Month: December 2018

An introduction to the importance of sleep

In case you’re open to good New Year’s resolutions. 

TL;DW at https://podcastnotes.org/2018/04/29/why-we-sleep/

Some questions for those of us that want to Become a Magician

I just finished reading an excellent essay by the girl (woman?) behind autotranslucence, called Becoming a Magician. In it, she writes about the people we look up to. The ones we want to surround ourselves with. The ones we want to be like. The ones that make whatever they do so seem so easy, it feels like they’re performing some magic trick on us. (That’s close to her definition of magic: ‘competence so much more advanced than yours with such alien mental models that you cannot predict the outcomes of the model at all.’)

In my first exploration on the topic, I briefly touch on a similar thought (under “Heuristics”). “Only give advice on things you’d suffer from yourself.  I saw this rule in action on my first pilgrimage to Santiago. I asked a car driver for instructions on what road to take. Now, after having walked 25 kilometers in the burning sun, an additional two kilometers (four, if you’re going in the wrong direction) is hell. For any car driver, that’s a five minute-mistake. For you, that’s two hours wasted. Only ask advice from those who will suffer from their predictions (other pedestrians, in the Santiago case). This rule is widely applicable. Want to become a doctor? Go and talk to doctors – and doctors only. Want to start a family at age 22? Go and talk to people who started a family at age 22. So often we expect others to hold the answers to our questions, only to find out later that they’re as clueless as we are. You can partly solve that by limiting your sphere of influences to those who have actually experienced it.

She (I wish I knew her name) adds a few questions to the introspective part of the journey. I highly enjoyed answering these for myself. So grab a piece of paper and see how far you get! 🙂

  • ‘What is the most capable version of me that I can imagine?’
  • ‘What would I be like/spend my time doing if all my current major problems had been solved?’
  • ‘What are the things I say I value but don’t act as if I value, and what would my life feel like on inside if I actually acted as if I valued those things?’
  • ‘What am I afraid of doing, and what would my life be like if I wasn’t afraid of doing those things?’.

My latest earworm (Glory by Wye Oak)

Take a guess

Why am I sitting the way I’m sitting?

Here’s 52 books you might want to read

The last month of the year traditionally gives us the chance to reflect on what we’ve done and how we want to move forward. It’s also a great moment to give a friend or lover or parent or child a nice gift. Like a book. Here’s my list of 52 all-time favorite books.

The list

  1. Antifragile
  2. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
  3. Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism
  4. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  5. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
  6. Letters to a Young Poet
  7. Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
  8. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
  9. On Doing Nothing: Finding Inspiration in Idleness
  10. We Learn Nothing: Essays
  11. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel
  12. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
  13. The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European
  14. Montaigne (Zweig)
  15. Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age
  16. The Crossroads of Should and Must: How to Find and Follow Your Passion
  17. Leonardo Da Vinci: The Biography
  18. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
  19. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
  20. The Meek One
  21. Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust
  22. If This Is A Man/The Truce
  23. Brave New World
  24. 1984
  25. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
  26. The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
  27. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
  28. Magellan
  29. How to Win Friends and Influence People 
  30. Think On These Things
  31. Hannibal and Me
  32. Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II
  33. The Prophet
  34. The Gold Standard: Rules to Rule By (watch Entourage, the series, first)
  35. Milk and Honey
  36. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
  37. The Sun and Her Flowers
  38. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II
  39. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
  40. Norwegian Wood
  41. Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character as Told to Ralph Leighton
  42. Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger
  43. The Big Fat Surprise
  44. The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam
  45. Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History
  46. Atlas Shrugged (small print version. Not the nicest to read.)
  47. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir
  48. Thinking, Fast and Slow
  49. Stories of Your Life and Others
  50. Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People
  51. Investing: The Last Liberal Art
  52. The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking

You cannot go wrong with any work by Matt Ridley, David Deutsch or Walter Isaacson. And last but definitely not least: Elephant in the Brain.

Non-materialistic gifts for kids

A Redditor asks..

