2023-09-03 The Weekend Review

I’ve been posting consistently here for the last six weeks. I publish these links for my own sake, to keep my reading habit going. While I think it’s been a good thing, I’m also realising something is missing.

My information consumption to output ratio is pretty pathetic. It’s something I would like to improve because my hypothesis is that it is closely connected to both my income and my happiness.

One of the principles of an effective note-taking system is regular review of the notes. The principle of deliberate review, of spaced repetition, of bringing these ideas back to working memory is something I’ve not done or done well before.

Switching to Obsidian has significantly improved the way I track my incoming flow of information. It’s also made publishing to this blog much easier.

My information diet consists of text primarily, video next & audio the least. My information processing system now includes a regular review of the notes I make (often, not always) as I consume information. While the nourishment from this information is likely healthy, I’m definitely not exercising my own mind enough.

So for the next few weeks, I will try an experiment. I will devote one day a week to review everything I’ve consumed, shared or made notes of during the preceding week. I have no idea what form this will take so I will go with the flow. What I’ve started here is a compilation of everything I’ve read or watched through this week and that I’ve shared here.

Caution: Some of the links will be dead when I publish to the blog because they are documents on my local machine.


Victoria’s public learning website was inspiring to read. Her plan of learning for the next few months is in the public domain. No one will care whether she follows through, but doing it publicly is her way of learning. Her retro reminded me of what I’d started this year every fortnight which fell by the wayside. As much as I like the idea of writing, Resistance (as Steven Pressfield calls it) is intense for me, along with a few other habits that need replacement or upgrades.

Seth Godin is a staple:

  • Observations on mavericks and status quo felt incredibly important when I read it, but I have no idea why. Writing my own thoughts along with the link is probably useful to future me if no one else. I suspect the thing that caught my attention the the principle he called "Change begins with the smallest viable audience, not the largest possible one." It reminds me of the changes we’ve managed to pull off at work with the field tool, obsessing about the folks who don’t usually get any love or attention.
  • "How do I create more value?" is a better question to ask than "How do I find a better job?" if we want job security. Amen, brother.
  • Are you doing what you said you wanted to do? is a provocation I need nearly every day. Keeping my word to other people is one thing, but what about keeping my word to myself?

Ness Labs The Sixth Sense felt important enough to [[The Sixth Sense | make notes]]. For a long time, I’ve believed that there are more than five senses (intuition, gut, imagination are also senses, no?). The word ‘interoception’ (or how the mind maps out the body’s internal landscape) adds to my vocabulary to describe what is going on. The article goes on to explain some fundamentals of interoception, how to train it, what to be cautious about (it can go wrong!), and it’s implications on both our physical and mental health. The [[The Sixth Sense#^3c6f2c | awareness exercises]] are helpful.

Nature has so many cool ideas that could inspire humans, if only we paid attention. The National Geographic video on biomimicry explained how termite nests inspired a building that can cool itself.

Another video, this time it’s Duke University’s Kara Lawson recommending that we all learn how to handle hard better. Things will never get better at a later date – but we can learn how to better deal with whatever hardships come our way.

The third video was Joshua Rudder’s explanation on a concept that drives most of us mad: Time. How other languages tell time is a reminder that it is not a universal concept, even though we all seem to think it is. 24 hours is not the only way to count time, and different cultures have different ways of dealing with the change of earth’s distance from the sun.

Alfred Hitchcock’s secret to suspense is the ‘bomb under the table‘ – a [[Storytelling MOC | storytelling]] technique that Nathan Baugh explores in his blog post. There are 3 specific ideas in this post: a. The power of anticipation b. Believable bombs – ie specific and realistic & c. The possibility of relief.

Bob Ewing’s blog post on [[Story Structures – Bob Ewing]] went into (or re-emphasised) my [[Storytelling MOC]] techniques collection.

I’ve always struggled with concepts in mathematics, until some simple explanations of the first principles makes my head explode with possibilities. While I’ve not yet entirely grokked this matrix transformation visual intuition, I love both the visualisation technique used here to introduce one idea at a time.

Occam’s razor is one of many mental tools out there. Charlie Munger’s The Psychology of Human Misjudgement was the speech that got me interested in mental models like Occam’s Razor. I’ve been finding interesting visualisations around the place, like this) and this. The "Writing Knife Block" suggests that when trying to understand something, writing it out is helpful. The Boasters Razor suggests that truly successful people rarely need to boast about their success.

Any content that Ed Brenegar, Geoff Marlow, Richard Merrick & Colin Newlyn put out have become staple consumption for me. Each has a different style, yet every one of their writing is resonant with the loosely floating ideas in my head. I find myself nodding furiously in agreement often, and shaking my head in disagreement sometimes.

Marlow’s post Mastering Creative Tension begins with a quote from Robert Fritz (loosely paraphrased that in the realm of creativity, we create our own satisfaction, & then bring it to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in). Marlow uses the metaphor of a rubber-band stretched between two hands, one above the other. The upper hand points to the envisaged future self we want to create. The lower hand is the experiential awareness of the present day self, as clearly & honestly as possible. The tension in the rubber band seeks resolution. The more powerfully we experience both the future we seek and the current reality, the stronger the creative tension. There are two ways in which we can resolve this creative tension.

