I subscribe to a newsletter from James Clear, the author of the wildly popular book Atomic Habits. Though I’ve incorporated some of his suggestions into my daily life, this one stood out as one additionally worthy of sharing.
Each of us faces obstacles in various forms and some catch us dead in our tracks. This suggestion offers a perspective from the ever patient and percussive water!
Water never complains, but always pushes back. Always.
Drop a boulder in front of a stream and the water will simply flow around it, taking whatever opening the landscape will give or—when nothing is offered—patiently building up its resources until it rises to a height where a new gap is found.
Flow like water. Never complain, but always push back.”
Though it has been more than a decade since that landing at La Guardia airport, I distinctly remember the feeling of being on NYC streets or subway while still belted to my seat on the plane. The murmor and impatience that arose amongst us passengers was eerily similar to that experienced on the city’s streets in trips before.
I’ve sensed a similar feeling when landing at other airports and wondered if we somehow switch to a personality mimicking that of an arrival city, especially one we’ve visited before. And does that affect our behavior and mood when arriving at a new destination? I do believe this “feeling” is different than behavioral norms like the cowboy hats on flights enroute to Texas destinations, the alcohol-fueled party atmosphere enroute to Vegas, the Mickey Mouse ears on flights into Orlando. It is also different than the food experienced toward certain destinations such as Chicken tikka masala on British Airways into London or Salmon, rice and miso enroute to Japan.
This feeling became more pronounced for me over the past couple of years arriving at Salt Lake City. In a city heavily influenced by the prominent religion, the airport is often host to missionaries heading on their commitments or arriving back home. Beyond the missionaries though, there seems to be a respect and deferential component to visitors. I rarely see grumbling, anger, or shouting and observe general communal regard. A plane full of passengers remains seated just a bit longer awaiting their row’s turn to deplane.
A landing in Kuala Lumpur recently had its own unique feeling. Despite the late hour and a short shuttle flight, there was a hometown camaraderie. The return flight back to Singapore on the same discount airline was quite different and similar to other rushed urban destinations. I see similar hometown camaraderie arriving home in Des Moines where people magically find connection over weather, their employer, or the Hawkeyes. Arriving at Boston Logan one feels the presence of academics – from college logoed clothing to more passengers reading books and even professorial garb (leather arm patches on sport coats are dead ringers!)
I wonder what is it that prepares us so for what is about to meet us at the end of the jet bridge?
I have become a fan of near-real-time fiction through books addressing the startup communities. Eliot Peper got me started with his Uncommon Stock series and this book by Josh Riedel showed up in my Goodreads queue from Brad Feld, who incidentally had also turned me onto Eliot.
The book had an incredible start and picked up my interest considerably during the middle. A few pages in I actually had to double check to ensure this was fiction as it read so much like a memoir. The book feels non fiction in its beginning, as true life a story as possible. The life inside a startup, the type of work involved, the food, culture, working environment and more feel all too real. The real streets, restaurants, menu items and residences all reminiscent of a photograph that captures reality and not an abstract painting. This continued all the way past the M&A activity. The drama, intrigue, unresolved sexual tension, pain, sorrow, and desire throughout the middle feel like Ethan is simply telling what is happening to him – the writer and the protagonist.
The last third, however, enters the realm of fantasy and out of sci-fi and the dissonance lost me. Though the transition is somewhat gradual, it still hit me as other-worldly. Once I shifted my own thinking and imagery to science fiction (or fantasy!), I was able to carry on toward the end.
Josh employs a technique to introduce human and (seemingly) inhuman characters and entities differently (I don’t know if this technique has a name – it surely must!). People and companies that are emotionless and irrelevant are simply called Corporation, Funder, Engineer. No soul, just a place in the author’s world. They interact with the humans, affect them and their emotions, control them and dispense with them. Yet, since we are never introduced to their ‘soul’, it is hard to love or hate them. Indifference is all that remains.
I read the final 50 or so pages in-flight, landing at Denver International in a cloak of darkness. An apt metaphor for the way the book itself happens, leaving me thinking as wheels touched ground — was it all just a dream?
My brief review of this large and fact filled book about our world
A nearly 500 page walk through the history of our world that gives one a view (and author’s perspective) on what is to come. It tackles transport, agriculture, manufacturing, energy, materials, finance in sufficient detail to understand nuances across various regions.
My favorite part was the discussion of where certain items are sourced, purified, manufactured and finished covering iron through gold.
I leave the book quite surprised at how remarkably little discussion occurred about the most populous country on earth – India. Peter is singularly focused on China and I wonder if his predictions would have been better informed with covering India and Canada a bit more. Or, perhaps in his eyes, the two countries are irrelevant to the past and future global order.
All in all, a fun read that made me think hard about the world we inherited and inhabit.
Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD on Youtube) is one of my favorite techies. His insightful and honest reviews of diverse technologies keep me subscribed and buying items that he’s reviewed. As a photography fan myself, I was naturally attracted to his latest video on smartphone cameras. Though the title was ever so slightly click-baity, the content never lowered the bar.
