nearly empty perfume bottle throughout the book. Yes, really.
Managing Humans by Michael Lopp
Of the books I’ve read on management, this one is perhaps the most outrageously reductionist. Many management books are like this, to a degree. They take the impossibly complex problem domain of getting people to work together, break it down into manageable problems with tidy labels, and prescribe methods for solving them (which are hopefully appropriate for at least some of the reader’s circumstances).
Managing Humans takes this approach to a new level, drawing neat boxes around such gestalts as companies, roles, teams and people, and assigning them Proper Nouns. Many of these bear a similarity to concepts which have been defined, used and tested elsewhere, such as psychological types, but the text makes no effort to link them to his own. Despite being a self-described collection of “tales”, it’s structured like a textbook, ostensibly imparting nuggets of managerial wisdom acquired through lessons learned in the Real World (so pay attention!). However, as far as I can tell, the author’s experience is limited to a string of companies of a very specific type: Silicon Valley software startups in the “dot com” era.
Lopp (also known as Rands) does have substantial insight into this problem domain, though, and does an entertaining job of illustrating the patterns which have worked for him. If you can disregard the oracular tone, grit your teeth through the gender stereotyping, and add an implicit preface that this is (sometimes highly) context-sensitive advice, this book can be appreciated for what it actually is: a coherent, witty and thorough exposition of how one particular manager does their job.
I got some good ideas out of this book, and would recommend it to someone working in certain circumstances, but as with Robbins, I’m not planning to track down further work by the same author.
Starting about a year ago, I started following the release of videos from TED events. If one looked interesting, I would download the video to watch later. In this way, I accumulated a substantial collection of talks which I never managed to watch.
I spent a Saturday evening working my way through the list. These are my favorites out of this batch.
- Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory — exploring the subtle and evasive nature of happiness, how we can study it, and the surprising way in which it manifests in our lives
- Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success — a critical look at how we evaluate ourselves and others, and how this shapes our social constructs
- Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity — an insightful questioning of commonly held and accepted ideas about the creative process, and how they could be changed for the better
- David Logan on tribal leadership — a taxonomy of tribal groups in modern society, and how leaders influence them
- Eric Dishman: Take health care off the mainframe — a radical perspective on health care, and how technology can help to transform it into a more decentralized and personal system
- Erin McKean redefines the dictionary — a humorous and accurate look at lexicography: where it came from, where it is and where it needs to go
- Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in action — deriving design inspiration from natural systems
- Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight — a riveting first-person account of a stroke from a brain scientist: funny, bizarre, transcendent and awesome
- Margaret Wertheim on the beautiful math of coral — coral reefs, non-euclidean geometry, general relativity and more unfold from a global community art project
- Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds — a look at different types of mental capacities within the autism spectrum, how they create our perception of the world, and how they can be nurtured in young people
List-keeping is generally regarded as boring administrative work, something only important to compulsive organizers. When a writer wants to portray a character as meticulous and dull, they need only brand them as a list-maker, with eyes bespectacled from years of squinting over their lists.
The reality of list-keeping is much more exciting: reminder lists are a mechanism for cognitive time travel. They allow us to transport information from the time when it occurs to us, to a time in the future when it will actually be useful. Like a wormhole, they connect distant points in spacetime (though unfortunately only in one direction, as in the Stargate universe).
Throughout my day, I will remember things I need to do, though not right away: an article which looks interesting, or someone I need to remember to call. Putting these items on a list frees my mind to keep going with whatever I’m doing, knowing that the idea is not lost. A common scenario for me is that I’m riding the tube, reading RSS feeds offline on my Android phone using NewsRob, and come across something I want to explore further. There is as yet no wireless service on the tube, so I can’t do anything but read, but I can send myself an email using K-9 which will be delivered later. At the other end of the wormhole, when I’m back online, I receive the email (usually at my computer) and pick up where I left off.
Traveling through time in your head may not be as exciting as flitting about in a TARDIS, but it is much more accessible, and genuinely rewarding.
