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    A couple more general tools that save me lots of time:

    1. Session Buddy. This thing is a godsend. When I’m working on a project, I’ll often end up with 20+ Chrome tabs open for various searches I’ve made and documentation I’m reading. Session Buddy lets you save and label browsing sessions and reopen entire groups of tabs with one click. Now when I’m wrapping up for the day but don’t want to waste time tracking down all my online resources, I can save the session and reopen it later. It also autosaves your sessions, so if your machine crashes you can resume browsing after recovery.
    2. Notion. This tool has been making a pretty big splash in the productivity software area for good reason. The abstractions that Notion provides for information are extremely powerful, letting you compose and transform how your information is laid out effortlessly. I use it for managing lots of aspects of my life, from my school assignments to blog posts to monthly budget. Also very useful is Notion’s Chrome extension, which I use to save links to a My Links page for later reading.
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      Can you export the tabs’ URLs to a file for processing with a script? I have a need for that on Firefox. I’ll use Chrome for it if FF doesn’t have one.

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        Yes! You can even select what type of data to export, and format as well (csv, JSON, Markdown, HTML, and raw text).

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          I figured out how to do this recently (for a running FF session):

          lz4jsoncat ~/.mozilla/firefox/e2f5cani.default/sessionstore-backups/recovery.jsonlz4 | jq .windows[].tabs[].entries[-1].url

          (note that your session name under ~/.mozilla/firefox will probably be different)

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            what does this do ?

            1. 1

              Fetches the URLs for currently open tabs by spelunking through FireFox’s session backup files (i.e. how it remembers which tabs were open if it crashes).

              The two tools used are lz4jsoncat (a tool for reading Mozilla lz4json files - it’s in the apt repos) and jq to filter out the relevant values.

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                It didn’t see it in apt repos. However, this answer looks helpful. I’ll try it later on.

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            I haven’t used firefox for years, but IIRC there was a short cut that let you see the various tabs open and then group them and open just that group & a way to export to json.

            One dream I’ve had was if a browsing session could be displayed visually as a tree, so you could navigate up and down and across the tree and you could see at a glance which browsing decisions were productive & which were distractions & the conceptual links between a various exploration / rabbit hole :)

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          I stopped reading this as I rejected the premise early on, the example I had in mind was chess, try get in top 5% on Chess.com or Lichess. “Isn’t that good”? Well, it’s about a 2150 or 2200 chess rating.

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            I think bragging about not reading the article is not a good habit to encourage on lobsters, but you’ve also misread–and the clarification was in the second paragraph.

            The relevant comparison isn’t players on chess.com, it’s people who play chess, and that’s a larger group. For instance, I’ve played games against my daughter in the past year, and against a friend or two within the past few years, but I’m not active on chess.com.

            Similarly, I’m about 50th percentile in people who play Go tournaments (maybe a little lower even, I can’t remember), but I’m well above average (at least for players in the US. I don’t know what the distribution is like in China/Japan/Korea–they have tons of strong players, but also millions of players overall). I don’t know if I’m 95% percentile, but definitely not near 50th.

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              I skimmed the article, and it’s a rambling mess. There’s some nuggets there but they’re really hard to sift.

              I liked the author’s coinage(?) of the word “ridiculable”.

              It would generally be considered absurd to operate a complex software system without metrics or tracing, but it’s normal to operate yourself without metrics or tracing, even though you’re much more complex and harder to understand than the software you work on.

              This is a good observation, slightly marred by the existence of a plethora of products designed to track employee’s every move on screen. I guess a programmer interested in improving their productivity can get an evaluation license of this kind of software.

              Also this link looks interesting:

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                I wonder if it’s the game analogy that’s giving people trouble, because it immediately clicked for me. My game of choice is different – Magic: The Gathering, which first came out right as I was a teenager likely to be able to pick it up and enjoy it – but my experience with it absolutely lines up with the article.

                There’s a very large population of people who play Magic. And reaching 95th percentile within that population is something literally anyone could do by putting in the work. It seems like a high bar, but it really isn’t, because even things like reading a few introductory articles on competitive strategy and practicing what you learn from that will quickly advance you past the average kitchen-table Magic playgroup. Not that much more effort will put you up to the level of being able to win at a typical Friday-night tournament in a local game shop. And at that point you are undeniably going to be 95th percentile, if not higher!

                Even within the specifically competitive-focused subset of the Magic-playing population I think this holds up. Within the last couple years a new digital version of the game (called “Arena”) has come out and been promoted heavily, and it has competitive play with a ladder of ranks and tiers. It’s attracted a fair number of streamers who are new to the game, and again it seems that anyone willing to put in some effort and practice can start consistently reaching the higher ranks, which again put them into the 95th percentile or higher of Magic players, and even of that specific subset who play on Arena.

                Though I think some of the problem here is also perspective: people won’t compare themselves to the general population, or even to the subset who do things like go to tournaments or participate in ranked play on Arena, where it would be clear just how low the skill-level bar of 95th-percentile really is. Instead they compare themselves to the population of established elite professional players, and see a huge skill gulf between themselves and the pros and draw the wrong conclusion. Being only 1% as good as a top-level pro (assuming we could quantify that) does not mean being only in the 1st-percentile of all players, simply because the pros are such a microscopically tiny subset of a very large population, but people often think about it in those terms.

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                  I guess it’s only applicable to fields where casual and enjouable participation is possible.

                  On the one hand we have fields like algebraic geometry that you cannot participate in without extensive preparation. For someone with high school math level, it will take years to even start understanding the papers. Even then you are are only ready to start doing any research of your own at all.

