”The best test of a person’s intelligence is their capacity for making a summary”
Book excerpt I was thinking about:
“Long-distance running suits my personality, though, and of all the habits I’ve acquired over my lifetime I’d have to say this one has been the most helpful, the most meaningful. Running without a break for more than two decades has also made me stronger, both physically and emotionally.” (Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)
How would you answer the question: what habit have you acquired during your lifetime that has been the most helpful, the most meaningful?
The system that actually worked:
A great peek behind the huge growth in internet usage during the pandemic.
The surge in traffic, on the internet as a whole and on AT&T’s part of the network, is extraordinary in a way that the phrase 20 percent increase doesn’t quite capture. AT&T’s network is carrying an extra 71 petabytes of data every day. How much is 71 petabytes? One comparison: Back at the end of 2014, AT&T’s total network traffic was 56 petabytes a day; in just a few weeks, AT&T has accommodated more new traffic every day than its total daily traffic six years ago. (During the pandemic, the AT&T network has been carrying about 426 petabytes a day—one petabyte is 1 million gigabytes.)
All kinds of digital communication usage is up as well:
On AT&T’s network, customers are spending 33 percent more time talking on their cellphones, and they’re sending 40 percent more text messages, compared with January and February. Twice during the pandemic customers set a record for text messages,—once in mid-March as it started to build, and again on Easter weekend, sending more than 23,000 in a single second, besting the old record of 15,000, set on New Year’s Eve.
“Around the world and throughout the millennia, those who have thought carefully about the workings of desire have recognized this—that the easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.” (William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life)
A great sci-fi short story:
Her tree was growing in a lab near Toronto. It was technically a ginkgo, but it didn’t look like a ginkgo; its genome had been altered, so its leaves were larger and darker than a regular ginkgo’s, with barely the ghost of a cleft. More importantly, the structure of this new tree’s trunk and limbs had been modified to make room for a mind. Those long skeins of cells weren’t human neurons, exactly; but they weren’t NOT human neurons, either. Their weave was dense, and correspondingly expensive.
Ever since I read Ted Chiang’s Exhalation I’ve had a renewed appreciation for fiction and science fiction as well. I love it when stories leave it to you to fill in the gaps. When you sense there is a whole universe imagined that is surrounding a story.
Krisp adds an additional layer between your physical microphone/speaker and conferencing apps, which doesn’t let any noise pass through.
I’ve been doing a lot of Zoom calls over the past week (this would have been unchanged even if Corona wasn’t happening) and am really liking this little app: Krisp.ai.
Here is a link that will get you a month of their “pro” service (free is capped at 120 mins a week):
Some drawing about prioritizing:
I’m not sure how this became a longer thing than it is. Maybe that’s because prioritization, the subject of this piece, is a longer, harder thing to do than it seems at a distance. Anyway, this illustration started as a little morning drawing of an idea that I revisited from a book excerpt and grew into the series of illustrations
Why we listen to new music:
I’ve thought about this a lot for some reason. I love listening to new music. There is always the risk that you won’t like something, that it will be “meh”, but those times when new music grabs you, those can be unmatched.
Listening to new music is hard. Not hard compared to going to space or war, but hard compared to listening to music we already know. I assume most Americans—especially those who have settled into the groove of life after 30—simply don’t listen to new music because it’s easy to forgo the act of discovery when work, rent, children, and broadly speaking “life” comes into play. Eventually, we bow our heads and cross a threshold where most music becomes something to remember rather than something to experience. And now, on top of everything else, here we all are, crawling through this tar pit of panic and dread, trying to heft some new music through historic gravity into our lives. It feels like lifting a couch.
I thought this was really interesting and useful. I’ve noticed the effects of moving to different rooms for different activities makes a big difference.
We’ve seen how our experience of time is rooted in our apprehension of space, and how this is reflected in memory. So when we stop moving around over the course of the day, we shouldn’t be surprised that it messes with our experience. And this is why a day spent all in one spot will tend to feel like it’s passed quicker: as we experience the sequence of activities in our day, each is a little bit less distinctive and differentiated than it would be under normal conditions because it lacks spatial context, and the different portions of the day then bleed into each other.
Some really cool art:
Reminded me of the electric-theme series of images I’ve been doing as of late.
Hard not to just copy the entire talk here, it’s really good.
We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit. Boredom is the secret ailment of large-scale organizations. Someone said to me the other day “How can I be so bored when I’m so busy?” And I said “Let me count the ways.” Logan Pearsall Smith said that boredom can rise to the level of a mystical experience, and if that’s true I know some very busy middle level executives who are among the great mystics of all time.
