Keys arranged to spell out Control-Alt-Backspace.

Welcome to Control-Alt-Backspace, a place for collecting ideas on regaining control in an increasingly complex world. Check out the manifesto to learn more about the purpose of this site or the sitemap for an overview of series and topics, or jump right in with recent posts below.

Control-Alt-Backspace updates every Monday, more or less. Got questions about something you read or suggestions for new posts? I love hearing from people – shoot me an email!

Recent Posts

Understanding Percentages

11 minute read

Figures expressed in percentages are ubiquitous, and interpreting and doing calculations with them is an important part of the basic mathematical lit...

The Fortunes File

5 minute read

Some months ago we talked about commonplacing, a technique for recording quotations and other random ideas you come across. In this rather short post, ...

Best Books of 2021

5 minute read

I read about 30 books in 2021. Here were the ones that stood out the most; I highly recommend all of these.

Two Takes on the Eternal September

11 minute read

September, and with it the start of classes at most educational institutions in the United States, is almost upon us. In honor of this, I’d like to l...

Free Speech: A Credo

5 minute read

I hesitate to write about politics on a blog that is rarely overtly political. But this is a special kind of politics. It is a kind of politics that tran...

How and Why to Create a Commonplace

15 minute read

Commonplacing is an ancient technique for recording passages and ideas you run across while studying or living your life. The technique was developed...

Sabbatical Update, Week 2: Neatening Up

4 minute read

This week felt really long and was unexpectedly tiring. I think that’s pretty normal after a big routine change, though – for me it usually takes about two w...

Sabbatical Update, Week 1: Camping

4 minute read

Welcome to my first sabbatical update post! I’ll be publishing one of these every Friday or Saturday (yeah, I know my first one is on Monday) which gathers t...

Upcoming Sabbatical

3 minute read

I’m reaching the end of my stint as a developer and DevOps engineer at Federated Insurance. It’s been an excellent four years working with a lot of great...

Updates on Grok TiddlyWiki

3 minute read

Since several people have started to write to make sure I’m OK after seeing that I haven’t updated since my COVID-19 post, I figured it would be a go...

Another Victim of the Plague

less than 1 minute read

Unfortunately I have somehow managed to come down with COVID-19, despite having 0 CDC-defined close contacts in the past two weeks and going nowhere ...

Book Review: Digital Minimalism

7 minute read

Every once in a while, I run into an article or book or website that eerily matches what I’ve been thinking about, and sometimes even writing abo...

Tweaking the Scheduler

9 minute read

Anki’s default scheduling settings are good enough in most cases. But sometimes they don’t work optimally with certain types of material or study pattern...

An Introduction to Mnemonics

11 minute read

Mnemonics is the art of reversibly substituting easy-to-remember things for difficult-to-remember ones.

Partnering with Anki

23 minute read

Less experienced and less successful spaced-repetition users tend to treat their SRS as a magic box: put information in, and knowledge comes out. In ...

When to Learn with Anki

7 minute read

After you’ve determined what to learn and how much to learn, you might wonder when you should do your study. In one sense, it doesn’t matter at all; ...

Case Studies in Writing Cards

17 minute read

In this post, we’ll look at three case studies of real things I added to my Anki collection recently and how I selected and wrote the cards.

Catching Up On Your Anki Reviews

18 minute read

Everyone gets behind on their reviews occasionally. Here are some strategies for getting back in Anki’s good graces when that happens.

Maintaining Your Collection

5 minute read

Maintenance might not be fun, but if you think doing maintenance isn’t fun, try not doing maintenance. Here’s a plan for keeping your collection neat...

What to Learn with Anki

15 minute read

If you start a spaced-repetition collection and diligently study every day, you might soon face an unusual question: what should you learn? Sometimes...

Organizing Your Cards

15 minute read

If you start seriously using spaced repetition and add material from all areas of your life, it can get tricky to keep track of all your cards. Maybe...

How Much to Learn with Anki

24 minute read

When you’re starting out with Anki or another SRS, you might wonder how much you can expect to learn with this newly efficient method of studying. Be...

Dealing with Leeches

18 minute read

One of the foundational principles of spaced repetition is separating easy cards from hard cards. We can then review the easy cards rarely and the hard c...

Rules for Designing Precise Anki Cards

25 minute read

Reviewing in Anki is easy: all you have to do is answer the question and press a button to indicate how well you remembered it. Creating the cards to...

Spaced Repetition Glossary

9 minute read

Spaced repetition has a bit of a learning curve of its own, but too much of it comes from not understanding a few relatively straightforward terms an...

Getting Started with Anki

14 minute read

By popular demand, the memory series is back! Thanks to all those who wrote to and asked me if I was going to write more. Over the next few weeks, we’ll ...

Yes, I Do Mind Reviewing Your App

8 minute read

Do you have a bunch of apps that constantly nag you to review them? The nicer ones have a “never ask me again” button or give up after one or two times, ...

Why Keep Notes?

5 minute read

Nearly every literate person has written notes for herself at some point in her life. However, most people haven’t spent much time thinking about all...

A Brief Pause

less than 1 minute read

I neglected to mention last week that I was planning to take two weeks off from Control-Alt-Backspace posts due to a particularly busy period in my m...

Updated Likable Software Catalog

less than 1 minute read

This week, I added several new entries to the Likable Software Catalog, which is based on my article about likable software. Each application in the...

The Art of the Sign

3 minute read

Ever since smartphone cameras became commonplace and you could quickly and conveniently grab a picture of anything anywhere, I’ve been taking pic...