Studies of Life

Learning by doing.

The pitfalls of Evernote or how to use Evernote properly

15 November 2017 by Jim

Evernote is a great service, and after trying several others, including Google Keep and plain text, I have gravitated back to it as the most versatile option and also the one most likely to persist for the coming decade. Why? It is an entire company, which means it is less likely to disappear on a whim (looking at you, Google Wave), and it has (controversial) paid plans which suggest that it’s sustainable and making money with an actual business model. That’s not obvious these days.

So Evernote seems like a solid choice, but it is not without its problems. If you want to learn to properly use it and get the most from it, a few pieces of advice are in order. And what I will say is not the typical advice you might see on the Internet. What I will say over the following paragraphs boils down to: use it smartly, use it consciously, use it less. (more…)

A great free – and secure – Crashplan alternative: Duplicati

10 November 2017 by Jim

I really liked Crashplan as a set-it-and-forget-it solution to having an off-site backup. As you may know, it’s best to have at least 1 on-site and 1 off-site backup. 5 local backups don’t do you much good if your house burns down, for example, or you lose your external hard drive.

So when Crashplan stopped providing service to individual customers (they only do business customers now) I had trouble finding an alternative. All the files I need to keep actually fit into about 3 GB of Dropbox storage, so they are kind of backed up already, since Dropbox keeps 30 days worth of versions for your files, but it’s best to not rely on a single company. There are horror stories of people losing their files with every one of the cloud providers. (more…)

Have some tea, take a walk: daily rituals

02 October 2017 by Jim

Tea drinking (or coffee, if you prefer) and walking are incredibly simple activities, but have something deeply ritualistic.

When you drink tea, you have a series of steps to follow, an algorithm if you like, that involve boiling water – in itself a multi-step process – using some form of tea leaves, in a teabag, or loose-leaf in a metal or ceramic filter, and combing them to transform these initial ingredients into a product that is like a cake, like something you cooked or baked.

Of course, using loose-leaf tea, a pretty cup, or even a ceramic teapot makes the process more ceremonious than a microwaved plastic cup with a cheap tea bag in it. But in any case, it’s a ritual. And so is walking for 20 minutes or so, for the purpose of walking. Not the kind between your desk and the toilet, which is utilitarian in nature, but longer walks that you could reasonably cover with other forms of transportation, yet choose to cover with your feet. That, again, is a ritual where you become aware of what you are doing and do it for its own sake. You don’t walk to arrive from A to B as quickly as possible. The car can do that better than your feet. And you don’t drink tea because you’re thirsty (a glass of water would do) or in the mood for really nice taste (there’s coke in the fridge). (more…)

I’m addicted to the Internet.

09 September 2017 by Jim

The image shows my use of my time in front of screens in September. Blue is virtuous time, red is useless distraction. I am trying to change my behaviour in this regard since the 8th.

I am addicted to the Internet, it seems. And among millennials I am certainly not the only one. I spend on average about 2 or 3 hours on YouTube each day, starting in the early morning when I’m still in bed. Then, being a freelancer working from home, nothing stops me from watching a few videos during the day. I like American Dad clips of 5 minutes or so, many of which I have already seen. And if RescueTime is to be believed (an app that tracks what I do while on my computer or my phone) then I often spend 12-14 hours per day in front of a screen, out of which on average 6 are actual, productive work, which includes work I’m being paid for and online lessons in programming or Japanese. (more…)

Dealing with procrastination: use what you already have!

05 August 2017 by Jim

Photo by bibliotheque-leschampslibres-rennes

Like any others, I’ve struggled a lot with procrastination at times in my life. Owning my own business and having obtained a master’s degree in French literature while working full-time has solved some of those issues, by pure necessity. Like so many things we wish we could do, when we have to get on with work because we have no time left, we’re suddenly able to. Necessity breeds diligence. (more…)

Présidentielles 2017: Au-delà de la colère – la vérité sur les riches, la globalisation, et l’immigration

06 May 2017 by Jim

For obvious reasons, this post is written in French. For an English translation of this article, click here.

Photo by fractal00 (Flickr)

Dans la lignée des plébiscites ayant conduit au Brexit et à l’élection de Trump, l’élection présidentielle en France fait des vagues. À l’approche du second tour avec des candidats tous les deux critiqués, l’un pour son approche jugée trop libérale et son appartenance au fameux “système”, l’autre pour sa vision supposément irréaliste et idéologique d’un retour à un passé glorieux désormais inaccessible. Lequel des deux deviendra président(e) n’est pas le sujet de cet article, puisque ce n’est qu’une question de détail, et la spéculation ne sert à rien. La question de fond est celle-ci : quelles tendances sous-jacentes caractérisent le débat politique actuel ? Comment les historiens futurs comprendront-ils la psyché des pays occidentaux en général, et de la France en particulier, en l’an 2017 ?  (more…)

Applied Buddhism – The Milan Awakening for the Solo Traveler

01 May 2017 by Jim

Thinks you see while walking through Milan.

From April 26 to 28, I was in Milan, on my own, to see the city and take a break from day-to-day life. It was not my first solo travel experience – I’ve been to Paris, Sao Paulo, New York, Berlin on my own – but it was certainly a new kind of travel experience for me.

My mindset is what set this one apart from the previous journeys.

Previously, solo travel has been a somewhat tortuous process for me. Despite the fact that I appreciated each experience in hindsight and found it well worth doing, in the moment of travelling, alone and often bored, confronted with expectations of what solo travel should look like and how enjoyable it should be, I was often quite frustrated. (more…)

Choice is your enemy and ideas are like fast food

11 April 2017 by Jim

Freedom of choice is a foundational value of capitalism, and of democracies. While it has benefits in the context of those two collective systems, I believe it is a destructive force in many people’s personal lives.

Choices are necessary, and I am not suggesting you run from them – on the contrary – but it is important to master them and not let them possess you. Something as fundamental as a choice might be something we encounter often in life, but that does not mean we have learned how to master it. (more…)

Don’t Panic! On Trump, Le Pen, and Brexit.

02 March 2017 by Jim

Stormy. Photo by Luke Gray.

Someone recently said to me over dinner: ‘Why are people so racist and voting for Trump or Le Pen?’ A lively discussion ensued, which made some ideas clearer to me and highlighted some common views of the world that I think are not accurate. For that reason, I want to talk about them here.

To the liberal metropolitan people that I and most of my friends feel like we belong, what’s been going on in terms of Trump’s election, Brexit and Le Pen’s good poll numbers is frightening and mysterious. Why do people make such obviously wrong decisions? (more…)

Factor Portfolio Test for 2017: A Sun and its Satellites

03 February 2017 by Jim

(Picture by Steve Snodgrass)

Another year has gone by, and I would like to give an update on my personal stock portfolio. I currently think that index investing is the smartest choice, and that is why 75% of my portfolio is made up of index ETFs. However, a part of me continues to think that if you try to invest intelligently using a portfolio that is different from the overall market, you should be able to do better than the market. Maybe a few more years of dabbling and getting subpar returns will cure me of this illusion. For now, I’m not yet fully ready to accept that index investing is the best anybody can do. Not because I’m greedy and dream of making 20% ROI per year, but because I think that it should be possible for a rationally thinking human to be better than average. (more…)

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