Learn all your life. Learn from your failures. Learn from your successes, When you hit a spell of trouble, ask “What is it trying to teach me?” The lessons aren’t always happy ones, but they keep coming. It isn’t a bad idea to pause occasionally for an inward look. By midlife, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.
We learn from our jobs, from our friends and families. We learn by accepting the commitments of life, by playing the roles that life hands us (not necessarily the roles we would have chosen). We learn by growing older, by suffering, by loving, by bearing with the things we can’t change, by taking risks.
There will inevitably many who will find the current disruption a reason to venture out and do something new and scary. At least there is something good there to think about.
It’s normal to feel weird about this:
And so the drunken carousel of wildly-spinning emotions goes on, staffed by octopods, ridden by monkeys, narrated by a short-circuiting robot.
These are weird days, friends. It’d be weird if you weren’t weird about that.
I love Chuck Wendig.
Favorite book excerpt:
“What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here—and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.” (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird)
Writing, drawing, making, doing…the same rules apply. Go make a mess and leave it for awhile. It’s ok.
A gripping story to keep you occupied:
Forty five years ago, eight Soviet women climbers were pinned on top of a high mountain in the USSR in the worst storm in 25 years.
“Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life—and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree.” (Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)
We gotta keep running.
The story you tell yourself can change everything:
A person who is managing a customer-support team can tell herself that she’s overseeing people who answer customer questions. That’s one story.
Another story is that she manages people who genuinely love helping others; a group that exudes empathy and enjoys solving problems like detectives. This narrative drives her intentions and behaviors. When this is the story she believes about her work, it speaks to her identity and sharpens her work.
While there are environmental forces—such as leadership and workplace culture—that influence what we believe about ourselves, ultimately we are the stewards of our own stories.
This may be silver lining for (non-remote) workers:
More companies might fully embrace remote work after this current coronapocolypse. That’s a good thing.
“We’ll never probably be the same. People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.” Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of human resources, in BuzzFeed News
How should we think about the end:
We may not have arrived at the end, but we have certainly arrived at the thought of it. Medical, environmental, political, economic and military problems seem to have joined forces to remind us that the story of humanity is, at some point, going to draw to a close. That’s a very painful thought to have. It also raises a serious philosophical problem.
Beware the hand dryer:
This is validating what my Dad has been saying for years.
A 2012 analysis of 12 studies over four decades published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings concluded that “[f]rom a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers” and that they should be used in “locations in which hygiene is paramount, such as hospitals and clinics.” Though it could be argued that hygiene should be paramount in the restroom of, say, your neighborhood Panera Bread, too.
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
Subscriptions are only going to get more ubiquitous: That everything is seemingly behind a paywall is frustrating with news and science, it might not be a bad thing entirely in the long run:
Today, there seems to be a larger integration happening across-the-board, for everyone. All of us, in one form or another, will have no choice but to practice self-sponsorship. Imagining a future where Twitter and Instagram have private monthly subscription options for users with locked accounts doesn’t seem that far off. Maybe certain platforms offer package deals. For $10 a month on YouTube, you choose which five creators you want to subscribe to, of which they get a cut.
This new reality is less about everyone transforming into their own brand or even becoming an independent contractor at the whims of a mercurial gig economy—it will be the very basis for life, or at least livelihood. It’s the creation of a future in which we can never afford to stop working, or better yet, where work doesn’t actually feel like work. Most people will still have the kind of jobs they have now, but living them will provide the additional capital they need to get by, as each person’s life just becomes another upload into someone else’s feed. This shift will completely change how we define labor, and what it means to generations who come after us, remapping their relationship to the internet and its many resources.
Brought to life in the form of a poem by Neil Gaiman along with a pretty animated short.
Titled “The Mushroom Hunters,” lovingly addressed to Neil’s newborn son Ash…the poem went on to win the Rhysling Award for best long poem and has now been brought to new life in a soulful short film…
Read the full poem here:
Book excerpt I enjoyed:
“Instead of running from our emotions or being swept away by their initial gusts, we should learn to sit with them, become at peace with their unique flavors, and ultimately discover deep pools of inspiration. I have found that this is a natural process.” (Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning)
It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top:
Some inspiration from one of my favorite books.
What I was thankful for last week:
A note I found in the car that Vivian wrote for me the day earlier while we were sitting listening to music and waiting for Kav to get back from grocery shopping. It simply read “I love you”.
Reading The Naughtiest Unicorn lying in bed with Vivi after school, her with a hot chocolate and me with a cup of coffee. Can’t think of anything better to spend a late afternoon doing.
Got to go to Kav’s spinning class with her on Monday. Good to do something a) with just Kav and I, b) exercise other than running, and c) do it with a group which definitely brings out my competitive side.