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Things I read, heard and thought of vol 2 - August

I remember a surprising lot from what I've written in volume one so I will try to make it a monthly thing. It makes me go through my notes in all sorts of formats (I jot down a lot, and virtually everywhere I can, mostly because of my poor memory) and helps me remember more / get a fresh take on the subject! Without a further ado, here it is:

Edward Snowden opens the list with his thoughts on censorship and a variant of it he calls self-censorship. He offers quite an interesting look into some of the things we do on social media. Through various forms of self-policing, peer censorship and opinion withholding we become our own censors. Following up on Social Dilemma I wonder if it is any different in groups where the internet doesn't have only two sides and allows for some grey areas alongside a civic debate and persuasion. He uses a classic logical paradox to illustrate some of the absurdities of state imposed censorship, while referring to some post he got from communist Poland.

The Liar's Paradox, attributed to Eubulides, is famous in philosophy and logic. Its classic expression is as follows: “This sentence is a lie.” How to evaluate the sentence's truthfulness? Can it be evaluated? Any attempt to do so leads to paradox.– excerpt from https://edwardsnowden.substack.com/p/on-censorship-pt-1

There was a stamp saying "Nie cenzurowano" ("Not censored") on the package, considering it mostly meant the censors say they have not affected the contents of the message. Paradox of censorship.

Whenever I like one piece from a blog or a substack of an author I tend to go on a ride through their repository of knowledge, so obviously there is more from Snowden I've read.

Some interesting thoughts in this one for sure, especially to all of us making our dime in the IT sector. What if there was:

Legal liability for bad code in a commercial product - for big software corporations.

and, the Big Cos were

Legally liable for any and all leaks of our personal records that a jury can be persuaded were unnecessarily collected

As the title suggests some of the software that was supposedly developed to protect our privacy is being used more to infringe it. Activists, journalists and minor citizens are being vigilantly watched and controlled. Coming from a country that has repeatedly been  mentioned in freedom press index publications recently, and one where we do not trust our government enough to believe they haven't purchased Pegasus - I can only wonder when my thoughts will be a target of some form of censorship as well (read more here and here) or who will be interested in reading about them. This brings forth questions of whether you do anything weird or illegal enough to damage your life / reputations should those behaviours see the light of day? Snowden paints an even gloomier picture, based on worldwide reports we already know that the software in question is used by a plethora of world dictators and warlords to go after opposition and independent journalism.

Of course my echo chamber suggestions are strong - so Snowden even has a piece on something I've been researching because it was randomly thrown on The Queen's Gambit - used somewhat as invective by the reporter talking to Liz Harmon. Admittedly I haven't read that one yet, but it's on my ever growing list!

While at that, are you familiar with the concept of tsundoku? I have a sizable pile of books ready to be picked up already, but now I wonder if there is a separate word for all the links-never-to-be-read? Fun fact, far as I understand it can be used both to describe the noun (as in the pile) , the person (as in the one collecting it) and the fact of doing it, so if I am not mistaken "Tsudonku tsundoku tsundoku" should be perfectly valid sentence! Don't ever feel bad about any of those those, if in doubt refer to Umberto Eco's(who personal library exceeded thirty thousands titles) beliefs on the matter:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

More on the concept of antilibrary here, go on a splurge already!

I can sometimes be very critical over new discoveries, even books that speak deeply to what I believe (especially so when they "touch" on the self help side of things). This was the case with Discipline Equals Freedom - and to make amends I decided to buy it in August. Initially exposed to it at a friend's place, I felt it was way too obvious, but then again most life lessons are short and concise. It's a modern day Thoreau - although admittedly echoing from the other side of the state vs individual barricade. Totally recommend to read it and share it, especially with those struggling a bit currently. A good reminder that it's usually way better than we think it is.

It's been a month of discoveries, much as I knew Ed - he resurfaced on my radar. Yosef is a different story, not only is his name weirdly familiar (remember Kafka's Process?), he is also not very active in the blogosphere recently! Most of the pieces I've read were from 2016, which I should dub his best year to date.

