Category Archives: ideas

On Seneca, or good advice is good advice, regardless of whom it comes from

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I’ve always thought highly of the wisdom dispensed by Seneca. Many do. However, I started to think about it more after reading this: Lucius Annaeus Seneca | Daily Philosophy.

Seneca’s advice is admirable and worthwhile. His life, less so. Read that piece and you will see what I mean.Which is once again why I will conclude that good advice is good advice, regardless of whom it comes from. Not everyone is as consistent in life and thought as Diogenes. 🙂

 

On the things parents tell their kids and the things kids remember

Vihos Sweets

This is a picture of a street in downtown Glace Bay. Next to the Dominion is a small place called Vihos Sweets. It didn’t exist when I was growing up, but it did when my mom was a teen. She worked there for a time, and she occasionally talked about it.

Though she didn’t talk about it a lot, it stuck in my mind and I often thought about it. I don’t know why. Maybe I liked the sound of it. Maybe the way she described it made it seem special. Perhaps I was trying to imagine having my own job someday. I am not sure.

I wonder of the many things I’ve told my kids what they remember. You hope that the big lessons you try and impart to your kids are the things that stick. But often times it is the little things. Things like the name of a place you worked at for a short time when you were younger.

Try and be comfortable with the notion that  you have less control than you think.  You can only live and speak as best as you can, and hope that is enough to send them in the right direction. They may recall the important things you passed on. They may recall something you said in passing. They are their own person, and they will absorb and recall what they need.

(Image via http://capermemories.blogspot.com/)

 

10 good pieces to mull over these holidays

  1. A good piece on how grief affects us:  How the brain responds to grief can change who we are.
  2. Good for people who have monkey minds, like me:  How to Quiet Your Mind Chatter
  3. Good advice here:  How to (Actually) Change Someone’s Mind.
  4. Really something for all ages, not just olds like me:  I Just Turned 60 but I Still Feel 22.
  5. Same for this: 88 Important Truths I’ve Learned About Life 
  6. The pandemic may not have killed ironic living, but it has affected it:  The Great Irony-Level Collapse
  7. A example of the gaps in AI and ethics still. Wide gaps IMO:  Moral Machine 
  8. Speaking of ethics:  Is it okay to harvest pig kidneys to save human lives? 
  9. A good piece on Wittgenstein:  Los Angeles Review of Books 
  10. Finally, worth a read is this:  George Forss 80 Photographer Discovered on the Streets of N.Y. Dies.

In praise of the the post-it note (and Clive Thompson)

post it notes
First up, the post it note. Clive has done a great job of taking something we likely all take for granted and making us think about it in a way that we can really appreciate its value. He does it here specifically with the Post-It note: 13 Ways Of Looking At A Post-It Note | by Clive Thompson | Nov, 2021 | Medium

He’s been doing it for many other topics too. Here’s just one example: Tiny Books an Incredibly Long Piano and Why Are Boss Fights So Damn Hard? .

Basically what I am saying is you should subscribe to his newsletter. He’s been on fire with it recently. He says it is a good way to procrastinate. I say it is a good way to learn about all sorts of interesting aspects of the world.

Write down on a post-it note: Subscribe to Clive’s newsletter. Better yet, just go off and do it. You’ll be glad you did.

(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash )

On de Klerk and Hume (and Cromwell too)

Cromwell
FW de Klerk died last week. While there were many reactions to his death, I thought this one was best. His legacy is complicated. But he has a legacy that is complicated and not one that is simply horrible because of the bold actions he took. I had thoughts on de Klerk, but that piece is better than anything I could have written.

I’d argue that almost everyone’s legacy is complicated. I especially thought that after reading about how David Hume’s tower was renamed last year. I suspect that eventually the only things that will be named after people will be for people whose lives we no longer care about. But who knows? As I wrote earlier, the naming of things (and the removal of names) is about power and eventually those newly in power want to name their things so they become their own.

Perhaps we should not erect memorials at all. Perhaps we all need to be iconoclastic. If we do cast new ones, then the memorials we erect of people need to include the “warts and all” aspects of them. Make the memorials a lesson instead of an icon to worship.

One thing I want to add on de Klerk is that when I was younger, I never thought that the Soviet Union, Apartheid, or the Troubles in Ireland would end in my lifetime. For every de Klerk there was a Paisley in Northern Ireland who would fight tooth and nail to prevent change from happening. But it did happen, because of people like Gorbachev, de Klerk and Mandela, Trimble and Hume. They should be acknowledged for the good they did.