                  On the other hand we have fields where, until some point of profiency, it doesn’t matter if you are are better than N% participants. There are many people (mostly kids) who play the violin. You can get better than most of them just by learning not to tune the strings to diminished fifths. It will take years of dedicated practice until anyone will genuinely want to listen to your playing though.

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                  The existance of personal tracking software doesn’t imply that it is not “normal to operate yourself without metrics or tracing”. A fairly small proportion of the population use such software.

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                    I’m thinking of software that allows an employer to track how much time their employees spend in different windows and applications, so they can take action against “incorrect” behavior.

                3. 0

                  But 2200 is top 5% of people who have ever played chess online, including those 4 or 5 games and so on. As in top 5% of participation metric “has played chess online before”, I thought

                4. 13

                  This is explicitly addressed in the beginning of the article:

                  Note that when I say 95%-ile, I mean 95%-ile among people who participate, not all people (for many activities, just doing it at all makes you 99%-ile or above across all people). I’m also not referring to 95%-ile among people who practice regularly. The “one weird trick” is that, for a lot of activities, being something like 10%-ile among people who practice can make you something like 90%-ile or 99%-ile among people who participate.

                  1. -1

                    But this is for people who participate. 2200 is top 5% of people who have ever played more than, say, 5 or 10 games of chess online.

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                      This is triply incorrect and once misleading.

                      First, many chess players never play online. I’d even guess that most don’t, so that is not the correct population to compare to.

                      Second, chess.com’s displayed percentiles are not for every player who’s ever played, only for active players. There was a change was a number of years ago, before this chart was made.

                      Third, if you look at that chart, top 5% among active players is roughly 1600 on chess.com, not 2150 or 2200.

                      Fourth, when you say it’s an X chess rating without qualification, I think this would imply to people in the U.S. that this is a FIDE or USCF rating. 1600 on chess.com from when that table was made converts to 1500 USCF and, again, that’s an overestimate because that’s only active players on chess.com which is going to be overweighted towards players who have put more time in.

                      Your stated number, 2200, is in the top 0.2% of active chess.com rapid players. 2200 must come from lichess blitz ratings. At the top of their blitz ratings graph, it notes that it’s for players active this week, so that also has the incorrectness mentioned above. Additionally, it’s well known that lichess generally has inflated ratings and blitz is particularly inflated even for lichess. It is extremely misleading to say that top 5% is “2200 chess rating” when referring to lichess blitz ratings.

                      Even if you look at people with USCF ratings, which is a tiny subset of the people who have played or play chess in the U.S. (roughly 85k USCF players, out of probably over 100M people who have played in the U.S.; that chart is old and has 65k but the distribution shouldn’t be wildly different), top 5% is still only 2000 USCF. “2200 chess rating”, as you put it, is someone roughly in the top 1000 USCF. Across all U.S. players, even accounting for strong players who don’t maintain a USCF rating, that’s probably at least the top 0.001%.

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                    I got to around 1900 in lichess classical in about a year without any specific effort starting from scratch, but a lot of play time.


                    My greatest victory is against a 2314 rated player.

                    In school I was about 90th percentile, so in general I think for a lot of tasks, with practice you just slot into where your intelligence level is, with deviation around quality and amount of practice.

                    I think looking at the graph of all time rating of players is really fun.

                  1. 1

                    Of course you should have read “The Art of Computer Programming” Vol.1-4 and do maybe, I dunno, 50% of the exercises, just the ones that interest, before touching a computer. /s

                    Seriously good book to open a random page / section and have a vivid explanation and go deep on some topic, but have no expectations of being able to read cover to cover, i suspect that requires a monastery (or that sort of discipline) to do.

                    Just read 4 pages of the thing. Deep. Now stroke your proverbial beard and knod infront of the PDP-10

                    Also: crime and punishment. I haven’t read it, but added it here to sound weighty.

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                      I’m curious if anyone else experiences what I call “postcrastination” — sometimes I will start a task, which I can obviously do and am in fact already doing, and I suddenly feel a desire to stop and do something else. Weirdly, it seems like it’s strongest when it’s a thing I actually want to do and think I’ll be good at, but only a creative task, not like doing bills or something.

                      1. 1

                        it’s because you want to & desire to do it, you’ve subtly set up an expectation or trying to get reality to conform to your desire in some way.

                        “it’s not untill we look at ants closely through a magnifying glass that we notice they have a tendency to burst into fire”

                        You are part of the system.

                        Let the work do the work :)

                        Other attitudes are like “wouldn’t it be funny if” or “I wonder if this is possible” or “I’m not sure I can even do this”

                        How do you find the “I’m not sure I can even do this” -vs- the “I’m sure I can do this and I want to do this” :) ???

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                          This is almost certainly ADHD, see my comment

                          1. 2

                            Saying “almost certainly ADHD” seems very definitive for a response to such a short comment on the internet.

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                          Don’t bad mouth procrastination! It’s a good sign. Like, how we should be thankful we’re coughing or feel some pain … our body works well enough to tell us something’s up! :) How bad would it be if we were sick but our body didn’t react? :) Then we would be done.

                          What is procrastination exactly? This is my honest but perhaps obscure & unhelpful one sentence summary: Procrastination is papanca: conceptual proliferation caused by identification with and desire for a certain type of experience / phenomena.

                          You exerting will (with the tinge of ‘control’) to enter the zone is the cause of it. “Concentration” in our culture has really bad associations. Actually, it’s more like letting go & relaxing, the mind that is relaxed, safe, released is the “concentrated” mind, but really there’s so many bad associations with that word we should scrap it “just CONCENTRATE JIMMY!” etc, what we want is relaxation, ease and immersion…. like how easy it was to stare at the stars when you were a child, and wonder.

