Saturday, May 30th, 2020
The editor of Spiked castigates the media for misreporting facts on Dominic Cummings’ lockdown behavior. But Brendan O’Neill’s disingenuous focus on disingenuous facts misses the larger disreputable truth.
Which is that a senior head needs to roll for the UK Government’s humiliating and deadly botching of its initial response to the pandemic (that many of the leaders themselves contracted the disease is emblematic of this failure).
Since elections will not be held for years, the next best thing to the PM’s head is that of his high-profile advisor. And this is fitting: as the great visionary and strategist, Cummings should have been the one who got the PM to take the pandemic seriously in good time.
So the details of Cummings’ hypocritical behaviours under lockdown are merely the pretext for the humiliation that the public is just for him and this Government. His firing would be the catharsis that marks entry into the next phase of this pandemic; indeed these are political norms. Instead we slouch deeper into uncharted political as well as medical and economic territory.
Thursday, May 28th, 2020
Sauna: The Finnish Bath
H J Viherjuuri
Even in English translation, this relatively slim definitive work on Finnish sauna is filled with the dignity that seems to come with everything Finland. The author notes that the Finnish way of hot bathing — heating rocks and occasionally pouring water on them to produce steam — is the only one that can be both dry and wet.
Something new to me is that feet can take — and require — more heat than the rest of the body, so that not only should one be mostly prone in the sauna rather than sitting in order to heat the body equally (the hotter parts of a sauna are closer to the ceiling), but the feet can be even higher, so that a ledge or feet stirrups might be good.
Monday, May 25th, 2020
I’m not sure that there’s much in Deep Work by Cal Newport that I didn’t already know, but I nonetheless felt like seeing these ideas conveyed in an organized and impassioned way. My own way of working is already akin to what Newport suggests — for instance I disabled push email on my laptop years ago, and stopped using social media a couple of years ago.
Although he refers quite frequently to David Allen and GTD, one thing he does encourages that is not a GTD emphasis is setting time limits to work sessions with a view to working quicker — like say the Pomodoro Technique but not necessarily stuck on 25-minute periods.
I personally have eschewed this because I feel that with my work, you keep plugging away until the problem is solved. But I do see that there are many benefits to limiting the time on a task, one of them being (though I don’t think Newport mentions this) that it can make the task feel less onerous and intimidating if you know you’re only going to need to work on it for a limited period of time.
One immediate application for me was to start working on a somewhat mindless administrative task that normally takes me one or two full boring days. I realize that if I work on it an hour a day for a week or so, it will be all in all less onerous (and on time).
Sunday, May 24th, 2020
An anonymous employee beneficiary of Twitter’s IPO: “I think a lot of [people in Silicon Valley] care about basic income for everyone, because we’ve lived with it ourselves.”
Sunday, May 17th, 2020
The Making of Prince of Persia
Video game maker Jordan Mechner wrote a rich diary of his life in the mid-1980s. This book covers the creation his second hit game, Prince of Persia, so we gain access of unique immediacy to the heroic tale of producing a universe-dent-making hit.
I wanted this book, which I discovered via Tyler Cowen’s most recent What I’ve been reading, as inspiration during a small lull in morale as I work on a digital product of my own.
Thirty years on there is some poignancy in that this early period of Mencher’s life was the peak: after graduating Yale, already dreamily successful, he shuttles between San Francisco and Hollywood creating video games and pushing screenplays, a digital Orson Welles (in his later game The Last Express, Mechner combines these passions, relying on cinema to produce an impressive commercial failure).
That said, perhaps it is no failure at all that one can point to the creative peak of a life — Mechner’s arguably was working within the memory constraints of the Apple II to create a foe, Shadow Man, based on the hero character. Here I’m reminded of Ken Kocienda’s not dissimilar Eureka moment when up against a constraint, that of using a dictionary to help create the iPhone keyboard.
Perhaps it would have been a better book if he had fleshed out the journal with an italicized retrospective written now, but count me a late-arrival Jordan Mechner fan. And don’t get the Kindle edition lacking the illustrations; I think I’m gonna need to buy the actual book.
Thursday, May 14th, 2020
In the morning I put in the stair-climbing, and in the evening, the sword-sheathing.
Jordan Mechner, The Making of Prince of Persia
Sunday, April 19th, 2020
Friday, April 17th, 2020
Thursday, April 2nd, 2020
Humane, authoritative video by Dr Jeffrey VanWingen, a family physician in Grand Rapids, Michigan on sterilizing groceries.
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
In times of infectious airborne disease, the burden of proof shouldn’t on wearing a mask, it should be on not wearing one. Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex reviews the scientific literature on mask-wearing.
Wednesday, March 11th, 2020
Doug Tarr weighs in on learning to code. I didn’t know my old roommate could write so well. Doug, write more.
Monday, March 9th, 2020
Sunday, March 1st, 2020
Venkatesh Rao’s Into the Yakverse is just too disgustingly awesomely good. Think the tone of David Goldman’s visits to Cardinal Richelieu, along with the cynical wit of top Armando Iannucci satire, and the light momentum of an Eliyahu Goldratt business novel.
DesignBoom’s sauna page. This is just great work about great work about great living.
A call to arms for gigworld: Towards Gigwork as a Folkway by Venkatesh Rao.
