Depth of learning

Working deep is the answer for me. To be happy, to feel good about myself, to not feel guilty about sucking up my share of oxygen on the planet. I have to get back to it.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2010/02/writing-wednesdays-28-depth-of-work/

I too am drawn to deep work. I wonder if there’s anyone who is not?

But for me, deep work seems to not be enough. I also need deep learning. I need to spend two uninterrupted hours reading something, (perhaps S Ambrose’s Eisenhower, or T Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors,) with stops to copy out quotes, detours to lookup some detail, bookmarking of another author’s work, and so on. My mind is one large pressure-cooker, and I need to regularly vent the pressure, pop the lid and jam new stuff in before sealing it back up again on medium heat.

Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7 [2019].

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/26/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/

Interesting article that digs into who exactly is, and isn’t, reading. Want to change your life?

Read more.

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Podcasts and good old RSS

Once I started seriously listening to podcasts, I quickly reached the point where there are more podcasts, (entire shows, not just episodes,) than I can possibly keep up with. I’m left with the choice between staying subscribed to podcasts where I want to listen to only some of the episodes, or unsubscribing and knowing that I’m missing some gems.

…and then I remember this is all just RSS.

In my podcast player, (which is Overcast,) I now keep only the shows that are my dedicated favorites; shows that I generally listen to every episode. I moved all the other podcasts into my RSS reader, (which is Reeder.) I even added a bunch of shows which I had completely given up hope of being able to even follow them looking for gems.

This had two huge benefits:

First, it improved my podcast listening experience: Not keeping all of those podcast shows subscribed in my podcast player, means less downloading and less skipping. I don’t like having to wait, so I have everything set to pre-download, and removing a lot of podcasts makes a big difference. But even more important, there’s now much less distraction. When I’m in the mood, (or the time, or the place,) to listen to podcasts, I tend to continue listening by default. I’m more likely to listen “just a bit farther” to see if this episode is going to be good, whereas if I had read the summary I might have skipped it altogether. So my podcast listening experience winds up having far more great episodes because it’s just the shows I love.

Second, it actually leads to me finding more gems: When I open my RSS reader, (as I do every day,) I’m in “skimming mode.” I’m looking for things to queue for later reading. (Pocket and Instapaper for the win.) There’s very little effort for me to skim the episode descriptions, and when I find one that looks good I add it to my podcast player. This does require me to switch apps, search, and then add a specific episode. But this small effort helps ensure that the episode is likely to be one I would really like to listen to.

There’s one detail that is a slight snag: How do you find a podcast’s feed URL? We’re all so used to searching in our podcast player apps, but you need the actual podcast feed URL to add it to your RSS reader. You’ll discover that none of the podcast player apps, and none of the directories, (Stitcher, Google, Apple, etc.,) make it easy to find the shows’ underlying podcast URL. The easiest way to do it is to use the handy search on James Cridland’s, Podnews.net (no relation/benefit to me.) It pulls the show’s information from the directories, and explains all the details about that show’s configuration including a handy RSS link icon that has the URL.

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Seek first to understand, then to be understood

You’ve spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training or education have you had that enables you to listen so that you really, deeply understand another human being from that individual’s own frame of reference?

~ Stephen Covey

Territorial, not hierarchical

It has to be territorial, not hierarchical. Meaning real success comes from the inside out, not the outside in. Real success is the process, not the product. It’s what we would do if there were nobody else in the world, yet it depends in the end on everyone else in the world. The essential expression of our art is that of a gift. We draw from that which is most ourselves–and then offer that essence to our fellow travelers on this planet, to help them, entertain them, show them they’re not alone … asking nothing in return (well, maybe enough to pay the rent, we hope.)

~ Steven Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2009/11/writing-wednesdays-15-elements-of-success/

This is a classic that has nothing at all to do specifically with writing. If you are involved in creating anything, you will find this is a great article with a long list of elements of success. (“Elements of Success” is his title.) After you read this, you should run—not walk—and get a copy of his book War of Art; you can thank me later.

