What we wish we'd known five years ago

Tonari no Totoro
Always wash new clothes before you wear them. You don't know where the fabric has been stored, what infections the makers of the clothes carry or what little creatures have been running around in your clothes before they arrived in your local clothing store.

It is ok to not be good at something right away
It's ok to not be good at something right away. It's ok to keep doing things you're not good at at all, even if someone else is. Not being good at something right away just makes it better when you do get good at it.

My mother was recently surprised to discover I've gotten into running. She said something about having tried me with sprinting, when clearly what I needed to do to enjoy it was long distance. Not so, I actually enjoying sprinting a lot, it's just that the only races I've found are longer distance. I don't remember my parents trying me on running at all. But I remember enough of my childhood to have a strong suspicion why it didn't work. I probably wasn't good at it right away. Up until some time in the past ten years, that was enough to put me off something.

I meet a lot of people who are at their first or second swing dance class who apologise for not being as good as me, or as the last person I danced with, who has been dancing for years. Of course they're not! You can't expect to waltz (pun intended) in off the street and be an expert. Actually, if you think of it from the right angle, those apologies are a little insulting to those of us that have put time and work into getting good.

I don't know that I'm any good at running, even for someone who's only been running a year. I don't know that I'm good at swing dancing for someone who's put as much time and effort into it as I have. But I'm a heck of a lot better at both than someone who tried it once and stopped because they weren't any good.

Try new things. Expect to suck at them. Be delighted when you're better at them than you were.

caramel apple by sunlitdays
If you are getting coffee to go, in a paper cup, pick up a cardboard grip (sleeve) to put on the cup before you pour coffee into it. Holding a cup without a sleeve can be painful, if the coffee is particularly hot and the paper thin.

For doors to public buildings: To avoid looking stupid or completely out of it, if you are going to push a door open, glance up at the hinge at the top of the door to make sure you're pushing on the correct side. Even if you are on the "push" (not the "pull") side of the door, pushing at the hinge side won't work.


Brunch is great. It's one of humanity's all-time most excellent innovations.

Many of you will already be aware of this. If you're not, go get brunch this weekend. I'd suggest ordering, at a minimum, Eggs Norwegian, toast, and an espresso, and sitting outside in the sun at a nice cafe.

Don't complain pointlessly
There are times when it's right, proper and justified to complain. But all too often, people just whine pointlessly. They complain to the wrong people (usually whoever happens to be there to listen), or about things that are their own fault, or no-one's fault.

It's unattractive, unfair on the listener, and a waste of time. It undermines the whiner's credibility when they really do have a valid complaint to make. Most of all, pointless complaining is often a way of avoiding personal responsibility.

So don't do it. (I'm not complaining, like, just suggesting. :)

If you're reading this I'm not referring to you.

It is possible to be allergic to Ireland
If you get a lot of colds, you might have allergies.

Not exactly rocket science, eh? I wish I could tell it to past-me who coughed through every single winter until she moved out of Ireland two years ago. Since I stopped living in the land of soggy mould, I finally understand how offices can say "Stay home until you have no cold symptoms". Dudes, it turns out that colds are supposed to get better in a couple of days. My mind is blown.

New year's resolution
Ah now, folks. No posts in weeks? You can do better.

So anyway... what, if anything, is your new year's resolution?

Mine is simple, something I've failed at for years: 'Go to bed and get up early and on time.' There will be exceptions of course - and that's one reason it's difficult.

If anyone would care to volunteer to mail me once a month demanding a progress update on this resolution, I'd be happy to retaliate (sorry, reciprocate) in kind.

Email-time is not free
Something I realised this week:

Opening my (personal or work) email inbox makes me stressed. If the network is slow, and it takes a couple of seconds for my mail to be displayed, that's a couple of seconds where I feel under real pressure. Email, rather than being the source of joy one would assume, brings obligation: this mail needs reply, this question needs to be answered, this bank statement needs to be read, this lovely long catch-up email from a friend needs a thoughtful response. No matter how pleasant an email is, it usually means something new that needs to be done. Worst of all are the mails that are still in my inbox that I've already read. Was I supposed to do something about them? Does someone think I'm a jerk for not replying? Was there something I was supposed to do with my bank account? Have I forgotten to pay for something on eBay? All of this to think about inside a couple of seconds. It's so pointless.


1) Keep the inbox empty. I've watched that Inbox Zero talk that was going around a while back, and the dude has it right: never use the inbox as a todo list. Anything that needs to be done gets noted in the real todo list, and the mail gets archived. I mean, if it's a five minute response, do that straight away, and archive the mail, but if it's a reply that needs any thought, take it out of the inbox and make a note to reply later.

2) Add email-replying to my calendar. I already put "paperwork" in there, for paying bills and filling in forms, and replying to personal emails is just as important and equally worth scheduling.

3) Stop checking mail. Don't read mail on my phone. Don't reflexively check mail during context switches. Don't have email checking be the default first thing to do when I'm online. Email's addictive, and the reward rarely lives up to the anticipation. I will stay away from the email.

Well, it's largely untried so far, but I feel like I've identified something that's easy to change that will reduce my level of background stress. So far not reading email before going to work has made a difference in how much I enjoy mornings. If it works out, I'll report back.

I'm so tempted to do a Knuth and respond to email once a quarter. Wouldn't it be nice? An auto-responder saying "Tanya will read your email on October 3rd. If your message is urgent, please... well, don't phone either actually. Uh. Note it on twitter, maybe? You're smart: you'll think of something."

(If you only get a few emails a week and are happy every time, this must sound so mental.)

Home remedies
Antihistamines make mosquito bites less itchy. Maybe everyone else in the world knew that already, but it was news to me pretty recently.

Ice can kill a coldsore if you get it early.

If you can't remember which stings are acidic and which are alkaline, an alliterative mnemonic is "Breadsoda for bees; vinegar for vasps".

Anyone else got home remedies?

Never blog about your place of employment
By all means blog about the work you do as long as it is legal for you to do so and not a horrendous breach of contract (minor breaches of contract are generally overlooked). But never blog about your colleagues, remunerative packages, employers, or specifc working environment. General observations about say, finance or software companies are ok, specific mentions of why you would like to re-arrange the cubicles in order not to smell coffee in the mornings or to avoid the view of your manager's ass-crack not so much.

There have been multiple incidents in recent years of people being fired from their jobs due to highly publicized or particularly popular blogs. While this is extremely rare it does happen, and even the smallest negative mention of a workplace can trigger the overreaction from a company.  Even if 90% of what you write about is completely unrelated to your workplace, if tipped off to the fact that you have a personal blog that has ever portrayed your company in a negative light, your employer will find the other 10. Or more likely their lawyers/HR assholes will.

This will almost certainly never happen. But why not make it an absolute certainty? Never blog about your place of employment. You will eventually say something incriminating, and there are far more fun ways to get fired :)


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