On motivation

Don't wish for the peak while you are still climbing the mountain.

This is going to take as long as it's going to take to do it at a satisfactory level of quality.

Mental shortcuts and trying to rush through the motions will significantly extend how long it takes to achieve this goal.

You have to focus on the next step, and enjoy taking it.

I suspect you are going to have miserable miserable time if you are praying for it to finally be over.

Just say no to multi-tasking: reflections on productivity

Tafasta merubhe, lo tafasta.
תפסת מרובה לא תפסת

- Ancient Hebrew proverb from the Talmud (Translation: Try to catch too much, catch nothing.)

I had an unsatisfying couple of days that got me thinking what I was doing wrong.

In retrospect, I realized I was jumping all over the place, trying to keep too many balls in the air. I was investigating the rsync algorithm, while trying to fix a TurnKey build problem, while researching distributed filesystems, etc.

This is problematic for two main reasons:

He never grew up, but he never stopped growing

He never grew up, but he never stopped growing.

- Arthur C. Clarke (when asked what he wanted written on his tombstone)

In retrospect, I tend to underestimate a lot of things. I underestimate challenges. I underestimate my own limits. I underestimate authority. I routinely underestimate how difficult something is going to be to accomplish.

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Pride and prejudice: falling in love with your own bad ideas

Opinion, often hasty, can incline to the wrong side, and then affection for one's own opinion binds, confines the mind

- The Divine Comedy

Sometimes I have bad ideas. Happens to the best of us. If I try to avoid them my mind freezes up. So I just let the ideas flow. No filters. Sure, most of them are crap, but every once in a while a gem of a good idea passes through.

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Insights on what makes me productive

A few insights I've had with regards to what makes me productive:

  1. satisfying "meaty" workplans: I tend to be much more productive if I something on my table I can really sink my teeth into. The best example is an interesting development project with the high-level design sketched up and a road-map with deliverable testable milestones for me to bite through one mouthful at a time.

Understand the system, make stuff happen, or die trying.

Specialization. Most of the people who work for big companies do it. They're good at this one specific thing the company needs to get done. They work with other people who are good at other things.

On one hand, specialization is necessary and useful. It doesn't make sense to try and train everybody to be good at everything. As they say, jack of all trades and master of none.

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Why I love programming: a crude theory of mind

I've been programming a bit today and I am enjoying myself and focusing for hours at end, which has lately been next to impossible for me when working on other things (e.g., website design).

It's made me think about why I'm having such a hard to reproducing the focus and satisfaction I feel when I'm programming when I'm doing non-programming stuff.

Fact is, I've noticed I find it much more difficult to get in the zone when I'm not programming. I feel slow and unproductive (compared with development) and that leads to low morale and avoidance/procrastination feedback loops.

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How to get the bone

Sometimes working on big projects can be frustrating. I think that's mainly because it's easy to get so immersed in detail that you lose sight of the big picture. A big project tends to break down recursively into sub-projects, and sub-sub-projects that you only realize are necessary after the "direct approach" turns out to be not a shortcut but an illusion, something that starts out looking like a shortcut and turns out to be a dead-end or actually a very long way around (e.g., fast short term results that are unsustainable in the long run). Then you have to turn back.

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Rediscovering 19th century literature

Lately, thanks mostly to Moonreader+ TTS on my phone I've been getting a lot more reading done. To my surprise I've become a stickler for 19th century classics. Besides being free, they're old enough to have stood the test of time but not so old that I have difficulty relating to them.

Here are a handful of recommended classics I found particularly enjoyable:

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Google vs Microsoft: what's in a name?

Microsoft is a trainwreck. I used to abhor the desktop monpolist as an evil threat to standards-based open source innovation. But in the last decade they've been screwing up so badly I almost feel sorry for them. As much as you can feel sorry for a massive corporation that is.

One thing that puzzles me in particular is how Microsoft fails to grasp that their efforts to compete with Google in the search space are a pointless waste of countless billions and a lethal distraction that has allowed Apple to wipe the floor with them in the post-PC era.

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