Two thousand nine hundred and six

Arbitrary milestones are just as useful as nice round numbers. This morning I decided I’d take some time to reflect on blogging.

I love grammar. I wonder if you thought that I meant this blog post would be my reflections on blogging? No, I took some time to reflect on my own. Today I’m yet again beating one of my favorite drums: It is life-critical to intentionally take time to reflect on the things one is doing.

What am I actually doing with my time? What is doing me benefit? What, harm? What things do I believe I must do? Why do I believe those are necessary? What promises have I made? …to myself, to others? What actually happens if I break one of those promises? …would anyone even notice? What could I do if I stopped everything and did some other thing with incredible focus? Why does that other some thing interest me? Could I more simply change what I’m doing to make a little room for it now? If I awoke to find all the things in my head, and on my lists, were done what would I do? …would I rush to add more things to do? …would I work on something new? …would I want to re-do something I’ve done before?

Discovery. Reflection. And then, go be efficacious.

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Possibly worthy of a tattoo

As usual, I was reading a “this day in…” journal entry of mine, from a too-recent year. I found one of my unfortunately-too-frequent pages of pissed-off scribbling. And just smack-at-the-bottom was this:

If something is important, DO IT NOW,
if not, DO SOMETHING IMPORTANT.

Clearly that’s a kissing-cousin to the Eisenhower “method”. Partly, I like to sprinkle in Wikipedia links to see how easily you are distracted. But more so in this case, because it isn’t even Eisenhower’s idea.

Where might I tattoo this? I was thinking directly on my corneas would be a good place; The first half on one, the second half on the other. It would be like those “floaters” you find in your eye. It would be a true, subliminal message. (Grammar geeks: It would also be a truly subliminal message.)

I can think of no situation where that guidance would fail me, because the sub-text is: What, right now, is actually the important thing to do? Maybe taking a nap, or eating popcorn with a movie, really is important [for my mental health]. Or maybe the important thing is to up-end my day and go all-in helping someone do something.

Maybe the tatoo should be: IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Pop quiz: Grab a writing instrument and write, in cursive, the word, “scribbling.” For an extra 5 points, write in cursive—on the first try, without looking it up—the capitals: H, K, Q and G.

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Peace

What is called peace by many is merely the absence of disturbance. True peace cannot be distrubed; It resides beyond the reach of disturbance.

~ Lost writings of Wu Hsin

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Recovery is key

Not only do most deliberate practitioners not spend all day at it, they also devote a lot of time to recuperation and recovery. They sleep as much as their bodies need. They nap if necessary. They take frequent, refreshing breaks. Most of us understand that rest is necessary after physical activity. But we can underestimate its importance after mental activity, too. Deliberate practice needs to be sustainable for the long term. How long a person keeps at a skill is often far more important than how many hours a day they spend on it.

~ Farnam Street from, https://fs.blog/2021/04/deliberate-practice-guide/

I’m going to trot out a rare: HOLY CRAP! Because that post is a small book on deliberate practice. If you’re only up for some skimming, click through and smash-scroll to the summary and book list at the bottom of that post.

Then I’m going to briefly stride over one of my fave soap boxes: Sleep.

…and settle onto pointing out that I make a deliberate practice out of working on writing these blog posts. I’ve been working, (off-and-on, one break involved some lawn mowing,) for four hours this morning from that one Farnam Street post. I’ve read it, blogged [this] about it, posted about it in another community, captured a few quotes, learned more about the Oddyssey, and wrote a blog post about a common Homer quote.

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Sometimes I look stuff up

Have you seen this quote?

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.

~ Homer

Honestly, that’s pretty sharp! There’s good wisdom about a few things packed in there: Picking your battles, perhaps; Knowing the seasons of things, the ages of Man and so forth; Setting managable goals or not tackling more than you can do in a day. That Homer guy with the wisdom!

Until you look it up, and it turns out to be just a throwaway phrase in a transition. Here, read the full paragraphs, XI.35-6 from the Oddyssey:

And Alcinous answered him, saying: ‘Odysseus, in no wise do we deem thee, we that look on thee, to be a knave or a cheat, even as the dark earth rears many such broadcast, fashioning lies whence none can even see his way therein. But beauty crowns thy words, and wisdom is within thee; and thy tale, as when a minstrel sings, thou hast told with skill, the weary woes of all the Argives and of thine own self. But come, declare me this and plainly tell it all. Didst thou see any of thy godlike company who went up at the same time with thee to Ilios and there met their doom? Behold, the night is of great length, unspeakable, and the time for sleep in the hall is not yet; tell me therefore of those wondrous deeds. I could abide even till the bright dawn, so long as thou couldst endure to rehearse me these woes of thine in the hall.’ (35)

And Odysseus of many counsels answered him, saying: ‘My lord Alcinous, most notable of all the people, there is a time for many words and there is a time for sleep. But if thou art eager still to listen, I would not for my part grudge to tell thee of other things more pitiful still, even the woes of my comrades, those that perished afterward, for they had escaped with their lives from the dread warcry of the Trojans, but perished in returning by the will of an evil woman. (36)

~ Homer

It’s basically, “sure bro’, if you’re up for it, I’m game to stay up and tell you the story of . . .”

