Another drug bites the dust

posted 03 January 2004

So, I'm still in the tropics, also known as the land of Unbelievably Crappy Dialup Access. Honestly, it's amazing I ever managed to get any work done at all when all I had was a modem.

My activity for the last two days has been an attempt to give up caffeine. I've been worried for a while that my poor short-term memory, trembling hands and general scatter-brainedness are signs of an actual addiction to caffeine, so that conversation on Slashdot and all the associated horror-stories of caffeine addiction were a spur to action. So I quit cold-turkey as of nearly 48 hours ago. Lo and behold, last night I had the number one symptom people described as caffeine withdrawal: an extreme headache, the like of which I've not had for years. I took some anacin for the headache -- it contains caffeine in addition to the painkiller, so it worked a treat -- and tonight (so far) I've not needed any, although right now I can sense the beginnings of a headache coming on. I'm not sure whether to head it off with a single pill now, or to try and tough it out. Apparently after the first three days I have at least a week of irregular sleep habits to look forward to (good thing I'm on vacation, huh?) before things settle down, although some people (I think they were a lot more severely addicted than I am) have complained it took months.

As for positive effects... I dunno. I've certainly had the most creative/productive day I've had in months today, but that could just be coincidence. And I think my hands are steadier, though I could just be imagining that too. We'll see if I'm suddenly Mr. Genius all of next week, or if it was just a one-off.

Either way, hopefully add caffeine to the list of Drugs I'm Better Off Without. It's not like I'm sanctimonious about drug use or anything -- it's just that caffeine seems to be depleting my quality of life, just like the others are reputed to, so I'll get rid of it and hopefully things will be better for me. This just reinforces my conviction that our bodies are just big chemical factories, and like any chemical process, they can be tweaked for better results. Now I can be geeky about my health as well! Your boredom will know no bounds.

Oh, and happy 2004, of course, but it's not like it's the first time you've heard that.

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100,000 words in a cunning order

posted 03 January 2004

I've been reading The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of the last works of Douglas Adams. It's an excellent book (thanks Ed!) not because of the story it contains -- the title story was barely half-finished when he died, and the rest of the book is small articles, one-liners and e-mails by Adams and friends -- but because of all the ideas it contains. Adams was a really clever guy, really well-read and thoughtful. In particular -- and it was a surprise to me to discover -- he was very interested in technology, and was surprisingly knowledgeable about it. For instance, the HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy now really exists as H2G2.com, a sort of everything-style community-edited encyclopedia to life, the universe and everything (and arranged into those categories).

He also had a lot to say about my favourite topic, user interface design. I get really unbelievably snotty about user interface design these days, mainly because it's so awful. So it was refreshing to find out that Adams thought exactly the same things, and had the same sort of intolerant attitude towards it: why should the tool I'm using make me feel stupid? I'm smart! If I find the tool difficult to use, it must be because the tool is poorly designed. Things should work exactly the way I expect them to, and if I've never used something before, it should be obvious how to use it. Adam's guideline on that subject is somewhat strict, and I'm unsure of whether it really can be applied all the time: if it needs a manual, then it's still too difficult to use.

Either way, he (and/or the lack of caffeine) has inspired me to get further along today with the design of the new back-end that will power Seldo.Com 3.0, so maybe in the coming weeks I'll actually get somewhere with that. If only I could decide what I want the front end to look like....

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