The Secret Life of Passwords

This incredible piece from the New York Times made the rounds this week. Ian Urbina dives deep into one of the most private, yet telling details of modern life: our passwords. In our attempt to make an increasing tangle of passwords memorable to us and only us, we construct them full of meaning.

These special passwords are a bit like origami: small and often impromptu acts of creativity, sometimes found in the most banal of places.
Keepsake passwords ritualize a daily encounter with personal memories that often have no place else to be recalled. We engage with them more frequently and more actively than we do, say, with the framed photo on our desk.

I thought about what my own passwords say about me. Some are jokes based on the very first password I was assigned by a Sysadmin back in college. That original password was itself a subtle joke. Another password, created with a fellow employee, commemorated the date a dispised boss of ours was fired. I also thought of what my passwords don’t say. Mine never contain truly personal information, like the names of loved ones. And most telling, my passwords are always pragmatic in structure. I never settle on a password without making sure it can be quickly typed, that it has a nice mixture of characters and symbols for the left and right-hand fingers. It must have a nice rhythm on the keyboard. I’ll be typing this password many times a day, the thinking goes. I can’t risk my fingers getting tied in a knot.

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How do CEOs function on 4-5 hours of sleep?

This question on Quora elicited an enormous amount of feedback. Can a person function normally on 4-5 hours of sleep per night, and should they? Many contended that being able to sleep 4 hours per night is a genetic gift (hypo-sleepers) that can be aided by various techniques, such as finding the right time of the night to sleep, avoiding boring meetings and TV, or short-changing your carb load. Others argued that those that think they can function on little sleep are fooling themselves and jeopardizing long term health.

Some may think they’re special, and are performing optimally on a 4h sleep schedule. No, they’re not. You may think you are, and even feel good for “hacking” your body and extending the day by 15%. But the problem is: it’ll cost you a price, as it has been proven again and again… Like someone who’s had two drinks, and still thinks [they are] perfectly capable of driving.

I think we need our sleep. It’s admirable to think we can function normally on little rest. I experimented with this myself in my twenties until a much older friend advised that one of the things he’d learned in his long life was to get plenty of sleep, ideally 8 hours. He found that he was a better version of himself: less irritable, more careful and considerate, and capable of deeper thought. I took his advice and immediately found his findings to hold true with my own life. Since then, even in stressful times with busy schedules, I’ve given myself permission to get a full night’s sleep.

Lists

I love lists. I love making them and reading them.

Lists help me get organized and stay on task. I always have a To Do list on my desk. I’ll write a list of everything I need to work on, sometimes in categories, like “Urgent,” “Not-Urgent,” and “Personal.” I’ve made so many lists, I’ve developed shorthand for these categories: TTD (Things to Do), BB (Back-burners), and XXX (for Personal). I’ll usually put the day of the week at the top, especially if I am making a list for the next day, which I will often do as my last task of the day. When I look at my TTD lists, I’ll sometimes put roman numerals in front of different items to prioritize them: I, II, III, IV, etc. I cross things off when they are completely done, or put a check next to the item when I am done for now (maybe the ball is in the client’s court for a while). I don’t cross these tasks out, of course, because they’re not completed, just on pause.

When I make my list for the next day, I of course start off with the tasks I did not accomplish today. Because I am adding tasks all day long, this is usually enough, but I will try to think if there is anything else to add, usually to the BB list. I’ve found that I can sometimes get back-burner task fatigue where the same item is on this list for too long and will start to stress me out, so I will cull through the BB list and eliminate tasks that no longer seem important or realistic. But then where do THEY go? I played around with a DBB list (Deep back-burners) but that list REALLY stressed me out. By the way, this “stress” is from my overwhelming desire to get these things done, cross them off, and go on to the next thing. This desire is helpful for work, but can be problematic when the task is “relax more.”

I typically use a notepad of some kind — over the years I’ve used spiral notebooks, yellow legal pads, or just scratch pads — and I keep the older lists for reference. Think of it as a back-up. Creating and using these lists is so easy and helpful, it amazes me that so few people do this. I respect that everyone has their own system and some people are very good at keeping a TTD list in their heads, but I so often see people who bounce from task to task with poor priorities or routinely forget to do things and I wonder why they don’t just write things down. Why not make a list?

Another thing I make lists for is to organize my thoughts. In recent years, I’ve started mind-mapping, which is ultimately just a collection of lists. I take a page of paper, write a few central ideas in the center and four corners, then write ancilary ideas around the main themes. This helps me organize ideas with multiple parts or to see the relationships between them. But I’ll also make simple lists for fun, like my favorite movies, or iPad apps I want to try. For note syncing, I use Simplenote which syncs to a Mac app called Notational Velocity. It’s not perfect but it’s in the two places I need it the most, my iPhone and computer, and it works better than other solutions I’ve tried. I recently cleaned out my notes and found a few of these lists:

iPHONE GAMES TO CHECK-OUT:
Ridiculous Fishing
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Modern Combat 3
World of Goo
Canabalt
Walking Dead: The Game
Tiny Tower
Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery
Infinity Blade II

OLD CASSETTE TAPES:
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
Roxette
Public Enemy: Side Black, Side Silver
Top Gun Soundtrack
Weird Al Yankovic
Madonna: True Blue, Like a Virgin
Rolling Stones
Howard Jones: Human’s Lib
Ray Stevens
Cruisin’ Classics
Fine Young Cannibals
David Bowie: Tonight
Miami Vice Soundtrack
Sting: Dream of the Blue Turtles
Best of Cinderella
Eric Clapton: Tears in Heaven
Empire Strikes Back Soundtrack
Yello: Oh Yeah!

