The Magnet 0019: Unless it's a “Hell yeah!” then say “No, thanks”

Also, stubby espresso tamper. things to say when you're losing a technical argument, White House guide to drug lingo, and more


Stubby expresso tamper saves toes

Years ago Carla gave me an espresso tamper as a gift. It’s solid and heavy and does its job admirably. The problem is sometimes I or my daughters set it on top of the espresso machine and when someone opens the cabinet door behind it, the door hits the tamper and knocks it to the floor. We’re lucky it hasn’t landed on one of our feet, because it would hurt a lot and maybe even break a toe. I decided to put an end to this hazard by 3D printing a shorter expresso handle that would clear the cabinet door. The original handle was attached by a screw, so it was easy to attach the new one. I used TinkerCad to design the model.

Now it’s safe to make espresso in our house. See for yourself:


Unless you think “Hell yeah!” then say “No, thanks”

My friend and Cool Tools partner Kevin Kelly writes excellent books about humankind’s relationship to technology. He’s also a superb photographer. He also makes things at home. All of these activities require stretches of uninterrupted time. He also receives lots of invitations to speak at events, write pieces for magazines, and participate in projects. He used to say yes to most invitations and then when the time came to write the piece or fly to the event, he’d ask himself why he said yes. Eventually, he realized why he was overcommitting. It was because the deadline or event was often months in the future. It’s easy to say yes to a future commitment because it doesn’t affect your present self. You can ignore the commitment for days, weeks, or months, but eventually, you will have to do the work that your future self promised. Now, whenever Kevin gets invited to do anything in the future, he mentally swaps the due date with “tomorrow.” So, “Can you give a keynote speech at our conference in Tulsa three months from now?” Becomes “Can you give a keynote speech at our conference in Tulsa tomorrow?” It’s much easier to decide whether you want to do something when you make this change to the question.

I used to say yes to any request to fly somewhere and give a talk, but after I started using Kevin’s trick I cut my travel back and my life became less stressful.

CD Baby founder Derek Sivers uses a similar trick, which he describes in this podcast episode, titled “Hell Yeah or No.” Here’s an excerpt:

We can't see far away so clearly, so we mistakenly think that we'll have more free time in the future. But then today comes and now it's all close and vivid. Now you can see it clearly and ah you're too busy and so you curse your past self for saying yes to that thing that you have to do today. You know, three months ago it was easy for you to say yes to this thing in the future when you have infinite time. So, here's the solution is to raise the bar all the way to the top. Say “no” to almost everything and leave space in your life. Leave free time. But this is not relaxing, it's strategic because then when something great comes along, like something that makes you say “oh, hell yeah, that would be awesome,” then not only can you say yes to that but now you have the time and energy to throw yourself into it completely, like now you can give it your all. You know the baseball metaphor, you can knock it out of the park. And i think strategically it's better to do five big things with your life instead of 500 half-assed things.


Things to say when you're losing a technical argument

Most of these last-ditch passive-aggressive retorts are still valid, nearly 20 years after they were posted. They can be modified for use in other contexts besides software developer meetings.

Here are a few:

  • That won't scale.

  • Trying to build a team behind that technology would be a staffing nightmare.

  • Yes, well, that's just not the way things work in the real world.

  • I like your idea. Why don't you write up a white paper and we'll review it at the next staff meeting?

  • The packaging costs will be prohibitive.

  • OK, but what about internationalization?

  • Let's table this for now, and we'll talk about it one-on-one off-line.

  • This really doesn't jibe with our core competency.

  • This sort of thing should really be outsourced.

  • I don't think you're considering the performance trade-offs.

  • I like it, but it is too point-oh for my tastes.

  • I think you need to stop taking this so personally. We need to think about what's best for the project, not about our own little pet theories


The White House guide to drug lingo

Selected “Street Terms” from the 2005 White House Office of National Drug Control Policy website:

  • B Amount of marijuana to fill a matchbox

  • B-40 Cigar laced with marijuana and dipped in malt liquor

  • Bank bandit pills Depressants

  • Are you anywhere? Do you use marijuana?

  • Silly putty Psilocybin/psilocin

  • Kick stick Marijuana cigarette

  • Hawkers Individuals who walk through a setting (nightclub) announcing the availability of a drug (typically MDMA, GHB, or LSD

  • Interplanetary mission Travel from one crackhouse to another to search for crack


Learn something in 500 words

I’ve been enjoying a new newsletter, called Complexity Condensed. Once a week author Louis Pereira explains a topic in exactly 500 words (with illustrations). He explanations are insightful and go beyond merely describing something. He also looks at larger impacts of systems, politics, nature, etc. So far he’s tackled quantum computers, World War 1, hangovers, Bitcoin, Marxism, viruses, sleep, and loss aversion.


What is money?

Aristotle’s definition of money was surprising and obvious when I first read it:

“Money is a guarantee that we may have what we want in the future. Though we need nothing at the moment it insures the possibility of satisfying a new desire when it arises." — Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, v, c. 340 B.C.

Thanks for reading! The Magnet is written by Mark Frauenfelder and edited by Carla Sinclair.