Patrick Lam

Thoughts and travels of Patrick Lam

Leverage deadlines for action

This week’s tip is kind of a meta-tip. When you want someone (possibly yourself) to do something, set a deadline for it. Marketing experts know this. This is why there are “limited time offers”. People have intentions of doing something. But if they can do it anytime, sometimes they never do the thing. The deadline for the survey is Wednesday, though I guess I could have been more explicit about that.

Be aware of boundary conditions

This week’s observation is about boundary conditions. As programmers you have surely run into off-by-one errors. They’re hard to avoid! Somehow New Zealand systemically seems to fudge the issue, as you can see on this sign on Kapiti Island restricting access to the tower. Perhaps one can parse this as being “if you put eight plus one people on the tower it will fall down”, but that’s not consistent with the top display.

Be an expert tool user

This week’s tip is about tools. I’ve attached a picture of a replica of the ice axe that Sir Edmund Hillary used on his first ascent of Mount Everest. This was at the North Egmont Visitor Centre at the base of Mount Taranaki, a prominent cone-shaped ex-volcano in New Zealand. Sir Edmund’s original ice axe is in a museum in Auckland, and one can buy replicas of it on the Internet.

Explore local

Since I last wrote, New Zealand moved to alert level 4 on a 4-point scale. Only essential workers may go to work, and “essential workers” is narrowly defined here: mostly supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations. Since I’m not going anywhere, I thought I’d send a picture from the archives. I took this picture close to home, in Waterloo Park, September 2019. I have to admit that I prefer being farther afield, but that’s not always an option, for various reasons.

Be intentional about your time

Derek’s been doing a great job of keeping in touch with you all. My specific schtick in these emails has been travel-related tips, and that doesn’t work great right now. But let’s start with a picture from the archives. From simpler times (February 15!), here’s a tuatara photobombing a kakariki (NZ parakeet) at the Otoruhangu Kiwi House. Something useful I’ve been doing in NZ is coarse-grained daily activity logging. Being on sabbatical is highly unstructured and, before all the recent news happened, I was concerned that my year might just slip away; keeping track of what I’m doing is a way to introspect about my activities.