What I learned last week (#75)

Drawing of Vivian and Sam

Book excerpt I enjoyed:

Naive passion, which promotes work done in ignorance of obstacles, becomes — with courage — informed passion, which promotes work done in full acceptance of those obstacles.” (David Bayles, Ted Orland, Art & Fear)

We are all collection of ideas:

“I realized that I could lose myself in a character. I could live in a character. It was a choice. And when I finished with that, I took a month to remember who I was. ‘What do I believe? What are my politics? What do I like and dislike?’ It took me a while, and I was depressed going back into my concerns and my politics. But there was a shift that had already happened. And the shift was, ‘Wait a second. If I can put Jim Carrey aside for four months, who is Jim Carrey? Who the hell is that?’ … I know now he does not really exist. He’s ideas. … Jim Carrey was an idea my parents gave me. Irish-Scottish-French was an idea I was given. Canadian was an idea that I was given. I had a hockey team and a religion and all of these things that cobble together into this kind of Frankenstein monster, this representation. It’s like an avatar. These are all the things I am. You are not an actor, or a lawyer. No one is a lawyer. There are lawyers, law is practiced, but no one is a lawyer. There is no one, in fact, there.

From Jim Carrey ( @JimCarrey)

I was thinking about this over the week, shared via Tim Ferris.

The godfather of homebrewing’s resurgence:

One afternoon in 1970, Papazian was lazing around his Charlottesville apartment, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, when a friend mentioned that he’d run into a neighbor, an “old-timer” in his early 70s, who’d learned to brew beer during Prohibition, and was apparently still making it, right there in his basement. “I remember going, ‘Wait, what the heck is homebrew?’ I had no idea such a thing was possible,” Papazian recalled.

A few days later, he paid a visit to the neighbor, who offered Papazian a bottle of a Prohibition-style ale: an unboiled, fermented mixture of malt extract, sugar, bread yeast and water. “It was crystal clear, pale, beautiful-looking, effervescent beer,” Papazian said. “And the taste was cidery, almost. I wouldn’t say it was better or worse than store-bought beer, but it was very different, and that was enough. I was completely fascinated.”

I wish I still had my copy of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, but it didn’t make the move somehow. I’ll have to pick up another.


What happens when one escapes from information overload and tunes into their senses:

A crazy recounting of an experiment that sounds like being on a silent meditation retreat in the dark and completely alone.

A study in 2011 found that on a typical day Americans were taking in five times as much information as they had done 25 years earlier – and this was before most people had bought smartphones. In 2019 a study by academics in Germany, Ireland and Denmark identified that humans’ attention span is shrinking, probably because of digital intrusion, but was manifesting itself both “online and offline”.

During the summer of 2018 Winston worked to secure a location for his planned month in the dark. An acquaintance agreed to lend him a one-room guesthouse in the Lake District, asking only that, once the property had been thoroughly blacked-out with cloth and tape, Winston sign a waiver taking the blame for any catastrophe. He bought cupboard stores, frozen pies, an apocalypse-supply of bottled water. He arranged for a group of trusted people to call in by phone and make the occasional visit to check that, as one friend put it, “he wasn’t going full Norman Bates in there”.

Winston decided on a few more ground rules. He would do four weeks, going in on Monday at the start of October and coming out on a Sunday at the end. This would amount to 672 hours in seclusion. He would take voice notes on a Dictaphone and record less literal impressions in a series of pencil drawings.


Recent art projects we worked on:

Would a long journey through space bring us back to where we started?

…the Earth’s gravitational pull warps the fabric of space, which means that when an object moves in what appears to be a straight line, it’s actually following the curvature of the warped space it’s traveling through. If you were to travel with just the right trajectory in the vicinity of a massive enough object, it could even slingshot you around to return you in your original direction.

With the right choices, we could wind up practically anywhere we choose by launching a spaceship with the perfect trajectory and the right knowledge of black holes throughout the galaxy and Universe.


The gradual and now sudden shift to distributed work:

What’s been holding us back is fear of the unknown, and attachment to the familiar. I can’t tell you how many of the investors I see espousing distributed work once told me that Automattic would never scale past a few dozen people unless we brought everyone into an office. Or the CEOs who said this would never work for them, now proclaiming their company hasn’t missed a beat as tens of thousands of people started working from home.

What’s going to be newsworthy by the end of the year is not technology companies saying they’re embracing distributed work, but those that aren’t. Those who thought this couldn’t work have been forced by the pandemic to do it anyway, and they’ve now seen that it’s possible.

Lastly, check out what we’re up to now.

Comments welcome!

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