(Image from a story on the painter who painted Cromwell, warts and all: Samuel Cooper)

 

What do modern day philosophers believe?

What do philosophers think? Is there any ideas they hold in common? Is there any progress in philosophy?

Those are all good questions. If you want some answers to them, you could consult this poll. If you did, you would find what they think and what ideas they have in common. You will even find most agree there is some progress when it comes to philosophy.

I found it interesting that the poll for the Footbridge problem (pushing man off bridge will save five on track below) was  22% for push while 56% said don’t push. Meanwhile, for the trolley problem, 63% said switch while 13.3 said don’t switch. Not sure how to think about that. I also found it interesting that when it comes to time, 38.2% said the B-theory is correct. I tend to believe that as well. Finally, what they thought the aim of philosophy is was fascinating.

(Photo by Giammarco on Unsplash )

On capitalism, environmentalism and architecture, and the need to vacate, retreat and celebrate holidays

Last week there was much discussion about a dorm being sponsored by Charlie Munger for UCSB, which resulted in resignations among other things. Here is an example of the floor plan:

The big point of contention was the lack of windows for the bedrooms. Munger, who has been dictating the design, said it was more important that students have their own room than windows. I agree that having your own room is very important. My son is attending my alma mater and unlike me he has his own room in his first year and I applaud this. But he also has a window. It doesn’t have to be an either / or situation. We need both.

I’ve been thinking about this situation and I think in some ways many people who talk about urban housing have all become like Charlie Munger. In discussions they have, the living space of people living in cities gets smaller and smaller. Sure there are windows, but they are little windows looking out on little else. They are nothing like this:

And why is that? It’s because we assume we cannot afford it. Capitalism says people cannot live this way. Environmentalists often support that, saying dense cities with dense buildings are greener than suburbs or single dwellings.

Most of us, me included,  assume that has to be the way it is. We don’t ask ourselves is that a good way for us to live constantly I think that is key. I love living in cities for the most part, but I think we all need to get away from them and have a good place to get away to.

Vacation and holiday have had their meaning diluted  over time. Many would consider a retreat something we do because of a breakdown in our lives. I think we need to reconsider this. From time to time we need to vacate our current environment. We need to have holidays where we celebrate our spirituality and our connection to a greater purpose. We need to retreat from the day to day and restore ourselves.

I love where I live, but I would love to be able to go to this place from time to time. To vacate my current life and retreat to this place and celebrate a holiday.

Is it affordable? Well, there is a cost each of us bears for living in small spaces right up against each other all the time. The pandemic is just one of many costs that have resulted in this. But we suffer the cost in other ways in terms of mental health and much more. We need to revisit these costs and determine a better way to understand what we can afford. We need to live better. We need our space and our windows.

For more on the cabin shown here, see this: This prefabricated cabin is a holiday retreat that balances a rustic personality with modern details! – Yanko Design

On growing up with Dr. Suess

As a kid in the 60s I grew up reading Dr. Seuss. You could still get “Dick and Jane” books at the time, and let me tell you, the difference between them was stark. Reading Dick and Jane was drudgery. Reading Dr. Seuss was fun,and I associated reading with fun because of him.

Last year there was a big controversy about him that lead to six of his books being pulled from print. Dr. Seuss Enterprises said they did because these books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” Fair enough. Some of the images like those above from  “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” are terrible in my opinion.  I don’t think there is much lost in that book being pulled from print. I would pause for one of those books though. The imagery from “Scrambled Eggs Super” seems vaguely offensive in my mind but it echoes more offensive imagery from other books depicting Arabs and Eskimos, so I am not surprised it went. I am disappointed: I loved that book. But that’s just me. It’s not hard to see the imagery as stereotypical, if not as negative as some of the others.

Thinking about Dr. Seuss and his imagery is difficult. At times blatantly racist (especially early in his career) and other times strongly progressive (later). Because of the former I can see why many educators and others would like to see him gone. I suspect his influence will wane over time and educators and parents will shift to newer books with representations that better reflect their values. Maybe someday we won’t even see the Grinch any more at Christmas.

That said, I am happy I grew up with Dr. Seuss books and read the ones I did. I am glad I read the ones I did to my kids too. (None of which were among the six.)  His books were very helpful in teaching me and others the joy of reading. I hope the books that come to replace his do the same.

