Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#68)

Book excerpt that seems to ring differently:

“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.

https://desert.glass/archive/my-father-the-druid-my-mother-the-tree/#text


Tool for reducing background noise on calls:

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.

https://pitchfork.com/features/article/listen-to-music


How to expand subjective time during lockdown:

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.

http://www.justinmaller.com/ and http://www.facets.la/


What I’m grateful for this week:

  • Bikes. Freedom by physical exertion. It’s been great to get both the kids into biking and I really want to get one again my self now.
  • That I have work, and lots of it. I get to learn something new everyday and help people create as my job.

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

Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#62)

Visited another new place in Scotland and spent much of the week there:

Islay and Jura are two isles (islands) off the west coast of Scotland known for being remote, sparsely populated, wild, beautiful and full of some of the best whisky in the world. My Dad and I ventured out to find all of this to be very true indeed.


Favorite new music: The latest from Makaya McCraven, We’re New Again: A Reimagining has been a great companion to lunches and sketching.

The Chicago drummer and producer transforms Gil-Scott Heron’s final album into a masterpiece of dirty blues, spiritual jazz, and deep yearning.

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/gil-scott-heron-makaya-mccraven-were-new-again-a-reimagining-by-makaya-mccraven/


Quote that made me think:

Don’t allow your rituals to become ruts.

Todd Henry

George Leonard and The Power of the Mind: this reference came up from a previous book note, and I read the Esquire article that provided the seed for his later book, Mastery.

This frontier thinking has venerable roots, especially in the Eastern martial arts, all of which share a common faith in an energy source called ki in Japanese, ch’i in Chinese, pneuma in Greek, and prana in Sanskrit. In the ancient tradition, ki is the fundamental energy of the universe that connects and relates all things. By controlling the flow of this energy in one’s own body or projecting it toward external objects, the martial artist can supposedly achieve extraordinary powers. Legends abound of masters who can stop an opponent in his tracks from halfway across the room or even throw him head over heels. Karate practitioners generally claim that ki, even more than muscular strength, makes it possible for them to break bbards or concrete blocks.

Thus far, ki has proved difficult to measure, and skeptics tend to attribute its powers to suggestion, a sort of dynamic placebo effect. To the pragmatist, this distinction is unimportant. As a practitioner of aikido, an art in which ki plays an especially important role, I’ve generally found a strong correlation between my perception of personal ki and the power of my techniques. The idea of ki can offer the untrained person an effective way of gaining a sensation of increased energy along with relaxation, especially during times of fatigue and stress. Here’s an exercise designed to demonstrate the power that can come from visualizing ki.

https://classic.esquire.com/article/1988/5/1/the-power-of-the-mind

I didn’t know much about George Leonard and his book prior, but based on a brief scan of notes from James Clear’s blog, I plan to pick it up.


Sir William Osler and the power of work: Osler was one of the most important figures in the founding of modern medicine, and said the following in one of his books:

Let each hour of the day have its allotted duty, and cultivate that power of concentration which grows with its exercise, so that the attention neither flags nor wavers, but settles with bull-dog tenacity on the subject before you. Constant repetition makes a good habit fit easily in your mind, and by the end of the session you may have gained that most precious of all knowledge—the power of work.

From Cal Newport:

We don’t teach this any more.

Modern educational institutions care a lot about content: what theories we teach, what ideas students are exposed to, what skills they come away knowing. But we rarely address the more general question of how one transforms their mind into a tool well-honed for elite-level cognitive work.


Book excerpt that I loved:

Although the strategy of gaining happiness by working to get whatever it is we find ourselves wanting is obvious and has been used by most people throughout recorded history and across cultures, it has an important defect, as thoughtful people throughout recorded history and across cultures have realized: For each desire we fulfill in accordance with this strategy, a new desire will pop into our head to take its place. This means that no matter how hard we work to satisfy our desires, we will be no closer to satisfaction than if we had fulfilled none of them. We will, in other words, remain dissatisfied.” (William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life)


How to be perfect: A poem by Ron Padgett that’s got some brilliant advice and a subtle power. I’m adding it to my regular re-read list. Here’s just a small sampling (it’s much longer):

Look at that bird over there.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have expressed a desire to kill you.

Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.

Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it.

What is out (in) there?

HT to Austin Kleon

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57243/how-to-be-perfect


What made me grateful last week:

  • Re-discovering cribbage and playing cards. Can’t think of a better way to end a day.
  • Working from home meant more time with my Dad during his visit.
  • Doing blind self-portraits with Vivian:

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

Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#43)

When in doubt, tidy up. I did a lot of tidying this week as I find myself with some extra time off. The doldrums of the typical afternoon require that I do something with my hands to get unstuck and moving stuff around is a great antidote. Just remember, we don’t have to keep our spaces neat and tidy, just keep them ready for when we want to work (or play). That often means leaving things out, at the ready.


New music to work (and dance) to: From KEXPs excellent Midnight In a Perfect World series lands this crazy mix by Hot Chip: KEXP Presents Midnight In a Perfect World with Hot Chip


Rules of the studio from Austin Kleon and Kanye West: This inspired me to try doing some “studio time” at home, earmarking an hour (or however long it would last) for creating art with the kids. I want to expand it to include collage and sculpture, but for this first one we just had pens and pencils. Here are a couple of the outputs:


A book from Hemingway that was release posthumously: Islands in the Stream. I am in little bit of a reading rut and have been reading a lot of nonfiction on developing (good) habits and philosophies of life. This seems like a good antidote.

The first of Hemingway’s posthumously published novels (1970), Islands in the Stream was found by Hemingway’s widow after his death. Beautifully descriptive, he weaves together many of his signature narratives – love, loss, longing, adventure, and war. In three stories, Hemingway takes us through decades of the life of artist Thomas Hudson, in a semi-autobiographical depiction that begins with the joys of fatherhood and fishing before moving to suspenseful Nazi submarine hunting. This book has something for everyone, and is a worthwhile read for those only familiar with Hemingway’s more popular and earlier works.

From FS.blog’s Brain Food #333

What Works and What Doesn’t by Steven Pressfield:

The only thing that allows me to sit quietly in the evening is the completion of a worthy day’s work. What work? The labor of entering my imagination and trying to come back out with something that is worthy both of my own time and effort and of the time and effort of my brothers and sisters to read it or watch it or listen to it.


Favorite book excerpt:

A practicing Stoic will keep the trichotomy of control firmly in mind as he goes about his daily affairs. He will perform a kind of triage in which he sorts the elements of his life into three categories: those over which he has complete control, those over which he has no control at all, and those over which he has some but not complete control. The things in the second category-those over which he has no control at all-he will set aside as not worth worrying about. In doing this, he will spare himself a great deal of needless anxiety. He will instead concern himself with things over which he has complete control and things over which he has some but not complete control. And when he concerns himself with things in this last category, he will be careful to set internal rather than external goals for himself and will thereby avoid a considerable amount of frustration and disappointment.

A Guide to the Good Life, William B Irvine