  • Reduce our aspiration (ie drop the upper hand down by deciding it’s unrealistic for us to achieve, or telling ourselves that it is undesirable etc)
  • Move towards the future self, genuinely (rather than telling lying to ourselves that we are closer)
    PS: I think I should turn this into a note!

Multiple Ed Brenegar observations this week:

Ben Werdmuller: AI in the newsroom: the hard sell was an article I had to share with several colleagues.

Ben’s other article Homesick I had to share with my loved ones. In my opinion, the professional and the personal are all intertwined. A human in these two different context might need to behave differently. But keeping the two distinctly separate all the time is impossible, at least in my case. One affects the other, and I’ve found it silly (or insanely difficult) to pretend they don’t.

Ben Evans ponders a question about Intellectual Property in the context of Generative AI. If you put all the world’s knowledge into an AI model and use it to make something new, who owns that and who gets paid? This is a completely new problem that we’ve been arguing about for 500 years. Perhaps Neil Postman was right: Techno-utopian views of our future are not inevitable. They are a series of choices & their consequences. Right now, I think we don’t even know what those choices are.

I (predictably) forgot [[2023-08-28 Links#^af327f | my intentions]] after reading Robin Hanson’s blog post on an informal observational study on who & how often people initiate smiles.

Rohit Krishnan’s blog post on Rest was memorable for two reasons. First, the AI generated image of "Isaac Newton, working his investment banking job, and writing Principia in between zoom calls" made me giggle. Second, the idea that breaks where we can be bored, and let our mind wander for hours on end is almost something I’m doing right now with a damager toxic manager induced sabbatical. I’ve been inspired to read Bertrand Russell’s "In Praise of Idleness" too. Late edit was this compilation of comments on that Rest post.

Humor is important to me, even when I find myself grumpy because of external reasons. Reading this [letter to Marilyn Monroe from John Steinbeck](<https://preview.redd.it/letter-from-john-steinbeck-to-marilyn-monroe-v0-o3ko8tdzaskb1.jpg?auto=webp&s=4ce97102b3fa9a53aafcfc2ca2bd8cf3ac815479)) had me cackling with delight. Great turns of phrases "He doesn’t believe it (that I have met you) his respect for me has gone up even for lying about it" and "He is already your slave. This will make him mine." More great humor in this story about the personal ads section in the London Review of Books I’m no Victoria’s Secret model. Man, 62. is an example, or in the story of the Salon writer who found her husband through an ad there.

I discovered Om Malik in 2007 when Ashish Gupta of Helion Ventures introduced his writing to me. I’ve remained a fan because I find his perspectives on the technology industry and the humans working in it valuable. His opinion that the day of reckoning is near for camera makersrings true with my own experience of the software that seems way behind the software running my other devices to which the images need to be stored on.

The plea "Don’t drink & drive" doesn’t work if the number of fatalities and road accidents caused by alcohol are any indication. An initiative in Japan encourages people to (safely) experience first hand the implications of alcohol on their driving and response-times.

My working assumption was that there are 24 time zones across the world. Not true – there are 38. I didn’t know that some time zones are only 30 or 45 minutes apart, and that the International Date Line creates 3 more!

LinkedIn is becoming a lot noisier with people who had Twitter X as their megaphone move over. Posts like this one, claiming you can build a $2500 per month e-book business, clearly appeals to people. Nonetheless, I agree that writing is a powerful skill. A podcast conversation between Danny Miranda and Kieran Drew touched on a similar topic, but I found it much more interesting for the personal stories that both of them shared.

Mathias Sundin’s 3 steps to become a fact-based optimist are a. Laying a fact based foundation (book recommendations like Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, Hans Rosling’s Factfulness, David Deutsch’s Optimism, pessimism & cynicism, Kevin Kelly’s Case for optimism), b. Ignoring "doom scrolling" & preferring a diet of "hope scrolling" (with recommendations to blogs and feeds that amplify this), & c. Daring to dream about the future, including a quote that Martin Luther King had a dream, not a nightmare.

AI consumes a lot of my mindshare at the moment. The immediate and real dangers of AI juxtaposed against the (potentially transformative) benefits of Generative AI keep showing up in my newsfeeds a lot. SK Ventures had a startling headline "AI isn’t good enough", with a definition of automation I wasn’t familiar with "so-so automation": a particularly insidious and increasingly common form of tech-enabled automation, where there is high worker displacement without commensurate productivity gains impact—where minimal human flourishing is created. I will need to explore this from first person view where execs seem intent to be seem to be at the forefront of this utopian technology, yet have little to none business use cases (& perhaps even understanding?) to throw at this.

I watched this very short interview by famed director Werner Herzog of a young man, Michael Perry, sentenced to die within the next week or so. I have no words.

The concept of Attention takes a lot of my mindshare (what’s this thing called?).