For more on this topic, it’s easy to find links to the controversy on the Internet. Here are some of the pieces I’ve collected:

On intelligence: in cells, in A.I., in us


This article on cells – yes, cells! – navigating mazes is fascinating and worth a read: Seeing around corners: Cells solve mazes and respond at a distance using attractant breakdown

After reading I thought: I need to rethink “intelligence”. Navigating mazes is something that was considered an intelligent act. Indeed one of the early experiments in A.I. was in the 1950s, when Marvin Minsky developed a smart “rat” (see above) to make its way through a maze. (That’s worth reading about as well.)

Seeing the cell navigate the maze, I thought: if the qualities we associate with intelligence are found at a cellular level, then I don’t really understand intelligence at all. It’s as if intelligence has an atomic level. As if intelligence is at all levels of life, not just the more complex levels.

Maybe the concept of intelligence is next to meaningless and needs to be replaced by something better. Read those pieces and think for yourself. After all, you are intelligent. 🙂

On the creator economy, access, and monetization


The following quote from an Axios piece struck me as odd:

The creator economy was supposed to democratize media, but it turns out that a small portion of creators still reap the most revenue for their work across multiple platforms.

I wonder how they came up with their assumptions. The creator economy has been going on since blogging and other Web 2.0 technologies, and while it has given creators equal access to platforms, it has never spread the wealth. Ever. There is a reason why books like The Long Tail were successful: they accurately described how things worked. Platforms come and go, from Blogger to Twitch, and no doubt more will come in the future. Everyone will have equal access to them. Likewise, a few will reap the lion’s share and the rest will get crumbs. That’s how it works.

For more on it, see: The creator economy is failing to spread the wealth – Axios

A great introduction to Bayes’ Theorem and how it relates to COVID-19

You may have heard references to Bayes’ Theorem in light of the pandemic and wondered how it is relevant. Well I am here to help. First off, here’s a great guide to Bayes’ Theorem from the website MathIsFun.com. Even if you are math phobic, I think you will be able to read that piece and understand it. Secondly, check out the site Varsity and how it explains how Bayes’ Theorem and COVID-19 testing are related. Both are well worth a read.

Learn Bayes’ Theorem. It’s good to help you understand many things in life, including what is happening during the pandemic.

P.S. This related piece at FT.com  explains why you should expect to see vaccinated people in the hospital with covid despite high vaccination rates.

On prisons and prisoners and how things can be improved

Here are three pieces on prison and incarceration that I thought were worth reading:

  1. Here’s some technology to help identify discrepancies in prison sentencing based on race.
  2. Here’s how California jails take a kinder and better approach.
  3. Here’s how artists teamed with prisoners to transform their prison.

(Image linked to in the third piece)

On progress: may you live in average times that are getting better in many ways


Matthew Yglesias wrote this piece here and it did not go over too well: The case against crisis-mongering. I mainly agree with him, that our world problems, dire as they are, aren’t as exceptional as we may think. Or as Dan G put it on twitter:

What Dan states is my worldview as well. There are still many bad things in the world, but there is progress and things are getting better.  We have overcome problems in the past and we have the ability to fix things in the future. Plus the past was terrible in many ways and so much worse than now (and our times will look terrible to people in the future).

If you disagree with this, I strongly recommend two books:

  1. Factfulness
  2. Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future

They make the case stronger than I can for how the world is getting better and how we should be optimistic despite our difficulties.

People will say: what about global warming? The pandemic? Nuclear weapons? All I can say is read Matt’s piece and then read those books. I think that will help alot.

(Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash )

 

 

 

On the rise and fall and unlikely rise of QR codes


I’ve been a fan of QR codes for a decade. Back then I wrote about how they could be used to tag everything from trees and medic alert bracelets to IOT devices. I thought the sky was the limit for them. I was wrong.

Until this year. As Clive Thompson writes here, the pandemic has been a game changer in causing the resurgence of QR codes. I am glad to see that.

I’d still like to see QR codes everywhere. It would be a way of connecting the virtual world to the real world. Cities could tag streets and neighborhood with QR codes to allow you to get a glimpse of context into where you are standing. If a new building is being built, put a QR code on a sign out front that links to a web site providing greater detail on it. As for historic buildings, why not put a QR code on them that links to their wikipedia page describing the historical significance. Anyway, lots of ways QR codes could enhance our understanding of the world.

Here’s hoping they are here to stay, providing us a way to better navigate our world.

