On (non-software) dependency management

The distinctive cognitive strengths of a discipline are usually not what its practitioners think they are--or so I've argued. If that's right, then we should discount the whole genre of "here's how being an X gives me the tools to give an excellent analysis of Y" articles.

So, caveat lector, because I'm about to discuss how being a software engineer is informing how I quit coffee.

[Edited to add: Turns out a lot of people find it easy to quit coffee. I am not one of those people. When I, e.g., accidentally made decaf instead of regular, I knew it by how sluggish and off I felt.]

First, it made me worry about dependencies a lot more. This mostly came through experience, but reading Dan Luu really crystallized my thoughts about it. There are well-known frames of these habits both as delightful, life-affirming rituals and as draining, costly habits. In thinking-about-dependencies mode, the latter is more salient.

It also informed how I'm approaching this. The following ideas are salient:

  1. When you have a dependency of X on Y, it's hard to know exactly which features of Y are being used by X, and how.
  2. This gets more true as the system gets more complex.
  3. And as documentation gets worse.
  4. Migrations are easier and safer if you set up a mechanism to roll back to a pre-migration state if need be.
  5. And it's best to go little by little.
  6. It's particularly hard to make the first move.

So, here was my plan. (This is not medical advice. Please, please consult appropriate sources if you plan to address your dependence on stimulants / other substances.)

  1. Estimate how much caffeine I was consuming per day.
  2. Take caffeine (in pill form), starting at roughly 70% of the estimate (to minimize the chance of accidentally increasing my daily dosage).
  3. At first, take the caffeine pills with mugs of hot lemon water.
  4. Day by day, gradually decrease both the caffeine per day and the amount of caffeine taken in conjunction with hot beverages.
  5. Put the coffee machine in the basement (to minimize psychological triggers), but don't give it away yet.

I'm at ~40% of my previous daily caffeine intake, with very little hot-beverage consumption.

Many people quit things in many ways; this has been remarkably painless.

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