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Karmona Pragmatic Blog

My Migraine Story

July 18th, 2015 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 3 Comments

TL;DR – I stopped consuming caffeine and it totally cured my migraines

Caffeine_Migraine

(I have found this frightening correlation with Google NGram Viewer)

My Migraine Story

I started having Migraines approx. 8 years ago; (~2007). The usual suspect to blame was stress, work-life-balance and lack-of-sleep-and-exercise (a.k.a. I have joined a cool startup as VP R&D)

p.s. This is more or less also where I started drinking coffee

#Quantified Self

I have decided to start hacking, tracking and quantifying my migraines when I reached a weekly migraine cadence during 2012.

I tried EVERYTHING and monitored it rigorously including exercise (Running, Swimming, Walking), Meditation, Temperature Therapy, Special Diet (+ reduced ~20kg :), Supplements (like vitamin B2, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10), Relaxation Techniques (e.g. Yoga, Tai-Chi, Chi- Kong), Special Herbs, Acupuncture, Triggers Diet (like Monosodium Glutamate, Gluten, Alcohol, Chocolate and Cheese), Different Sleep Patterns, etc.

I had some placebo reduction in cadence and symptoms but nothing really stopped the migraines.
~3 month ago I have decided to pull-the-plug on caffeine which was the last experiment in my plan (as caffeine misleadingly known only as Migraine cure).

*** I quit Caffeine and my Migraines disappeared ***

quantified_self_migraine

Brain, Caffeine and Migraine | The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Well… it worked for me but it seems like it isn’t only me.

Research shows that you need to be drinking about 200 milligrams of caffeine (~2 cups of coffee) to get a withdrawal headache when you miss your “dose”

caffeine

Going cold-turkey with Caffeine

Well… it was VERY hard to quit Caffeine and there are many ways to do it (just google it). As always, I have chosen the most radical one…!dilbert_decaf

Few interesting facts about Caffeine 

  • 68 million Americans drink three cups of coffee every single day = 300mg of caffeine
  • ~30 million Americans drink five or more cups of coffee every single day
  • ~21 million Americans drink six or more cups of coffee every day
  • Consuming as little as 200mg of caffeine every day can lead to addiction and altered chemistry in the brain.
  • Another 100mg (=300mg) per day can lead to increased anxiety, panic disorders, muscle twitching, irregular heartbeat, flushed skin, depression, and even slurred speech
  • Research shows that you need to be drinking about 200 milligrams of caffeine (about two to three cups of coffee) to get a withdrawal headache when you miss your “dose.”
  • Too much caffeine can produce mood swings, insomnia, increased tension in the muscles, and also impair your digestion and nutrition absorption.
  • Caffeine is thought to reduce or restrict blood circulation to the brain; it also raises blood pressure and accelerates the heart rate to unnatural levels.
  • A controversial study released in 1998 by the National Institute for Environmental and Health Sciences claimed that women who consumed at least one cup of coffee per day were half as likely to become pregnant than women who did not drink coffee. The study also concluded that women who drank coffee while pregnant were 17% more likely to have their newborn die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. A study in New Zealand discredited the connection between low doses of caffeine and SIDS, but it did conclude that consuming 400mg of caffeine every day while pregnant may increase this risk due to the baby’s sudden withdrawal of  caffeine after being born, leading to respiratory distress.
  • It’s believed that some 3 out of 4 regular caffeine users are actually addicted to the substance.
  • After addiction, withdrawal from the use of caffeine can cause mood swings and irritability, similar to the symptoms of withdrawing from a narcotic or alcohol.
  • Five grams of caffeine can be fatal. This is the equivalent of some 30-40 cups of regular coffee.
  • Some 50% of people who quit using caffeine experience severe headaches which typically last between 2 and 9 days. Half of people who quit also stated that they had difficulty avoiding the use of caffeine permanently.
    In low doses, caffeine has been shown to improve one’s cognitive functions, increasing alertness.
  • Overdoses of caffeine can cause manic episodes, panic attacks, hallucinations, delusions, disorientation, and the lowering of one’s inhibitions.
    The effects of caffeine on a person’s system can usually be felt within minutes of consuming it. Its peak effectiveness typically takes around 30 minutes, and the substance requires three to six hours to leave the body. This is one reason it’s often recommended that a person stop drinking caffeinated beverages in the afternoon, so the body has time to flush it out of the system before trying to fall asleep at night.