(Photo by Rebecca Hausner on Unsplash )

Some food for thought on a Saturday


Often I find links that are interesting but I don’t have anything especially interesting to say about them, other than I thought they were worthwhile reading.  Here are 30 of them for this month. As the image says, you may get lots of your own ideas from reading the ideas of others:

  1. Philosophy by Susan Rigetti
  2. Moral grandstanding in public discourse: Status-seeking motives as a potential explanatory mechanism in predicting conflic
  3. The Five Types of Personal Boundaries (and How to Set Them)
  4. One simple way to build someone’sconfidence: Ask for their advice
  5. Are We Trading Our Happiness for Modern Comforts?
  6. The Stoic Antidote to Frustration: Marcus Aurelius on How to Keep Your Mental Composure and Emotional Equanimity When People Let You Down
  7. Imagination is the sixth sense. Be careful how you use it
  8. Jeff Bezos Faces Down The Overview EffectIn Space
  9. Joseph Landry sentenced to seven years in jail for death of Dartmouth friend in 2018
  10. We‚are Learning the Wrong Lessons From the World’s Happiest Countries
  11. Even if You Think Discussing Aliens Is Ridiculous Just Hear Me Out
  12. Years You Have Left to Live Probably
  13. Desire paths: the illicit trails that defy the urban planners
  14. Other People’s Despair – Mending the Social Fabric Won’t Fix the Suicide Crisis
  15. Stop Doomscrolling and Grab a Game Controller Instead
  16. How to Separate Your Identity From Your Behavior (and Why You Should)
  17. The Blackfoot Wisdom that Inspired Maslow’sHierarchy
  18. I Miss My Bar – Recreate Your Favorite Bar’s Atmosphere
  19. At Talkspace Start-Up Culture Collides With Mental Health Concerns
  20. Emotional labor
  21. Biblical and Greek Ambivalence Towards Child Sacrifice – TheTorah.com
  22. Cream of the Crop: 8 Architecture Firms Leading the Urban Farming Revolution
  23. The necessity of Kripke
  24. Why Emotionally Intelligent People Embrace the 2-Way Door Rule to Make Better Faster Decisions
  25. How does Google’s monopoly hurt you? Try these searches.
  26. Effective altruism is logical but too unnatural to catch on
  27. Darkness is the absence of recognition
  28. A Checklist Before Dying
  29. Empires pandemics and the economic future of the West
  30. The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius

(Photo by CJ Dayrit on Unsplash)

Two good pieces for those of us getting older (with some additional thoughts from me).

People runningHere’s two worthwhile pieces on growing old:

This, Fighting against ageism and this, Aging is inevitable, so why not do it joyfully? Here’s how.

How we see growing old is a cultural thing. When I first went to pick out a photo, I decided on the first one of the man running. Because I am a product of my culture, as they say. I see being fit and young and productive as valuable.  Especially in our culture, being able to produce is highly valued. That’s why ageism occurs. If you show signs of age, people assume you will produce less. So your value decreases to them.

Then I saw the picture below. In other cultures, being able to sit and converse with your friends is valuable. These people are not being productive. They are not trying to look young. They are being social. They are being human.

Old people talking

I think we have problems in our society because for many the chief purpose of humans is to produce, to be productive. As long as that is true, we will have problems with ageism. True, we need times of our life to be productive, but we also need times for growth, times for rest and reflection. To combine all those times effectively is to live a good life. A life where all humans at all times of their lives are valued.

(First Photo by Lisa Wall on Unsplash. Second Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash )

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: a case study as to why results are never monocausal

Dominoes

People like to think outcomes, especially political or social outcomes, are monocausal. They’ll say: Y happened because X occurred.

I think that is rarely true. At best, X could be the main contributor as to why Y occurred. But it is never the only contributor. Often it is not even possible to determine which cause made the most difference. Most outcomes are not monocausal.

A good case study for this can be found in this essay on Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic – by Noah Smith.People will often say the main contributor to Haiti’s poverty was French colonialism or American intervention. Smith makes the case there are many factors that contributed to the significant differences between the two nations and it is not easy or even possible to single out one cause.

The next time someone tries to argue for single causes, look deeper. You’ll like find at least a half different other factors that contributed. People who can highlight multiple causes for an event understand the event better.

(Photo by Tamara Gak on Unsplash )

The lie within resilience

There is a lie within resilience. Not just the letters themselves: there is a falsehood included in the concept.

The lie is that if you are resilient, you snap back. You recover. You regain what you lost. This is what I have thought. I believed that.

