Wonderful post from Brain Pickings – 10 Learnings

Brain Pickings turned 10 years old, congratulations to a site that has brought me so much wonderful, interesting, educational content over the years.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/10/23/10-years-of-brain-pickings/ This article is a list of 10 learnings over the years. I encourage you to read this but just in case here is the simplified version (along with my take):

  1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. (hold strong to your beliefs until the data changes – it’s okay)
  2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. (Money and status are nice, but do you believe in what you are doing)
  3. Be generous (I listened to a great podcast in which a very successful agent always asks the question “how can I be of service”? I’ve started doing that and it’s a lot nicer than always driving)
  4. Build pockets of stillness into your life; sleep (turn off your phone)
  5. When people tell you who they are, believe them (believe in people until you have a reason not to)
  6. Presence is more rewarding than productivity (one of the items that didn’t resonate as much with me)
  7. Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time (I struggle with this, I get bored easily and early)
  8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit (I heard something similar “you are the average of the five people you hang out with”)
  9. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist (why compromise early? It’s like negotiating against yourself)
  10. Don’t just resist cynicism – fight it (hard in this modern world, but remember that the world is a better place than it was and it’s getting better for most people)

Thanks again to Brain Pickings for these ten years.

This entry was posted in Life by .

You know what would be a good idea for an app…

I am working on converting an old WordPress site/idea I had (Sports Brief Daily) to a new installation (Flukeslap). It’s tedious. I’m not doing anything magical or particularly difficult but it’s just not turnkey enough.

So here’s an idea – make a simple wizard to get this all running:

  1. Install WordPress on a reasonably-priced host.
  2. Configure you + a backup admin
  3. Connect to Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Instagram (if you don’t have a Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. then create these things)
  4. Connect to MailChimp and get your mailing list widget installed in WordPress
  5. Pick one of the many app shops that turns your WordPress blog into an app and submit the apps to the iOS and Android app stores.

Be done. If you could do this it would help small businesses everywhere with what is otherwise difficult at worst or tedious at best.

This entry was posted in Life by .

Strength begins with unwavering resilience, not brittle aggression


As usual a clever post from Seth Godin. He starts with a laundry list of supposedly “strong” attributes (albeit some are clearly straw-men). Each individually isn’t bad but when you see the list together it’s pretty clear that loud, brash, fast-talking, etc. aren’t the qualities you see in true strength.

True strength is the ability to change and adapt. To have strong opinions weakly held as they say. To be absolutely certain about things until the facts change, then be certain about the new thing. To always get up one more time than you fell down (although strength is also understanding why it is that you fell down in the first place, try not to repeat the same stumble).

This entry was posted in Life by .

Another music service, Milk, shuts down

Milk Music is a service provided by Samsung. Today they announced they are closing the service http://www.digitaltrends.com/business/samsung-milk-music/?utm_m_medium=t&utm_content=buffer1ad88&utm_medium=socialm&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=DT-FB. If you wonder why music services get shut down:

  1. The cost of running a service – it takes a team of engineers to run these things. It seems like it should be less but a) the catalogs from the music labels are poorly done, b) there are service and payment issues, c) you need to keep the UI fresh, and d) running servers is not as simple as it should be (ask Apple about iCloud if you are curious).
  2. The return rate is low – labels are still charging as if we are in the land of the album whereas the overall wholesale price of music has plummeted. This means you you either of very deep pockets (Apple) or VC money (Spotify) or are running this because you forgot to turn off the lights (Microsoft).
  3. There are too many “free” choices out there – YouTube is okay and kids like it, Spotify has a free version and many people like that. Apple’s service is bizarre and weird and poorly designed but hey, it comes with my iPhone! People will pay for music but it needs to be a good deal and right now the deal is suspect for most people.

We will see more services like this go under. Pandora is on the block for example. I wonder when the “white label” music provider will make a comeback. For every Tier 2 player out there (e.g. Samsung, Microsoft, Google even) that wants a service as “table stakes” doing a white label business that handles the music ingestion, service, subscription, and allows the front company to design the UX would make a lot of sense. Not a great ROI but enough to stay in business (ironically Microsoft bought such a company years ago and got out of that very business).

This entry was posted in Life by .

Bad user experience – devices that talk

Example of bad user experience: 5 am, voice says “recharge battery soon” loudly enough to wake me up. Repeats at random intervals.
I spent 5 minutes in the garage trying to find *which* device was doing this (and smash it with a hammer). There are all sorts of devices (drills, saws, welder, etc) and it could come from anywhere and I cannot *quite* locate the stupid voice. But nor could I easily get back to sleep as I would be reminded every few minutes with *bzzzzz* “recharge battery soon”.
  1. Who thinks we want non-essential rechargeable devices to speak to us? Sure, the smoke detector is a good candidate for a voice telling me to change the batteries.
  2. Why wouldn’t it say “Hey, it’s the drill, recharge me”
  3. 5am? Smart enough to talk to me but not smart enough to wait to a decent hour?

This is the kind of thing that assures me that the makers of whichever device woke me up have *never* in fact had the device in their own homes.

This entry was posted in Life by .

Seth’s Blog: The flip is elusive

Source: Seth’s Blog: The flip is elusive

The flip is elusive or why don’t we do smarter things in the face of evidence. Look… your Gucci t-shirt isn’t better than a $10 Hanes from Costco. But you buy it anyway. And I paid $800 for an iPhone 6 when I knew that a $300 Android is 90% as good. Things change and people don’t.

