What I learned last week (#115): put reality in your corner

Learned last week: The birth of the cool, we need more stories of failures, building wine with math, and more!

Quote I was thinking about:

A year from now you will wish you had started today.

Karen Lamb

Another related quote that is similar to the above:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Chinese Proverb

Book excerpt that I enjoyed:

Stress is wrestling with reality. Guess what: reality is as tough as nails. As soon as you accept reality, you put it in your corner. You’re on the same side, and you can move forward from there. Accept reality, and default to the kindest interpretation. A great side effect of defaulting to the kindest interpretation, especially with people, is that it reciprocates. You become more likeable.” (Laurence Endersen, What Owen Didn’t Know)


Music I was listening to:

“Diz played this hip, real fast thing, and if you weren’t a fast listener, you couldn’t catch the humor or the feeling in their music. Their musical sound wasn’t sweet, and it didn’t have harmonic lines that you could easily hum out on the street with your girlfriend trying to get over with a kiss. Bebop didn’t have the humanity of Duke Ellington. It didn’t even have that recog¬nizable thing. Bird and Diz were great, fantastic, challenging—but they weren’t sweet But Birth of the Cool was different because you could hear everything and hum it also. Birth of the Cool came from black musical roots. It came from Duke Ellington.” (Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe, Miles & Miles)

Listen to Birth of the Cool on Spotify


Some insight into Notion (my most essential digital tool) and how the CEO uses it:

I have a database of the philosophers I’m studying, and one for wine and sake. My girlfriend and I share an interior design database to decorate our apartment, and we log the movies we watch together. I try to keep it simple — Every day, I create a toggle to list my to-do’s and also write down anything I learned or want to remember.

Read Building the world’s most customizable workspace with Ivan Zhao, co-founder of Notion on nesslabs.com


Thinking about what is failure:

I learned about Paul Otlet this week, a cartographer of human information who lived in the late nineteenth/early twenteth century. He basically tried to archive every interesting idea from within books and papers on individual index cards and make them accessible to anyone who wanted them. Think of a Google Search taking a few days and requiring a single person to delve through a largely hand-written catalog of information to tell you something and you have a good idea of what this would be like.

In 1921 Otlet opened the Palais Mondial (World Palace) which had 2,000 visitors a day. Upon entering, visitors were greeted by a large sphere representing world peace, and the Francis Bacon-inspired tree of ages, depicting the evolution of life. They could then proceed through the thirty-six-room display, with each room devoted to a particular country. There were also exhibits devoted to particular scholarly disciplines — mathematics, chemistry, and palaeontology — and rooms devoted entirely to new technologies, such as a sprawling telegraph room and later a large chamber populated with the latest microfilm readers.

This new museum also had a research service. Anyone could send a request, by letter or telegraph, and for the sum of 27 francs Otlet’s staff would answer their question using the Universal Bibliograpy. This continued to grow and at its peak contained some fifteen million items. The Palais Mondial dealt with 1,500 requests a year

Despite his trials, Otlet was a visionary. He talked of a time when ‘everyone would become his own editor’, of books fusing with other forms of knowledge like images, of a network of widely deposited documents accessible through a comprehensive index. He wanted to bring the benefits of technology into museums. He also predicted the recording of human perceptions like sound and coined the phrase hyper-documentation.

The overarching point of the article was about how failures can teach us as much as successes, but that the failures are often not spoke of often enough. I think the point that is missed here is that this wasn’t a failure. Otlet obviously enjoyed his work enough to persevere, so he won in life. Also, his work endures and continues to inspire. Double win.

Read Let there be more biographies of failures on commonreader.bubstack.com


Building a wine with a mathematical model:

A really well-produced piece that lets you “play” with the variables that would allow you to create a high-quality wine with a “common” definition of what a good wine tastes like. What is good is pretty subjective, or is it?

Read Wine & Math on pudding.com


More from Jim Carrey’s renewal as an artist:

This one is beautiful just like last week. I’ve been really surprised and inspired by Jim Carrey over the past couple weeks. I need to do some more digging…


Protect your time and attention at all costs!


Yes, I’ve been in Scotland for almost two years but am still crap at a Scottish accent:


This was a fun discovery last week:


Other things I was reminded of, or thankful for, last week:

  • Took the week off this week and spent a lot of time in the garden on our raised vegetable beds project that morphed into redoing half of the back yard. There is still a lot of wheelbarrowing in my near-future. At least it’s a good workout right?
  • Highlight of the week was celebrating my wife’s birthday, cooking for her, and baking a cake. Happy birthday Kav! 🎉
  • Took our dog Rubee to her first group dog training session. Generally just a social time for the dogs, but reinforced the need to try not using a harness while walking (to reduce the pulling) and that has worked out like a charm. 🦮
  • Another highlight was going on the first neighborhood bike ride of the season on Saturday. It was a lazy ride full of frequent stops. My daughter walked her bike down most of the hills despite them being very gentle and my son bombed down them on his balance bike but wasn’t quite ready for trying his pedal bike out.
Sam on his bike holding up his hands.

Last but not least, check out what I’m up to now.

Comments welcome!