                          that’s the mind that is open and receptive and learning.

                          The “I must do this” or “have to do this” or “concentrate now” is associated with a subtle sort of forcefulness or expectation, that is the cause of procrastination.

                          one solution is… in the most caring way possible…. and calmly … to not give a sincere fuck.

                          Intention is also important… why are you doing this? If it’s to gain something or get something away, that’s also a cause of procrastination. But true interest / absorbtion / curiosity / immersion doesn’t have expectations or trying to make the contents of attention any way. It’s just admiring / grateful / entranced / caring .

                          Instead of ‘forcing’ we must let our mind unravel and incline towards things, and this only works with right intention e.g. to understand something, let it be, do its thing, care for it, care for ourselves etc. The Big Brain Hack is everything, even the most horrible aspects of human nature are some distortion of the want to be happy & free, so doing the reverse engineering and introspection required and understanding ones own intentions goes a long way to helping procrastination.

                          OF COURSE I AM GOING TO PROCRASTINATE ABOUT THAT SHITTY FUCK BUG IN THE JAVA FILE FOR THE RANDO BITCOIN EXCHANGE / POKER MACHINE. In which case we can be grateful to the procrastination that we have a sign!

                          Suppose you’re at work, maybe your intentions are mixed up, but reflecting, you realize you just want to be happy and help your family and love ones be happy, so this shitty / labourious task is connected to that. Forcing it won’t work, but letting the mind incline to it will.

                          It’s like that sort of absorbtion where the task itself seems to be producing the agency required for the task… it’s “not you”.

                          This is flow. But trying to ‘get’ ‘flow’ we are - seemingly paradoxically - driven away from it - because we’re actually trying to make reality conform to what we want rather than what is there.

                          True flow is from an acknowledgement of what is there, and working with it, in the sense “well, I’m not going to dance to this music, but the music can dance me” etc.

                          Sorry, that’s my best. Hope I didn’t sound too hippy :) For context: I have been diagnosed with ADHD and given a lot of thought and time to trying to crack this nut. This is my best (for now) :)

                          Paradoxically: trying to “manage” or “correct” procrastination may be its cause :) Instead, acknowlege, accept, incline, forgive yourself, understand your intentions, and create the environment where the environment does the work.

                          And have total faith in letting go and the natural way the brain forgets :) It’s there for an evolutionary reason.

                          1. 3

                            In my very limited experience:


                            • gaffer tape has a time and a place, namely, when you’re trying to put together a cardboard box fort and paint it so as to be a prop in some sort of theatrical play / presentation.

                            • it contributes to so much conceptual proliferation in the world & ensuing problems - that it has caused many programming jobs


                            • can type with spelling errors, fat fingers, typos and a lot of guess work and it still seems to still compile and do something that’s close enough to what you wanted anyway as to be useful for your problem solving right here and now. This is kind of cool.

                            I’m looking for the classical childs report card “plays well with others, gets work done”.

                            1. 2

                              “This is why I haven’t written a line of code in 3 years, and have taken up being a gardener during the day.”

                              1. 17

                                We already live in a post-scarcity world and arguments structured around retiring early admit it without actually admitting it. The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. Better to address the distribution problem than worry about retiring at 30.

                                1. 8

                                  Sounds like an argument for effective altruism / earning to give, a path I don’t see much talked about in the finance / FI communities. Definately a path that’s been on my mind lately. One account I’ve been reading on this is jefftk who contributed much of his income while working at a tech bigCo: https://www.jefftk.com/giving

                                  (personally just starting to think about this stuff - found myself reading both ‘winners take all’ and ‘doing good better’ recently (which have some contradictions between each other) and finding it a bit nuts how hard picking donation funds is - even coolearth as a carbon offsetting fund recommended by ‘doing good better’ a few years ago has been criticized https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/RnmZ62kuuC8XzeTBq/why-we-have-over-rated-cool-earth )

                                  1. 4

                                    One thing I forgot to mention is that the framing of the existing model feels off to me and I don’t think that pursuing money in an effort to better distribute it as an individual is a viable path because it still emphasizes the pursuit of money.

                                    I think somewhere along the way people forgot that money is only a proxy for “value” and in pursuit of the proxy metric we devalued all the things that were actually valuable. When optimizing a proxy it is easy to forget what the proxy was initially measuring/approximating.

                                    I call this the green paper token fallacy.

                                    1. 2

                                      Yep, wasn’t trying to evangelize EA as the path, just an option that could make sense for some. For full disclosure I have not been effective altruist, am trying to sort out my worldview / goals / finances and it’s been on my mind more. Thinking aloud a sci-fi story ‘The guy who worked for money’ https://www.shareable.net/blog/the-guy-who-worked-for-money which compares money as a proxy versus a social credit score as proxy comes to mind.

                                    2. 2

                                      So, I think that’s the pragmatist’s view. I understood @davidk01 ’s comment to be a much more philosophical, long view take.

                                      If I’m reading him right, he’s suggesting that the entire capitalist framework we live under is basically over, but various entities just haven’t caught up with that yet, and we should solve the larger problem of how to distribute wealth equitably rather than striving to enrich ourselves.

                                      I’d love for him to be right, but I suspect, at least in the near term, he’s not. And if he’s wrong, yes, earning to give is definitely the more virtuous path.

