Cross-post from Telescopic Turnip.

Every problem is a calibration problem. That’s why most advice is basically useless: it tells you what to do, but doesn’t tell you when to stop. Therefore, the best pieces of advice are calibration advice. What we need is a metric to know if we are doing well, or if we should change our habits (and in which direction). For example, here are two poor pieces of advice:

"You should spend more time reading blogs, because compared to traditional media, bloggers have more freedom to communicate in original ways, and are more accountable when they say something false."

"You should spend less time reading blogs, because keeping up with a big pile of subscriptions takes a lot of time and makes you anxious."

Neither of these is really useful. Instead, we can produce one piece of calibration advice:

"After catching up with your backlog of blog posts, ask yourself what you remember out of it. If you can’t say what half of the posts were about, you should probably clean up your subscriptions."

Of course, that doesn’t sound like the timeless advice my grandmother received from her grandmother. To make it compelling, we need to make it rhyme:

"Before you subscribe to another blog, 
check what you took home from your backlog."

Now that sounds like ancient wisdom. 

Thereafter is my humble attempt at writing calibration proverbs. As a non-native, English’s pronunciation is still a mystery to me, so the rhymes might be a bit wonky. Anyways, may these proverbs contribute to making 2022 a better year than 2021.

"He who thinks a claim by evidence is backed, 
can he predict the effect size just from the abstract?"

"Only when you leave a long conversation, 
you can tell if it warranted your apprehension."

"If you don’t enjoy the taste of tea, 
seek how to infuse it properly."

"Always check for bikes when you get out of your car. 

"When checking the source teaches you something new, 
the source of the source you should check too."

"One hour with your kids is worth two hours online, 
according to Han et al twenty twenty one."

"Man whose roommates wear t-shirts in winter, 
would better calm down with the goddamn heater."

What other calibration proverbs should we transmit to our grandchildren?

Thanks to Justis for the proofreading and rhyme consulting.

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19 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:04 AM

(Another non-native having a go at it...)

When your advice both ways seems fine,
Calibrate, then make it rhyme.

Words of wisdom aren't so wise

Unless it's clear when it applies.

Timeless wisdom dies, in time

Unless you also make it rhyme.

For the record, ISO 3103 is in no way optimized for a tasty cup of tea; it's explicitly standardized. Six minutes of brewing with boiling water can "scorch" certain teas by over-extracting tannins and other bitter compounds. If you dislike tea there's a decent chance you would like it better with shorter brews or lower temperature water (I use 90C water for my black teas and 85C for greens, for example).

I stand corrected. I'll never trust the ISO norms for my tea again.

More explicitly calibrated: If your green tea is reminicent of grass clippings you likely overdid it on brew temp and/or time.

Can you explain what this means? In what way might green tea be “reminiscent of grass clippings”, or, for that matter, not “reminiscent of grass clippings”?

I have drunk a lot of green tea in my life, but I am having difficulty mapping this description to any kind of mental image of what I’m supposed to be seeing or not seeing in/with my tea…

I'm meaning litteraly in the sense of mowing the kind of grass people typically have in a yard, and either getting some in your mouth, or especially the smell after said cut grass has sat a couple days in the summer.  I'd say it's similar the smell of other leafy greens if they sit in the fridge for a week after the last time you'd think about eating them.

I suppose though the more practical instruction though would be to tell you to pour boiling water over green tea, steep for 5 minutes, and notice the smell.

Hmm… I can’t connect any of these descriptions to any tea I’ve ever drunk. (Probably this is because I don’t have a lot of experience with yards, and mowing grass…)

The practical instruction, sadly, is no longer possible for me to implement, due to COVID-related loss of smell.

Well, I suppose it can’t matter too much, if I couldn’t / can’t tell the difference…

For me, a lot of green teas taste the same way that freshly-cut grass smells. And to your parent comment, I've tried shorter times at lower temperatures (eg. 30 seconds in 60C water) and the taste persists, just weaker.

Not sure if it goes away or just sufficently fades into the background.  Only other thing I'd say is drink within 10-15 minutes, especially if any loose tea gets into the drink.  I've had good luck with 30s/75c with the one Costco sells in bulk.  I imagine there's some variation in tea leaves and preperation, but people mostly stop looking once they find a few good-enough sources/brands.  Mind you I'm thinking more slightly decayed grass as the thing to avoid.

Some of these could use a bit more polish/artfulness, but I really like the generator here. Kudos!


Remember when tempted to keep going 'til it burns
that everything has a point of diminishing returns.

I like this one

Some of these rhymes are just hard to decipher and would be better in clear English than bad poetry. I understand the desire to make a pithy saying, but it really isn't clear what you meant with some of these.

"Any idiot can build a bridge that stands. It takes an engineer to build a bridge that barely stands." -Provenance unknown

and I'll take a crack at it:

If you invert and sense it still makes

a wild goose you soon will chase

"Man whose roommates wear t-shirts in winter, 
would better calm down with the goddamn heater."


I agree with the idea behind the advice, but for me it would still be bad advice.

I was the kid who wore shorts in winter in middle school. I just feel warm (which makes me sleepy) at temperatures others find too cold. Then in college I had a roommate from Hawaii, and later married a woman with a circulatory issue, so I've always kept on running the heater and wearing t-shirts. (And upgrading the insulation when feasible).

Honestly there are winter days I wish it were socially acceptable outside to wear a hat and gloves but no jackets.

Except for occasions I need to be in business dress or formalwear, I probably wear long sleeves indoors no more than two days a year.

When all the voices you've chosen to trust speak in unison, it's time to get your confirmation bias debunked by someone.

Always check for bikes when you get out of your car. 

I can confirm. I once got hit by an opening car door while biking. It hurt a good bit.


The world needs more poetry. Thanks, Elmer.