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Misc

Favorite music of 2019

I find a lot of inspiration browsing top albums lists and seem to always find great new music this time of year. To that end, I offer the 20 albums I enjoyed listening to the most in 2019:

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#53 and #54)

A programming note: I was literally under a rock the past week with the flu, so I am combining the last two weeks together as a single-not-quite-double-edition.

The origin of a family favorite: We still use a slow cooker (although the pressure cooker as taken over most of those duties). It’s been a mainstay in my kitchen, and I enjoyed reading A Brief History of the Crock Pot.

At Chicago’s 1971 National Housewares Show, Rival unveiled its newly rebranded version of the Naxon Beanery. Dubbed the Crock Pot, the appliance received a new name, refreshed appearance and a booklet of professionally-tested recipes. Home cooks eagerly brought their Crock Pots home, in distinctly ‘70s hues like Harvest Gold and Avocado. Advertising campaigns, along with word of mouth, drove sales from $2 million in 1971 to an astounding $93 million four years later.


There’s nothing like going to see live music: We went to see Snow Patrol in Edinburgh this month, the first push in an ongoing effort to get out and see more music. The sound was fantastic, but as I watched the activity at the side of the stage, I was thinking about the work the sound techs were doing and what it would be like to hear what it sounds like coming directly from them after reading this article on mixhalo.

Regardless, I don’t want perfect sound at a show. I want to go for the energy and, for lack of a better word, emotion.


I’m relating to all these late bloomers: I’m 40 and feel like I’ve yet to hit my prime. Maybe wishful thinking, maybe not. This is why the profiles of people who do great things late in life appeal to me so much. My ears perk up when I hear that Peter Drucker wrote 2/3’s of his 35 books after the age of 65. A recent Jessiwrites podcast with artist Lisa Congdon caught my attention for this same reason, her having only taken her first drawing class at age 30 and turning to art full time at nearly 40.

Sometimes the time isn’t right when you are young, and things need to simmer a bit more. But I think that another, even stronger force for getting after it as you get older is you are more you than ever and have learned to say and do what you want.


Apostrophe society shuts down: Because ignorance and laziness have won! I’ve been guilty of making “its” possessive once in a while, as in “The paper was not up to it’s predecessors standards.” Sorry, I try.


I love not living in my inbox: Since changing work, I spend 90% less time in email than I did, but I still have to write a decent bit of email on a regular basis. Now I’m much more conscious of how much time is wasted by not being specific with dates, what I need/will do/won’t do, and to whom I need it. With few exceptions, I’m trying to close loops in email, not open them. How to write better emails has some important points to note in this regard.


Books I read in 2019: I counted 21 for 2019, not bad considering I have a tendency to get stuck on books I don’t like (and am working hard on that).


Book excerpt from a book on that list:

Ultimately, though, the prime driver for my own exploration in this field has been creating the space to catalyze and access new, creative, and valuable thinking and direction. To a great extent, that’s actually not something you need to exert a lot of energy to achieve, if you have gotten this far in implementing this methodology. We are naturally creative beings, invested in our existence to live, grow, express, and expand. The challenge is not to be creative—it’s to eliminate the barriers to the natural flow of our creative energies. (Getting Things Done, David Allen)


A reminder it’s always better to go outside first:

Before you make a big decision, walk around the block.

If it’s raining out, take the dog for a run.

End the meeting a few minutes early and go for a stroll with the team.

Instead of an afternoon snack, consider some sunshine.

The less convenient, the more it pays.

A hard habit to create, but definitely worth it.

When in doubt, go outside. Especially when it’s inconvenient.

(If you want to see this as a metaphor, that’s good too.)

https://seths.blog/2019/12/what-is-it/


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Misc

Books I read in 2019

Here’s my list of books for this year. I counted 21 for 2019, which definitely constitutes a great year of reading for me. I love reading and have been working hard on keeping my throughput high by putting aside books that I don’t enjoy without guilt, freely skipping through books if I feel like it, and not getting stuck on any one in particular. I’d like to keep increasing the number of books I read per year (or at least remain constant) and have plenty on the list to start off 2020.

Here is what I read in 2019 in roughly sequential order, descending from the most recent:

We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider

Great collection of stories and was surprised by the humor and impact of the writing.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

A legendary productivity system I had yet to understand until this year.

⭐️ What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murukami

One of my now all-time faves. Good for fans or running or just those who like a good memoir.

A Guide to the Good Life by William B Irvine

Deep Work by Cal Newport

What if instead we didn’t have to schedule deep thinking time, but instead had to schedule time to be distracted?

The Lessons of History by Will Durant

A short summary of world history. Really entertaining and educational read.

⭐️ Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

One of my now all-time faves. The journey and methods of an artist building their skills until they were the best in the world.

⭐️ So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

One of my now all-time faves. It’s all about deliberate practice.

Remote by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun

⭐️ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

One of my now all-time faves. Cannot recommend enough.

⭐️ Levels of the Game by John McPhee

One of my now all-time faves. Impossible to put down once you start.

Draft No. 4 by John McPhee

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Philips

Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

Will make you think about the tools and processes you use at work or for any project more intelligently.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman by Richard Feynman

Waking Up by Sam Harris

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

A book about writing that’s brimming with wisdom about life.

