Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
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    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    by Daniel Coyle
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    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow

Entries in things that resonate with me (36)


Error and Emotion

“Our capacity to tolerate error depends on our capacity to tolerate emotion.”
—Irna Gadd

I came across this quote in Kathryn Schulz’s excellent Being Wrong, a study of what it is like to discover we no longer believe things that we used to be believe. (“I used to believe that meeting was at 8 AM. I now believe it was at 6 AM. I also believe I wasn’t there.”) There’s at least three ideas directly from that book that I want to write about, but this one is somewhat tangential and also the most troublesome.

At first glance, I thought, “That makes sense. It’s hard to tolerate unpleasant emotions.” But as I thought about it, I realized that it’s not just the unpleasant ones that I’ve seen myself and others shy away from: it’s the intense ones.

When was the last time you let yourself be estatically happy? Feel unalloyed joy?


Link Roundup for 14 March 2012

Four things that summarize how I’m trying to live now.


Then And Now

When I saw this antique map reproduction, I knew I had to have it.

First off, it’s gorgeous. The clean lines, the pure geometric, the sharply contrasting lights and darks: all of these speak to my aesthetic sense.

Also, I’ve been there, back in the summer of 2006 with Gwen and three of our friends. We walked almost the whole width of this map, crossing the river and strolling along the waterfront before hiking up to the cathedral square. We ate there, at a crêperie in a building that’s on this map. The city as it’s shown is a bit different than when we were there, but I suppose that’s what the passage of a century and a half will do.

And that’s what grabs me most about the map: This is Geneva, the home of the Red Cross, the European headquarters of the United Nations, the so-called “Peace Capital” of the world — and the map is dominated by massive Vauban-style fortifications. Part of this attraction is personal irony: On that trip six years ago, after a particularly long and hot day of travel, there was almost a fight between members of our own group in front of the International Red Cross & Red Crescent Museum. We’d miscalculated how long it would take to get there, so it was closed when we arrived, which led to a flaring of tempers that was not helped by our hot and slightly dehydrated states. Fortunately, by the time we’d finished our meal at the aforementioned crêperie, all was forgiven.

But the irony works at the level of the city as well. We tend to see things at this scope as largely unchanging, thinking that places and cities always express the same ideas and values, even if the way those are expressed change over time. We forget that Switzerland was home to some of most intense religious struggles of the Protestant Reformation, that modern Germany and Italy were largely constructions of the mid-19th Century, and that for the first half of the Twentieth Century there was considerable open space and distance between Los Angeles and Pasadena (as Raymond Chandler fans will realize). Maps like remind me that the more things stay the same, the more they change.

Or something like that.


Perhaps Not So Inexplicable

I’ve written before about songs I find inexplicably perfect. Crooked Still’s “Orphan Girl” is another one of them.

Perhaps some of it can be explained by the band’s curious combination of style and instrumentation. Depending on who you ask, Crooked Still is a progressive bluegrass band, a folk ensemble, or a string band. This particular track’s lyrics and prominent banjo certainly would incline one towards that type of assessment, and lead singer Aoife O’Donovan’s vocal style always puts me in mind of Alison Krauss. Not a lot of bluegrass bands have a cellist, however, and at the time Hop High — the album “Orphan Girl” is from — was recorded, the group didn’t have a fiddler. So there’s certainly a sense of the exotic about it.

The song itself is not particularly remarkable. Its lyrics are simple and fairly repetitive. The chord progression is very close — if not identical — to Pacabel’s Canon, which means I occasionally try to sing the lyrics to Green Day’s “Basket Case” over it. Then again, I’m a blues fan, which means that I don’t demand a huge amount of structural variety from my listening.

And I think that’s where the real answer lies. I’ve talked before how I love to see performers take something and make it their own, and my collection of cover songs bears that out. One of the things about a simple musical and lyrical structure is that it leaves so much room for personal expression — and in fact that’s often all you have to work with. You can’t hide behind cleverness or artifice. I can’t help but be drawn to that kind of purity of expression.

Which applies equal well to the Leo Kottke cover of “Corrina, Corrina” that just started playing here.


Doctors Agree

I shared a quote from Dr. Carol Dweck the other day about valuing things enough to work towards them. Today, as I was taking notes on Daniel Pink’s Drive, I was reminded how much I love the context that I discovered it in:

As Carol Dweck says, “Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it. It would be an impoverished existence if you were not willing to value things and commit yourself to working toward them.”

Another doctor, one who lacks a Ph.D. but has a plaque in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, put it similarly. “Being a professional,” Julius Erving once said, “is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.”