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of an Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader
Brent Schlener and Rick Tetzell
Although the simple thesis gets repeated interminably, nonetheless it’s a nice one: that Steve Jobs’s greatness stems muchly from his constant becoming, constant learning, constant trying to overcome himself (hence the title, which can be read as descriptive).
It’s great to be in his company, which you feel you are, as one of the authors was himself repeatedly so for decades.
One thing new to me was Pixar’s role in maturing Jobs; we don’t often read about who and what shaped the shaper.
Saturday, February 29th, 2020
Suspending the need for meaningfulness is exhausting!
Venkatesh Rao, The Price of Freedom
Friday, February 28th, 2020
First one to get back to reality is the biggest sociopath in the room.
Venkatesh Rao, The Shtickbox Affair
Friday, February 21st, 2020
From Paul Graham’s essay “Having Kids”, December 2019:
I remember perfectly well what life was like before. Well enough to miss some things a lot, like the ability to take off for some other country at a moment’s notice. That was so great. Why did I never do that?
Wednesday, December 18th, 2019
Matt Layman’s handy Failed SaaS Postmortem — too much tech tinkering; I need to take heed. Plus it’s great he’s getting right back in the saddle.
Friday, December 6th, 2019
Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
Latitudinal psychology? “Like happiness, [individualism and creativity] trend higher as one moves away from the equator.”
Sunday, October 6th, 2019
Healthy in other respects, some adults have profoundly impaired autobiographical re-experiencing.
Saturday, October 5th, 2019
A conversation on Jewish concepts of sin ABA failure with David Bashevkin that could have gone on a lot longer. Very good stuff for those needing to augment their awareness that we are in the Days of Awe.
Tuesday, October 1st, 2019
The sweaters of Succession. By Vulture.
The future is real but the past is all made up.
Logan Roy in Succession, Series 2, Episode 8
Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
It’s good, I’ve had time to contemplate my Indecisiveness.
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
In National Affairs, Ruth Wisse shows us Irving Kristol, “the common man’s uncommon philosopher”.
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
“Please just leave me alone when I cross streets.” Richard Stallman’s terms of service for speaking engagements come to light [via The Register] surrounding his forced terminations. A couple of observations: for 66 his skin looks amazingly moist and smooth, like a healthy 25-year-old’s, which perhaps says something about his lifestyle and choices. And his exactingness regarding these terms is both ridiculous and admirable; few things are more important than knowing who we are and what we want and expressing these clearly.
Monday, August 5th, 2019
Saturday, August 3rd, 2019
How the rich differ, according to the currently-popupar Big Five psychological framework. More conscientious, less neurotic, less agreeable, more extravert, and more open to experience.
Thursday, June 13th, 2019
Saturday, June 8th, 2019
Friday, March 15th, 2019
Thursday, January 24th, 2019
Some good clear thoughts on decision-making in this review by Agnes Callard of Steven Berlin Johnson’s book on the topic.
Thursday, January 17th, 2019
Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
Chronicling from “below the API line”, as Venkatesh Rao calls it, are Austin Murphy with “I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon” in The Atlantic and Lauren Hough with “I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America” in The Huffington Post.
The depicted harshness of American work life for so many is terrible not just for those involved but for all. (Also these two share a prodigious unmet need to urinate on the job — is this the top new workplace tribulation?)
Tuesday, December 11th, 2018
A screed we need: “When Supplements Become Substitutes” by Joshua Mitchell in the redoubtable City Journal. This conceptual framework clarifies much of what Western societies are concerned about regarding themselves.
Monday, December 10th, 2018
The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success
This book seems like one for our times: a self-improvement topic given fresh life by being supported by social science data. There are sufficient surprising results — similar to say Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow — to warrant reading, despite, when stepping back and taking it on the whole, the thing feeling largely self-evident. But it is not, and probably deserves a reread.
Saturday, November 17th, 2018
“Respected journalist” Joel Golby has pulled off a rather spectacular series of mini-essays for Vice in Choose Your Own Adventure: Friday Night Edition!. More relevant perhaps for people say a quarter of a century younger than me, but one can appreciate.
Thursday, November 15th, 2018
If you don’t give literature a decisive part to play in your existence, then you haven’t got anything but a show of culture.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2018
A savvy 69-year-old Dutchman who “identifies as 45” aims to legally reduce his age.
Tuesday, November 6th, 2018
America and I, both exceptional, would together elude prediction and defy determinism.
Friday, October 12th, 2018
Try to do things that would make your friends say wow.
Paul Graham, “How to Do What You Love”
Thursday, September 20th, 2018
Million Dollar Consulting
This most renowned book by the engaging Alan Weiss has a tone of practical, optimistic advice. Its title however is unfortunate as the first part may come off as cheesy while the second part comes off as only applying to consultants. Its subtitle, “The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice”, is more accurate; I was talking with an old friend who now has his own one-man legal practice and realized that pretty much all the book’s advice applies to him.
Although famous for advocating value billing rather than hourly, perhaps the book’s dominant concept is that you should invest your marketing energy in becoming a thought leader — in speaking and writing.
Weiss is a bit of a minor national treasure (despite hovering sometimes on the edge of bad taste — and I believe he is way sophisticated enough to understand exactly what he’s doing) and despite becoming slightly cranky in his more recent musings (not that I disagree with where he’s coming from, but political musings may be off-putting to others). He is a gifted writer in that having read his book you feel he is your friend looking out for you.
Thursday, August 2nd, 2018
Why was he like this to her? Excerpt from Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ upcoming book about her father Steve.