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.

¬†Japan’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.

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Sunday Selection 2015-08-16

Around the Web

Mad as Hell: How a Generation Came of Age While Listening to John Stewart

Last week marked John Stewart’s last week on The Daily Show. I enjoyed his last few episodes, but part of me was really wishing that his last show would include a takedown of the Republican debate. This isn’t the most in-depth post about his years at The Daily Show, but I think it captures effectively how many people of my age feel about John Stewart and the show.

Meditation vs medication: A Comic Essay on Faciing Depression

I’ve meditating more regularly in recent months as well as reading more about meditation, mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy in general. At the same time, depression is a growing concern, especially among people involved in technology and for me personally as well. I’ve also come to realize that there is a certain taboo surrounding anti-depressants: a latent fear that medication will fundamentally change who we are. I don’t think any one article can completely tackle this complicated bundle of issues, but this is a good place to start.

Programming Sucks

If you’ve ever wondered what the day-to-day life of a programmer is like, or the state of our technology is, this post gives a only half-joking look at behind the digital scenes. If you lived in the trenches yourself, you will find yourself nodding along, and maybe shedding a tear or two. There should probably be a trigger warning associated with this article.

From the Bookshelf

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Talking of meditation, my most recent foray into that world came in the form of this book. It’s not about meditation per se, but rather involves using meditation as a tool to become more comfortable with our lives, face our inner demons, and accept the way things are as a focal point for living a better life. The book is replete with personal stories from the author’s life (and those of her patients) and includes helpful guided meditations to get you started.

Video

Forging the Hattori Hanzo Katana

I’ve always had a fascination with Japanese culture and martial arts, and Hattori Hanzo’s monologue is probably my favorite part of the Kill BIll movie. The movie doesn’t actually show you how the sword is forged, so here is a video that does. The narration could have been better, but it’s still a very entertaining (and educational) video.

Sunday Selection 2011-03-20

Around the Internet

The Art of Losing Your Brain As programmers it’s so easy to get addicted to powerful tools that do a lot of your work for you and never stop to think if what you’re doing is really what needs to be done. It’s a good idea to sometimes disconnect from the latest tools, techniques, trends and fads and just plain simple think about what it is we’re doing.

Lucky to be a Programmer I’ve been going through a motivational low when it comes to coding and programming and making actual stuff. Articles like this remind me why I took up this gig in the first place: programming is challenging and fun with lots of chances for getting into flow states (more on that later). You get to build something that a lot of people will find useful and have a great time doing it.

Why is there no looting in Japan? I don’t talk much about current events here because there’s a lot of that elsewhere. But every time there is a natural disaster there is usually something to be learned from ordinary men and women placed in extraordinary situations. There have been no cases of looting in violence in Japan despite the earthquakes and Tsunamis and I think most of us can learn a few lessons from the Japanese.

From the bookshelf

I’ve started getting back to reading actual books (both on my Kindle and in dead tree form) with the goal of reading one book a week. However, I kicked off this mission by reading the following in about a day.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future As graduation looms I’ve been wondering if I made a mistake by taking two technical majors in college. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot, met great people and I am a much better person for it. That being said, my education in the last few years has been very left-brain centric and I was getting a bit worried about that (hence my decision to start reading books regularly). This book solidifies and backs up a lot of the thoughts I’ve had. In summary, while left brain skills are still important (personally and globally), the right brain is becoming increasingly important. And that’s a good thing.

Software

XMonad As I’ve been thinking of my computing habits and how to get the most from them I’ve decided to get back to using tiling window managers. Unlike most modern window managers, a tiling window manager makes sure that your entire screen is filled up with open windows and maximizes the use of screen real estate. Most tiling WMs also provide efficient ways to rearrange window arrangements without having to manually click and drag corners. I use Xmonad myself, largely because of the way it handles multiple monitors allowing to change what’s on each monitor independently (and not have them all be one giant virtual desktop).