Sunday Selection 2018-11-18

Around the Web

The Beauty-Happiness Connection

I’ve been living in Boston (or Cambridge to be more precise) for the past few months and it has been good so far. Boston is a quite attractive place to live, with all the universities and the museums, architecture and open spaces. Though there are certain deficiencies to my life here (I haven’t built a solid social circle yet), as this article says, being within easy rich of various forms of beauty has been quite enjoyable.

The Weightiest Question in the Smallest Number of Words: Retelling the Nietzsche Story

Since sitting down and actually reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra a few years, I have been a fan of Nietzsche (and one day I should really sit down and read all of his work). And over the years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the intellectual webs that writers and thinkers find themselves embedded in (in no small part due to reading Brain Pickings). So of course I found this interview of Sue Prideaux about her forthcoming biography of Nietzsche very interesting. It’s only about Nietzsche, but situates his work in the context of his life and the people he knew and communicated with.

The Freedom to be Free at Work

Talking of things I have become interested in during the last few years, I have been increasingly concerned about how “work” and “productivity” should be situated in the broader frame of our lives. Of course, this is well-trod ground and in this case we get to see Hannah Arendt’s footsteps in this region as she ties together notions of work, labor, creation, consumption and humanity’s connection to the “metabolism of nature”. Hopefully a thought-provoking read on a Sunday afternoon before starting the workweek anew.

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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.

New York, New York

Pitiful, this city of New York. I expected Constantinople, Baghdad before the Mongols. Rome. Oh. Those were cities. This is a factory. A machine.

— The Strain.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of New York City. Having grown up in a really big city (which had more than its fair share of big city problems) I’ve been attracted to smaller, out-of-the-way settings. My first four years in the United States were spent at Lafayette College in Easton, PA and the second four at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

However, as time goes by, I find myself increasingly attracted to the city. I’ve been ending up there increasingly regularly, either as a stepping stone, or as a destination itself. The last few times I was there, I even found myself wondering if I could see myself living there long term, at least for a few years, in the not-too-distant future. The answer to that is a very strong “maybe”, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if that were to change to a “yes” in a few years’ time.

There is much to recommend New York City, the food, the culture, the tall buildings and bright lights, the Fifth Avenue displays during the holidays, Central Park. But for me personally, it is perhaps the only place in the world where I can see friends from high school, college and graduate school, and make new ones, all in a few days’ time. Indeed, if New York were not this unexpected nexus of various parts of my life (and the people involved) I would be far less drawn to it. Philadelphia, another large, though oddly more comfortable, city, would be a far second.

I spent the better part of five days in New York City in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. One of those days was spent in the hustle and bustle, the strangling crowds of Times Square and Rockefeller Center, and that required the next day to be spent in the low-key comfort of a Brooklyn coffee shop, and I was glad to make my escape from New York well before the madness of New Year’s Eve descended. In those days, I ate, I drank, I made merry, I talked about startups and distributed systems and Bitcoin and financial programming languages. I watched the new Star Wars, nerded out over it, thought it was too close to A New Hope, and was delighted by Emo Kylo Ren, perhaps a bit too much. All in all, I had a good time. I came back sick in body, but refreshed in mind and soul.

But at the end of all that, it’s good to come back to home in snowy, cold, middle-of-nowhere Ithaca, NY. For me, New York City is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there (just yet).