                                      1. 3

                                        Yeah, agree it’s an optimistic long view to hope for (James Burke from ye olde Connections show had a nice lighthearted on post-scarcity https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09jvfc4 ). I’ll leave a similar comment I left on HN recently:

                                        I’ve been fascinated by this plot of ‘social thresholds achieved’ at the cost of ‘biophysical boundaries transgressed’ - https://goodlife.leeds.ac.uk . I find it a more level-headed analysis to frame arguments around what resource usage it takes to be a ‘happy’ country, rather than just aggregating various happiness metrics alone. “No country in the world currently meets the basic needs of its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use.” (summary article: https://theconversation.com/is-it-possible-for-everyone-to-live-a-good-life-within-our-planets-limits-91421 ) (via HN discussion on world happiness report: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19615776 )

                                        1. 1

                                          What’s interesting to me is that adjectives like “just” get thrown around much more than “happy” which says something about what people see as important.

                                          1. 1

                                            You mean when people optimize they choose fairness vs some other metric? Or do you mean something else?

                                            1. 2

                                              I mean that when people talk about enacting fairly major changes to society, I often hear them talk about the injustice of the currently lopsided capitalist system of wealth distribution, rather than the overall happiness of the average citizen.

                                    3. 2

                                      That’s an incredibly altruistic attitude. Admirable.

                                      As for me, I’ve been slugging it out in the trenches now for 30 years. I’d be more than willing to put time and effort into solving the redistribution problem if I had any confidence at all that it would actually be effective.

                                      Humans are lazy and greedy. I have yet to learn of a vision for a post scarcity world that actually takes those very basic human traits into account.

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                                        every adjective that exists for humans is a trait that humans have. otherwise the words wouldn’t exist. humans are also industrious, smart, caring, compassionate, and creative.

                                        you don’t think social democratic and socialist proposals account for greed and sloth?

                                        1. 1

                                          you don’t think social democratic and socialist proposals account for greed and sloth?

                                          I don’t, but then the set of democratic socialist proposals I’ve been exposed to in detail is fairly small. I’d love to see you cite a concrete counter-example. I’m always open to having my mind changed in the face of compelling evidence!

                                          1. 1

                                            take the green new deal for example. does that proposal fail to account for human greed or laziness? did FDR’s new deal?

                                            perhaps the difference is that these proposals view greed and laziness as things to be overcome, while you view them as hard limits which cannot be overcome?

                                            1. 1

                                              The green new deal is a perfect example. I have yet to be able to put my finger on precisely what the green new deal IS except “Yay renewable energy! Yay income equality! Yay good health care, affordable housing, and clean air for all!”

                                              I love the enthusiasm and I am 100% behind the ideals, but I don’t see a plan for implementation here.

                                              If you can give me a cite that lays out a concrete plan, I’d love to see it.

                                              1. 1

                                                it doesn’t sound like your misgivings have to do with greed or laziness, so i sense that we’re going off on a slight tangent. but i love discussing the GND anyway.

                                                are you aware of the green new deal FAQ? this should get you beyond “Yay renewable energy! Yay income equality! Yay good health care, affordable housing, and clean air for all!” it includes concrete proposals such as a government jobs program to put people to work developing alternative energy infrastructure. is this too abstract? or maybe you take issue with the current lack of detail?

                                                1. 1

                                                  The FAQ did in fact help. It lays out the idea that this will be a huge investment in infrastructure. It’s still way shorter on details than I’d like, but at LEAST it addresses “How will we pay for this?” rather than crowing about our glorious worker’s paradise future with no clear plan to get there.

                                                  I’ll keep my eye on this and hope to see it evolve further. This is indeed something I could get behind.

                                                  A thing I wonder about though is, the ‘guaranteed jobs for all!’ clause. The new deal did this through efforts like the WPA, which were disbanded when the great depression ended. How will this address the fact that joblessness is going to be an increasing problem with greater automation?

                                                  1. 2

                                                    i think a government jobs program is a way to address loss of jobs due to automation. green new deal jobs wouldn’t go away unless we decide they should. maybe we should be asking “will the green new deal harness the bounty provided by greater automation.” i certainly hope so, as that’s one of the things that could make the 10 year time frame feasible.

                                                    i don’t think it’s a comprehensive solution though; something like UBI or general sharing of goods regardless of one’s ability to make a wage may be necessary in the long term.

                                        2. 2

                                          This is true but part of it I think is believing the people part will work out because plenty of people come to the realization about post-scarcity and money. I guess the effort is diffuse and not as organized as it could be. I try to remind myself and others that at the end of the day we really have everything we need and want and that money is made up.

                                        3. 2

                                          We most assuredly do not live in a post scarcity world. What we live in is a world where we, and our parents, have been spending the inheritance of our grand children to produce baubles no one needs [0]. It is an easy mistake to make when one lives in the richest city in the richest state, in the richest country in the world.

                                          The past is littered with promises of an boundless future, today’s millenarian cults are no different. Be they the Easter Islands destroying their trees and falling into centuries of cannibalism, or South African tribes slaughtering their cattle expecting the ancestors would give them better herds.

                                          That we replaced God with the microchip and heaven with post scarcity is not much of an improvement.

                                          What the future looks like is Cuba, in the best of circumstances. [1]

                                          [0] https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33133712

                                          [1] Unless we nationalize the economy in the hopes of figuring out hot fusion before climate change makes industrial society impossible between 2050-2100.

                                          1. 2

                                            Be they the Easter Islands destroying their trees and falling into centuries of cannibalism

                                            Not to dispute your main point but I feel the need to stand up for my Polynesian whānau. The “destroying their trees and falling into centuries of cannibalism” story (popularised by Jared Diamond) has been debunked [0][1][2]. They’ve been many more studies and articles about it since.