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Misc Work

I wanted to write but I took a nap instead

I was going to write today, but I don’t remember now what I was going to be writing about. I read something in the morning about late bloomers, and it gave me an idea I wanted to share about my experience as one. But as when I reached my afternoon break and left my office with time to work on it, the thoughts weren’t really gelling. Regardless, I was all set to give it a try despite not being in the best state of mind, as I had the window of time and an interesting (I thought) insight to share.

Instead, I took a nap.

I didn’t intend to, but my son happened to be sleeping in our bed, and when I went to check on him, expecting that to be a small detour on my way back to my notebook, I suddenly found myself lying down.

I gave in willingly. It was a short nap, followed by a long session playing legos, a late afternoon wrestling and superhero battle, and ending with me making dinner.

The idea that was so important to write about hasn’t seemed to come back. Instead of hunkering down and “working hard” to squeeze some productivity out of a spare moment, I unintentionally spent my time unproductively, and ended up very relaxed and happy as a result.

I guess there is no insight to be shared today. I’ll try to do better tomorrow. 😉

Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#52)

Giving thanks travels well: Celebrating Thanksgiving outside of the US is a bit different. Thanksgiving travels well, even if your neighbours don’t have the Thursday off to drink and eat all day. It’s a holiday about gratitude, which everyone can get behind. I was fortunate to spend it with great people this year. I’m also grateful for all the sources of inspiration this year, such as Austin Kleon, Cal Newport, Haruki Murukami, John McPhee, Tyler Cowen, Shane Parrish, Seth Godin, Sam Harris, Ben Franklin, Jason Fried, Steve Martin, Tim Ferriss, and Paulo Cohelo…to name a few.


Book excerpt I was thinking about last week:

“What veteran artists share in common is that they have learned how to get on with their work. Simply put, artists learn how to proceed, or they don’t. The individual recipe any artist finds for proceeding belongs to that artist alone — it’s non-transferable and of little use to others.” (David Bayles, Ted Orland, Art & Fear)

I love the first part. And, while I think there is an important point in the second part (you need to figure out things for yourself), I find the individual recipes of others an endless source of inspiration and of much use.

Another book excerpt that made me think about my current work and what I spend the most amount of my time doing (albeit as a novice at the moment):

“An untrained observer will see only physical labor and often get the idea that physical labor is mainly what the mechanic does. Actually the physical labor is the smallest and easiest part of what the mechanic does. By far the greatest part of his work is careful observation and precise thinking.” (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

I think a lot of us are like a mechanic in how we work, or at least it would be helpful to think of ourselves in that way.


What it’s like when a distributed company gets together: I missed “the grand meetup” this year but a recent Distibuted podcast covered this years’ get together in detail. I’m looking forward to it next year!

It can be especially difficult to foster a company culture when workers aren’t co-located. It can’t be forced into existence in an employee handbook. The people who make up the company have to live it and embrace it.

The GM addresses this challenge in several ways, including a number of traditions that have developed over the years. For example, the all-company photo — this year, it included so many people that resident photographer (and Automattic’s first employee!) Donncha Ó Caoimh had to take it from a roof overlooking the crowd. Each event ends with a big party, where an all-Automattician band provides the soundtrack. Matt Mullenweg holds an hours-long Town Hall where anyone from across the company can ask the CEO a question directly. These highlights help to cultivate a sense of togetherness and shared values.


Don’t believe everything you read: I learned that previously boiled water isn’t really any different than fresh water, at least as far as my coffee is concerned.


I should make more time for poetry: Away messages made me think this.

Whenever an old poet — an old poet — dies, I can’t get too upset. This is what they’ve been training for! I think. It’s go time!


Quote that I was thinking about:

People are most vociferously opposed to those forces they have to resist most fiercely in themselves.

Tim Krieder

The 50 best nonfiction books of the past 25 years: Interesting list. There are definitely some on here I am going to add for 2020.


The story behind the graphing calculator: How Texas Instruments Monopolized Math Class.

Today, Texas Instruments still sells a dozen or so different calculator models intended for different kinds of students, ranging from the TI-73 and TI-73 Explorer for middle school classes to the TI-Nspire CX and TI-Nspire CX CAS ($149), an almost smartphone-like calculator with more processing power. But the most popular calculators, teachers tell me, include the TI-83 Plus ($94), launched in 1999; the TI-84 Plus ($118), launched in 2004; the very similar TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, also launched in 2004; and the TI-89 Titanium ($128).

“As a former teacher, I was appalled at the pricing, not only for educators but for the families who were forced to pay inflated prices for the damn things,” she told me. “The margin is incredible. I can’t verify the exact numbers, but the margin was like 85% 90%.” In comparison, PC manufacturers like HP, Lenovo, Dell, Asus, and Acer have profit margins below 3%. (Texas Instruments did not return a request for comment for this story.)


This made me laugh:

https://i0.wp.com/media.wired.com/photos/5dd416b944aad10009406a39/master/w_1600%2Cc_limit/20191121-ehler-wasteland.jpg?w=580&ssl=1

From Wired’s cartoons.


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