The key message in the video is that the software in smartphone cameras is increasingly making decisions that produce images that are inconsistent with reality. From smoothing tones to filling-in shadows, the software produces images that defy visual reality. As the primary upgrades in newer smart phones tout batter or camera improvements, naturally it leads one to think about what, really, is improving with each version.
Though there is much technical analysis within the video with side-by-side comparisons with other cameras to prove the points, I am left with questions:
WHO, ULTIMATELY, IS THE PHOTOGRAPHER IN SMARTPHONE PHOTOS?
WHAT STORY IS THE SOFTWARE PHOTOGRAPHER CONCOTING THROUGH THE IMAGE?
WHAT ROLE DOES THE SOFTWARE PHOTOGRAPHER PLAY IN CREATING THE ‘ACCEPTABLE’ SKIN TONE?
I admit the last question is a heavy one and Marques only brushes past the race/equity impact. But I’d encourage you to watch for yourself and make your own judgement on who really took that last photo on your smartphone.
A friend appeared perplexed at why I had chosen to read his book by waiting for it at the library instead of simply purchasing it. He knew I could afford the book, so he pushed me as we enjoyed a dram. He agreed with my response that I prefer to buy many books for the library by donating to the library instead of simply adding more to my bookshelves. Though that moment passed, I continued to think if I was being a poor friend by not supporting a friend author.
Until recently …
I’d just completed reading an ebook, “The Reading List” by Sara Nisha Adams and, highlighted sections for retrieval later. One of the highlighted sections stood out:
Mukesh turned to the front page of To Kill a Mockingbird and noticed the Brent Council Libraries sheet, full of black, splotchy dates. So many! It was strange, the idea that this book wasn’t just for him, it was for everyone. All these people who had taken it out before him, people who would take it out after him. They might have read it on a beach, on the train, on the bus, in the park, in their living room. On the toilet? He hoped not! Every reader, unknowingly connected in some small way. He was about to be a part of this too. “Yes, please.”
The reading list by sara nisha adams
This book, about a recent widower who finds his step out of loneliness and isolation via books is a debut novel by a London based writer. She explores how the sudden introduction to a book (The Time Traveler’s Wife in this story) can offer a step away from where you are. The widower, Mukesh, begins his path out of loneliness via a neighborhood library, finding connections beyond his wildest imagination.
I finally realized what I liked about the library checkouts – it isn’t the cost savings or the vast selection or the ease of checkouts via the drive up window. It is a connection to the wider community that forms a collective around the book’s message. Watching the size of the waiting list tells me about the hunger for a particular title within my community.
While you’re thinking of your local library, checkout “The Reading List”. And if they don’t have it, donate the money to the library so they can buy it for everyone! If you’re lucky enough (like me) to have multiple libraries near you, checkout www.worldcat.org to find your next book at your nearest library.
The American immigration council’s newsletter recently introduced me to a book, a product of research previously impossible due to the quantity and type of data involved. It unravels the myth of the model European immigrants of 1860-1920 compared to those who immigrated after the 1960s. It finds that the two sets are remarkably similar in upward mobility, children’s successes and a becoming ‘from many, one’.
Immigration carries a unique stature in America. On one side is the country’s badge of honor as a country that was built by immigrants despite the devastation and destruction of Native American culture and people. On another is the unfortunate history where previously (immigrated) citizens do much to shun the new wave. Jon Stewart, once opining on a historical context of immigration stated it well
America has always been a nation of immigrants who hate the newest immigrants
It was a sentiment I saw in the textile museum in Fall River, MA. The museum clearly showed how the British who’d set up the mills, hired and (mis)treated the Germans, the Irish and others who came after. Each new wave was relegated to their own enclaves, children as young as 7 and 8 deployed to unravel stuck threads even if it exposed them to losing precious little fingers.
The book first draws comparison between those Western Europeans (Britain, Germany, Norway) and the subsequent southeastern (Italians) who came in late 19th. Then it compares the past set to late 20th century immigrants from Asia and Latin America. The similarities in why and how they came, what they brought in pain and talent, how they adopted the new homeland, and the exclusions they suffered are uncanny.
Equally uncanny is how both sets toiled for decades in their roles but their children were the ones to propel beyond expectations. The myth of ‘pulling up by the bootstraps in no time’ isn’t borne out by the data collected, aligned, and presented. In fact, the book undoes a few representative stories through presentation of lineage and research. Of course, reading as an immigrant myself married to a genealogist who traces her history to the Mayflower and various (proven) soldiers in America’s earliest wars gave me a great set of reasons to devour the book quickly.
The authors utilized technological innovations and inventions to unearth the stories embedded in generations of immigrants. The early unofficial and subsequent authorized searches across Ancestry.com databases, 8 million speeches across the political spectrum since the 1800s, Ellis island voice recordings of immigrants, the many programs written to scrape, curate, analyze, learn via ML and AI, todays tech made this book possible and repeatable to stand scrutiny.
Our country’s structure under the constitution also created natural control groups that helped evaluate the affects of immigration laws between California and Pennsylvania, Florida vs Texas, Cleveland and Cincinnati, and much more. This provided a way to turn back history’s clock and view the effects through comparison and data.