                                            1. 1

                                              So are you the one that grew up in post-communist Armenia or me? Check your assumptions at the door when engaging in online forums. The world is a big place with a lot of people who did not grow up in a boundless world and still concluded that we have plenty to go around.

                                              1. 1

                                                1). Identity politics has nothing to do with the ecological footprint of industrial society.

                                                2). Ad ad hominem attacks are content free.

                                                3). Лесно е да говориш за предположения когато мислиш че всичи други са Американци.

                                          1. 2

                                            The sutta tipaka (aka: the buddha’s discourses,) of the 2000+ year old Pali canon is basically a series of “If you do this, this result is caused. If this occurs, then X occurs” It’s a completely pragmatic text that addresses directly causes and conditions of happiness. That’s it. It’s light on philosophical/ontological speculations and moralism. The buddha would famously go silent when asked “does the self exist?” Or “is there a god”, etc and to questions of “should I do this” he was also silent, he would simply say what sorts of actions produce what sorts of results. He was a pragmatist. An “if these conditions arise, then this occurs”. Mostly, the whole thing goes on and on with lists of causes and conditions that result in certain things. In fact, the Sutta’s can almost be boring with the exact and precise outlining of lists of conditions required, like reading an arcane recipe or technical information about an experimental setup.

                                            You could say the whole thing is a bunch of feature cards that describe causes and conditions for certain results :)

                                            Saying that, like any technical text, there’s language & context that can make it hard to approach & best approached after some experience with observing the processes of the mind & body carefully & directly (aka “meditation”). U Pandita’s instructions on labeling (and his frequent citing of the pali canon) I feel offers the best approach in for uber-geeks who like to be really exacting and precise about what exactly is going on as they observe the process of body and mind. If that’s not relateable, more approachable students of his include Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein.

                                            In the Sutta’s You will rarely, if not at all, find moralism or philosophical (ontological) speculations, the early (Christian/Jesuit) translators like to use the word “Lord” for buddha, but recent translators get rid of a lot of that baggage and it’s presented less as a religious text and more as a manual. I think the best translation at the moment is by hacker / monk Bhante Sujato who released a whole translation in 2018… suttacentral.net

                                            I don’t want to diss the buddhist tradition here, it does present a hell of a lot of beautiful poetry and imagery and so on, but the pali canon, man, that thing can by dry but hella useful for its descriptions of how, for instance, perceptions of objects arise in the mind, how self-and-object arises, how physical pain can produce various levels of suffering or discomfort depending on one’s orientation to it, and so on.

                                            1. 1

                                              My hope is that these introductions (that link back to the source material, or approchable syntheses of the source material) get people interested in the topic enough they do their own research. I don’t really like forcing any one source, method or teacher above any other; most of this is intended to be self-directed and fractally deep. I don’t try and assume what anyone’s path is, I just present them resources so their heart can tell them where they should look next. Sometimes people don’t, and that’s okay too.

                                              There’s a lot of useful things that the original teachings have as a result of their casing, but that casing itself is what has made the teachings appear unpalatable. I feel the messages the teachings offer have such a vital importance to us all that we must offer a more palatable introduction. Is it better to let something die being “right” or to let it fluidly adapt to the times of the Now?

                                              Arguably that’s a subjective question; I opine it’s too great of a benefit to risk inaction.

                                              I’ve personally been working on some Lojban translation of parts of Buddha’s suttas as a way to help learn and really understand them. I haven’t posted it anywhere yet (I’m not fully happy with the resonance of the message), but I will.

                                            1. 3

                                              Really well written, it didn’t matter much to me what the author was talking about, there’s a sort of music in the words that imparts a style of thinking.

                                              1. 3

                                                I empathise deeply. I also don’t know. I had similar problems (high IQ, ADHD) & worked a series of IT jobs, the essay “the bipolar lisp programmer” resonates deeply (I don’t have bipolar though ADHD could be described as ‘depression restricted to executive functioning’). My solution was becoming a dishwasher at a pay what you want restaurant. I did become happier and learn to enjoy manual work, but this also could have been because I learned to enjoy anywork Given that hard stage at my life, I also found out about mindfulness and became a student of zen at my local centre… weird, never thought that would have happened. The most important skill I learned in the past few years was to sit & face the wall and focus on the breath. I was lucky in having stable accomodation during this life crisis. At the moment I’m trying to get manual labouring jobs that involve rigging (for which I have gotten a few qualifications for, mainly because it’s the sort of schooling where ‘just turning up’ gets you the ticket - hey, I never used to be able to do that! Always arising at 12). My aim is to get into those sorts of climbing roles that also require technical skills (tower techs climb the mast towers and install networking gear) I learned to just turn up, and a few things about myself. But I also feel this is a dangerous area of work I’m getting into and old friends who know a little about some of my work in logic & philosophy comment on my ‘brilliant mind’. Maybe manual work lets you have your mind to yourself? Maybe I owe it to society to put my mind to work? I don’t know. Anyway thank you for posting, these issues hit home & I don’t have any answers. :)

                                                If you want to chat / text / video whatever time feel free, you seem cool.

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                                                  I hope these Zebras succeed.

                                                  But I worry about the Thatcher Effect. ie. I hope they can succeed without losing their soul.

                                                  1. 10

                                                    I like the “zebra” concept quite a lot. The mid-growth / mid-risk businesses– not the bureaucratic corporations and especially not the get-rich-quick startups– are actually the companies that make capitalism a tolerable system.