TheCaffeineCurve

(Few Examples) Caffeine Content in different beverages

  • Brewed Coffee – 80 to 135mg
  • Instant Coffee – 40 to 60mg
  • Espresso – 100mg
  • Decaffeinated Coffee – 3 to 5mg
  • Cola – 34mg (What???)
  • Black Tea – 30 to 40mg (Did you know that?)
  • Green Tea – 20mg
  • Cocoa – 14mg
  • Decaffeinated Black Tea – 3 to 5mg

More details here:

Interesting and related links 

 

I hope this post will help others cure their Migraine – Please remember to post back if it did :)

→ 3 CommentsTags: People · Psychology · Quantified Self

Strategy Games

January 12th, 2015 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · No Comments

StarCraftII

A few things I have learned from *countless* hours playing Strategy Games for more than 35 years (e.g. Chess, Go, Risk, Archon, Warcraft, Red Alert, AoE, Age of Mythology, StarCraft, etc.)

  • Plan a head | Map ALL possible “Candidate Moves” | The idea of candidate moves was first put forth by Grandmaster Alexander Kotov in his book “Think Like a Grandmaster”.
    In it, Kotov recommended looking for several moves that seemed feasible – the so-called candidate moves – and then analyzing those moves one at a time.
  • Adapt | You must adapt very quickly if you want to win
    • OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act (developed by military strategist and USAF Colonel John Boyd) | An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.
    • “If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War
    • “It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable” ~ Charles Darwin
  • Strategic Patience | “Timing Is Everything” | Sometimes you need time to place your pieces in the proper position before you can attack effectively; a premature attack will backfire.
  • Speed Matters | Have you ever experienced a “Zerg Rush” @ StarCraft? – If you are fast enough, you can win in less than 5 minutes.
  • Know (+ Play) your enemy
    • “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” ~Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”
    • “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them… I destroy them” ~Orson Scott Card, “Ender’s Game”
  • The Art of Sacrifice | In his book “The Art of Sacrifice in Chess”, Rudolf Spielmann distinguishes between real and sham sacrifices. A “sham” sacrifice leads to a forced and immediate benefit for the sacrifice… On the other hand, “real” sacrifices, according to Spielmann, are those where the compensation is not immediate but more positional in nature.
  • Sometimes it is worth losing and not to sacrifice the queen ;)
  • Threat is stronger than the execution” ~ Aron Nimzowitsch | The idea is that by threatening an action, you can nudge your opponent in a certain direction. But actually carrying out the threat may cause as many problems for you as for your opponent.
  • “The best form of defense is attack ~ Carl von Clausewitz
  • Determination | “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” | This is true both ways. Don’t assume you won until the end and don’t assume failure until the last minute | “It is not sufficient that I succeed – all others must fail” ~ Genghis Khan
  • Easy is bad – If it goes too easy, something is wrong
  • Good opponents make you stronger | “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Play the hand you’re dealt | Improve incrementally and be PATIENT. You will have your chance to win many times.
  • Different phases of the game require different skills.
  • Master your Emotions | “An action committed in anger is an action doomed to failure” ~ Genghis Khan
  • Think outside-the-box. You must be creative with surprise moves to defeat a human enemy.
  • Play by the rules. Follow the rules or you might be disqualified.
  • Focus and Mass Matters | Concentrate combat power at the decisive place and time
  • Deception | “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near” … “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak” ~ Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”
  • Synergies Create Better Results | Leveraging the strengths of your armies so that the units are protecting each other while pushing forward is a timeless strategy in RTS games
  • Resources Management is crucial | Queues, priorities and timing can make all the difference with your resource management | “An army marches on its stomach” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Never mistake tactical success for strategic direction | Make sure that when you’re investing in short-term returns, you’ve also got plans in place to make longer-term strategic investments.
  • A chain is only as strong as its weakest link | Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team. You can’t win alone!
  • Counter-offensive | A strategic offensive taking place after the enemy’s front line troops and reserves have been exhausted, and before the enemy has had the opportunity to assume new defensive positions
  • Economy of Force | Allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts
  • Intel is key | Scouting your enemy is crucial
  • Master the Micro | The best gamers excel in both Macro and Micro | Amazing strategy will not survive mediocre execution and vice versa
  • Study (game) history, because history has a weird tendency to repeat itself

 

 

→ No CommentsTags: Leadership · Planning · Psychology · Strategy

You Yong Wu Mou (“Having Courage but No Strategies”)

October 20th, 2010 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 3 Comments

I have just finished reading a very interesting book (!!!) “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely and came across a very interesting historic story.

“In 210 BC, a Chinese commander named Xiang Yu led his troops across the Yangtze River to attack the army of the Qin (Ch’in) dynasty. Pausing on the banks of the river for the night, his troops awakened in the morning to find to their horror that their ships were burning. They hurried to their feet to fight off their attackers, but soon discovered that it was Xiang Yu himself who had set their ships on fire, and that he had also ordered all cooking pots crushed.”

