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What’s your problem, anyway?

What’s your problem, anyway?

To date, this blog has mostly been about my problems. But recently I find myself running out of problems to solve, and the ones that are left are getting a lot smaller. So what about your problems? I can’t promise personal responses to all, or even that I’ll be able to write about the requested topics, but I am definitely interested in finding out what material you’d like to see more of. (Besides part 2 of The Refactored Self, I mean!) Feel free to leave your comments anonymously, so you can express yourself without reservations.

I’m also very interested in finding out what problems you’ve solved using ideas from my blog, although I’d prefer those comments not be anonymous, so they can eventually be used as an endorsement for any books I might write in the future. 😉

Join the discussion
  • I have 2 main problems. one mainly blights my work life, the other my personal life.

    1) Work inertia. Getting started doing things is really tough. Overthinking and analysing, worried that the problem is hard. Worried that if I start, I’ll never finish. And that’s failing. A kind of procrastination, I guess.

    2) Worry about the future. Handling uncertainty in my future by stressing about the present. Fearing what’s around the corner – that I won’t be able to live the family life I want.

    Heh. That’s all 🙂

    And thanks for the blog. Your mix of pyPsy is hugely enlightening.

  • My concerns are similar to d’s, however I will invert the intertia problem into one of momentum.

    Constantly starting a project, ramping up through a good design, and into a solid implementation, then having it pushed aside for the next management game of the week gets very frustrating after a few years.

  • My problem is that there are too many interesting things that people would like me to do, and which I would really like to do, but which I haven’t got time to do. I seem to try to do them anyway.

    I go through phases of extreme productivity when I think I might actually, y’know, be able to cope with all this stuff, then I get one deadline too many or one speaker request too many and the whole house of cards collapses into an ugly heap.

    I guess my problem is learning to say NO. I just suffer from the freelancer’s phobia of the word ‘no’ – if you say no once, they might not ask you again.

  • srid said: “””if you say no once, they might not ask you again”””.

    So don’t say no. Say “I’d love to, but unfortunately I’ve made a commitment to another customer and I can’t make myself available until xx/xx/xxxx. Would that be any use to you?”

    Everything’s negotiable, and most sensible people realise that if you are thinking about not letting one customer down then you probably won’t let them down when they become a customer. You can also then discuss how much notice you usually need for projects, and whether they can get in touch with you earlier next time.

    This is Sales 101, but not usually taught to freelancing geeks, which is a shame.

  • Hi — thought you might find this post on MindHacks interesting, esp as it relates to some of your earlier posts on consciousness and Self 2.0:
    Mind Hacks: Consciousness exists to make itself unnecessary

    As for problems–gosh, last year the problems were external and legion: my wife had cancer, I was out of work, money was running short, how did I get to be in my mid-40s and not gotten anywhere?

    This year, my wife is healthy, I have a steady (non-exciting) job with a steady check, and I’m pushing myself to work on long-term goals.

    Some problems in my life have been caused by cloudy goals, diffidence, and not wanting to commit myself to something for fear that I’d miss something better.

    I think the keyword is “fear” — Krishnamurti cited fear as the core problem most people have, which they don’t acknowledge, but which colors every choice they make.

    And fear can be touched off by drastic change. I’ve made an investment in a personality I’ve shaped over the last 40-odd years called “Mike” and some facets of that personality are known by co-workers, other facets by friends, other facets by family. No one person outside of me can grok all those facets. So when I contemplate a change in behavior that breaks those rules I’ve set up, I do feel some fear. I don’t know why. Am I afraid of shedding a comfortable skin? Am i afraid that people who know this facet won’t like the other facet? Why should I be afraid?

    Eric Hoffer believed that drastic change moved a person from an adult mentality to a juvenile mentality, where they were then susceptible to passion and the “true believer” mentality (hence the name of his most famous book). The challenge of change is to push past that juvenile aspect and grow back into the adult aspect. But that wandering period can be fearful, can produce misfits, and those misfits who want to belong sometimes join mass movements that dampen their individiaul personalities.

    I’m explaining this in very clunky language and rambling fashion–sorry! Wasn’t expecting to discourse this early in the morning!

    Enjoy your blog — post some more!

  • I would love a really good tutorial object that exercises all the C slots (mapping, sequence, iter, gc, etc). There used to be an xxobject.c in the tree but I think it was removed because it was so out of date. For bonus points it should be subclassable and cache dealloced instances (like tuples and sets).

  • There’s a neat article in Harvard Magazine about behavioral economics. One of the main shortcomings of the “rational economic actor” model when compared to actual human psychology is that real people discount future value a whole bunch. For instance, if I think an exercise program will cost me an (immediate, today) 6 units, but produce a delayed 8 units of value, then I should want to exercise.

    But I don’t want to exercise today. Why? Because I discount future value. It doesn’t seem like 8 units of benefit today. It only seems like 4. So I’m actually losing two units by this short-term view.

    This future discounting interferes with all sorts of things in everyone’s life. So how do we defeat it? How do you get past this?

  • Oops, forgot the link.

    The article.

    And since I explained it so poorly, here’s the section:

    “Consider a project like starting an exercise program, which
    entails, say, an immediate cost of six units of value, but will produce
    a delayed benefit of eight units. That’s a net gain of two units, “but
    it ignores the human tendency to devalue the future,” Laibson says. If
    future events have perhaps half the value of present ones, then the
    eight units become only four, and starting an exercise program today
    means a net loss of two units (six minus four). So we don’t want to start exercising today. On the other hand, starting tomorrow devalues both the cost and the benefit by half (to three and four units, respectively), resulting in a net gain of one unit from exercising. Hence, everyone is enthusiastic about going to the gym tomorrow.

  • I remember enjoying your posts on rules engines and how you used them in that project of yours (name eludes me at this time). As someone who writes game logic in Python for a living, it has often become a burden to encode the facts and rules of behaviour, remembering what they all are and keeping them consistent and implemented properly. Especially since this means a more complex set of source code files for the explicit definitions that need to be made.

    It has occurred to me on more than one occasion when I am dealing with code like this, that to have some way of defining these things as rules and facts with an inference engine managing their use and the authoring of them, would enable a clearer and more manageable code base. Not to mention that the burden of maintenance would be decreased significantly. On one hand logic could be more easily authored by those who define the rules (game design). On the other the movement of that logic to a largely decoupled layer would reduce effort needed to ensure that all these disparate branches of logic would need to be correct and correctly used.

    Perhaps in thinking about this I have disadvantaged myself by not having learnt Lisp or Scheme. In any case, it is just a thought I had that seemed worth posting here.

  • I would like to know why one jumps into decisions so fast in life. It has always been a huge problem of mine. (ie: marriage, adopting a baby from russia right after marriage, quitting jobs, etc.)

    Also what d said… Work inertia, and overthinking and analysing.



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