                                                    (On unicorns, I can’t see that word without thinking that some San Franciscan VC coined it because he wanted to be anally penetrated by a horse. I mean, why else would these jackasses be yammering on about unicorns?)

                                                    For low-growth / low-risk companies like parking garages, you have bank loans. For high-risk companies, you have this VC throw-shit-at-the-wall / see-what-sticks game. For mid-growth companies targeting 20-40% annual growth without compromises to culture and quality, there is literally no financing available for them. I can’t find a good reason for it, insofar as 40 percent growth over 10 years is 29x– not bad if you can pull it off.

                                                    The problem with contemporary capitalism isn’t capitalism but the extreme short-term nature of it. That’s a breeding ground for hucksters and sociopaths. It puts reputation and that “personal brand” bullshit at a premium while substance gets overlooked.

                                                    I’m not a Trump supporter but, economically, America really was more “great” in the 1950s-60s. (This is not to insult women, minorities, or LGBT people by claiming that it was “great” on the whole. It was not.) Our economy grew at 4-6% per year instead of 1-2%. The reason? A lot more funding for R&D, and a long-term mentality in the business world. If we can get back to that, we can be a powerhouse country again. If we don’t, and if we stick with this short-term managerial capitalism, we’re going to fall to shit.

                                                    1. 15

                                                      Don’t get me wrong, but from your posts you seem to be really tired of and/or upset about the US startup/tech scene. Did you consider just leaving your natural habitat for a while and work in another (perhaps more egalitarian) country to get a fresh/more joyful perspective on things? For instance, in Europe there are many small and mid-size family companies with strong values (ethics, environmental, etc.).

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                                                        Can you give any names of these “mid-size family companies”?

                                                          1. 4

                                                            Germany-specific, but these should qualify for example: http://www.software-made-in-germany.org/zertifizierte-unternehmen/

                                                          2. 2

                                                            Don’t get me wrong, but from your posts you seem to be really tired of and/or upset about the US startup/tech scene.

                                                            Absolutely, but to be honest, I have a hard time believing that it’s better in the EU countries. Everything I read tells me that it’s harder to raise capital. This would suggest that employees have even more leverage over talent than they do here. Of course, there are many things that make EU life better (like healthcare that isn’t terrible, 4-6 weeks of vacation, and not having a fascist billionaire as one’s president). It just doesn’t seem like a great place to start a company.

                                                            Also, I have personal reasons to want to stay in the US for the next few years, as bad as things may get over here.

                                                            For instance, in Europe there are many small and mid-size family companies with strong values (ethics, environmental, etc.).

                                                            That’s a good thing to know. I’d like to know why there aren’t more of those in the US.

                                                            1. 2

                                                              Did you consider just leaving your natural habitat for a while and work in another (perhaps more egalitarian) country to get a fresh/more joyful perspective on things?

                                                              I think many of us have considered this but the anti-immigration sentiment everywhere makes it harder and harder to pull off. All the EU jobs that show up on the job boards I frequent are only open to people already authorized to work in the EU.

                                                              1. 5

                                                                I know that patriotism is seen as atypical for the left, but ideally, I wouldn’t flee to the EU just because the US is in a period of hardship and (reversible, I hope?) decline.

                                                                I’d like to fix this country instead. I was born here and my family has been here for almost 400 years (by American standards, that’s a long time). I see the appeal of an easier climate or a country where you can actually get fucking healthcare, but the orange leaves and blue sky of New England autumn are deep in my blood. My attitude may change, but for now, I’m inclined to fight to save this place until I’m fucking dead.

                                                            2. 2

                                                              I always think of “The Vulgar Unicorn”, the tavern where most of the action in Robert Asprin shared world begins.

                                                              VC throw-shit-at-the-wall / see-what-sticks game

                                                              It’s not “sticking” that they are looking for, it’s exponential growth they are looking for.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                Businesses should be aiming for exponential growth, but there’s a qualitative difference between 20-40% per year and the 300% per year that VCs demand.

                                                                If you grow at 20-40 percent per year, you still generate a lot of value, but you can grow more slowly. You don’t throw culture and caution and moral decency to the wind in order to make that speed. Ten years of 30% growth is still 13.8x. Not bad, right?

                                                                The problem is that VCs don’t have the patience for that. Y Combinator demands 7% growth per week, which is unsustainable and dangerous. The Zenefits Scandal was largely triggered by the unrealistic growth demands of YC– an incubator that, miraculously, managed to escape bad press for it.

                                                                To make it worse, if you’re a client service business, it’s impossible to make VC growth targets without the VCs also lining up all your clients. (When you take VC, you implicitly agree to buy services from other tech companies funded by those VCs.) Silicon Valley is an incestuous clusterfuck, of startups buying each others services in order to inflate the metrics and valuations. Like an art scam, it’ll fold, but who can predict when? This also means that the VCs hold ultimate power, because not only do they decide if you get funding, but they also determine whether you get clients.

                                                                1. 7

                                                                  aiming for exponential growth

                                                                  Aiming for exponential growth is the philosophy of cancer, and should be treated as such.

                                                                  Aiming for appropriate share of addressable market, that is sensible.

                                                              2. 2

                                                                Something like Fog Creek? At least in the pre-Stackoverflow times. It was bootstrapped via consulting income.

                                                                Why doesn’t a bank loan work for this segment?

                                                                1. 6

                                                                  Why doesn’t a bank loan work for this segment?

                                                                  Bank loans are for ventures where the risk of failure is low and total principal loss is virtually impossible. They usually require personal liability, even if you’re fully incorporated.