In a piece http://yosefk.com/blog/evil-tip-avoid-easy-things.html he urges us to "put focus on things that push the needle forward", by deliberately choosing the hard stuff. It suggests there is a virtuous circle to be discovered - the usually underfunded and understaffed hard work gets more love, attention and more manpower only because a brave person has decided to take it on. We should also be militant about guarding our time against doing the non important, and not impactful stuff. He calls out a pathology of some corporate environments where the management will deliberately withhold some work to be done from the teams to manufacture urgency. Don't fall prey to that, it's called postponing gambit and mostly happens where there are multiple parties competing for your time and attention - to put their stuff first in line they will voluntarily endanger it by postponing to the last moment and then dropping it on you with a crazy deadline.

In 10x more selective he goes more into what you should work on. The takeaway here is to refuse to work on stuff that makes no sense unless someone takes the blame for it and wants you to do it anyway. It's not meant to be a simple no - you should suggest alternatives that make sense (they will oftentimes be simpler and more maintainable to that). For me it's echoing a lot the "defence against the ivory tower architects" school of thought, part of decision making has to happen at a lower level where the work is done, otherwise we end up with extremely expensive "experiments" as depicted here.

The hardest part of "managing" these 10x folks – people widely known as extremely productive – is actually convincing them to work on something. (The rest of managing them tends to be easy – they know what's what; once they decide to do something, it's done.)

Or as some fellow consultants say:

Give me an interesting problem and I will work for you 24/7 while you still pay me only for 8 hours.

A similarly interesting author I didn't know hides here. Two interesting pieces that I still remember are:

What I didn't do to write a book -  which is mostly a reminder of The Unreasonable Effectiveness Of Just Showing Up Every Day (the author of which is working on search, a topic I've taken a particular interest in recently, more on that some other time though). Thorsten says:

The only constant in these 11 months was this: I was determined to finish the book, to keep chipping away at it until it’s done. I got up every day at 5:45am and tried to take another step forward, using whatever it takes.

The books he has written are also geeky enough to catch the attention of anyone working with code. One is on compilers and the other on interpreters, he has a great post Why I Wrote a Book About Interpreters where he explains why he has written those books. A short version is "if you don't know how you write one, you can hardly say you know how it works let alone explain it to someone in detail".

Universe was also kind enough to remind me of some long lost ideas. First of which is the "Fuck You Money" - which is mostly about independence and using it to never work on stuff you don't want to once attained. The excerpt from a poor movie mostly talks about money, but indulge my extending it to homestead and other means that let you withdraw from the rat race should you wish too.

As I am rediscovering what holidays are and why are they important this year, I will be eternally grateful for the content flowing from Ness Labs - The benefits of laziness, some quotes used in the video:

Boredom and laziness should be used as a means to regain control over one's own body and one's own time. — Dr. Isabelle MoreauI will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it. — Frank Gilbreth Sr.Body and minds needs to recharge - makes you resistant to burnout.Slacking off may be the best thing we can do for our mental health. Keeping busy can be a very effective defence mechanism for warding off disturbing thoughts and feelings. — Dr Manfred Kets de Vries

https://twitter.com/anthilemoon the brain behind Ness Labs says that laziness encourages the defuse mode of thinking - a counter to focused thinking. It's like comparing mind-wandering against applicable thought. One mode allows for ideas forming, brainstorming, somewhat more creativity and researching while the other is intended for delivery and proper execution.

This month has also seen plenty of drawings, mostly in the comic form. Partly inspired by a visit from a friend who has recently discovered the medium and I had to show him my favourite piece from Stuart McMillen and another one from Zenpencils. It's a format that allows for passing surprising amounts of information despite its frivolous nature, one of the best educational mediums out there.

