How I lifehacked my way into a corner

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Hey - hey - I have a life hack. If you want to eat powdered donuts but not get your fingers covered in it (and all over your keyboard) use chop sticks!


Merlin Mann, are you seeing this??

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Ha! I use chopstick for popcorn.


Classy! I can’t wait to go to the theater now.


Taking pickles out of the jar without getting frozen dill fingers.
Turning bacon in the frying pan. (This one’s really difficult with fingers.)


They make chopsticks designed specifically for that second one (cooking). The basic difference is that they’re at least twice as long as normal chopsticks.


Hipster much?

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The pleasure of self-indulgence should have value in the equation.


The first “lifehack” I was aware of adopting came from (IIRC) a 1956 book by Bradford Angier, How to Stay Alive in the Woods, in the form of advice for how to pack for a wilderness trip (paraphrased): gather everything you might want to take and divide it into three piles – first pile is only those things upon which your survival depends; second pile is stuff which has zero survival value; third pile is all the things you can’t decide are for pile 1 or pile 2. Now throw away piles 2 and 3.

Welcome to your mid-40s, Cory!


The only lifehack I know is that doughnuts are cheaper per weight than doughnut holes.

Hope that helps…


along similar lines, i wear plastic gloves when i eat barbecue ribs.

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I really like the idea of incorporating some randomness into my routine. I wish there was some service out there that worked like an oracle that answers the question, “What should I do for the next x hours?” That way, you could schedule some number of hours per week and then consult the oracle.

It would be an easy service to program but feeding it with interesting answers to the question would be difficult.


the story of how I was present at the birth of “lifehacking”

There was no birth of lifehacking. It’s a buzzword for things people have been doing since time immemorial, which is why you put it in quotation marks. It’s fine to have a neologism, but let’s dispense with the fiction that efficient methods and prioritization was invented at an O’Reilly talk in 2004. Next your lot will claim Silicon Valley invented the scientific method.

ETA: Also, why not allocate a portion of your time for trying those speculative things out? The value of a laboratory isn’t a return on it’s immediate costs, but the unexpected gains you’d miss if you never experimented.


Cory, I wonder if you need to inject some disturbance into the system – you’ve settled into a minima, but how do you know that it’s the global minima? Or maybe you need to reset the system and start with different inputs to see if you come up with a new solution.


Of course I’m an old man, but…

I’ve never been terribly fond of the more ‘extreme’ variants of the ‘lifehacking’ culture. Their proponents sound like overzealous HR managers, always exhorting me that everything I do in life has to be oriented toward some goal or other. Dang it, some things I do just for the heck of it. Just because I want to. Not everything has to be second-guessed with “how will this help me to achieve something else?”

I like going trekking. Just because I enjoy it. I’m not ‘training’ for some sort of Big Trek. (People ask me if I want to through-hike the Appalachian Trail, I answer, “$LC_DEITY willing, I’ll never have the sort of life that I can just walk away from for six months.”) I’m not doing it for “fitness,” although surely it must have some benefits there. I’m not trying to achieve some set of goals (although when I happen to finish a trail, or complete a set of listed peaks, or something, I’ll send in for the patch, because a few patches on the backpack can be a conversation-opener at airports). I just enjoy it.

Because I enjoy it, though, I tend to pick up the gear and skills and tricks that support it. That includes learning to cope with minimalism - throw out the stuff you don’t need. Except that I then add back a few wants - the tools for photography, or map-making, or whatever. While always being aware that I’m going to have to carry everything I bring, so I had better pare down to the minimum!

I like open-source software development. I’ve surely spent decades getting good at that. But it’s not that I set a goal to become an open-source luminary; I just did what I liked and got good at it along the way.

I like the engineering challenges of my job. But “career planning” has always made me snort. I’ve never had a “career”, it’s been more of a “careen.”

Too many projects, too little time. I’m never bored unless I’m trapped in a place where I can’t work on any of them. (Hello, staff meeting!)

All my life, I’ve had teachers, bosses, HR people, and random meddlers tell me that I need to “apply myself.” I seem to make out just fine without forcing that sort of focus - simply because what pleases me seems to serve others. The company is willing to pay for what I’m willing to do. I don’t aspire to be at the helm. Some of the things I enjoy doing happen to be useful.

I can give the illusion of having “applied myself” because some of the things I like doing are reputed to be very, very difficult.

A lot of people that I know are terrified of that level of freedom, and seem to need to be goaded, if only by themselves.

“Eight words the Greater Rede fulfil:
An it harm none, do what ye will.”

Terrifying concept.


I like chopsticks for salads. trying to stab all the greens and then e.g. a cherry tomato or a crouton with a fork to gather up a bite-full is annoyingly repetitive, tends to make annoying noises, and the tomatoes want to pop away like a tiddly wink or the croutons usually explode. It’s way easier to just grab and scoop up a bite in the chopsticks.


I was disappointed that the article didn’t mention family activities.

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And I should have above, because that’s really important to me as well, although I don’t think of it as often now that my wife and I are empty-nesters. (I see her on a daily basis unless I’m traveling; we more often need to reassure each other that it’s OK to compartmentalize some things, we don’t have each to share all the other’s interests.)

Nobody lifehacks Baby in a corner.