After every one of the many setbacks I have suffered over the last decade I have told myself that I am resilient. Even my doctor told me that I was the most resilient people she had ever met. Every time I thought that, I thought: I will come back. I will recover. I will be who I was.

I don’t believe that any more. I don’t think resilient people recover. You may not break, but you can no longer come back to what you were. You turn into something else. Something misshapen. You become like a piece of paper than is crumpled up and then flattened out: you are never the same as you were before the crumpling. Never as good.

I am sure some people can comeback from setbacks. But if you get enough of them, even when the thing that crumpled your life goes away, you can never go back to the way you once were. You’re ruined.

A brilliantly visual way to learn philosophy

This site, www.denizcemonduygu.com/philo/browse,  is a fantastic way to learn more about philosophy. It lists out the major world philosophers, several of their key ideas, and how these ideas link to ideas of other philosophers.

It is a brilliant use of visualization software, too.

One thing: it can be hard to navigate at first. To make it easier, go to the Menu in the top right and then you can browse and search more easily.

(Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash )

Four pieces on Mary Oliver

You could do worse on a Sunday than read about Mary Oliver. Here’s four pieces on her from various parts of the Web:

I don’t have much to add other than that Mary Oliver is a fine person and her poetry is great and reading her and reading about her may make your life better. That’s all.

On fonts, old and new, and other design choices of St. JOHN

I’ve been thinking about fonts recently. Mainly I’ve been thinking why I love the font used by the restaurant St. JOHN so much.  I came to a conclusion after I read this piece, 60 free sans serif fonts to give your designs a modern touch, and came across this opening:

It is universally acknowledged that most contemporary designs require a versatile sans serif font. Sans serif fonts, as you might already know, are the fonts with no projecting lines at the ends. While serif fonts are known to be more traditional, sans serif fonts bring that much needed modernistic touch to the design.

That was it! When I think of modern and new, I think of thin sans serif fonts. And I am tired of modern and new for everything. Sometimes I want substantial, classic, traditional. The font for St. JOHN embodies that. It’s a chunky fat Serif font. The name itself is almost all capital letters. It is very different than the modern in that regard.

While their font is very traditional, in other ways, St. JOHN is very modern. There is a minimalism to the rest of their design, a minimalism of their design and decor is very modern indeed. To see what I mean, visit their web site (or better still, their establishments) and you will see what I mean.

And that’s perhaps what I love best about them: they mix in the best of what is old and traditional with what is new and modern and stride both worlds. It’s no easy feat, and yet they do it so well.

Ponoko: a great site for entrepreneurs and other makers wishing to implement physical designs

If you’ve ever thought of starting a business making physical objects, then you should check out thePonoko site. They can take your designs and transform them into physical materials from plastic to metal. Sure 3D printing is great for some things, but if you want to work with a great range of materials, check them out.

Click here to see some of the success stories of makers who have used their services. One of them is this very appropriate story in these pandemic times: Redesigning The Intubation Box To Better Protect First Responders

(Image above is of the intubation box and is a link to an image on their site.)

On the physical representation of the world in one object

The ball you see above is a time ball. As this Kotttke post explains:

Women from the Yakama Native American tribe used strings of hemp as personal diaries. Each major event in their life was represented by a knot, a bead or a shell. This mnemonic device is called an Ititamat, or counting-the-days ball, or simply time ball.

In these days where more and more is digital, I love that an object like the time ball can represent a life so well.

Perhaps you have something like this in your life. A diary, perhaps. Or a photo album. Or a collection of small objects that represent your life. Whatever it is, it is something worth treasuring, just like our lives are worth treasuring.

If you don’t have something like this, perhaps it’s time you do. Your life has value and is worth representing.

For more on this, see his post.

The best form of government, according to Branko Milanović

This is an interesting view of government, and I recommend you read it:
Branko Milanović – Governments of limited vice | Brave New Europe

When I first read it, I found it fascinating. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that what he is partially arguing for is moderate government. If governments get extreme one way or another, terrible things happen to their citizens.

The other benefit of this approach is that governments can adjust to what is a vice they have to crack down on, because the citizenry’s view of vice changes. Sometimes people stop considering certain acts vices. Or they downplay the harm such vices do. When this happens, governments of limited vice can back off and permit people the freedom to act a certain way.  For much of the 20th century the province of Ontario had a film censor board, and they cut out scenes they thought were offensive.  Now it’s been scraped. Once people were arrested for buying marijuana in Ontario: now the government provides guidance on how to purchase it. Governments of limited vice are moving the boundaries all the times, often due to the effort of the people who do not agree with the boundaries, and think society would be better with different boundaries.