                                                                  They’re great if you want to start a parking garage, where even if you fail, you’ll have some revenue and collateral. They’re not well-suited for technology companies where, even if you do everything right, total principal loss is a possibility.

                                                                2. -2

                                                                  There’s a different kind of Unicorn in the bay area. https://twitter.com/isislovecruft/status/382922302716801024

                                                                  1. 2

                                                                    I don’t know why you were downvoted. You can’t hear a Bay Area venture capitalist use the word “unicorn” (because we’re too tee-hee puritan to say “a billion dollars”) and not picture something perverted. It’s like, “I get it, you’re into anal penetration and horses. You’ll fit in perfectly on Sand Hill Road.”

                                                                    San Francisco used to be a place where people into kink went for consensual pain. Now it’s a place where people into money go for nonconsensual pain.

                                                              1. 2

                                                                If you can stand the awful screens and batteries, a ThinkPad has good keyboards, build quality, and features. I’m not a fan of normal voltage CPUs however - the 12" retina MacBook is my platonic ideal of a laptop. (Just with a ThinkPad keyboard. And TrackPoint.)

                                                                1. 3

                                                                  Awful batteries? When I had my x220 out of the box - it has a 9 cell & an additional 6 cell - this thing can run for ages with the power-manager that’s default with Windows 7 - I recall 12-18 hours. These days it’s more like 5. On the other hand I bought an ASUS and from day one it was getting 3-4 hours max. That laptop lasted a year. And it failed in the middle of a push on an important project. :/ It was very hard to source the exact parts (the port to connect the power gave out & broke some of the case - and it began not being able to be charged. Admittedly it was from damage from dropping…

                                                                  but the x220 has been dropped - it was even designed so that one of the corners would break (you’ll often find them second hand with a chipped corner) well looking at the case, it seems that this is deliberate - like a shock absorbtion on modern cards -vs- the rigid ones. It’s stuff like that I just have to appreciate - this thing is an engineers computer. :)

                                                                  I can still buy those batteries & parts on ebay :) The screen was very clear for its time.

                                                                  Were you running one of the W5xx series?

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    X201. ThinkPad power management, unless you micromanage via TLP/TVPM, will cause the battery to decay from its original capacity rapidly. This is even worse if you’re using one of the smaller batteries.

                                                                    The screen on my X201 is unusable outdoors (even with max brightness) and barely usable indoors. Its dim with poor viewing angles and resolution.

                                                                    My X201 just sits in the dock nowadays. When I need a laptop, I just use my jailbroken Surface RT - it actually gets good battery life despite its age, as well as a screen you can see outside. The subset of applications I’d use when out and about is small enough to fit in with the recompiled Win32 apps available.

                                                                1. 4

                                                                  I’ve been running Debian on an x220 since 2012 - there’s a lot of interchangable parts easily found on ebay & the build quality is great. I have an SSD & a spare HD slot, 16Gb of Ram (over kill) & there’s insane battery life (although windows has better battery saving in default configuration). My only thought of upgrading was just to get a higher resolution external monitor.

                                                                  2 previous laptops I had were ASUS and they had issues within a year & not so nearly well designed interchangable parts that I could easily replace.

                                                                  I’m thinking of buying a second X220 (insanely cheap right now) to make into a Hackintosh.

                                                                  1. 4

                                                                    I’ve some alternatives to consider, folks…

                                                                    • “brooding screen light interfacer”
                                                                    • “bit flipper”
                                                                    • “formal system anomaly enthusiast”
                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      bit detective.

                                                                      1. 1

                                                                        bug buster

                                                                      1. 27

                                                                        HN did too good of a job with associating “hacker” with “VC sycophant” for me to identify w/ that term

                                                                        1. 7

                                                                          These days, “kernel hacker” is about the only variant I can stand.

                                                                          1. 5

                                                                            Amen to this. I will also accept “Lisp hacker”.

                                                                            Everyone else is a posing douche.

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              Hacky sack hacker?

                                                                            2. 2

                                                                              My sincere question is why not X Y Hacker ? Where X can stand for skill and Y for domain of expertise ?

                                                                              We can’t use the word Engineer in an absolute absolute sense because code can handle such a thing as currency now. Currency is not an Engineering Feat. Code can lie to a pollution test i.e, … again unheard of in Engineering …

                                                                              If not a “Hacker” then are we willing to be relegated to being a profession of technicians ?

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                If not a “Hacker” then are we willing to be relegated to being a profession of technicians ?

                                                                                I think some people (devs included) would love this: the equivalent of picking parts up from Ikea and claiming you built a couch.

                                                                                Perhaps that’s why people get so excited to compare notes about their ‘stack.’

                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                  I love it too ! But there’s 20 million of us or something like that.

                                                                                  Stack Hackers is an acceptable term right ?

                                                                                  Some one who builds a distribution of wordpress plugins or docker can happily apply that label to himself proudly.

                                                                                  I know a Business guy who really likes shopping for these things and assembling them. He recently messed with the Ghost Platform and is so good at it that he will probably sell it as a solution.

                                                                            3. 6

                                                                              “rock star ninja”

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                Has there ever been a rock star trained in ninjitsu? Just curious.

                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                  Maynard James Keenan, Tool.

