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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.

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#47)

Tool I discovered: Droplr. Since starting work at Automattic I have been getting to know and love this tool for taking and sharing screenshots and screencasts. It uploads your files automatically for easy sharing, has a bunch of surprisingly great options, and it’s fast.


Documentary I enjoyed: The Game Changers. Since going vegetarian over a year ago, Kav and I have been getting into it more and more and have no desire to go back. This made me want to go farther.


Tumblr site that made me laugh: Catalog Living. There have been a few of these floating around the office. Too funny.

Gary threw down his napkin in disgust when he realized tonight would be yet another Giant Pear dinner.


Favorite life advice of the week: Read like your life depends on it, because it does. From the always good Marcus Purvis. I also enjoyed his recent post in his Notes from a Small Country series.


Article about “work” that made me think: Asynchronous Communication: The Real Reason Remote Workers Are More Productive. This lines up neatly to my new role working for an entirely distributed, async company, so it’s right in my echo chamber but good I think nonetheless.

This highly synchronous way of working would be understandable if it produced results, but there is more and more evidence that all the real-time communication overhead makes it hard to focus, drains employees’ mental resources, and generally makes it more difficult to make meaningful progress on work.


To see what we’re up to, check out our now page. The featured image is another one I colored in with some Tombows from my small notebook:

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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