There will always be a form of government. Governments of limited vice may be the best of them all.

(Photo by Rythik on Unsplash )

Making your organization more inclusive


I’ve always been a fan of Chatelaine magazine for its content. Now I am also a fan of them for working to build a more inclusive Chatelaine. That link shows the many ways they aim for and measure their inclusiveness. Any organization wanting to be more  inclusive should look to them for ideas and approaches.

The link also shows the limits or obstacles any one organization has in becoming more inclusive. A smaller organization can only scale out so far, and there is always more to include than is sometimes possible. But by aiming high, they have achieved much. I’m hopeful that they will try and do more, and other organizations following their example can do more too. Inclusivity spread over more organizations leads to greater inclusion for all.  That’s a great thing.

(Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash)

What solitary confinement teaches us


Solitary confinement is terrible. Most people confined this way for a stretch are badly affected by it. A few manage to come out of it better. It’s their stories that are told in this piece: How to Survive Solitary Confinement

The people that managed ok tend to have grit and the ability to make their minds work in a way to defeat being alone and confined. To see what I mean, read the piece. It can help you in some way if you are feeling alone and confined, as we all do from time to time.

(Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash)

On how you are in terrible times

I’ve been thinking about the terrible times we live in a how it affects us. When life is easy /not difficult, it is relative easy to be good. That’s normal, and by normal I mean like the vast majority of people. However as life gets more and more difficult, some people don’t change their behaviour and manage to stay the same. Those people are saints (1a). What about the rest of us: does that mean we are monsters? I’d argue that as life becomes much harder (1b) our behaviour tends to become terrible too. That doesn’t make us monsters: that makes us….normal still. Most of use are fairly elastic and as things become easier we slide back (2b) to being good. A few though end up staying terrible (2a). The hard times affect them in a way that doesn’t allow them to behave the way most people do when times are good and easy. We end up as seeing them more like monsters. We may avoid them but we should also have pity.

It’s hard to tell the saints in good times: they seem normal too. It’s only when difficult times occur do they stand out. Likewise it’s hard to know if people are monsters in difficult times because everyone seems to be not their best. It’s also hard to know if monstrous people have always been that way or if the times shaped them so.

Have some pity and understanding on all during difficult times: saints, monsters and the rest. We are all struggling to deal with what life throws at us.

Let’s play the game of Five Nice Things

Tulips for sale
This is a game you can play any time, but it’s especially good to play it in a pandemic. What is the game you say? Here’s Siobhan O’Connor to explain in this piece, An Easy Way to Practice Gratitude | Forge. Key quote:

At our dinners, we sometimes played a game we called Five Nice Things. It is what it sounds like: You take turns naming things that are nice. Five is the number. It can be a thing that makes you happy, a compliment for the other person, a win at work, “This broccoli is tasty,” whatever. It’s a bit sappy, but it’s not the sappiest, and the rules were: Don’t overthink it, and be specific. We’d roll it out in other settings: group hangs, work, whatnot. It was, generally speaking, a hit. Even Eeyores can get into it if you bring to the game your Tigger energy. But it was most meaningful when it was just the two of us.

I think the way to make it easy to play is to avoid trying to find the five NICEST things. Five low key nice things are fine. For example five low key nice things for me are:

  1. Waking up in the morning and feeling good and energetic
  2. A bright sunny day after days of overcast skies
  3. Walking by a store with lots of tulips for sale in buckets on the sidewalk
  4. Buying a hot mocha on a cold winter day and sipping it as I walk
  5. Late at night, looking at a yard filled with new fallen snow and seeing how uniform it is and how it sparkles

Just thinking about them makes my brain feel better. I think once you come up with some, your brain will feel better too.

(Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash)

On letting go of garbage

garbage bag

If you had a bag of garbage, would you continue to keep it? Likely not. Once you had the opportunity to get rid of it, you would. You don’t need it any more. You are under no obligation to keep it. So you’d get rid of it.

The same is true for other things in your life. For example, garbage thoughts. Or garbage people.

Speaking of garbage people, I see the crew from Trump’s regime are still trying to keep people paying attention to them. Hanging on to them and giving them attention is like hanging on to garbage. Don’t do it. Put them to the curb and let them get hauled away.

Your life and the lives of others improve when you get rid of the trash. The sooner the better. Say goodbye and walk away.

