Books and Links: September

Books

Artemis by Andy Weir

(Strong language warning.)

It’s pretty good. It doesn’t have the breathless energy that The Martian did, but it’s a good YA romp. As usual, I wish that the sarcastic fleabag main character would realize that her problems come from her own choices… just when the book starts to point to her criminality being the source of her sorrow, the story serves up a “well, it’s helping babies and orphans, so…” I’m not sure that’s a helpful fiction for youth.

It was however enjoyable… maybe a B-?.

101 Skills You Need to Survive in the Woods by Kevin Estela

I appreciated that he doesn’t want me to be like him… or adopt his religion. Some of the Tom Brown material I’ve read is a little hard to swallow, and this was a nice contrast.

I really like the Sayoc readiness trigram: awareness, preparedness, willingness = ready.

In an emergency, water, shelter, fire may be your one concern. In survival, all of them are your concern.

Great read… I need to go through it again as a curriculum and try the exercises though.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

(Strong language warning.)

I think this is the one my friend Errin has told me about a few times… it’s pretty good. I recommend not spoiling it for yourself.

I weirdly find multiple-perspective single-character stories to be not that confusing… Maybe reading so much of Ian M. Banks prepared me for this.

The pace changes so dramatically once you find out what is really going on, why Eck One is on the lam. It’s really tense for a book that revolves so much around fashion and tea ceremonies.

A good quote:

here’s the truth: luxury always comes at someone else’s expense. One of the many advantages of civilization is that one doesn’t generally have to see that, if one doesn’t wish. You’re free to enjoy its benefits without troubling your conscience.”

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Kind of a master and commander vibe to this one.

The manners drama of Ancillary Justice is turned up to 11.

There is so much going on in this book! So many threads going on at once…

A great quote:

Things will seem better after you’ve eaten and slept.” “Really?” she asked. Bitter and challenging. “Well, not necessarily,” I admitted. “But it’s easier to deal with things when you’ve had some rest and some breakfast.”

Your Family God’s Way by Wayne Mack

This is not my first read through this book, but we’ve been going through it as a small group and I’ve been taking more time to study. Highly recommended. I’ll post a more thorough review at some juncture.

Design

Truths about digital accessibility

Some great reminders about working with accessibility. Worth it even for the last point: “Your ego may be the biggest barrier.”

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The no-handoff method: bridging design and code

I thought this was a very helpful way of thinking about the Lean UX method.

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The atomic unit of a research insight

In an organization where multiple research studies are conducted every week, month, or year by a variety of researchers, these reports pile up quickly. Then, when a team member, executive, or client asks a question about a certain topic (e.g., what do we know about how our users book conference rooms?), there’s a need to rely on the long-term memory of researchers who happened to conduct related studies. In other cases, people mine through long reports trying to understand what was a meaningful insight. However, in other cases, ‘non-researchers’ have observations about users every day that are not necessarily documented.

My conclusion is that a report is not the atomic unit of a research insight.

This lines up closely with the reviews and reports i’ve been reading about the zettelkasten method… I’m excited to apply this in my personal and work life.

Thanks Lorelei B. for the link!

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Random Internet

The Language of Congress

We fed thousands of Congressional tweets to a machine learning algorithm in order to recognize political issues. We’ll keep doing this every day of the 116th congress, from January 3 2019 through January 3, 2021.

Very cool, and somewhat intriguing exploration of both what our representatives are thinking about… and the dark mirror of what we are asking them to talk about.

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A Morning Walk Through Gray Skies and Steady Rain

This preamble of a walk is like an orchestra tuning before they perform. It is a necessary part of every walk.

Once again, lovely prose from takeonrules.com.

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The Theme System

As someone always tweaking my focus system, and a fan of the Cortex podcast, I am so excited to CGP and Myke’s system fleshed out.

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The Light Phone

I’ve always been curious about the lightphone. If they could lower the price to 150 USD, I’d be tempted. I’d also take a device with a lot less capability for $30 or so.

Someone on Product Hunt pointed out this device. The price is right, but it doesn’t seem to be sold outside of India, although there are apparently some on aliexpress.

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The Risk Always Lives: Words to Live by On the Set of James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’ • Cinephilia & Beyond

(Content warning: violent images and language.)

I really appreciate the depth of detail that this blog puts into their background information on some of the greatest films.

“There are two things missing when I watch a lot of action these days,” Cameron told Total Film. One is that I don’t care about the characters, and there isn’t a lucidity to what’s happening—what is the goal, what are these people trying to accomplish? It’s Narrative 101. The other thing that gets ignored is the length of time it takes a virgin pair of eyeballs and visual cortex to take in an image, assimilate it, relate it to images that have gone before. Lots of action films these days have many small cuts in a sequence. It’s just chopped salad.