“Xiang Yu explained to his troops that without the pots and the ships, they had no other choice but to fight their way to victory or perish. That did not earn Xiang Yu a place on the Chinese army’s list of favorite commanders, but it did have a tremendous focusing effect on his troops (as they grabbed) their lances and bows, they charged ferociously against the enemy and won nine consecutive battles, completely obliterating the main-force units of the Qin dynasty”

Prof. Ariely is making a point about the advantage of making a choice to focus by closing other doors/options/opportunities.

Joshua Baer had an interesting allegory to the startup world in his “Necessity is the mother of Invention” post

“This is similar to when a bootstrapper enters the Valley of Death* and commits to their venture, but before they are making money and cash flow positive. They are forced to figure out how to make it work with what they’ve got. The timeline is not completely in their control.


We’re always tempted to leave ourselves an escape route or path of retreat. And usually that’s a good idea. But sometimes there aren’t enough resources to mount the attack and cover the retreat. In order to be successful sometimes you have to commit the resources to what you believe in because the retreat option isn’t acceptable. Sometimes once you head down a path there is just no turning back, so you might as well commit all of your resources to getting to the end”

Well… this is true but since I am a notorious pessimist and usually like my options open, I have continued reading about this fine gentlemen (a.k.a. Xiang Yu)

I learned that indeed in the beginning of the civil war Xiang Yu was winning but with his rude manners, arrogance and lack of political vision, the tide turned against Xiang Yu and in the end he lost the war to Liu Bang.

In 202 BC, when Xiang Yu and his remaining men had their backs against the river while surrounded by Liu Bang’s troops, a boatman on a raft persuaded Xiang Yu to go with him across the river so he can prepare a comeback.
Xiang Yu said, “When I crossed the River and went west, I took with me 8,000 sons and brothers from east of the Yangtze. Now none of them has returned; how can I face the elders east of the Yangtze?” After declining this offer, Xiang Yu turned around, charged against the Han troops, killed over a hundred men, and finally cut his own throat.
Shortly after his death Liu Bang established the Han Dynasty.

Three concluding facts about Xiang Yu:

  • Xiang is popularly viewed as a leader who possesses great courage but lacks wisdom, and his character is aptly summarized using the Chinese idiom “Yǒu Yǒng Wú Móu” (有勇無謀) – “Having Courage but No Strategies” (or  to be foolhardy or to be more brave than wise or to have reckless courage…)
  • Xiang’s battle tactics were studied by future military leaders while his political blunders served as cautionary tales for future rulers
  • Xiang Yu is also the kind general that raided the Terracotta** tomb less than five years after the death of the First Emperor – Xiang’s army was looting of the tomb and structures holding the Terracotta Army, as well as setting fire to the necropolis and starting a blaze that lasted for three months.

“Yǒu Yǒng Wú Móu” (有勇無謀) – “Having Courage but No Strategies” – Think about it…! ;)

* Valley of Death – A slang phrase to refer to the period of time from when a startup receives an initial capital contribution to when it begins generating revenues.
During the death valley curve, additional financing is usually scarce, leaving the firm vulnerable to cash flow requirements.

** The Terracotta Army or the “Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses“, is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China
The figures, dating from 210 BC, vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.
Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.
There is also a legend that the terracotta warriors were real soldiers, buried with Emperor Qin so that they could defend him from any dangers in the next life.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

p.s. Prof. Ariely also recommends another role model for door closing – Rhett Butler for his supreme moment of unpredictable rationality with his astonishing elan, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”

→ 3 CommentsTags: Conspiracy · Leadership · People · Psychology · Strategy

Underestimation is Underestimated

April 19th, 2010 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 8 Comments

Underestimation is Underestimated (a.k.a. Overestimation is Overestimated)

Sometimes it seems like we have an underestimation gene embedded really deep in our cognition but for some “obvious” reason (e.g. underestimation! :) most manager will rather “fight” overestimation and *not* underestimation.

Disclaimer: I have originally estimated this post will take ~33 min but it took me ~240% more time… (this is why I prefer to tweet lately ;)

Six annoying facts about our (/homo sapiens) planning or estimation “skills”:

  • We are basically optimistic and have strong desire to please
  • We tend to have incomplete recall of previous experience
  • We tend to have focus bias when estimating e.g. estimating only the coding phase estimations which is only ~14-37% of the required work
  • We tend to postpone what we can a.k.a. “The Student Syndrome”  (Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Critical Chain)
  • “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law (Douglas Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid)
  • We tend to underestimate task completion times – a.k.a. The planning fallacy

Overestimation is Overestimated

“The developers say that this project will take 6 months… I think there’s some padding in their estimates and some fat that can be squeezed out of them…we also need to instill a sense of urgency in the development team… so I’m going to insist on a 3-month schedule. I don’t really believe the project can be completed in 3 months, but that’s what I’m going to present to the developers. If I’m right, the developers might deliver in 4 or 5 months. Worst case, the developers will deliver in the 6 months they originally estimated” (Does this ring *any* bell???)