P.S. I hesitate to use the phrase garbage people. People are complicated, and simple characterizations can harm your ability to see others clearly. That said, metaphors like garbage can help you constructively modify your behaviors and thoughts. Just be careful with them.

(Images from by Markus Spiske and Sven Brandsma on Unsplash)

The arc of every long project and what you need to keep it mind

 

This chart came from John Hendrix.  It is much like the Gartner Hype Cycle but with some key differentiators.

At the beginning of John’s curve you get an idea and as you imagine it more and more, the idea may get better and better.  You get excited about it. By the time you are about to start, you can imagine how great it will turn out. But it is only an idea still.

Then you start the project. As you progress, the idea goes from being Great to Good to Ok to Horrid. At some point you enter The Pit of Despair (or as Gartner calls it, The Trough of Disillusionment). This is the low point of the project. Like John says: a) you want to give up b) this is normal. Think of it as the first draft of something.

How do you get out of the pit? By applying yourself. By sticking to it. Slowly it gets better. It goes from Horrid to Ok to Good. It may even get to Great.  What will happen for sure is that it will Suck Less. (A concept I learned from Austin Kleon.)

When you have finished the project,  you may notice two things. One, it is different than how you imagined it. Two there is still a gap between what you had hoped for or imagined and what you had accomplished. It’s important here to acknowledge that and also acknowledge how far you’ve come and how good it is.

John’s chart is for art projects, but it can be applied to fitness projects, IT projects, home improvement projects….you name it.

On friendship, it’s importance and limits

 I have been thinking a lot about friendships over the pandemic. I have wondered how many friendships will dissolve due to the distance imposed on us by this disease. I have wondered how many will strengthen afterwards when we have a chance to reunite. This crazy time has distorted our lives in so many ways, and our friendships will be one of those things that gets distorted.

If I have you thinking about friendship now, here’s more food for thought:

  1. The People Who Prioritize a Friendship Over Romance – The Atlantic
  2. Why You Need a Network of Low-Stakes, Casual Friendships – The New York Times
  3. The Limits of Friendship | The New Yorker

The pandemic will be over. When that happens, make sure you value the people who were your friends during this difficult time. Best friends are best. But go out and make more friends, too.

(Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash)

On the paths you get to choose in life


There are two sets of paths you take in life: those you choose, and those chosen for you. We comfort ourselves by thinking we have many opportunities to choose the right path, but often the right path is taken away from us, either directly by others, or indirectly through our circumstances. We also comfort ourselves by thinking we can influence others to take the right path by pointing out what is obviously the right way to go. Then we are surprised and saddened when they chose the wrong path.

All of that is a way of introducing these two articles on Terry Naugle. The first one is about him being sentenced to 15 years in jail at the age of 62. The next one is about him dying in prison a year later.

I don’t have anything more to add to this man’s life and death. It seems from a The paths available to him from a very early ages were the wrong ones. Later on he could have chose better paths, but it seems he could not make it over to them. His story made me think about how a good life can move away from us given the paths before us.

(Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash)

Illness mindset, pandemic mindset

This is a stark and great piece on how one woman found that her cancer from a previous time is helping her now:  I spent eight months in the hospital as a teenager. Here’s how it prepared me for the pandemic – The Globe and Mail.

It’s really worth reading. This part struck me in particular:

People have a tendency to believe that “everything happens for a reason”; that bad things happen to transform us into individuals who are more grateful, or open, or happy, or strong. So many well-wishers said this, or some version of it, while I was sick, and I hear it so often now, during the pandemic. But I think the real chance for something you could call transformation comes from accepting that there is no reason, and learning how to live with that.

I agree with this. As I argued earlier, many people will not be affected by the pandemic and will go back to their old ways. Those affected may become better people. Or not.

Something to consider as we slog through the days, waiting and hoping the vaccines take this all away.

(Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash)

Guyub and other untranslatable words that show different ways of living


Reading through this, 7 Concepts That Celebrate The Importance Of Simplicity, I started thinking we don’t have these words in English perhaps because we don’t value what they represent. But then I came across guyub. According to the piece:

The Indonesian idea of guyub (pronounced guy-oob) celebrates the importance of social connection. This concept entails bringing individuals together to share life’s ups and downs as a community, offering support and ultimately creating a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Now we do have words like that in English: family, community, home. They are simple words: so simple we don’t give them a lot of focus. So perhaps we don’t a Swedish word like döstädning but we do have our own words that represent a range of feelings for what we value. Words like Christmastime or Thanksgiving, which represent much more than a date on the calendar. Perhaps in other languages those are untranslatable too.

(Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash)

Some low cost last minute gift ideas for you…

Are here: Best Gifts from West Elm for $50 or Less | Apartment Therapy.

Even if you can’t get them from West Elm, try and use the ideas and get your last minute items crossed off your list.

(Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash)

On being moderately gifted, and the pain and pleasure that brings


This piece by Austin Kleon on being moderately gifted got me re-thinking this idea he discusses.

I say re-thinking because it is something I have thought about since I was a young man. Back then I was getting into  jazz (as one does) and someone told me: the problem with being a jazz musician is your new album is always competing with the albums of Armstrong and Fitzgerald and Davis and Coltrane and Simone. People putting out pop music don’t have to worry about that. It’s tough to be moderately gifted in jazz, I thought, for you are always competing with the best. But in pop music, you are usually competing with the now. There’s more room to get by being moderately gifted. (Especially in the era I grew up when three chords was all you needed.)

If you have a creative spirit but moderate talents, it is easy to get dispirited and put your tools away. You will never be great you say, why bother? But I think the answer comes from looking at pop music. You may never be great, but you can enjoy putting in play whatever talent you do have. Maybe you can only paint flowers, or knit scarfs, or bake brownies. Do it with gusto! Do it like a punk rocker pounding away on his guitar with the 3 chords he knows! You might never be great, but in the moment, you are living large and the audience at the time is loving it. That’s enough. And enough is as good as a feast.

Perhaps you will go on to greatness. Whether you do or not, shine on as brightly as you can. Not all of us can be the sun, but sometimes being a campfire is fine.

On starting your own Orangery this winter


Ok, ok, maybe that is a bit ambitious. But as the winter settles in, you might want a bit of summer in your home. If just to help you get through the days when it seems like winter will never end and summer will never come. (Collapse face first on the bed after you say that. :))

If you like that idea, read this: The Plant That’ll Make it Feel Like Summer in Your Home All Year Long. 

Then go get one and get started on making your own orangery.

Need more encouragement: read this from Bon Appetit.

P.S. if you are asking, “what the heck is an orangery”, then go here: Orangery – Wikipedia. It’s a fascinating idea and history.

Image above of the Belvedere Orangery in Vienna, via Wikipedia.

Thinking about Fun (something good for you to do)

kid playing in leaves

Are you having fun? That’s a question often asked of us as kids. Then we get older and get more responsibilities and that question dies off. You might only hear yourself saying: I am not having fun.

That’s a great loss. Our lives are enriched by fun. If you can’t even imagine fun anymore, here are too good pieces for your serious self to read:

I really recommend you read them and challenge yourself to make time to have fun. Remember make your own fun. For some people it is being goofy, other people it’s making something, and still others find fun in doing things no one else would consider “fun”. Never mind. Find your fun wherever you can and cherish it.

(Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash)

If you are slogging through your laundry this weekend

Then read this: Laundry is a never-ending chore – Vox

It’s about the social, historical, and economic aspects of laundry. It will make you think of laundry in a whole new light.

P.S. It’s the pandemic. I hope you are giving the ironing a pause in this difficult and wrinkly time. 🙂

(Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash)

Programming is on a spectrum, or how programming is like running

Programming is on a spectrum.  I have felt for some time. That said, I liked this article by Paul Ford, one of the best writers on IT that I know: ‘Real’ Programming Is an Elitist Myth | WIRED.  His and my thoughts overlap. First, yes you can do real programming/coding with simple tools. Anyone who writes their own HTML, Javascript, simple bash scripts or basic Python scripts is really programming. Heck, I argue that what people do in Microsoft Excel is a form of programming.

If you wanted to step up from small pieces of code, you could get a book like this and write all sorts of useful code. 

 

(That’s a great book, by the way.)

However there is a very wide spectrum for programming, and some people are very advanced in the form of programming they do. That should also be acknowledged. The work I do automating tasks by writing Python scripts is very different than the work done by people writing operating systems or other difficult tasks.

I like to think of it like running. If you run, you are a runner. End of story. If you work at running, you can enter a big race like the New York City Marathon and you will be with a range of runners from the very best in the world to people who will finish many hours later. The first and the last are all marathon runners, and the last are as real a runner as the first.

Same with programming. If you program, you are a programmer. You are as real a programmer as the person writing new code for the Linux operating system. Just like you can always get better as a runner, you can always get better as a programmer. It just depends on what you want to put into it and what you want to get out of it.