A Matter of Convenience

It takes some time for me to realize how thoroughly a product or service has permeated my life and altered my behaviors.  I was recently mailed a $40 prepaid Visa card as a rebate.  After activating the card, I immediately went to the computer and transferred the value to a $40 Amazon gift card for myself.

Why?  I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of remembering the exact balance left on the card and adjusting my purchases to compensate in the case that a vendor couldn’t charge an arbitrary amount to the card.  Most businesses will tell you that a card has been declined without being able to tell you specific reasons why, and it’s also inconvenient to spend the last couple dollars on the card.  This isn’t a novel tactic by any means (I’m sure many other people handle prepaid cards like this as well).  I buy enough things on Amazon that this plan made sense (here is an old blog post about Amazon Prime written back when I was captivated by the novelty of free two-day shipping).  Somewhat relatedly, there are those who wonder whether customers like me can justify seemingly irrational stock price behavior.

I had to pause and ponder what I was doing.  I wasn’t reasoning about it explicitly until that point, but my actions implied that I view Amazon store credit as more liquid than a cash card accepted at every place that I purchase from, including Amazon!

Of course, there exists some balance above which I would prefer a cash card, but I still find the above conclusion a bit surprising and indicative of Amazon’s pervasive influence on my shopping behavior.


As an aside, the rebate was for a $35 purchase.  I love it when the system works!

Protected: Dislocation: a narrative

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When we meet on a cloud…

Yesterday I spent a couple hours messing around with my guitar, my smartphone, and a recording app. I played a couple songs interspersed with mistakes and HILARIOUS commentary. I uploaded about a half hour of this to SOUNDCLOUD – currently it’s all in a Private Set, which may or may not become public at some point. Drop me a note if you wanna give a listen!! The only reason I set it to private is because I have no idea whether it’s a good idea to have unpolished recordings of yourself singing (possibly poorly) just floating around on the internet.



Life Post-College Part 2: The Routine

After four years of living with the rest of the blandfill, I am now living alone in an apartment in a new city.  This post is the second installment in a series about adjusting to life post-college.  Part 1 here.

It’s been almost four months since I posted Part 1, and a few things have changed.  I am currently in a Fitocracy deadlift duel with a friend until the end of the month (and he’s going to lose!), so I am trying to gain weight by eating more calories in general plus more carbs and allowing a bit of junk food.  After January, I’m planning on replacing some of the lifting sessions with swimming to cut a few pounds.  For the first few months after starting work, I kept telling myself that I would bring lunch, but I’ve given up on that.  Cooking separate meals for lunch and dinner takes too much time.

One of the things that I was looking forward to about the real world was the ability to have a routine (post from July 2010 in Shanghai).  At the risk of being overly detailed, my weekly schedule is as follows:

  • Monday: Drive to work around 8am. Leave the office around 6:00pm and go to the gym for an hour to an hour and a half. Go grocery shopping afterward (I’m always starving by this time).
  • Tuesday:  Rest day from the gym, so I take the shuttle to and from the office and work from 8am to 6pm.
  • Wednesday: Hump day.  No gym.  Take the shuttle to and from work.  I started a weekly dinner group, and we eat at a different restaurant every Wednesday.  Check out the map!
  • Thursday: Same as Monday.
  • Friday: Same as Monday and Thursday except I usually leave work earlier and swim instead of lift.

For the first two months, I was a lazy bum after coming back to the apartment.  I would watch TV or surf the internet and go to bed at 10:30pm to ensure eight hours of sleep.  I was falling into the same mental trap as I did the summer of 2010.  From another old blog post (wow, that sure was an enlightening summer of self-discovery):

I usually return at about 8:00 pm, but after checking my email, going through my daily set of websites, handwashing my clothes (no washing machine) and showering, I am left with an hour before going to bed, but I’m pretty tired by that point and don’t care to do anything productive. That hour becomes consumed by surfing the web. I realize that no one ever became successful by being lazy, but for some reason, I have trouble motivating myself to take that extra step and go beyond what makes me comfortable. Yes, I realize that humans didn’t evolve to be productive during every waking hour (HarvardFML posts about spending the summer watching TV make me feel slightly better about myself), but it annoys me to no end that I cannot throw aside my tendencies to waste time.

I realized later on that my time could be better spent doing other things such as reading or programming, so I’ve been trying to stay up later and be more productive (at the cost of being sleep-deprived and caffeine-addicted).  Tonight, of course, I am procrastinating by writing this post.

Routines are double-edged swords.

One can be stuck in a rut and waste all the free time in a day, continuing in this manner for months, years, or a lifetime.  My cynical side believes that most people do this and that I am always at risk of slipping into this pattern.

However, one can also establish routines of steady, constant self-improvement.  The “compounding of effort”, as some call it, is analogous to the concept of compound interest over time.  If one works a little bit more each day than another person, ceteris paribus, then the extra accumulated knowledge and experience will become obvious over time.  In life, this may manifest itself as improved social or career opportunities.  Or at least I hope so.

What I’ve discovered about the compounding of effort is that it’s not effective for me unless I spend large amounts of time on something.  For example, learning Spanish or chess tactics for 20 minutes a day doesn’t really add up to much even if I do it every day; I’m not sharpening the knife but merely slowing the rate at which it’s becoming dull.  To that end, I cut out many areas of interest and decided to focus on a couple of items for the next few months.  Relatedly, I think this was the main reason why I failed at using the Seinfeld system of motivation; I committed to doing too many small tasks in a day.

I wonder what I will think of all of this in 30 or 40 years.  Will I consider myself to be successful?  If so, how much of that will I attribute to lifestyle changes made in my early 20s?  If not, how should I have better utilized my time?