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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#66)

Favorite quote:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children . . . to leave the world a bit better . . . to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can still succeed now, maybe more so.


Cool videos to share with your kids:

I mean, just look at some of these:

Tilly the golden eagle flies above the Scottish highlands: https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/tilly-the-golden-eagle-soars-above-the-scottish-highlands

Hummingbird frenzy: https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/hummingbird-frenzy

Science experiments to do with kids: https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/ten-easy-home-science-experiments-kids

Using YouTube as a platform for serving video but collecting it in a way that’s fun and better than using YouTube.


My favorite new for me sites/resources on the pandemic:

The Corona Virus explained:

Our World in Data, a brilliant site for interesting facts:

https://ourworldindata.org

(the Coronavirus page I find particularly good: https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus)


A blast from the past:

The origin of the name SEGA and other surprises in this strange-but-cool commemoration to 60 years of SEGA. I was such a huge fan of the Sega Genesis and SEGA ruled the arcades as well (another thing I was a huge fan of).

https://60th.sega.com/en


Music to revisit:

Lots of good new music out now (hi Caribou, Jay Electronica) but the Radiohead Public Library made me go back and revisit their discography.

https://www.radiohead.com/library


Writing process that I was thinking about:

This is what I do for everything I post:

Write all of my thoughts on a subject.

Argue against those ideas.

Explore different angles until I’m sick of it.

Leave it for a few days or years, then repeat those steps.

Hate how messy these thoughts have become.

Reduce them to a tiny outline of the key points.

Post the outline. Trash the rest.

From Derek Sivers: https://sivers.org/7

(also be sure to check out How to ask your mentors for help: https://sivers.org/ment)


Everything is going to be ok:

Is it? That depends.


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

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#57)

Quote I appreciated this week:

Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.”

Jules Verne

Knowledge is a privilege to be shared: Great perspective on why it’s important, a gift really, to write things down, especially in our work.

“Tribal knowledge concentrates power in the hands of a privileged few. Privilege is a currency to be spent and shared, not hoarded jealousy against old age.” — Riona MacNamara, Senior Technical Writer @Google

https://medium.com/@yasmary.hernandez/documentation-is-key-for-inclusion-725b4929f69b


The continued legacy of Martin Luther King:

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Theodore Parker: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

But it’s not bending itself. And it’s not waiting for someone from away to bend it either.

It’s on us.

This reminded me of a favorite quote from Paulo Coehlo:

The word is changed by your action, not by your opinion.

Paulo Coehlo

Scotland’s most remote pub: This doesn’t seem north enough to count as the most remote, but those islands and peninsulas can be pretty isolated.

Getting into nature feels like a miracle in the wilderness-starved United Kingdom. It counts as one of the most crowded countries on earth. It has a population of 66 million on a landmass a little smaller than Wyoming, much of it paved, farmed, trammeled. In the context of Great Britain, the Scottish Highlands is a corner of wilderness and also a wilderness cornered, edged as it is into the northernmost part of the island. Still, there are roads and towns, tourists looking for their fix of Hogwarts and the Loch Ness Monster. There are places where you can get Uber Eats delivery.

The Knoydart peninsula is not one of them.

HT to Ben Tamblyn.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2406629/old-forge-pub-scotland-highlands-uk#close


Book excerpt I’ve been thinking about:

“I am often asked what will replace organized religion. The answer, I believe, is nothing and everything. Nothing need replace its ludicrous and divisive doctrines—such as the idea that Jesus will return to earth and hurl unbelievers into a lake of fire, or that death in defense of Islam is the highest good. These are terrifying and debasing fictions. But what about love, compassion, moral goodness, and self-transcendence? Many people still imagine that religion is the true repository of these virtues. To change this, we must talk about the full range of human experience in a way that is as free of dogma as the best science already is.” (Sam Harris, Waking Up)


A good method of avoiding writer’s block: Write all your ideas down, no matter how dumb!


The world is going to see more plastic before we see less: We need to be done with single-use plastic.

https://www.wired.com/story/a-surge-of-new-plastic-is-about-to-hit-the-planet


David Foster Wallace on leadership: Came across this somehow during my week and really liked it.

In other words, a real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.


A premium, no-ads-paid-only news service that’s doing well: Increasingly annoyed by ESPN and finding it hard to keep track of sports news from a distance, I’ve given this service a shot. So far, I’m liking it. Great writing and almost everything is interesting and worth reading, the inverse of most sports news in my experience.

https://theathletic.com/


Things that I am grateful for:

These tiny moments with the kids.

Exploring the wonders of Amsterdam with a long-time friend.


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

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#55)

Two book excerpts I’ve been thinking about:

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets… it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.” (Cal Newport, Deep Work)

Very apt for the holidays this week and next.