Anyway.

The paragraph above really spoke to me. The idea that “success is the process” is something I keep losing hold of. Like a swimmer who keeps forgetting that kicking effectively and continuously is a necessary part of staying afloat and getting there, I keep forgetting that the process is success and I begin to struggle.

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Fifty years ago: ARPANET was born

Many realize that 50 years ago, on October 29, 1969, the first message was successfully sent over the ARPANET, which eventually evolved into the Internet. But few know the story that led up to that message.

~ Leonard Kleinrock, from https://www.icann.org/news/blog/the-first-message-transmission

The Internet as we know it today was really born in the early 90’s. I remember when web sites—”The Web”—was invented. I was a graduate student in Physics back then. There used to be a web site at UIUC where someone kept a list of all the web sites. (People would email them when they added a web site to the Internet.) I used to check that site every day—and get excited on the days when a new web site had appeared.

…at least, that’s how I remember it. ;)

Anyway, great little read about some of the people who started it all, and the very first message across the Internet v1.

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I am the crowd

This moment of forgetting always begins with a thought that you’re somehow different, morally speaking, than the rest of the crowd. That guy didn’t signal when he changed lanes. I always signal. That car could’ve made the light—I would’ve been quicker. I am always very efficient with overhead bin space.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2017/12/the-crowd/

It’s been a long time since I‘ve gotten upset about crowds (of any sort.) But there was a time when stuck in traffic, or held up by a crowd, etc. really pushed my buttons.

Now I just feel sympathy for everyone who is in the crowd, (as I am as well,) but who doesn’t yet realize it.

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Think win/win

Most people tend to think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win or lose. But that kind of thinking is fundamentally flawed. It’s based on power and position rather than on principle. Win/Win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.

~ Stephen Covey

Renunciation

Renunciation is one of ten trainable qualities known traditionally as the paramis (the others being generosity, resolve, patience, morality, effort, insight, loving-kindness, equanimity and truthfulness).

~ David Cain, from https://www.raptitude.com/2017/11/opting-out/

This feels—perhaps—like a more nuanced version of my, “just say no to everything,” theme for 2019. That may should harsh, but it’s not. I say, “yes,” to many many things. When I try to say, “no,” to everything, I end up saying, “yes,” to only one-many things.

I’m not a Buddhist by any stretch of the imagination. So I’m not about to take up the paramis as an explicit practice. But the idea of actively renouncing things gives me a positive practice; something I can actively do, rather than something I have to avoid doing.

If you have an elephant problem, “don’t think of a pink elephant,” isn’t going to help. “Just say no,”—despite it’s possible utility as a drug use prevention program—isn’t working very well for my problem. So instead, “think of flowers,” works better for the elephant problem.

So maybe, today I can practice keeping space.

Also…

The solution is simple and difficult.

We can turn it off.

If it’s not getting you what you need or want, turn it off for a few hours.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2017/10/the-engine-of-our-discontent/

Hear! Hear! …and, once more, louder for those in the back!

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Put first things first

The degree to which we have developed our independent will in our everyday lives is measured by our personal integrity. Integrity is, fundamentally, the value we place on ourselves. It’s our ability to take and keep commitments to ourselves, to “walk our talk.” It’s honor with self, a fundamental part of the Character Ethic, the essence of proactive growth.

~ Stephen Covey

Content-encoding gzip, plus HTTP range requests, equals bad mojo

This is going to be long. You’ve been warned.

Act 1: Wherein our hero is oblivious to the trouble

Years ago, early in the life of my podcast, someone waved their phone at me and said, “sometimes the podcast playback jumps back to the beginning, and then I cannot skip or scrub forward to resume where I was.” I shrugged. What’s one problem report for Google Podcasts on Android, particularly since this was early days for Google’s Podcasts app.

Curious.

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