  • Richard Merrick had a wonderful post on this titled "Noticing", with the observation that data doesn’t capture so many things but which the artisan notices.
  • The Changing Room Illusion catches me by surprise every time I watch it, & reminds me to pay attention to small changes around me.

Break time: Scrolling back up here is a bit startling. I’m not done yet – I have at least 3 more days of content to parse through here. Notes are sparse, links are aplenty. How much of this content I’ve consumed has become new knowledge? What purpose does this weekly review of content serve? Is the benefit worth the cost in time I’m putting into it?

The book [[Learning to Build – Bob Moesta]] introduced me to practical implementations of Clayton Christensen’s Jobs to be Done Theory. One of Moesta’s mentors was Dr. Genichi Taguchi, who’s Robust Design method is a way to run few experiments to capture the most variability, primarily in a manufacturing context. Moesta shows how it can be applied in a customer interview context too.

How far the distance from an entrepreneur to a fraud? A 2021 post by Prof Scott Galloway compares the stories told by several Silicon Valley (or VC) ex-darlings to show that defrauding investors is what gets people into prison, not the human damage that they actually cause. Our laws reflect our values.

David Cain says meditation can help us train ourselves to deal with the bumpy terrain of every day life. Becoming wise In the last few months, my own practice of meditation has disappeared entirely without being replaced by anything more valuable. Why? How do I get back on track?

Steve Blank on Vannevar Bush reminded me of [[Doug Engelbart]]’s speech. We are nourished and/or inspired by the most random, accidental things we come across. People do extraordinary things in ordinary circumstances. Fame catches up with them, & creates an impression of superpowers in those people. The quote from Robert Fritz in Geoff Marlow’s post earlier that we create our own satisfaction & then bring to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in appears to be MO for these ‘successful’ people.

[Droste effect](<https://images.prismic.io/sketchplanations/7c6bcf87-702e-423f-a70e-785f2c4c3a04_SP+836+-+The+Droste+effect.png?auto=compress,format&w=798)): A picture inside a picture inside a picture inside a picture inside…. is named after a Dutch cocoa company’s ad.

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward has finessed the art of taking pictures of flowers, roses particularly, using a flatbed scanner. He calls it scanography, and the results are stunning. The tools he uses are not the newest software or hardware, and yet the results are astonishing. His wife of 52 years, Rosemary, passed away recently, and Alex devotes many words to her in his almost daily writing. Death and the lottery is a sweet if melancholic meditation on Alex’s own life experiences.

Speaking of tools, I came across a new tool called Flourish to create animated clickable versions of images. I also watched the insanely talented "One Skill Power Point" demo a clever way of animating in PPT with a feature I didn’t know existed, hover zoom

Dan Reich’s advice for college students would horrify many people of my generation. Starting a business as an entrepreneur flies in the face of the obsession to ‘focus’ on one thing. I’m of the opinion that children, and young adults, are better off increasing the surface area first before getting to depth, as David Epstein also claims in his book Range

I knew Doc Searls loved photography, but I had no idea that he thought of his images as a public service. Yes, it all costs money, and time, and effort. It’s thankless and some people may ‘steal’ it and claim it as their own. Yet, it’s Doc’s gift to the world.

Reading Jim Nielsen’s Family Tree wisdom reminded me of several of my older relatives on both sides of the family, and their pithy wisdom.

Josh Bersin posits some interesting use cases for Generative AI in HR His advice to "Fall in love with the problem rather than chase the technology" sounds common-sensical, but my own observations (and experiences) tell me there’s a long way to go.

I’ve loved RSS from the time I discovered it in 2010. Dan Q’s blog post on treating the RSS reader differently to email inbox is 100% my approach. Use the RSS feed, as Dave Winer says, a river you can dip your feet into or watch flowing by. Use the RSS reader to create joy

Animals find their way even when they’re lost. Humans seem to be losing their ability to do this with technology taking over. Kathryn Schulz explores this in a New Yorker article titled Why animals don’t get lost

My friend Marisa shared a documentary a few weeks ago titled The Birth Gap by a data scientist Stephen J Shaw exploring the stories. Prolific economist & blogger Noah Smith has more data that the whole world is heading toward negative population growth. The implications of this are colossal, and not entirely unimaginable.

Google’s Deep Mind launch SynthID to detect fake images. The expectation that fake news will explode with Generative AI models, and the damage it potentially will cause to the tech giants business models is probably a big reason but not the only reason why these kinds of tools will start showing up.


I discovered many (to me) new artists this week.

YT also recommended new creations from artists I already follow:

  • A different rendition of YMCA by the mellifluous Walk Off the Earth.
  • Wynton Marsalis’ talk "Music is Life" should be classified as music, as should his 2009 Nancy Hanks Lecture
  • Halidon Music compiles some great classical music performances. The Best of Baroque Music kept me company for a couple of days.
  • Allison Young & Josh Turner The Bygones – Stars Turn Cold is interesting new fare from these two insanely talented musicians.

And of course some music I’ve heard before that I listened to again