Seinfeld Productivity Myth

Time and time again, I run into this same Seinfeld myth online. The story goes that some lucky guy runs into Seinfeld at a show and asks him for writing advice. Seinfeld allegedly responds with the following gem:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."

"Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis.

If someone as successful as Seinfeld uses it, it must work, right?

Only Seinfeld didn't actually invent that technique. Seinfeld himself denied it in a recent Reddit AMA, going so far as to call the idea "dumb":

This is hilarious to me, that somehow I am getting credit for making an X on a calendar with the Seinfeld productivity program. It's the dumbest non-idea that was not mine, but somehow I'm getting credit for it.

So how did this myth get started? As far as I can figure out, this myth was apparently created by Brad Isaac in a post he authored for Lifehacker.

In the article, Isaac apparently claims to have met Seinfeld and received this now-lgendary bit of advice. I'll leave it to the reader to form an opinion around Isaac's motives.

So, next time someone pops this legend on you, point them to this page and politely ask them to stop spreading myths. :)

Don't You Believe It!

I was recently watching Tom and Jerry with my kids and there was a particular scene where a battered Tom says the phrase "Don't you believe it" in a rather creepy tone. This line used to creep me out as a young child.

You can see the clip here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9UCq6WcU

The line also pops up in at least two other Looney Tunes episodes, including a Bugs Bunny episode. So this made it seem like a cultural reference of the time. And of course, I had to figure it out.

There are many theories online:

The Answer

Largely thanks to discussions with my grandfather and from reading the day3media.com culture page, I found the answer. The answer lies in an old 1940s radio program called, coincidentally enough, "Don't You Believe It!". This radio show was kind of the Mythbusters of the day and this was their catchphrase.

Here's an excerpt from Day3media.com's culture page. Listen to an excerpt from the January 4, 1947 episode of the radio show: DontYouBelieveIt.mp3

My Garage Workbench Build v1.0

Photo of workbench

Preface

None of this is The Right Way (tm). I am just documenting what I did.

I'm a complete novice when it comes to building stuff with lumber. I have some framing, drywall, and workworking experience from my teens, but that was decades ago. This was my first project of any note.

Planning It.

I toiled over different plans and sketches on what sort of workbench scheme I wanted. Everything was a compromise.

I eventually settled back onto my original plan, the infamous $50 Family Handyman workbench with some minor modifications.

It is not a $50 workbench. It will cost you close to twice that amount. It will also likely take you twice as long to build it as they claim. It took me about 6 hours to build. I built it across two afternoons during the week of Thanksgiving 2013.

Materials Used

  • 16 x 2x4x8 cheapo lumber (~$2.53 ea. Buy a few extra boards for mistakes and a cutting table for the plywood and pegboard).
  • 1 x 4x8 3/4" sanded plywood (~$19 ea)
  • 1 x 4x8 white pegboard (~$17)
  • ~250 x 8x3" drywall screws (Don't, buy wood screws instead)
  • ~100 x 8x1.75" drywall screws (See above)

Tools Used

  • Miter saw
  • Circular saw (Bought a cheapo, but highly-rated Skil saw off of Amazon for $42)
  • Cordless drill
  • Square
  • Level (You can get a 4 foot aluminum level for about $12 at most big box stores)
  • Clamps (The expensive Irwins are nice, but the old school cheapo C clamps work just fine, too)

Building It.

Cut everything first. I cut everything according to the cut list before ever drilling a screw.

Pay attention to your framing (how the boards meet). Place things together on a level surface to see how boards meet. Measure twice or even thrice before cutting and screwing.

Observations & What I'd Do Differently

  • The bottom shelf is a lot more spacious that I thought it would be. I can easily store my 10" miter saw and my shop vac down there.
  • The bench is surprisingly sturdy and very heavy. It easily supported my ~230lbs and I've already used it to beat things into submission with heavy hammers.
  • Use better lumber with fewer knots.
  • Don't use drywall screws. Use proper wood screws.

Modifications

  • 3/4" plywood, instead of the 1/2" stuff.
  • I braced the legs/shelving/benchtop with extra 2x4s.

I am planning for further modifications over time as needed.

Apple = Gaming Console Killer

It begins with the AppleTV 4[1] with an A7[1], a little more RAM, and little more Flash storage. Next, you add some MFi game controllers. Then, you expand the App Store to the AppleTV, line up some blockbuster titles and increment the version number. Then all the game developers who already produce games[2] for (retina class, mind you) iOS tweak their games a little, adjust the resolution to 1080p and publish to the App Store.

The thing is, Apple already has all of this. All they need to do is pull the trigger and the bodies of console makers will fall. I wonder if they even aware of their fate[3]? I'm guessing they're going with the Ed Colligan style of vision.


[1] Or whatever's the new hotness when Apple pulls this trigger.
[2] In other words, not Nintendo.
[3] Sure, at least some console makers will be around, but Apple will deal a serious blow to them.

The NSA and Compartmentalization

This week, the NSA has found itself in the middle of a couple of scandals. What people are not realizing is that the NSA exploits compartmentalization quite well.

On one hand, it's used to restrict classified information to individuals or teams on a need-to-know basis. On the other hand, the NSA uses compartmentalization to counter oversight and limit the visible scope of a goal.

Take the call metadata program, for example. I'm not sure whether the program name has been leaked (PRISM is another program entirely), but let's call it "HORSESHIT".

While HORSESHIT's scope is collecting call metadata (phone numbers, date & times, who they called, etc) you can virtually guarantee HORSESHIT has sister programs (let's make up the name FROGBUTT) that DOES connect the information from the HORSESHIT program to the personal data collected in the FROGBUTT program. There may be an additional program called DONKEYSNOT that records the contents of all the phone calls in the US, this is, in turn, chained to the data from the other programs.

It's compartmentalized. If information from one program is compromised, only one part of the overall picture becomes unveiled. The NSA can plausibly deny the actual scope of a program. Citizens think "Whew! They're only collecting my call metadata, that's not so bad!". It lessens damage to "national security". Jigsaw intelligence.