Four reasons on managers tendency to “fight” overestimations:

  • Underestimation (see above :) | “The feature estimation seems bloated” | “Isn’t it 20 min work?” | “Just add another index to the %$^&ing table?” | “It is only one more button…”
  • Unreasonable time constraint | “We need this feature yesterday” | “Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself” (A. H. Weiler)
  • True belief that Parkinson’s “Law” is really a law – “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
  • “The Student Syndrome”  (see above)

So… if feature estimation seems bloated, managers and other project stakeholders fear that Parkinson’s Law and the Student Syndrome would kick in and therefore consciously squeeze the estimates to try to control it (a.k.a. “The Parkinson’s Squeeze”) and when we squeeze where it isn’t needed or was squeezed already, it immediately lead to… UNDERESTIMATION (!!!)

Underestimation is Underestimated

Underestimation creates numerous problems – some obvious, some not so obvious.

  • Reduced effectiveness of project plans – Low estimates undermine effective planning by feeding bad assumptions into plans for specific activities. They can cause planning errors in the team size, such as planning to use a team that’s smaller than it should be. They can undermine the ability to coordinate among groups – if the groups aren’t ready when they said they would be, other groups won’t be able to integrate with their work. If the estimation errors caused the plans to be off by only 5% or 10%, those errors wouldn’t cause any significant problems but numerous studies have found that software estimates are often inaccurate by 100% or more (see above). When the planning assumptions are wrong by this magnitude, the average project’s plans are based on assumptions that are so far off that the plans are virtually useless.
  • Statistically reduced chance of on-time completion – Developers typically estimate 20% to 30% lower than their actual effort. Merely using their normal estimates makes the project plans optimistic. Reducing their estimates even further simply reduces the chances of on-time completion even more.
  • Poor technical foundation leads to worse-than-nominal results. A low estimate can cause you to spend too little time on upstream activities such as requirements and design. If you don’t put enough focus on requirements and design, you’ll get to redo your requirements and redo your design later in the project – at greater cost than if you’d done those activities well in the first place. This ultimately makes your project take much longer than it would have taken with an accurate estimate.
  • Destructive late-project dynamics make the project worse than nominal Once a project gets into “late” status, project teams engage in numerous activities that they don’t need to engage in during an “on-time” project… below are some examples when the important characteristic of each of these activities is that they don’t need to occur at all when a project is meeting its goals, these extra activities drain time away from productive work on the project and make it take longer than it would if it were estimated and planned accurately
    • More status meetings with upper management to discuss how to get the project back on track
    • Frequent re-estimation, late in the project, to determine just when the project will be completed.
    • Apologizing to key customers for missing delivery dates (including attending meetings with those customers).
    • Preparing interim releases to support customer demos, trade shows, and so on. If the software were ready on time, the software itself could be used, and no interim release would be necessary.
    • More discussions about which requirements absolutely must be added because the project has been underway so long.
    • Fixing problems arising from quick and dirty workarounds that were implemented earlier in response to the schedule pressure.

Tip of the day
Never intentionally underestimate. The penalty for underestimation is more severe than the penalty for overestimation. Address concerns about overestimation through control, tracking and *mentoring* but not by bias.

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More related posts (a.k.a. people who read this post also read these posts)

→ 8 CommentsTags: Management · Planning · Project Management · Psychology · Software Management

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

November 15th, 2008 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 5 Comments

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people who are worst at a task show the most illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average (e.g. shut up I hack you :)

Justin Kruger & David Dunning have tested and verified the following predictions:

  • Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own ability and performance 
  • Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others (it takes one to know one ;)
  • Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy (“One puzzling aspect of our results is how the incompetent fail, through life experience, to learn that they are unskilled”)
  • If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill (There is still some hope)

Do you have the confidence that this post isn’t about you? 

Think again… (!!!) – “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” (Charles Darwin)

Do you think this post is about you?

Might be considered vain but interesting enough, the same research have shown that the top performers tended to underestimate their own performance compared to their peers (see chart below). 

So… if you find this post boring, obscure, stupid, annoying, poorly written or inappropriate than please keep in mind it isn’t something I have committed knowingly.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Blogging · Conspiracy · People · Psychology