Immigrants are synonymous with America. They arrived in various roles and exhibited an ability and willingness to adopt, adapt, honor, change, assimilate and impact a culture that was once called a melting pot and is now, thankfully, a mosaic. The mosaic makes it possible for a Japanese family in a multiethnic cafe to enjoy a Mexican meal served by a Caucasian. Where a mixed race couple name their children through lenses of pop culture, ancestry, and more.
A fun book worth reading as a traveler on international flight (me reading and writing this), in a genealogical expedition, or better yet, to prepare a speech to Congress or the country.
I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: First, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all; and third, I was expected to pave them.
Unknown Italian immigrant, painted on the wall of the Ellis Island Museum
A collection of humans with a shared purposes is a powerful force. Liftoff tells the story of one such collection of people known as SpaceX. People who ran a space race after the original, a story of heartbreaking losses and a win worthy of celebration.
Elon Musk challenged status quo by creating SpaceX. His short-term goal of earth orbit and the long-term dream to transport humans to and from Mars is remarkable. The book tells the story of that early vision, drive, money, and passion that created the Falcon one hardware. It also describes the Falcon 1’s four major iterations, Falcon 9’s and Falcon Heavy’s parallel developments, and their various component computers and parts.
What make the book real, however, isn’t the hardware but the humans. We meet these humans at various chronological junctures throughout the book. We learn of their passion through the creation of the launch site in the Marshall Islands. Their tenacity as they repeatedly transport themselves between Los Angeles and the middle of the South Pacific. And their love for the profession, marvel of space, and professional loyalty to the discipline.
One of my favorite sections of this book is the Epilogue where the author talks about the humans once again. This discussion isn’t about the chronological work at hand rather the trajectories of their lives at publication. I recommend this crucial section and implore the book’s readers to look up the Falcon 1 and Falcon Heavy videos to feel the emotional roller coasters.
We know SpaceX and Tesla’s successes today. What we don’t know as well is how close the two companies came to death. Tesla EVs, solar panels, batteries, the relatively inexpensive satellite deployment, Starlink, and the ability to reach and replenish the International Space Station continue to impact our world positively today. I am glad to have read this book and am grateful to the tenacity and resolve of the team so clearly and respectfully presented.
The Sunday newsletter from Farnum Street included a thoughtful (as usual!) post from Jason Fried. Jason is one of those sages who continues to shift the software development industry through philosophy, writing, and creating enduring products. Seeing his name referenced by Shane, though no surprise, led me down the path of reading Jason’s current and many recent posts!
Jason’s company has returned to its roots. The company’s articulation of their manifesto of 37 (of course!) statements of purpose is a delight to read. I have many favorites with #14 as my favorite:
Meetings are the last resort, not the first option. Five people in a room for an hour isn’t a one hour meeting, it’s a five hour meeting. How often was it worth that? Could you have just written it up instead? Be mindful of the costs and tradeoffs.
I received an advance review copy of Eliot‘s tenth novel in February and, as prior books, began to read it nearly instantly. As I read through the first few chapters, however, I found myself needing to know the characters more. So, I began again, and again, and again. Each read exposed a strength or flaw in the human characters and I chose to slow down my reading pace to get to know them better.
There is no doubt this work is a work of fiction. The quote above reminded me what I was reading may be fiction yet is very likely to be real. In the near future likely to occur within our lifetimes. And that simultaneously makes this story frighteningly believable.
Eliot’s characters often carry a social conscience, and this book is no different. It isn’t hard to distinguish right from wrong, or to empathize with their struggle. The classic struggle of power over community, money over integrity, and self over sentient collectiveness are threaded throughout.
The tale spun deftly through this extremely fast-moving book is composed of numerous complex characters, who revealed themselves to the author in a different intimacy that the reader discovers in layers. I found the memory remembered by one of the characters in the quote below quite apt for the relationship between the characters, Eliot and the reader:
You face one way – towards the source-when you are learning what you want to say, he’d advised, and the other way-towards the reader-when you are saying it
Reap3r, chapter 35
I’d looked forward to the story Eliot would tell during and after his trek he and his wife began in 2019. He credits the experiences, the journey, and the stories that unraveled through this journey in the epilogue, and reading them at the end of the book jumped me back to Twitter where he chronicled parts of the journey
Reading his #CaminoThoughts thread at the end of the book gave me a new insight into the book I’d just finished. Incredible. I have read and bought all of Eliot’s ten books, and this one is, by far, the deepest exploration of characters.
His travels influence the book. Food, clothing, jewelry, locations, and names all allude to a character’s face behind the mask. You can choose to look at the mask and discover what happens as Eliot reveals what’s within. Or you can learn more about the attributes and find the pleasant surprises as you self-discover the character early. (I knew you, O’ petite woman at the end of chapter 58).
Grab the book if you haven’t already. I couldn’t wait to buy my signed copy despite the author’s review copy.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite opening sentiments from the book
Movies used music to build tension before major twists, but real life didn’t have a soundtrack to clue you in to the fact that everything was about to change