“I happen to be in a very tough business where there are no alibis. It is good or it is bad and the thousand reasons that interfere with a book being as good as possible are no excuses if it is not. You have to make it good and a man is a fool if he adds or takes hindrance after hindrance after hindrance to being a writer when that is what he cares about. Taking refuge in domestic successes, being good to your broke friends etc. is merely a form of quitting.” (Larry W. Phillips, Ernest Hemingway on Writing)

Those are some tough words and also got me thinking about this post on how Tyler Cowen practices to be better at his work. To extreme for me but I agree that you have to practice deliberately anything you want to be better at.


New music is such a great gift: The KEXP DJs top albums of the year, along with the listeners top 99.3 albums, offers an annual avalanche of good tunes that carries me into the next year on a high. Here are some new albums I have discovered already from these lists:

The Black Tones – Cobain & Cornbread – blues mixed with hard/grunge rock

Preservation Hall Jazz Band – A Tuba to Cuba – upbeat latin-inspired jazz

Nicola Cruz – Siku – instrumental album with a tribal, ancient feel

Rudy Willingham – Dunk Reactions – really fresh mix of instrumental beats and samples


My favorite music of 2019: This year was full of change, here is the music that kept me company throughout.


A beautiful poem and thoughts on marriage: From Margaret Atwood on Marriage, really liked this poem and lots more in the link.

HABITATION by Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not

a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:
the edge of the forest, the edge

of the desert

the unpainted stairs

at the back where we squat

outside, eating popcorn
the edge of the receding glacier
where painfully and with wonder

at having survived even

this far
we are learning to make fire


Common sense that’s often ignored: The seven sins of meetings with remote participants


The crazy surveilled reality we now live in: One Nation Tracked is a fantastic exploration of the tracking devices we all carry with us each day.

Within America’s own representative democracy, citizens would surely rise up in outrage if the government attempted to mandate that every person above the age of 12 carry a tracking device that revealed their location 24 hours a day. Yet, in the decade since Apple’s App Store was created, Americans have, app by app, consented to just such a system run by private companies. Now, as the decade ends, tens of millions of Americans, including many children, find themselves carrying spies in their pockets during the day and leaving them beside their beds at night — even though the corporations that control their data are far less accountable than the government would be.


The dark world of online murder markets: Click Here to Kill. Woah, great read.


Quote for the new year:

No matter how big and tough a problem may be, get rid of confusion by taking one little step toward solution. Do something.

George F. Nordenholt

Free tools for images and illustrations for your site, docs, presentations, and more:


This is the last post of the year for me and I’m going to explore a new destination, read a bit, and play. See you next year!

In the meantime, check out what we’re up to now.

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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/


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

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#40)

Playing tourist last week: Family in town meant we got to play tourist! The city bus tour, the museums, eating out, it was all in play this week. Also received my first bottle of Scotch (how was this the first?), in a bottle of Balblair 12 year. Next week will mark two months in Scotland!


Quote I’ve been thinking about:

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

John Wooden

How the Prison Economy Works:

To make a large cash payment, a prisoner asks a friend on the outside to buy a MoneyPak and to pass on the dots once they have done so. These 14 digits can then be exchanged with a guard or another prisoner for something in the prison, including drugs. By exchanging dots instead of cash, the prisoners keep their hands clean. The free people on the outside – one buying the MoneyPak, the other receiving its value on a Green Dot card – do not need to meet each other, know each other or link bank accounts. Using prepaid cards in this way creates an informal currency that is durable, divisible into payments as small as the MoneyPak minimum of $20, and is accepted everywhere.


How I Wrote Shape Up: I shared the Shape Up e-book before and this is the story of how it was written.

“I didn’t know how to write a book. But I knew how to give a workshop.”

It’s an inspiring read from a process and tools perspective. But I love the idea that it’s OK to not know how to do something and still trying anyway. A good place to start is with the closest thing that you do know how to do. Build from there. You can do it.


Something from the fs.blog newsletter that I made me think: We Have Ruined Childhood.

…kids today “have fewer opportunities to practice social-emotional skills, whether it’s because they live in a violent community where they can’t go outside, or whether it’s because there’s overprotection of kids and they don’t get the independence to walk down to the corner store.” They don’t learn “how to start a friendship, how to start a relationship, what to do when someone’s bothering you, how to solve a problem.”

Many parents and pediatricians speculate about the role that screen time and social media might play in this social deficit. But it’s important to acknowledge that simply taking away or limiting screens is not enough. Children turn to screens because opportunities for real-life human interaction have vanished; the public places and spaces where kids used to learn to be people have been decimated or deemed too dangerous for those under 18.


Favorite book excerpt:

“Over the years, I’ve realized that in any new situation, whether it involves an elevator or a rocket ship, you will almost certainly be viewed in one of three ways. As a minus one: actively harmful, someone who creates problems. Or as a zero: your impact is neutral and doesn’t tip the balance one way or the other. Or you’ll be seen as a plus one: someone who actively adds value.

Everyone wants to be a plus one, of course. But proclaiming your plus-oneness at the outset almost guarantees you’ll be perceived as a minus one, regardless of the skills you bring to the table. This might seem self evident, but it can’t be, because so many people do it.”

Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

You have to be a zero before you can be a plus one.