Don’t believe me? Try working in tech. Emailing Excel files and Word docs around for collaboration is still the king even though everyone knows this is a terrible, time-wasting idea. There are better tools out there and yet inevitably on the eve of some deadline someone emails (ugh!) a Word doc (ew!) around “with change-tracking on and I will take care of the revisions”. You know it’s broken as you do it… but you do it anyway.

It’s like smoking – you know it causes cancer and it will kill you but what the heck, it’s what you know how to do. Trust me, put the email/Excel/Word down and go find the better tool; your sanity and productivity will thank you.

This entry was posted in Life by .

The disco hypothesis and social jet lag

I recommend reading the full article on sleep at https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/05/11/internal-time-till-roenneber/. It has some fascinating points to make among them:

  1. We know everyone has different genetics but we assume everyone needs the same amount of sleep *and* that some specific time is the right time to wake up.
  2. “there is a great disconnect between teenagers’ biological abilities and our social expectations of them, encapsulated in what is known as the disco hypothesis — the notion that if only teens would go to bed earlier, meaning not party until late, they’d be better able to wake up clear-headed and ready for school at the expected time” whereas the data shows otherwise.
  3. Daylight Savings Time sucks… well at least doing a time change sucks… it can take up to four weeks for the body to truly adjust.

There is also mention of a Danish school prototype in which the school was assumed to be a service for the students; the students could show up when they wanted to. The results from the study weren’t shared but how fascinating – let kids learn on their own. This has echos with the #remote-work movement in which people work where they want to and to some extent on relaxed schedules.

Don’t let the streams cross

This entry was posted in Life by .

We did what???

How many Brits woke up this morning with a nasty hangover and are puzzled asking “we did what again?”

No one knows what will happen of course. Will Scotland leave? Will Ireland unite? Will this cause votes in other EU countries like France to exit as well? No idea, this is something fairly new under the sun. But England is in for a bit of a bumpy ride.

The struggle is real…

Some days you have First World problems. And some days you suddenly realize you are having 1% First World problems and have become a caricature. Yes indeed… you are the ass getting the internal eye-rolls from the cashier and other customers.

Setting the stage. I’m at Whole Foods (eye roll #1) after Crossfit (eye roll #2):

  • Me to cashier as she rings up my organic asparagus: hey, are you folks still stocking lump charcoal? I see the briquets over there, but those are terrible.
  • Cashier: Um… those bags say “lump”
  • Me: yeah.. but they are briquets so you don’t get much heat. Plus they are from Kingsford so god knows what else is in those besides wood.
  • Cashier: (doing a great job not rolling her eyes visibly, she is clearly used to this nonsense) um… I could call the grocery department…
  • Me: no, no, I went there, they have the same junk. How do I provide feedback on this product change?
  • Cashier: (eye roll #3, she couldn’t hide this one)

I won’t continue as I managed to a) talk to someone who in theory is taking my feedback seriously, b) annoy several decent people at a grocery store, and c) become a character in Portlandia or maybe “Best in Show” (this is clearly not a busy bee! are you trying to be unhelpful!)

My only redemption was realizing at some point how silly this sounded, smiled, thanked all involved and wished them a good day and sincerely meant it. This humility should get me through the weekend at least.

Can we stop with the fresh ground pepper yet?

You’ve been there… your food arrives at a restaurant and suddenly some waiter asks “would you like fresh ground pepper?” You were about to start eating your food so a) this is an interruption and b) you never typically use freshly ground pepper from a 3 foot long pepper grinder, and c) you have spent most of your life trying to fight off the moment when you can no longer season your own food. “Um… yeah… sure…” you mumble trying to avoid eye contact since you don’t want to be that jerk, you know the guy who is telling this poor waiter no. You know the waiter has been coached to offer pepper as a way to improve customer satisfaction i.e. the personal touch.

I bet there was a time in the 80’s or 90’s when this was a special moment. The high-end restaurants would do a little something extra for you; they would grind some pepper right there in front of you. But it has spread pretty much everywhere now. And it makes no sense and should be stopped.

  1. If this pepper is so damned good why don’t you have a pepper grinder on every table? It’s not like pepper grinders are expensive.
  2. Is there something wrong with the pepper that’s already on my table? Is it stale pepper? Is there such a thing as stale pepper? Hey, why aren’t you offering me freshly ground salt too, how do I know my salt isn’t stale¹?
  3. You are annoying me. Now we get into the ritual in which the waiter will ask everyone at the table “would you like freshly ground pepper” whether the dish really benefits from pepper or not. And everyone will agree to pepper. Except me and then everyone sort of looks at me thinking “what kind of weirdo says no to the pepper”. Oh… and our food is getting cold while we all do the pepper dance and that one other guy at the table decides to show how manly he is by saying “I’ll just tell you when” as his salad accumulates more fallout than Chernobyl. This is usually the same guy who orders 5 stars at a Thai restaurant and spends the next hour pretending he could handle the spice while turning beet-red and pouring sweat out of every pore.
  4. Can you imagine if restaurants do more of this? “Sir, would you like our freshly washed cutlery today with your meal?” “Artisanal ice cubes in your water today?” I remember in the olden days when you’d order a baked potato and a waiter would hover and drop dollops of sour cream, butter, chives, and bacon bits on the food. It was boring and sad and frankly I could do a better job putting bacon bits on things. I was happy when that “service” went away.

It’s time. Restaurants should either buck up and put the pepper grinders on the table or just acknowledge that the whole thing was a funny little hoax.

¹ And yes, I know that some fancy-schmanzy places do bring out special salts. This is stupid too since they all pretty much taste like salt. Except the lava salt which tastes like dirt and salt. And the smoked salt that tastes like… wait for it… smoke and salt.