Question: Is the quote at the top better, or worse now that you know what Homer actually wrote? (Yes, fine, he was actually writing in ancient Greek, but my point stands.)

It’s a cliché that our favorite quotes say more about us, then they do about who we’re quoting. (Left unconsidered is what it says about me if I collect thousands of quotes.) But that cliché is the entire point of being intentionally reflective: I’m searching out new things, (quotes in this discussion,) and I’m thinking about what they might mean; What the original author or speaker might have meant; How that meaning might change over time from original source to my time, and how it might change for me during my life.

See? There is a time for many words, and a time for sleep!

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The mind is a fortress

Remember that when it withdraws into itself and finds contentment there, the mind is invulnerable. It does nothing against its will, even if its resistance is irrational. And if its judgement is deliberate and grounded in logic…? The mind without passions is a fortress. No place is more secure. Once we take refuge there we are safe forever. Not to see this is ignorance. To See it and not seek safety means misery.

~ Marcus Aurelius

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Parkour and I, six years ago

It’s endlessly rewarding to regularly read through my old journals. Six years ago, June 5 2015, I can now see was a turning point for me. I hopped in a car with John G. and Nick R. and headed to Brooklyn for what would be a life-changing experience.

I had been jumping on stuff pretty seriously for a few years, and the “USA Motion Tour”—a merry band of a few Yamakasi—was rolling into New York City. Two people, now good friends of mine after many years, hosted me on their floor. That was my first true “parkour floor” experience; two square meters to sleep, wifi and a bathroom. I trained my heart out, in a good way, and it was a gateway to countless and continuing adventures.

To everyone who was there— I cannot thank you enough. On commence ensemble, on finit ensemble.

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Foucault’s Pendulum

Over on the Astronomy Stack Exchange site, (obviously I follow the “new questions” feed in my RSS reader,) someone asked if it was possible, without knowing the date, to determine one’s latitude only by observing the sun. These are the sorts of random questions that grab me by the lapels and shake me until an idea falls out.

So my first thought was: Well if you’re in the arctic or antarctic polar circles you could get a good idea… when you don’t see the sun for a few days. Also, COLD. But that feels like cheating and doesn’t give a specific value. Which left me with this vague feeling that it would take me several months of observations. I could measure the highest position of the sun over the passing days and months and figure out what season I was in…

…wait, actually, I should be able to use knowledge of the Coriolis Force—our old friend that makes water circle drains different in the northern and southern hemispheres, and is the reason that computers [people who compute] were first tasked with complex trigonometry problems when early artillery missed its targets because ballistics “appear” to curve to do this mysterious force because actually the ground rotates . . . where was I?

Coriolis Force, right. But wait! I don’t need the sun at all! All I need is a Foucault Pendulum and some trigonometry… Here I went to Wikipedia and looked it up—which saved me the I’m-afraid-to-actually-try-it hours of trying to derive it in spherical trig… anyway. A Foucault Pendulum exhibits rotation of the plane of the pendulum’s swing. Museums have these multi-story pendulums where the hanging weight knocks over little dominos as it rotates around. Cut to the chase: You only need to be able to estimate the sine function, and enough hours to measure the rotation rate of the swing-plane and you have it all; northern versus southern hemisphere and latitude.

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Culture

The Halo Effect tells us that we will find a lot of false positives. The attributes we think are causal of success are the same ones we often deem causal of failure when company performance deteriorates. This is the strategy paradox.

~ Farnam Street from, https://fs.blog/2016/01/ken-iverson-nucor/

It’s an interesting post about culture. I’m interested in Iverson’s memoir— But to be honest, I don’t have time enough as it is to read the shelves of books already in my possession. (Let alone the hundred in the “wishlist” queue.) So ima let this one pass.

But culture does interest me. I’m apparently an inveterate systems builder. For better, but often for worse, I’m drawn to build processes and communities. Once— just once— I’d like to see something I create grow on its own. Not, “…and make me rich” nor “…and make me famous.” Just simply grow on its own. A great idea is not enough. Skill and knowledge are not enough. Timing is not enough. Vision and charisma are not enough. There’s something ineffable—because if I could describe it I’d go do it rather than write rambling blog posts casting about for something I think, despite my efforts to look around, is always just out of my field of view… There is something ineffable which I am missing.

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