Town without television vol 1 and vol 2: Both tell the story of an experiment that was conducted in three similarly sized remote Canadian towns. One of them was deprived of TV access (Notel), one had access to one channel only (Unitel) while the last one was receiving four different channels (Multitel). It was a study on the effects of television on community and behaviour, some of the adverse effects the introduction of TV had on the citizens are:- they were less creative- children were more aggressive- TV quickly became the dominant past-time- subject could focus on a problem way shorter and were giving up easier- less people came up with solutions to the presented riddles. - the divergent thinking lowered- strengthened gender stereotypes presented on TV were observed- reading skills deteriorated- coming up with less ideas on how to use a bunch of items- children difficulty focusing on repetitive tasks that are required for mastery of anything- kids were spending less time on free play which helps them develop coordination, social, cooperation and problem solving skills- everyone started spending less time out and as an effect had less experiences- kids had no time for boredom and the things it encourages - daydreaming, tinkering, crafts and quiet reflection, no time to think about the future, not trying new things out

Weirdly enough some of the stuff our parents have been telling us are true and we've been laughing them out of the rooms for ages (remember those TV breeds of aggression dramas?). What was surprising to me is how quickly it became the dominant past-time once Notel had some TV reception. We don't own a TV set and were finally given our reason not to!

A thought that immediately popped into my head was:Was there a study like this one about the Internet?Immediately followed by:Do I really want to know the answers it found?

Energy Slaves: An eco heavy piece. Mostly resounding what we know already. We have to "limit consumption or perish" as a species. It echoes the thoughts of Buckminster Fuller on energy; he coined the term "energy slave" - quite an eye opening observation when you take into consideration how deep in an energy crisis we are already in. Tank once and you use over 48 people monthly output of energy, that puts things into perspective, does it not? Quite to the contrary of what is on the headlines these days - Carbon Footprint Hoax? Personally I think action on both ends is equally important.

Abundance bred complacency. Complacency bread careless waste

Jimi Hendrix vs your climate change denying uncle - resounding the 10000 hours mastery saying. The true best surround themselves and look for praise from people who are better than they are. Humility above all, and exploring instead of criticising. Deepening the knowledge and craft throughout your life and not resting on our laurels are things to strive for. Do remember that the fact you've spent 100s of hours studying a topic (such as climate change) makes you no expert in the field whatsoever. Remember that whatever evidence you look for in google you can be 99.9% sure you will find it, so the fact it's there doesn't mean it's true yet.

I used to be racist is one that a lot of people can refer to. It also pushes you to change your line of thought - don't look for validation and the same opinions, actively seek out to challenge your worldview whenever you are sure of something.


From open source to commercially viable - there is a wonderful excerpt on boring, soul sucking jobs there! Which resonates with me a lot, don't be a mindless drone.

Building software for yourself  - be a Purple cow. It's easier to be distinguishable when doing the remarkable or uncommon. The person being interviewed in this episode - Linus is prolific enough for a team of writers. He has come up with his own language (for in linguistic and programming terms), has created a bunch of programming languages, writes his tools in those languages and continues to explore the world around. Of course he has a blog, I think I've bookmarked half of it already, but a piece that I found particularly interesting was Travel Tips - most of the stuff is fairly obvious and I mostly use it to prepare for my (hopefully) epic euro trip, but there was one new idea I liked a lot. Keeping a logbook of people you meet - I have to try that one, let's see if it helps me remember my wife's family better! Linus is currently working on a tool to help him search through a digital brain he is building. It works great already, and is the perfect encouragement to go build that tool you will be the only user of (if you need it that is!).

Automate all the things with Node.js it was great to listen to someone who has so much fun writing command line tools! A good reminder of zx as well - it let's you execute and await bash scripts in JS, all the more power to my fellow nodesters!

ADHD chat with Jesse J. Anderson - brace yourself for you will self diagnose in minutes. An insightful conversation (I must say I am pondering getting checked for it by a professional) with plenty of tips to make ADHD people's lives easier. Sticky notes, lists, jotting down. The missing manual for ADHD people:
1. They are not motivated by importance

2. They tend to go into hyper focus states (and hate interruptions)

3. What motivates them is: novelty, creativity, competition, urgency, interest.

4. They sometimes overreact both to criticism and praise - a mild comment may cause a feeling of betrayal and rejection while a simple compliment may fuel them further.

It mentions a phenomenon called rejection sensitive dysphoria which is:

(RSD) is an intense emotional response caused by the perception that you have disappointed others in your life— taken from https://www.additudemag.com/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-adhd-symptom-test/

So keep all those in mind while working with someone you know is or you consider to be hyperactive!

The last advice this month came from my mum hopping on a sailboat with us. It was a good reminder that we need to experiment and be brave throughout our lives and we will never be done or will have done it all!