BOOKS TO READ (2011):
1. The Big Burn by Timothy Egan (Non-fiction, Teddy Roosevelt, History)
2. How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
3. The Contortionist’s Handbook: A Novel by Craig Clevenger
4. The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History by John Ortved
5. Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil
6. Googled: The End of the World as We Know It by Ken Auletta
7. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, One-Straw Revolution by Fukuoka, Oishinbo by Kariya (manga)
8. Shop class as Soul work: Anatomy of the working class
9. Badass by Ben Thompson
10. Babel 17 by Samuel Delany

FAVORITE BOOKS in my Library:
1. Confessions of an Economic Hit-man by John Perkins – (Non-fiction, Politics)
2. The Mysteries of Pittsburg by Michael Chabon (Also: Wonder Boys) – (Fiction)
3. Freakanomics by Steven Levitt- (Non-fiction, Economics)
4. Blood & Thunder, the Story of Kit Carson & the West by Hampton Sides- (Non-fiction, History)
5. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – (Classic Fiction, WWII)
6. Nova by Samuel Delaney – (Fiction, Sci-fi)
7. Into the Wild (Also: Under the Banner of Heaven) by John Krakaur- (Non-fiction, Journalism)
8. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegutt – (Classic Fiction)
9. Catcher and the Rye by J. D. Salinger – (Classic Fiction)
10. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins – (Fiction)
11. The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor – (Fiction)
12. In Search of Captain Zero by A.C. Weisbecker (Also: Cosmic Banditos) – (Fiction)

WINTER VEGETABLES TO PLANT:
Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower
Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Collards, Endive
Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mustard
Onions (green and bunching types)
Peas, English
Potatoes, Radish, Turnips

SUMMER VEGETABLES:
tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, melons
beans (bush, pole, snap), summer squash, beets, carrots, and chard
basil oregano, thyme and sage

FLOWERS: sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias

BACKPACKING GEAR:
Solar charger for iPhone:
http://www.bestcovery.com/solio-bolt-solar-charger
Lightweight backpack list:
http://www.reddit.com/r/CampingandHiking/comments/e5d2s/best_lightweight_gear/c15fhmm
Another link: http://www.reddit.com/r/CampingandHiking/comments/cam3x/ultralight_gear_recommendations/c0r9bm0
CLOTHING: Trail runners, shirt, short, underwear, socks, extra top layer, hat/visor, sunglasses, rain gear. Extra: underwear, shit, socks X2.
SHELTER: Tarp w rope/stakes, ground cloth, sleeping bag, neo-air matress, netting, dry bag.
COOKING: Spork, lighter X2, stove & fuel, cook set, water bottle & purification tablets. Aluminum foil, ziplocks.
TOILET: Toothbrush, soap, chapstick, etc. First aid kit, wet ones, cloth.
EXTRA: Knife, headlamp & batteries, whistle, compass, cord 45′, solor charger, moleskin & pencil, iPhone & charger.

MOVIES TO SEE (From IMdb Top 250):
(* denotes Oscar win)

Manhattan
Infernal Affairs
Roman Holiday
Diving Bell & the Butterfly
The Wild Bunch
Stalag 17
V for Vendetta
Ran
On the Waterfront*
Down Fall
InTouchables
Cool Hand Luke
Gandhi**
8 1/2
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe
Paths of Glory
The Hustler
All About Eve*
A Separation
A Few Dollars More
The Deer Hunter**

Best Pictures:
Chicago
Driving Mrs. Daisy
Out of Africa**
Terms of Endearment***
Chariots of Fire
Midnight Cowboy
From Here to Eternity

Best Director:
Reds
Cabaret

Best Actor:
Ray
Life is Beautiful
Shine
Reversal of Fortunes
My Left Foot
Kiss of Spiderwoman
On Golden Pond*
Coming Home*
Tender Mercies
Goodbye Girl
Henry & Tonto
Save the Tiger

Best Actress:
Iron Lady
The Reader
La Volce a Rose
The Hours
Boys Don’t Cry
Blue Sky
The Piano
Howard’s End
The Accused
Children of a Lesser God
The Trip to Bountiful
Places in the Heart
Sophie’s Choice
Norma Rae
Alice Doesn’t Live Here
A Touch of Class
Klute
Women in Love

NOTES: As of 8/11/12
I have seen 170 of IMdbs Top 250.
47 of Top 50
85 of Top 10
32 of last 42 Best Pictures (7 missing from 1978-1985)

Sleep Cycle

To use Sleep Cycle, you place an iPhone on your mattress while you sleep. This $0.99 app is able to monitor your body movements with the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer, thereby tracking your sleep cycles. It charts how much deep sleep you are receiving, when you are going in and out of R.E.M. sleep, and a true average of the sleep you’re achieving. By monitoring your cycle, this clever app can attempt to wake you up at your most natural wake state within 30 minutes of your alarm time.

When I first heard of Sleep Cycle, I got excited and immediately downloaded it before realizing that the app probably wouldn’t work in the bed I share with my wife. Wouldn’t it pick up her movements, rendering all collected data unusable? The app sat on my iPhone, never used, until I finally decided to try it this week. Sleep Cycle calibrates itself the first two nights, adjusting for the variables in your bed, mattress, and pillow. So far the results are good. After placing the iPhone on my side of the bed, the app seems to accurately track my specific cycles. If you have a king-sized bed or a tempurpedic mattress, Sleep Cycle’s results should be nearly perfect. Worried about overnight cellphone signals close to your head? Simply put your iPhone in airplane mode. Sleep Cycle’s biggest inconvenience is that because the app runs all night, you’ll have to plug your iPhone into the wall. If you can convince your wife to put up with a power cord coming out of your pillow, you can start enjoying a good night’s sleep.