Sunday Selection 2018-08-12

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek on Apple, Facebook, Netflix and the future

This is probably the most balanced interview I’ve ever read from a software company executive. Daniel Ek’s perspective on technology and his company’s place in the world shows much more humility and a more nuanced understanding than we’ve come to expect from technology companies. It’s a refreshing read and offers a lot to learn, for anyone interested in understanding how to manage people, lead companies and leverage technology for effective social change.

Why Writing Matters in the Age of Despair

One of my goals for post-PhD life is to write more, on both technical and non-technical topics. So far I’ve been managing to keep a more or less regular habit of writing privately, but been publishing very infrequently, but am hoping to change that. As the author notes: the limits of our stories are the limits of our lives. Our words should open up the world, not close it off. Our words should include all, not trap them in cages. I see every story, every word as a struggle of memory against forgetting.

Nick Offerman’s New Definition of Manliness

I’ve been a big fan of Nick Offerman ever since watching Parks & Recreation. This article seems to sum up his view on life and manliness, which in turn is summed up by his line about whiskey: my advice is to craft your life in such a way that your whiskey drinking can be for enjoyment, which means that it’s delicious and in moderation, rather than for escapism, or to obliterate your consciousness.

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Sunday Selection 2018-07-29

Around the Web

Lena Dunham Explores Alone Time After a Breakup

I recently moved to a new city to start a new job and am in the slow and not-quite-steady process of rebuilding my social circle. Though it’s not the quite the same flavor of loneliness as after a relationship, being comfortable of doing things entirely on one’s own again takes time and effort. On the one hand, I know that this too will pass, but on the other hand, knowing that doesn’t necessarily make the awkward or uncomfortable moments any less awkward or uncomfortable.

The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You

One side affect of finding oneself alone again after being used to a vibrant social life is getting used to a larger-than-usual amount of quiet time by oneself. As a child, and during most of my teens, I was content, and quite happy with a lot of time to myself. Over the years, I seem to have lost that ability, at times feeling like a part of myself is missing. The modern Attention Economy makes it all the harder for sitting quietly with oneself to be a normal part of daily life, and that in turn makes periods of solitude all the more uncomfortable. I’m hoping that this is another skill that can be (re-)learned given enough time and practice (both of which I have ample of for now).

Conjuring Creative Permission from our Tools

For a long time now I’ve considered myself a materialist — I like nice things, especially when it comes to things that I use day in and day out. But I also like having a small number of such things and taking good care of them (the difference being a materialist and a consumer is something I’ll explore another day). Craig Mod is also one of my favorite writers when it comes to the question of tools and how they can shape and direct your creative work. Pair this with his excellent GF1 Field Test and Leica Q Field Test.

Video

Star Wars : The Clone Wars

A conversation about Star Wars during a long drive made me start rewatching this wonderful animated TV show set in the Star Wars universe during the Clone Wars (as the name suggests). It has a broader range of characters and more in-depth story arcs than the movies and is a testament to how good storytelling can be with a good premise and enough time to do a good job (which probably goes part of the way to explaining the recent increase in really good television shows).

Sunday Selection 2018-06-17

It’s summer, it’s bright, sunny and getting unreasonably hot, the students are off on vacation or internships, and Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain passed away recently. After a few weeks of traveling, I’ve been spending the last few days reading about Anthony Bourdain, Buddhism and meditation (not necessarily in that order). Along those lines:

Around the Web

The Omnivore’s Agenda

An interview with Bourdain from several years ago. It’s a good summary and glimpse into his life, work and views on cooking, food and living. If you don’t know much about Bourdain, or haven’t seen his shows, this is a good place to start.

Let’s Talk About Someone Who Could Appreciate a Waffle House

Fun fact: I occasionally get a junk food craving, and on road trips I give myself a pass to eat whatever probably-unhealthy-probably-carcinogenic food I might stumble upon. On one of these recent road trips I learned that my mother apparently likes unglazed donuts from Dunkin Donuts. Go figure. Anyways, Bourdain appreciating a Waffle House should come as no surprise, but also makes me realize that appreciating both foie gras and Waffle House maybe takes a certain kind of person, or at least a certain spirit and openness, that hopefully can be cultivated.

Why Should I Meditate?

Why indeed. Maybe it will make you 10% Happier. Personally I’m coming around to the idea that meditation is essential for mental health in the same way that cardio and weightlifting is essential for physical health.

The Onion Declares War on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook

It was bound to happen eventually, but still…

From the Bookshelf

Why Buddhism is True

I’m only about half way through this, but it’s one of the better examples of explaining why Buddhist practices, specifically meditation, “work”. To my pleasant surprise, it also does a good job of explaining certain tricky Buddhist concepts in clear terms (better than a lot of articles I’ve read written about Buddhism by Buddhists). It’s a long read, but definitely worth it.

Sunday Selection 2018-05-06

I promise that one day there will actually be another proper post on this site. Until that time, here’s another issue of interesting things from around the Web.

Around the Web

Reconsidering the Hardware Kindle Interface

The Kindle is probably my favorite single-purpose electronic device. I’m currently using the Voyage and generally love the acceptable high resolution and contrast, the fast page automatic backlight adjustment, and the flat, clean design. That being said, I agree with Craig Mod’s opinion in this article: moving a few key interface elements to dedicated physical buttons would make the whole experience much smoother.