                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                    Not sure about ninjitsu but I heard a Spotify interview with Matt Heafy where he said he was heavily into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu :-)

                                                                                2. 1

                                                                                  I’ve got 8,000+ points going against that and most other sycophant things on Hacker News. So, not totally accurate. I’m not sure what the average person has in karma going against the tide for just a year. I just feel that says the community is not the total circle-jerk it’s made out to be. Or there’s just circle-jerkers plus people kicking in their motel doors with cameras going, “Whoa! I thought this was a hackerspace! My bad! We’re making a quick counterpoint to what we’re seeing and then leaving…” Mwahahaha.

                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                    (Shhh, Lobste.rs is an anti-HN circlejerk <.<)

                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                      Haha i know their bias. As with HN, I simply ignored it to go straight to evidence-based counterpoint no matter the cost. :)

                                                                                1. 6

                                                                                  I like the occasional reminder that everything you know is wrong. :)

                                                                                  Of course this is a little too simple because calories aren’t burned in quite so Linear A manner. (Wow, autocorrect for Linear A.)

                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                    Your autocorrect knows Linear A? Huh.

                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                      everything you know is wrong.

                                                                                      Including this.

                                                                                    1. 3
                                                                                      1. 31

                                                                                        The Internet

                                                                                        1. 8

                                                                                          So much, this. I saw a news item a couple years ago… a journalist had asked something important but critical of the presenter at a UN press conference about online topics, and the presenter was angry and asked where he was from, presumably to get him barred from future ones. He said “I’m from the Internet!” I related instantly.

                                                                                          I had heard about it because the story had been tweeted by a political scientist expressing deep confusion about why anyone would say that, so I tried to explain a bit. I don’t think I convinced him that it was a sincere belief held by anybody. Oh well?

                                                                                          Anyway, geographically, I’m currently sitting at the place where internet.

                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                            I used to subscribe to that, until I frequently ran into the problem that in the absence of additional information, people used to assume one implicitly. Usually, they assume somewhere in the US.

                                                                                            This means that I get frequently explained how things in Germany are, though being from there. Sometimes even using “well, that’s how things in Germany are” (well, discussion partner, that’s why I know them!). Since then, I usually try to make my location and background clear as much as possible.

                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                              Yeah, being legible has its advantages, even though the questions people want to ask can get arbitrarily rude. (“I get that your pronoun is they, but are you a man or a woman?”) When you can meet their expectations without giving up too much of your own comfort, it can definitely be worth it.

                                                                                          2. 13

                                                                                            This is cute and idealistic, but I feel like to glosses over people’s individuality too much. Also, there are many internets. You are probably not from the Chinese internet which is nearly completely different. Or from the Iranian internet, where you are banned from many other parts of the internet because your country has no copyright laws. Even being from the internet is now balkanised.

                                                                                            I have the same problem with being from the internet as I do with wanting to have meritocracies. Neither really works. If you really want equality, you have to really understand individuals and their stories, not gloss over them as if they didn’t exist or were unimportant. Intersectionality is important.

                                                                                            I get that you probably want to be identified without any preconceptions of who you are, but if you want to be understood, you should share your story. More importantly, you should listen to other people’s stories.

                                                                                            1. 8

                                                                                              No, honestly, it’s not about avoiding preconceptions, it’s that I strongly don’t identify with the place I have citizenship, since I find my interests completely ignored by its politics. I do identify with the place I met everyone important to me.

                                                                                              People asking introductory questions sometimes want to hear a real story, but they’re the minority. When I start explaining things like that, I usually get cut off. So I don’t bother trying to be polite, and just answer their question tersely according to what I believe instead of what they want to hear.

                                                                                              I agree that listening to others is important, though conversational niceties are not the place where they’re likely to say anything that matters to them. These niceties are about snap judgements, not important things.

                                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                                Sure, I’m becoming an expat too. But even then, aren’t you kind of shaped by the place that has rejected you? That’s part of your story, being rejected from one place and being accepted by another. It’s probably a big part of who you are now. So you could always, as you are doing now, give an explanation of why “where are you from?” being a complicated question, if there is time, and we have that time now. I can’t cut you off in text. :-)

                                                                                                I guess even saying “from the internet” is in itself an interesting story, gives some indication that you do not identify with some locality.

                                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                                  It’s definitely part of my story, and it sounds like yours too. If it gets to them wanting a full answer, for sure, it’s relevant and I’d explain it.

                                                                                                  I promise I’m not as rude about this in person as it may sound! But figuring out how to be polite when I’m not easily sortable takes a lot of thought about the intent of what’s being asked.

                                                                                            2. 2

                                                                                              The Indranet.

                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                And, of course, the obligatory xkcd.

                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                Interesting idea, one of the comments says what I was thinking is the biggest issue:

                                                                                                The ideal software project has perfect documentation, and is trivial to use. If you achieve this goal, you have just undermined the market for support, because your software needs no support.

                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                  Can we agree that redis, MongoDB and Postgres have excellent documentation? For all practical intents and purposes these project come as close to the ideal software project has perfect documentation as it will ever be. Yet RedisLabs (the company behind Redis), Mongo INC (the company behind Mongo) and EnterpiseDB (biggest Postgresql Consultant and Development Sponsor) all offer paid Support. If that quote was true, what are they selling? Or more over, what are companies buying? There is no ideal software project, that no one needs support for (other than the one program never written and never used). Stop making those arguments.

                                                                                                  Quite the opposite, I’d argue: for the raise in popularity of these project, increasingly greater documentation was mission critical – they wouldn’t have been ever become popular without it. Software companies know that: When you write good documentation, more people will be able to use the software, making the software more popular, increasing the chances that people use it in production and for critical services that they are willing to spend bucks on having support and services for. With good documentation, you aren’t eating away from your support-market-pie, you are making the pie bigger.