Category Archives: ideas

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Finding your way with maps (via @austinkleon)

Austin Kleon has a great piece here on the importance of maps, and not as a means of getting around: Finding your way with maps

I love maps too. Especially hand drawn maps. And ancient maps.

I worry that our phones may be ruining hand drawn maps. When I used to take my son to hockey, I would draw my own maps to get to various obscure rinks. Later, I found out about Waze and it was so superior I stopped drawing my own maps. It’s too bad: it would be fun for my son years from now to have those old maps (which I never kept).

This is a map too.

It’s not really about how to get around. It’s a map showing the relationship between things. In this case, the organizations and their computers that made up the Internet in 1969. It does something old maps do: they show us the two dimensions of space and the one dimension of time.

Read Kleon’s piece. You’ll want to go look at maps afterwards, and you’ll be glad.

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How to grow gardens in the desert? Jordan has an answer


How to grow gardens in the desert? If you are the country Jordan, you use a combination of salt water and sunshine. Lots of both. To see how this engineering miracle occurs, see: BBC – Future – How to use seawater to grow food – in the desert.

It’s a great story, well told. Here’s to it scaling up in the future.

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How to simplify your life

Follow the one rule found here: swissmiss | One Basic Decision. 

However, feel free to swap out “happy” with “good” or other worthwhile aims. Regardless of the one thing you decide, your life will get simpler.

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Why math is great, and other interesting ideas, from Steven Strogatz

It’s hard to say why this interview with Strogatz is so good, other than to say he covers much ground on a variety of interesting topics and speaks lively on them. (Ok, I find game theory, “elegant” math, math education, etc, interesting, but you likely will too).

If you enjoyed this interview, he has a recent book out, “Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity.” Worth a look. 

Interview is here: Steven Strogatz interview on math education and other related topics

How to be a better conversationalist, starting with 100 questions


When you meet someone at an event or at a party, the inevitable questions come up: What do you do for a living? Where do you live? Whom do you know? These are safe questions, and they lead to tepid conversation most of the time. If such conversations had a colour, it would be beige.

For a list of colourful questions, try some of these (unless beige is your favorite colour)” 100 questions to spark conversation & connection. | Alexandra Franzen

Some of them would still be pretty safe at a work function, such as: What’s your most urgent priority for the rest of the year? Others could lead to some pretty funny stories, such as: What’s something you’ve tried, that you’ll never, ever try again? or What’s the strangest date you’ve ever been on? (These may result in the same story!) Some are fairly personal, such as: What’s one mistake you keep repeating (and repeating)? (You may want to have your own example in case you stump someone). Finally, the last question is one most people should have an answer for, and is likely one that will tell you lots about the person: What are you most grateful for, right now, in this moment?

A great list. Throw some of them in a list on your phone and use them at the next get togther you attend. Better conversations await.

A great tool to help you with any 30-day challenge

is this simple calendar:

A very effective way to motivate yourself to take on a new habit or break an old one.
For more on this, head over to Austin Kleon’s web site and this page: 30-day challenge

What is wrong with minimalism (and how to fix that)

What is wrong with minimalism? If you were to read this piece by Mark Manson on the Disease of More, you would be right in thinking that less is what we need. The less you have, the better off you should be. In which case, approaching minimalism should be the idea.

Yet minimalism taken to an extreme is just another form of More is Better, which seems to be the point of this Guardian article, Minimalism: another boring product wealthy people can buy.  (And the truth is, minimalism can be difficult to achieve, as this article shows.)  So, is minimalism a good idea or not? Should you give up on minimalism?

What both minimalist and anti-minimalists miss in their arguments is what is required to have a good life. What should be pursued is not to have more because more is better, or having less because less is better, but to have just what is essential for you to have a good life.

Of course what is essential depends on who you are. For some, this is a perfect environment:


For others, it’s this:

There is nothing wrong with a minimal environment if that is essential for you to be happy and content. Likewise, having a room jam packed with stimulating items may be essential to you.  You have to decide for yourself, rather than sticking with a simple formula of Less is More or More is More.

What you should have is  what is essential for you to live a good life. The fix for minimalism is essentialism. Preferably a lean essentialism. But again, that is up to you.