Why Local Newspaper Websites are So Terrible

It’s no big secret that newspaper are having a rough time in this age of ad-driven everything, and free content. This article summarizes the contending issues and priorities that drive newspaper websites to be, by and large, terrible. While I continue to hold out hope for an online newspaper that is as clean and easy to read as Longreads or Instapaper, there are deep economic problems that need to be solved first and I have no idea how to go about tackling them.

From the Bookshelf

Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology

I remember having a book of Norse mythology as a child and reading it many times over. Neil Gaiman’s version reminds of those readings often, but with Neil Gaiman’s signature style that brings out the quirky, whimsical, and often just plain weird details of Norse mythology. If you’re a Neil Gaiman fan, or interested in old-fashioned mythologies, or just like fun, slightly silly stories, this is worth picking up.

Video

Avengers: Infinity War

Enjoyable and worth watching once. Fitting together so many characters with their intertwining stories and motivations is no mean feat and this version manages to do so quite well. I liked some of the details and the storylines of some characters, but overall there was a lot happening in not a lot of time, leading to things feeling rushed at times.

Sunday Selection 2018-04-29

Albert Camus, by Cecil Beaton.
Albert Camus, by Cecil Beaton.

Neither Victims Nor Executioners: Albert Camus on the Antidote to Violence

Another excellent Brain Pickings piece, this time on Albert Camus who offers a pragmatic balance between idealism and reality. Popova summarizes this piece (as she does so well) with the excerpt: If he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstance is a coward.”

So Two Stoics Walk Into a Bar

I’ve previously noted my interest in Stoicism and Buddhism which share various philosophical similarities. This is a modern take on classic Stoic dialogue where we see two speakers (ostensible Epictetus and Seneca) discuss the intricacies of wanting, desire and acceptance. Without giving much away, I can say that it ends on the interesting note: The more understanding and acceptance you have of the reality of living, the less you are impacted when circumstances knock you down.

┬áJapan’s Rent-a-Family Industry

An intriguing, slightly unbelievable and at times heart-breaking look at the Japanese industry of “renting” family members for both major occasions and day-to-day life. Told from multiple perspectives, peppered with historical details and finalized by the author’s own unique observations and reactions, this is may be the best piece of non-political non-fiction I’ve read so far this year.

On Using Field Notebooks

I’ve started using a physical field notebook more often in the last few months. As a computer scientist, I don’t exactly go out into the field, but I have found the process of getting away from the computer and writing things out on paper (especially if I can do it outdoors in the sun), to be a good way to get my mind into a state of deep work. This a good piece on the practice on science in different areas, and different times.

Sunday Selection 2018-03-25

Around the Web

The Calculus of Grit

An interesting piece from a few years. The events of the last few decades seem to have plunged us into an age of anomie. A lot of the social and economic certainties that have held in the latter half of the twentieth century seems to have been washed away leaving many of us wondering just what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives. This article is not antidote by any means, but it does provide a guideline for one part of the puzzle: how to develop a career and professional arc in this age.

The Classics Scholar Redefining what Twitter Can Do

Over the last few years, it seems like Twitter has degenerated into a cesspool of hate and people shouting past each other. In the midst of that, this is an interesting counter-point. Emily Wilson is a classicist and author of a new translation of Homer’s Odyssey. This article talks about how Prof. Wilson used Twitter to explain various choices she made during translation, interacting with both potential readers and other classicists.

Craig Mod’s Offscreen Magazine Interview

Craig Mod is one of my favorite bloggers who has written at length about books, meditation, photography and recovering our attention in an age of distraction (or rather, continual partial attention). I love reading all his writing (which is, thankfully, both sporadic and deep) and I loved reading this in-depth interview where he talks broadly about his work and experiences, as well as strategies for choosing what work is worth doing and then to go about doing it.

Video

Earth: Final Conflict

This an old, and I suspect mostly unknown, TV show from the late nineties “created” by Gene Roddenberry. I use the quotes because I’m unsure how much involvement he had in this, as opposed to this creation of Star Trek. Instead of dealing with themes of humanity exploring new life and civilization among the stars, this show deals with what happens when new life and civilization comes to earth. All five seasons are now streaming on Amazon Prime.

From the Bookshelf

The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca translated by Moses Hadas

Over the last few months I’ve become interested in Buddhism and Stoicism, which share a striking number of similarities. After reading some modern summaries and interpretations of Stoicism, I decided to go straight with to the source, starting with Seneca. It makes for interesting reading, though a lot of the references and particular examples used will not be applicable for most people. Still, it is a source of practical wisdom, and many of the lessons can be translated to modern life.

 

Wakanda: Patrick Patterson explains the importance of Black Panther

Excellent piece by Patrick Patterson of Oklahoma City Thunder on growing up as a black kid watching movies and watching Black Panther.

This reminds me a lot of the first time I saw Sendhil Ramamurthy in Heroes — an Indian scientist in America, no powers, no riches, just trying to survive and figure things out with his wits and his skills.