From quotes from books I’ve read, to random musings that I didn’t put in a blog post from some reason.
I dated the entries so you don’t have to dig through
git history to figure out what was written when.
In all likelihood, I’ll keep the entries in reverse-chronological order.
For your reading pleasure:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Robert M. Pirsig
2017 June 10
- Quick assumptions are often incorrect.
- It is hard to think deeply with the radio on.
- Wanting to do something quickly is a sign that you don’t care; that you want to move on to other things.
- Context is king. Without context, ideas are meaningless. We cannot say anything about the correctness or incorrectness of an idea without the context that idea exists in.
- Familiarity can blind you, too.
- He was after something, and he used the knife because that was the only tool that he had. But he took on so much and went so far that in the end his only victim was himself.
- Hierarchies are the foundation of all (Western) knowledge.
- Careful approach to beginning questions can prevent you from making a major wrong turn, which might cause you weeks of extra work or hang you up completely.
- Truth is a function of time.
- It’s an old split. Like the one between art and art history. One does it and the other talks about how it’s done, and the talk about how it’s done never seems to match how one does it.
- If you don’t have serenity and peace of mind when you start and maintain it while you work, you risk building your personal problems into the machine.
- Technology presumes there is just one way to do things and there never is.
- Quality…. You know what it is, but you don’t know what it is. What the hell is quality?
- If you go too fast you get winded, and if you get winded you get dizzy, and if you get dizzy you start to think you can’t keep going. So go slowly for a while.
- Any effort that has self-glorification as its goal is bound to end in disaster. When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do, the victory is hollow and short-lived.
- There isn’t one way of measuring certain concepts of science that is more true than another; the one that we adopt generally is simply the most convenient.
- The true work of the inventor consists of choosing among combinations in order to eliminate the useless ones, or rather to avoid the trouble of making them. The rules that guide this choice are extremely fine and delicate. It’s almost impossible to state them; they must be felt rather than formulated.
- A person who sees Quality and feels it as they work is a person who cares. A person who cares about what they see and do is a person who is bound to have some aspects of Quality.
- Usually your mind gets stuck when you’re trying to do too many things at once.
- The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one is the ability to select the good facts from the bad ones. The good mechanic has to care.
- The solutions are all simple - but only after you know what they are.
- There are endless examples of how mythos differences cause behavior differences and they are all fascinating.
- We always condemn most in others what we fear most in ourselves.
2017 June 3
The Birthday Rule
For asset allocation in your retirement and investment funds.
- Start with your age.
- Subtract from 100.
- That number is the percentage of your portfolio that should be in stocks.
- The rest should be in bonds.
The idea here is that you can generally handle more risk in your investments when you are younger. Since stocks are inherently riskier than bonds, you want more stocks (and more risk) when you’re younger. You then want to decrease the risk of your investments (by taking on more bonds) as you age, since you have less time to recover from a bad investment or market downturn.
I have not verified this, but apparently the formulation of this rule is credited to the founder of Vanguard, an extremely popular index fund.
Stephen Dubner & Steven Levitt
2017 April 15
Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life.
The conventional wisdom is often wrong.
Dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes.
“Experts” … use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda.
But, fret not! The Internet causes this information gap to shrink daily.
Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so.
The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living
2017 April 8
- Candles are hygge. Low, warm lighting is key. Better to have many small light sources than few bright ones.
- Warm beverages, like coffee and tea.
- Savor small pleasures and indulgences. Develop a sense of gratitude.
- Small tight-knit social circles are hygge. Quality of social relationships has a massive impact on happiness.
Carol Anderson, PhD
2017 April 2
- Racial issues are often framed in terms of black rage.
- What really goes on is white rage.
- White rage is a reaction to black advancement and ambition.
- Reconstruction was done poorly.
- Both Lincoln and Johnson were more interested in putting the Union back together quickly than on a firm foundation of equality.
- Blacks denied voting rights, land, due process, and even citizenship. See: Black Codes, Dred Scott Decision, and others.
- South sets up legal system that leads to “second slavery.” Convict labor was free, and blacks were imprisoned at far higher rates for far lesser crimes.
- The Great Migration (WWI)
- Horrible conditions for blacks in the South, including peonage, sharecropping lynchings, burnings, and especially lack of education. Labor shortages in the North.