I’ve found there’s a process by which the eye is already moving, ready for the thing that is going to happen next after the cut. So what I do is—and I’m giving away a little trick here—is I just flop the workprint in the projector and watch the film in mirror image. You really see where your eyeballs have been conditioned to look in a place, but now it’s happening over there, it’s like, ‘Whoa!’”

Great lesson for anyone working creatively. Occasionally, you need to create some distance to experience your work as someone who is seeing it for the first time. Cameron did this by flipping the image when he watched it. You can also walk away for a little bit, watch someone else experience it with an open mind…

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WeWork isn’t a tech company; it’s a soap opera

(content warning: strong language)

I don’t know, friends. I just don’t know. I have never seen anything like this, and I cannot wait to see what the SEC has to say about loaning your founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder money while also paying him rent.

What a weird world we are in. I smell a bubble.

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Remembering Daniel Johnston

Singer and songwriter Daniel Johnston was found dead at his home on the morning of September 11. He was 58. He sang about good and evil, sex, and true love.

A weird and strange influence on modern music culture… and one that I was barely aware of until his passing. I am inspired by his absolute dedication and obsession with making music.

He made more albums, recording his shaky voice and chord organ on a boombox in his brother’s garage, and he gave the cassettes away to anyone who would listen. Initially unable to duplicate the tapes, he simply recorded a new version of an album every time someone asked for a copy.

Inspiring.

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Too Much Dark Money In Almonds

Everyone always talks about how much money there is in politics. This is the wrong framing. The right framing is Ansolabehere et al’s: why is there so little money in politics?

Interesting thoughts… it’s pretty interesting to compare the total budgets on politics to quiet industries.c I wonder what the attention budget difference is though? Surely we aren’t spending that much time with our eyeballs on the almonds industry as we do politics on social media?

In this model, the difference between politics and almonds is that if you spend $2 on almonds, you get $2 worth of almonds. In politics, if you spend $2 on Bernie Sanders, you get nothing, unless millions of other people also spend their $2 on him. People are great at spending money on direct consumption goods, and terrible at spending money on coordination problems.

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Enneagram: The Road Back to You, Or to Somewhere Else?

A friend told me about Kevin DeYoung’s discussion of the enneagram and the book The Road Back to You. He does a much better job explaining the problems and benefits of the book than I did.

If you want to scrap most of the Enneagram history, therapeutic baggage, and Catholic mysticism, I suppose you could still have a personality tool that might open your eyes to a thing or two. But then I’d glean a few insights quietly and distance myself from the seminars, the experts, the books, the articles, and the nomenclature of the Enneagram. If the Enneagram were another version of What Color Is Your Parachute? or Strengths Finder, that would be fine. But it has been, from its inception (whenever that was), infused with spiritual significance. And therein lies the danger.

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Who’s Country? — THE BITTER SOUTHERNER

(Content warning: Strong language.)

“I think commerce and convenience categorizes country into its own silo, imprisons it in its own silo for very understandable reasons,” Burns says. “But what happens then, particularly in a world in which we’re overloaded with media, we assume that our conventional wisdom, our superficial knowledge, is it. And that country music is just one thing. And of course, as we know, everything is much more complicated than that. And nothing in America is one thing. It’s always a mix. It’s always got many different influences. And it’s particularly true in country music, like jazz and blues and rhythm and blues and folk and rock and pop and classical even. They’re all gospel, all sort of intertwined and interrelated. They’re not siloed in their own separate bin. And so I think we’ve particularly imprisoned country music in that unfortunate situation. We make fun of it. You know, it’s about good old boys in pickup trucks and hound dogs and six packs of beer, when, in fact, it is actually dealing in a very simple but very direct way with universal human experiences. It deals with two four-letter words most of us would rather ignore: love and loss. And so it’s more convenient to say, oh, it’s just about this stuff, the good old boys in the pickup trucks.”

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The Millionaire Next Door

These people cannot be millionaires! They don’t look like millionaires, they don’t dress like millionaires, they don’t eat like millionaires, they don’t act like millionaires–they don’t even have millionaire names. Where are the millionaires who look like millionaires?

I need to be more intentional with my money. :(

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The Church of Interruption | Sam Bleckley

THE HOLY CREEDO OF THE CHURCH OF INTERRUPTION:

  • Thou shalt interrupt when thou understand’st.
  • Thou shalt speak until I interrupt.
  • Thou shalt use physical cues to indicate when I ought continue talking.

Delightful little fiction… and very convicting. Passed through a couple of my friends, but I think it came from Kevin B. originally. Thanks Kevin!

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