“Hey guys,
I was just wondering what your top gift ideas are for kids that won’t just become clutter in a couple of weeks. I know how special it is for children to open gifts on Xmas but I also don’t want to just buy toys or gifts that will ultimately end up in the back of a toy box in a few weeks. What do you guys get for your nieces, nephews, and children? Board games, books…etc? I really want to stay away from regular toys.”

Another Redditor answers..

Spend time with them.

  • We made a coupon book that has things like “Go to Zoo”, “go to library”, “Go to Christmas play”, etc. We would have done most of that anyways, but we thought it was fun to have coupon book. Plus gives us a nice list to work off when we run out of ideas 🙂
  • Sometimes on their birthdays, we’ll take off work and do something fun with them. It’s one vacation day, but feel it means a lot to them (most of the time, lol)
  • Gifts that include interaction. I got a “clock kit” off aliexpress. It’s just a bunch of electronics that you solder into a clock. The kit it’s self was only $4 shipped, but took us a good part of a Saturday to put together. It was a great opportunity to spend time and transfer some skill knowledge and teach them with it being fun.

It doesn’t have to be electronics, it could be wood working, painting, hiking, computer programming, etc. If you are an expert or have a hobby, then I’m sure you could find a cheap way to introduce them to it.

I fondly remember my Dad showing me how to shoot a BB gun. He made it into a big deal, going over how BB and real guns work. Showing me the mechanics using charts and videos and diagrams. He even stripped a BB gun and a shotgun to show me how they worked. Then we had a gun safety “course” and even had some super duper cheesy VHS gun safety video, but he did install a sense of respect for firearms… My Grandpa even came out, a real WWII vet to help with the training.

After lunch at the “mess hall” [my mom making us sandwiches], then he finally took me “out in the field” with “live ammo” and safety glasses and spent an afternoon pliknking paper plates with bullseyes on them. The thing is, my Dad isn’t even a “gun nut”, just knew a little about them. He really made it fun and magically but using a lot of grown up terms and having my Grandpa there. I was only 7, but felt like quality man time.

  • scavenger hunt. either make one your self or if you are lazy, just go geocaching 🙂 (I almost always do the latter). Protip: your phone has a GPS unit most likely so cost is near zero. Make or print out some “lore” and a “treasure map”. Soak it in tea overnight and let it dry. It’ll look old and mystic.

What to look for when looking at art

Up until a year ago, I had never visited an art expo. Things changed when I met the incredibly talented Charlotte De Baere (CDB.), who I easily became friends with. (I’m also the proud owner of one of her works, Ziener.)

But what do you see when you look  at art? Obviously, the artist put quite a lot of work in it. But if you’re unfamiliar with expos as an activity, it’s quite hard to figure out what to pay attention to.

So here’s Jerry Saltz’ take, from his wonderful How to be an Artist essay.

Try to find the content in a painting by Robert Ryman, who has been making almost-all-white work since the 1950s. Ask what Ryman’s (or any artist’s) ideas are and what his relationship to paint is, to surface, to internal scale (meaning what size brushstrokes were used in the work), to color. What is white to Ryman? Note the date: 1960. Why would he make this painting then? Would this have looked like other art at the time? How would it have been different? Ask yourself what else was being made then. How is the work hung on the wall? Is it in a frame? Is the stretcher or surface thick, thin, close to the wall? How is this like or unlike other almost-monochrome works by Ellsworth Kelly, Barnett Newman, Agnes Martin, or Ad Reinhardt? Is the surface sensual or intellectual? Does the painter want you to see the work all at once or in parts? Are some parts more important than others? Is every part of the surface supposed to be equally important? What are the artist’s ideas about craft and skill? Do you think this artist likes painting or is trying to paint against it? Is this anti-art? What is Ryman’s relationship to materials, tools, mark-making? How do you think he made the work? How might it be original or innovative? Why should this be in a museum? Why should it not be in a museum? Would you want to live with it? Why or why not? Why do you imagine the painting is this size? Now try a Frida Kahlo.

Three must-follow newsletters (December 2018 update)

I love newsletters. Since I’m not on social media but I still like to keep in touch with people I admire, I tend to seek out their newsletters. Here are my three favorite ones.

Shoutout to @naval (Naval Ravikant), probably the best Twitter feed around.