- Almost 10% of the black population left the South (about 500k in two years). African Americans see exodus as chance for freedom and equality. White Southerners see black advancement and independence as a threat to culture and economy. Whites blamed labor agents from the North and black newspapers (The Chicago Defender) for “stirring up” the black migration. White efforts to intimated blacks into staying largely backfired.
- The North reacts to the migration with hostility. Race riots occur in cities like Washington and Chicago. Real estate agents and landlords scheme to segregate and confine black housing.
- Decades of challenges to Plessy v Ferguson (by NAACP) lead to Brown v Board of Education. “Separate, but equal” was unconstitutional.
- White South reacts with a strategy of stall, defy and undermine. Many leaders would rather close down schools (even all-white schools) than see integration of education. Later on, Southern leaders associated the NAACP with the Communist Party, painting the efforts to dismantle Jim Crow as an “Anti-White Plot Hatched in Moscow.”
- Sputnik launches and generally scares the shit out of everyone in America. Eisenhower and others blame the suffering eductational system, particularly in STEM. He now stressed that the US needed ensure students got the best education possible.
Think Like a Freak
Stephen Dubner & Steven Levitt
2017 March 26
- Be more willing to say “I don’t know.”
- You know, when you actually don’t know.
- Search for root causes, not just symptoms.
- Think more like a child.
- Think small, not big.
- Don’t be afraid to state the obvious.
- Have fun!
- People respond to incentives.
- People “lie” about what incentivizes them.
- Declared preferences vs revealed preferences.
- Watch what people do, not what they say.
- Incentives can backfire.
- People whose behavior you are trying to change often don’t think like you.
- “Teach your garden to weed itself.”
- Create a separating equillibrium.
- On persuasion:
- The more someone has thought about an issue, the more likely they are to hold an extreme view.
- Panaceas do not exist.
- Tell stories.
- Celebrate failure.
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister
2017 March 19
The major problems of our work are not so much technological as sociological in nature.
The “make a cheeseburger, sell a cheeseburger” mentality can be fatal in your development area.
[Y]ou need to take turnover into account whenever you set out to attain higher productivity.
People under time pressure don’t work better; they just work faster.
Whenever strong emotions are aroused, it’s an indication that one of the brain’s instinctive values has been threatened.
[T]he client’s perceived needs for quality in the product are often not as great as those of the builder.
Quality, far beyond that required by the end user, is means to higher productivity.
Parkinson’s Law is a long way from being axiomatic.
There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back.
The only method we have ever seen used to confirm claims that the open [floor] plan improves productivity is proof by repeated assertion.
When the office environment is frustrating enough, people look for a place to hide out. They book the conference rooms or head for the library or wander off for coffee and just don’t come back. No, they are not meeting for secret romance or plotting political coups; they are hiding out to work.
Frequent interesting opportunities for private self-assessment are a must for workers in a healthy organization.
- The Hawthorne Effect: People perform better by trying something new. It doesn’t matter what the “something” is.
The purpose of a team is not goal attainment, but goal alignment.
[B]ureaucracy hurts team formation.
[W]e don’t work overtime so much to get the work done on time as to shield ourselves from blame when the work inevitably doesn’t get done on time.
The fundamental response to change is not logical, but emotional…. [W]e need to celebrate the old as a way to help change happen.
Companies that downsize are frankly admitting that their upper management has blown it.
Learning is limited to the ability of an organization to keep its people.
The ultimate management sin is wasting people’s time.
Fragmented time is guaranteed to waste the individual’s time.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
2017 February 25
People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.
Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.
Think in concrete terms so that you can vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space.
To quietly work away at disposing of your own excess is … the best way of dealing with a family that doesn’t tidy.
The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is … a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.
What things will bring you joy if you keep them [in your life]?
In the end, you are going to read … few of your books again.
The moment you first encounter a … book is the right time to read it.
No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.
By handling each sentimental item …, you are processing your past.
[P]ursue ultimate simplicity in storage.
Everyone needs a sanctuary.
[E]liminating … visual information that doesn’t inspire joy … can make your space much more peaceful and comfortable.
Putting your house in order is a great way to discover [the things you really love].
[O]ne of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity.
The question of what you want to own is actually a question of how you want to live your life.
[I]f you like yourself for having [something], then ignore what other people think.
[P]our your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.