Wearing dice on my head since 2008 Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart. Randomly amazed.

Self Improvement

Easily Distracted

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Via a blog post by Dave Martin, I read about Steven Pressfield’s quotes on “The Resistance” that keeps us from doing our work: The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows that we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got. (Side note: I’ve put his books on an Amazon wishlist.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

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The aforementioned quote is attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve been thinking about this lately as I try to plan for what’s ahead and what I want. I think one has to be able to decide what one wants independently of what other people are doing. As a concrete example, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “Oh, this other person in my field did X and now they are making so much money, should I take that path as well?

Expanding Horizons

| Categories: Self-Improvement | Tags: reading

Aside from my hobbyist readings (keeping up with gaming and comics news, etc), my usual reading diet used to consist of current events and tech news, primarily through apps like Flipboard and Feedly, secondarily through social media like Reddit and Twitter. Recently though I’ve started following more sources and blogs that are focused on more… “cultural” affairs. When I started doing #sketchdaily a couple of years ago, I started following more artists.

The Price for Being the Best

| Categories: Self-Improvement | Tags: quotes

“The price for being the best is always… having to be the best.” Terry Pratchet, Lords and Ladies This is one of my favorite quotes. For context: in the story, one of the characters has a special talent that he can shoe anything anyone gives him (like when you put horseshoes on a horse). And Granny Weatherwax tells him that the price he pays for that talent is that when someone brings him something to shoe, no matter how wild or ridiculous the request, he has to do it.

The Work is Never Done

| Categories: Self-Improvement | Tags: burnout

I remember a conversation I often had with a friend, the first team lead I ever worked with. Many times she would be putting in extra hours for days at a time and I would say to her “Put that off until tomorrow, it’s time to go home.” and she would reply along the lines of “But I still have so much work to do.” and my usual rejoinder would be “Are you expecting to finish all of that work tonight?

When making difficult or life-changing decisions, there are two levels of decision making we go through. One level is the rational, conscious mind. The mind is the part that considers all the options, weighs the pros and cons, and compares the metrics against your personal goals. The second level is subconscious and instinctive, sometimes called the human heart (not to be confused with the organ that pumps blood). The heart makes decisions using instincts and biases honed from your own life experiences and baser needs such as fear, anger, or self-preservation.

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, you need 10,000 hours of continuous sustained practice to become an expert. There are 168 hours in a week. If you never sleep and you eat as you practice, you can become an expert in 60 weeks. (Around 14 months) If you sleep 8 hours a day, you only have 112 hours in a week. If you eat as you practice, you can become an expert in 90 weeks.

Let Go or Be Dragged

| Categories: Just Another Day Self-Improvement | Tags:

"Let go or be dragged" Zen proverb A few days back I read something on a Hacker News thread that kind of resonated with me: I’m not going to claim to be the most workaholic person ever – I’ve certainly known a lot of people who work far harder than me. But I do recognize that I have this problem of emotional attachment to a project, especially if I’m the main person responsible for it.

This book was on sale on Amazon Kindle a while back, I figured I’d give it a whirl. Some years ago I had read one of the author’s previous books, The Four Hour Workweek, and I wasn’t too impressed. It was interesting at least, but a lot of the advice seemed either difficult to apply to my personal situation or involved doing stuff I wasn’t really interested in (i.e. sales and marketing and whatnot).

[][1](Image credit: r/ProgrammerHumor) I’ve been meaning to add SSL to this blog ever since I first heard of Let’s Encrypt last year. Unfortunately, support on my otherwise awesome webhost was not yet first-class and seemed complicated at the time, so I kept putting it off. But recently I was testing something unrelated and found out that I needed to have SSL on my server in order for OAuth2 to work, so I grudgingly got to it.

I decided to try learning some 3d modeling. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been following this beginner Blender tutorial where I had to make donuts. (Link to the tutorial series on Youtube.) Here’s my output!(click for full size) This image took around 40 minutes to render. I had to do 2000 samples per tile which is why it was so slow. I was getting too much noise/graininess at lower sampling rates.

I’m not super big on New Year’s Resolutions anymore. (I seldom even do the 1920×1440 joke these days.) I mean, I’m all about productivity and improvement and changing for the better, but I’ve found that very specific resolutions don’t often work for me. Mostly because I have very little focus (obviously something that an be improved). New Year's resolutions: Read, write, watch, play, create, destroy, win, learn, improve, chill, move forward

Compartmentalization

| Categories: Just Another Day Self-Improvement | Tags:

I had been looking into a software performance problem for a few hours now and had decided to call it quits for the day. I turned off the lights and climbed into bed, hoping to get to sleep early for a change. I hadn't been in bed five minutes when I thought about something I hadn't tried yet. I picked up the tablet that was beside my bed and did a few google searches and soon I was back on my desktop trying out some parameters I hadn't tried yet.

New Year's Checklist

| Categories: Opinions Self-Improvement | Tags:

In no particular order: Greet your loved ones and friends and anyone else you hold dear. Maybe even those you disagree with Ponder why people give so much significance to the transition between an arbitrarily-chosen pair of 24 hour periods Take stock and reflect on the past year Think about what you’d like to learn this year or how you want to improve Count your blessings for the past year and be grateful Change your passwords Buy a new toothbrush Make a New Year’s joke (“My New Year’s Resolution is 1440×900!

Learning New Skills

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When Hanamichi Sakuragi from the manga Slam Dunk tries to get into the basketball club, he insists he’s a genius who doesn’t need to practice the basics and instead wants to go immediately to doing spectacular things like Slam Dunks. Sadly, the vast majority of us cannot claim to be geniuses at anything, and we are forced to undergo a bit of hard work if we want to learn a new skill.

If a friend found out your work was horrible, would you want to know? Or would your feelings be hurt? If your coworkers think you’re doing something wrong, would you prefer that they keep quiet or that they call you out? As a leader, do you prefer to have sycophants who sing your praises or people who are willing to tell you that you have no clothes? Is your ego more important than doing a good job or self-improvement?

Feedback Loops

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A feedback loop happens in a system when you are able to use an output of that system to influence the inputs, which in turn influences the outputs and repeats the cycle In engineering, feedback loops are useful to generate steady-state outputs. We had an entire subject dedicated to feedback loop controllers back in college. I enjoyed the topic so much I took the subject twice! An example of the use of feedback loops would be a thermostat that has a sensor to detect the current temperature.

Daily Habits

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I’ve picked up quite a few daily habits since the start of the year. To name a few: I’ve been doing daily sketches, I’ve been going on a daily walking routine, learning Spanish on Duolingo, I have a quick stretching/exercise routine I do in the mornings, etc. (I’m also supposed to be writing daily, but this has proven more difficult to keep doing consistently… ) I like those daily habits that can be easily tracked with technology.

Above Average

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Above average – a level of competency at a given subject such that: You are good enough that average people look at your work and tell you “You’ve got a lot of talent!” You are good enough that you know there’s a huge gap between you and those who are truly excellent. I was wondering the other day whether being above average was a curse. It’s like being good enough to be in movies, but never good enough to be the star.

The Four Agreements

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the four agreements, don miguel ruiz book – a code for life and personal development ** agreement 1 ** Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. ** agreement 2 ** Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you.