I run the CyanogenMod derivative of Android on my G1, and somehow managed to get it into a state where it had withdrawn the security permissions from my installed applications. I think this happened when I attempted to upgrade the 1GB microSD to a 4GB one, but the phone failed to boot.
I first noticed the problem when trying to refresh in NewsRob would hang the application, and adb logcat showed:
W/dalvikvm( 540): threadid=3: thread exiting with uncaught exception (group=0x4001e170)
E/NewsRob ( 540): Caught the following exception:
E/NewsRob ( 540): java.lang.SecurityException: Neither user 10039 nor current process has android.permission.WAKE_LOCK.
NewsRob clearly had had this permission before, to prevent the phone from sleeping during a sync. The Manage Applications screen still showed that it did (“System tools: prevent phone from sleeping”). Watching adb logcat while the phone was booting showed what was going on, and that many other applications had the same problem:
W/PackageManager( 138): Not granting permission android.permission.INTERNET to package com.newsrob because it was previously installed without
W/PackageManager( 138): Not granting permission android.permission.WAKE_LOCK to package com.newsrob because it was previously installed without
W/PackageManager( 138): Not granting permission android.permission.ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE to package com.newsrob because it was previously installed without
W/PackageManager( 138): Not granting permission android.permission.VIBRATE to package com.newsrob because it was previously installed without
W/PackageManager( 138): Not granting permission android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE to package com.newsrob because it was previously installed without
/data/system/packages.xml, which seems to record which applications are installed and which permissions they have, showed:
<package name="com.newsrob" codePath="/data/app/com.newsrob.apk" system="false" ts="1264200476000" version="353" userId="10039" installer="com.google.android.feedback">
<cert index="25" key="..." />
i.e. the permissions block was empty. It should have looked more like this:
<item name="android.permission.VIBRATE" />
<item name="android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE" />
<item name="android.permission.ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE" />
<item name="android.permission.WAKE_LOCK" />
<item name="android.permission.INTERNET" />
I tried manually hacking it, and also moving and replacing the .apk file on the phone, but packages.xml always returned to this state. Maybe it’s not the master copy of that data.
What finally fixed it for me was to re-install the applications using the package manager, by running:
for app in *.apk; do pm install -r $app; done
I hadn’t known about the pm command until then, and discovered it by accident when invoking an adb command told me about it. The phone chugged along for quite a while, but eventually re-installed all of the applications, and the problem was fixed.
Web searches showed that I was not the only person to find themselves in this predicament, and did not reveal an obvious solution, so I’m documenting mine here.
As I have most recently observed on my recent flights to New Zealand for linux.conf.au, it seems that many of my fellow travelers are unaware of this simple rule:
When standing up from your seat, do not use the back of the seat in front of you as a handhold unless this is a physical necessity for you. This is very disturbing to the person sitting there, who may be trying to sleep. Instead, bring your own seat forward and use the armrests.
Yes, I’m talking to you, 61J.
That is all.
As I left the office yesterday, I passed a billboard at a bus stop near the Canonical office. In large, capital letters, it read “Career women make bad mothers”. It invites readers to “have their say” on a website called “Britainthinks!”, which I won’t dignify with a link. I say it stinks. Who on earth thought this would be acceptable?
Apparently, more than a few people took notice, as The Guardian reports that the ad will be withdrawn. According to the article, a representative from the agency responsible offered a non-apology, saying that “they were intended to spark a debate, and did not represent the opinion of the agency or the campaign organisers.” Whose opinion was it, then, and how did it end up all over London? (I saw a larger format version of the same billboard in a different location today) What must the meeting have been like where this originated? “Well, we thought about debating whether rich white men are poisoning the Earth, but decided it was better to go after working mothers instead. Sound good?”
This reminds me a bit of the BBC’s recent screwup, where they attempted to “spark debate” about whether gay people should be executed(!?), and then defended their actions as intentionally polarizing. The common pattern is disregard for the rights of a class of people, followed by blind excuses and justification. It’s no coincidence that the target groups are routinely subject to harassment by more privileged folk.