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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#42)

A week of release: A lot happened this week, as the kids and I battled sickness (Therazinc and tea tree oil to the rescue!), I finished my trial with Automattic (one of the hardest stretches of work I’ve done), we took a weekend jaunt to Linlithgow Palace, and had a Sunday day doing nothing but playing.


I felt a little like this over the past five weeks: During my trial I felt so tired at the end of each day. Reading the The grandmaster diet: How to lose weight while barely moving made me think about just how much energy I was expending:

In October 2018, Polar, a U.S.-based company that tracks heart rates, monitored chess players during a tournament and found that 21-year-old Russian grandmaster Mikhail Antipov had burned 560 calories in two hours of sitting and playing chess — or roughly what Roger Federer would burn in an hour of singles tennis.

Robert Sapolsky, who studies stress in primates at Stanford University, says a chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day while playing in a tournament, three times what an average person consumes in a day. Based on breathing rates (which triple during competition), blood pressure (which elevates) and muscle contractions before, during and after major tournaments, Sapolsky suggests that grandmasters’ stress responses to chess are on par with what elite athletes experience.


I attended the Rangers v Feyenoord football match on Thursday. Before moving to Scotland I knew next-to-nothing about the club, but the history is epic, and the Wikipedia page for Rangers F.C. does not disappoint:

Rangers have won more league titles and domestic trebles than any other club in the world, winning the league title 54 times, the Scottish Cup 33 times and the Scottish League Cup 27 times, and achieving the treble of all three in the same season seven times. Rangers won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972 after being losing finalists twice, in 1961 (the first British club to reach a UEFA tournament final) and 1967. A third runners-up finish in Europe came in the UEFA Cup in 2008. Rangers have a long-standing rivalry with Celtic, the two Glasgow clubs being collectively known as the Old Firm, which is considered one of the world’s biggest football derbies.

Note that they have to keep the stands next to and above the visiting team’s fans cleared (visitors are the few stands in the far corner). The multiple rings of police in yellow coats can give you an idea as to why.

All those yellow coats in the distance are the police…

Reading the Lessons of History and really enjoying the writing:

So the conservative who resists change is as valuable as the radical who proposes it – perhaps as much more valuable as roots are more vital than grafts. It is good that new ideas should be heard, for the sake of the few that can be used; but it is also good that new ideas should be compelled to go through the mill of objection, opposition, and contumely; this is the trial heat which innovations must survive before being allowed to enter the human race. It is good that the old should resist the young, and that the young should prod the old; out of tis tension, as out of the strife of the sexes and the classes, comes a creative tensile strength, a stimulated development, a secret and basic unity and movement of the whole.”


A good question to help cut through the clutter: From Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir on how she recovered from not qualifying for the 2014 Crossfit games (she won in 2015 and 2016):

I wasn’t a failure. I had just failed at a certain event. Past tense. What could I do in this exact moment to get better? It got me focusing on giving my absolute best in any given situation without the pressure of constantly stacking myself up to others.”

Timothy Ferriss, Tribe of Mentors

A useful definition of art from Seth Godin:

Art is a human activity. It is the creation of something new, something that might not work, something that causes a viewer to be influenced.

Art uses context and culture to send a message. Instead of only a contribution of beauty or craft, art adds intent. The artist works to create something generous, something that will change us.

Art isn’t painting or canvas or prettiness. Art is work that matters.

It’s entirely possible that you’re an artist.

Everyone can be, if we choose.

Thing I learned about Scotland: Fall walks are as brilliant as ever.

A little path through the woods by our house. Fall is starting to peek through.
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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#37 & #38)

Week of Aug 12 – Aug 18 and Aug 19 – 25
Note: So much has been going on and I took too long to post so here is a special edition covering the last two weeks instead of the usual one.


I thought things were slowing down (obviously I am easy to fool): Big things happening over the past couple weeks: my daughter started school in Scotland, my son started peeing in Scotland (clarification: he is using the potty now and did his first pee in the woods, yes!), and I started a (trial) for a new job. Who said anything about “getting settled”? My reading and listening time have suffered a bit as I focus on building some career capital skills, but nonetheless there is no end of interesting things to share and learn about. Onward!


Book excerpts I enjoyed:

“The good news is that every mistake you make can teach you something, so there’s no end to learning. You’ll soon realize that excuses like “that’s not easy” or “it doesn’t seem fair” or even “I can’t do that” are of no value and that it pays to push through.” (Ray Dalio, Principles)

“The goal of personal growth should be to gain that deathbed clarity while your life is still happening so you can actually do something about it.” (Tim Urban, Wait but Why Year One)


The secret behind Major League Baseball’s mud: What? I had no idea that mud was such a big deal: Mud Maker: The Man Behind MLB’s Essential Secret Sauce


Some new “tools” I am exploring: MUD\WTR caught my attention and I’m giving it a try. Also need to get my Four Sigmatic mushrooms back in the cupboard again. I’m not interested in stopping my coffee habit, but always looking for other boosts.

Also, I started playing with TextExpander and it is is so helpful. I’m only scratching the surface.


There’s more to know about Frank Abagnale: Turns out the subject of ‘Catch Me If You Can’ is a pretty good speaker and his past has given him a unique, sharp perspective. This is worth a watch. His answer towards the end about not using debit cards and setting his kids up with credit was surprising but genius.


A great TED talk: The comedian behind the Nanette Netflix special did a great TED talk on why she made it.


On taking breaks and having downtime: Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too is a great longread and I found the stories really good. It’s also linked with my recent reading of Deep Work.


More new music, this time old but new: The music of Franz Liszt, specifically this album of his compositions, has been a great accompaniment to work sessions.


Quote I’ve been thinking about:

“Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Ian Maclaren
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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#8)

  • I never realized what I was missing by not trying a neti pot earlier: The family and I have been battling various sicknesses for the past month, and on a friends advice I started using the NeilMed Sinus Rinse. It feels weird at first, sure, but the results are real.
  • This short exercise to change your mindset: I’m about half-way through the Sam Harris Waking Up course and have been listening to some of the lessons as well. Like the rest of the course, this short lesson on gratitude really has had an impact. I find that a lot of the time I am in a mental malaise at the end of a work day, especially after a long commute home. This is a fantastic tool I’m using to break any feeling of mediocrity.
  • The most nutritious plants: I didn’t think this article, Ranking Vegetables on How Healthy They Are, would be as surprising to me as it was. In particular, the fact that 100 calories of spinach has more protein than 100 calories of beef. Being vegetarian-turned-pescatarian now for 5 months I’m still learning about all of goodness out there. (Hat tip: Ben Tamblyn)
     
  • A quote I’ve been pondering:

“To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”

Lao Tzu
  • Vivian is a natural Bansky: I did a quick portrait sketch of Sam on Sunday morning and showed it to Vivi. She said I could draw her also “as long as you don’t make me look weird”. I left the room to change Sam’s diaper and didn’t think of it. Later in the afternoon I opened and found that she drew herself in the notebook on the opposite page.
A couple of sunday morning portraits
My portrait of Sam on the left, Vivi’s self portrait on the right.