The perfect task manager changed my life

Posted in Family, Hacking, Married life, programmer productivity, Technology trends at 11:07 am by ducky

After waiting literally decades for the right to-do list manager, I finally broke down and am writing one myself, provisionally called Finilo*.  I have no idea how to monetize it, but I don’t care.  I am semi-retired and I want it.

I now have a prototype which has the barest, barest feature set and already it has changed my life.  In particular, to my surprise, my house has never been cleaner!

Before, there were three options:

  1. Do a major clean every N days. This is boring, tedious, tiring, and doesn’t take into account that some things need to be cleaned often and some very infrequently. I don’t need to clean the windows very often, but I need to vacuum the kitchen every few days.
  2. Clean something when I notice that it is dirty. This means that stuff doesn’t get clean until it’s already on the edge of gross.
  3. Hire someone to clean every N days. This means that someone else gets the boring, tedious, tiring work, but it’s a chore to find and hire someone, you have to arrange for them to be in your space and be somewhat disruptive, and of course it costs money.

Now, with Finilo, it is easy to set up repeating tasks at different tempos. I have Finilo tell me every 12 days to clean the guest-bathroom toilet, every 6 days to vacuum the foyer, every 300 to clean the master bedroom windows, etc.

Because Finilo encourages me to make many small tasks, each of the tasks feels easy to do. I don’t avoid the tasks because they are gross or because the task is daunting. Not only that, but because I now do tasks regularly, I don’t need to do a hyper-meticulous job on any given task. I can do a relatively low-effort job and that’s good enough. If I missed a spot today, enh, I’ll get it next time.

This means that now, vacuuming the foyer or cleaning the toilet is a break — an opportunity to get up from my desk and move around a little — instead of something to avoid. This is much better for my productivity instead of checking Twitter and ratholing for hours. (I realize that if you are not working from home, you can’t go vacuum the foyer after finishing something, but right now, many people are working from home.)

It helps that I told Finilo how long it takes to do each chore. I can decide that I want to take a N minute break, and look at Finilo to see what I task I can do in under that time. It does mean that I ran around with a stopwatch for a few weeks as I did chores, but it was totally worth it. (Cleaning the toilet only takes six minutes. Who knew?)

And this, like I said, is with a really, really early version of Finilo. It’s got a crappy, ugly user interface, it breaks often, I can’t share tasks with my spouse, it’s not smart enough yet to tell me when I am taking on more than I can expect to do in a day, there’s not a mobile version, etc. etc. etc… and I still love it!

*Finilo is an Esperanto word meaning “tool for finishing”.


Tommaso, Riccardo, e Araldo

Posted in Random thoughts at 9:55 pm by ducky

I recently discovered that Italian has something similar to but not identical to the English “Tom, Dick, and Harry”: “Tizio, Caio and Sempronio”.

While in English, “Tom, Dick, and Harry” means “everyone” (and “Tom, Dick, or Harry” means anyone), “Tizio”, “Caio” and “Sempronio” are placeholders for actual humans whose identities are not important.  (In computer science terms, they are aliases.)

You might use them like this:

We had real trouble in our Zoom class last night.  First, Tizio couldn’t find the link for the video.  Then when we were all trying to watch the video, Caio’s dog started barking and Caio couldn’t figure out how to mute. Finally, once we got into a breakout room, Sempronio couldn’t figure out how to unmute herself!

In English, the first thing I could think of was “Alice” and “Bob” (which are canonical names in the computer security field for two people trying to pass a message securely), but those are people with specific roles, not aliases for some person who is very specific in the story you’re telling.  Similarly, “Karen” has the role of being an entitled jerk, while “Chad” has the role of getting all the chicks. 

While I am not familiar with the usage, apparently “Bubba” is used sort of like “John, Dick, or Harry” in some cases.

“John Doe” is used in a somewhat similar manner to Tizio, Caio and Sempronio, but that name is is used to deliberately obscure someone’s identity, or when the identity is unknown.  Tizio, Caio and Sempronio, on the other hand, are used when it doesn’t matter.  (I don’t remember which of my classmates had trouble with her mute button, but it doesn’t matter to the story.)

The Wikipedia page on Tizio, Caio, e Sempronio (in Italian) says that there are analogues in other languages, including “Pierre, Paul ou Jacques” in French, “Hinz und Kunz” in German, and “Andersson, Pettersson och Lundström” in Swedish.  (The page also mentions “Tom, Dick, and Harry”, so the exact details of how these names are used clearly varies by language.)

Tizio, Caio and Sempronio were real figures in Roman history, and the use of their names in this way is veerrrrry old, first showing up in legal writings in ~1000AD.

Language is so interesting!