Everyday Systems: Podcast : Episode 45

Einstein's Soup

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Hi, this is Reinhard from everydaysystems.com.

It's been a while since the last podcast episode. Over a year. This is a long time.

But besides the usual compelling excuses of kids, the dayjob and so on, I like to think that I can derive an at least partial justification for my delay from the example of a very great authority.

When Albert Einstein was a baby, he had, according to various random sources on the internet, severe speech delays. He got to be four years old and hadn't uttered a single word.

Now in those days there wasn't this whole industry devoted to stoking parental fears about about missed milestones and ever so slight developmental delays. But still, no speech at 4 years old, not a word, even back then, this was cause for parental concern.

But then, one day, during dinner. Little Einstein suddenly blurts out "the soup's too cold."

"You can talk!" his parents exclaim with delight.

But they're confused.

"Why didn't you ever say anything till now?"

Einstein shrugs and says, "Up until now, everything was alright."

As a parent of young children, I love this probably apocryphal anecdote, for obvious reasons, I think. It makes us laugh at our understandable and yet mostly absurd anxieties.

But what, you may ask, does it have to do with Everyday Systems and my irregular podcasting?

Well, maybe this: over the past year or so, all my everyday systems were basically alright. The systems soup was not too cold, not too hot, a nice moderate temperature. So there just wasn't much more to say about them. Construed this way, my silence was a good thing. Not mere laziness but a sign (for those subtle enough to discern it) that things were fundamentally OK, good-enough-ness had finally been achieved.

There's some truth in this. And hey, it was an excuse to share a great story.

But in any case, at at this point, at long last, I think I do again have something to talk about. Maybe even a few episodes worth. I have a bunch of subtle refinements and musings on existing systems. And even some totally new material.

A few teasers to whet your appetite:

For the No-S Diet, I'd like to discuss an intelligent dietary default that have not to do with food itself, but with plate size.You know, what size plates you're eating off of. This comes up on the bulletin board board and facebook group fairly regularly, and I've now tried it myself. I think it's a potentially useful approach, but I think the key is to view it as a default rather than as a hard and fast rule.

For Weekend luddite: I'd like to talk about how to resist the encroaches of computers cropping up everywhere. You can't make a phone call or listen to a song without grabbing some kind of computer. It's harder but maybe therefore way more important to be a weekend luddite than ever. But how exactly do you deal with this? When there's a computer in your pocket, around your wrist, in your car, when you turn on the TV?

For urban ranger: advances in technology have entered into this sphere as well. There are a million devices now that will track your steps, stairs climbed, and what not. Devices you already have for completely different purposes may be tracking this information as well, without you even knowing. There's a whole movement of people who are [hugely] excited about this stuff, the quantified self, they call it, their vision of what they're aiming for. How does an urban ranger of the old school respond to this? Does he embrace it, make use of it, or stand aloof from it as base and unpoetical and unworthy of his high calling.

For glass ceiling: what do do if it's working brilliantly for its indented purpose of eliminating outright drunkenness, but you're worried that you're brushing against the ceiling a little too often, that you're consistently drinking a little too much, even if you no longer have over the top benders like you used to. Should one tweak glass ceiling to guard against this lesser evil too, and if so, how?

I also have some thoughts on that wonderful, bestselling book on tidiness by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing." Besides being interesting in itself, for the tidiness stuff, it revealed to me a limitation of the habit oriented mindset that's so central to everyday systems that I think it's important to at least be aware of.

But for now I'll leave you to ponder the story of Einstein's soup. Not an everyday system exactly, but a bit of wisdom with very practical applications, I think. Thanks for listening, and more soon.

By Reinhard Engels

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