Learning Problems

One of the issues with learning is that many times one interesting nugget will lead to another, and another. This is a good thing – it’s how chains of awareness form. But for one also concerned with focus, or with the challenges of focus, it can manifest as new fodder for those challenges. A blessing of sorts, but one’s list of "hm…" things grows longer.

The honest approach is to mark and capture these things, and then allow them to settle. Review in due course to see which have developed and which can be weeded. David Allen and his research (and fellow followers) would argue that the capture is key – for if one doesn’t, the idea will linger as a distraction rather than an idea…

Manifested this morning by John Naughton’s Memex reference of a new book "Slouching Towards Utopia" on the history of Capitalism by Brad Delong. It’s got all the catnip – an interesting precis, an intriguing bio-blurb from the Atlantic($), and a reminder that DeLong is a oldschool blogger — his site (pre move to Substack in 2021) was on Typepad!

So yes, added to the TBR list.

On Learning Modes

Of late I’ve been returning to the contemporary writing of protoblogger, developer, gadfly, irascible-in-love-with-life Dave Winer, attending to his thoughts via the SMTP cheap-seats of his email archive each day. It’s been a good reminder of the early blogging days, when the concept of putting things out on the net was often based on a sharing of what you were learning, doing, reading and what you felt might be of some benefit to the other brains (and keyboards) who were also learning, thinking and doing.

And also of note in this morning’s transom was this lovely piece by AJ Jacobs reflecting on 40 years of teaching. Partly a "the more they change, the more they stay the same" but also a lovely capture of a moment of connection and the experience of shared revelation. It brought further to mind the work of my Father, now these 30 years gone. I suspect that he would have believed that what Jacobs was able to do with the student to bring together humanities and a wonder at the human experience with their scientific ambitions and endeavors was not dissimilar to his believe that in a university the goal should be to help minds developing to merge both book and lab learning with the experience of crafting research itself – that our minds approach the world best when they have more than one tool to hand, and at our times of discovery – for those who have the university in that process – we can structure experience of these different modes relatively safely.

It was this interest in seeing experiential and intellectual learning developed in partnership that led to my father establishing the Fox Glen Fund, which provides a modest contribution to this effort for students in the Biology department at IU. I see that this year’s recipient once again is moving in areas more complex than my own mind can comprehend beyond buzzwords.

Meeemories (Hi Ev!)

In cleaning out some files, I came across an intriguing artifact of the early days of blogging. At some point, the original blogger.com sent most of their early adopters (or maybe just those of us who asked?) a small drop of swag – some fine stickers.

I kept ’em in an envelope, which resurfaced during some cleaning recently. I memorialize here for your edutainment.

“amphetamine for your website”

Kanye Living

It’s difficult for me to get a grasp on Kanye. Some great work, some disruptive breaks, some need for space and patience.

GQ published a long interview earlier this year with him "Inside Kanye West’s Vision for the Future", which didn’t do much to help but did do much to flesh in the large outlines.

He’s a man who clearly thinks big and marshals resources effectively – but also so polymathematic that it seems hard to see them all coming to fruition. But the work described herein – a new buffalo – smacks of many references, not least of which to me was Arcosanti.

Still to watch.

City Living

Sadly (but promotionally!) hidden behind a paywall, but Tim Flannery‘s piece on Cities "The First Mean Streets" in a March NYRB is intriguing. Playing off two books against one another the piece effectively shifts this reader’s perception of early cities from post agricultural mercantile and social aggregations to maintaining something potentially more sinister. Were residents citizens or serfs? Were the walls to keep out, or keep in?

Further intriguing thoughts on how parlous the first cities were, what the options available to individuals may have been, etc.

Startup Life vs Faith Life

This piece from a not-too-ancient Wired, Deliver Us, Lord, From the Startup Life, has a glib headline, but does try to cover some interesting topics – notably, how does one start or operate a business in keeping with a central code of ethics, without burning oneself out.

It’s interesting to see this bound to "startup life" (though it’s clearly good target coverage), as faith-aligned businesses are certainly prominent and longstanding. Also missing – how would these discussions and deliberations be altered (or would they?) by different faiths? For a flippant example, how does Marie Kondo’s animist practices cover her recently sold business? What of business people who practice within islamic credit facilities, etc?

Small Town Newspapers: Marfa, Texas

My magazine reading tends to lag by weeks or months, so I’m just coming across this lovely piece from the October Texas Monthly – Long Live the ‘Big Bend Sentinal’, Viva ‘El Internaticional’. It’s a lovely not too long read (10m) about the life and turnover of two regional newspapers. I won’t spoil the ending, but if you’re like me and read lots of these media articles with a sense of trepidation, this is a rewarding one.

Related, this piece from Texas Monthly from 2006 profiling one of the Big Bend Sentinel’s reporters, Sterry Butcher. You’ll come for the hominess, stick around for the raciness.

Want to read the source? Check out Big Bend Sentinel Online.

Some Things Making Isolation Bearable

As we near 60 working days in physical isolation, days since AZ’s office has been closed, it’s an optimal time to reflect on a few things that have made this period better than it might have been. .

I say this from an aspect of comfort and relative ease. Anne’s been working consistently throughout the process (and my job search has quietly continued). Many other haven’t had as straightforward a time – business has dried up for consultants, frontline workers may have been furloughed or worse, sole proprietors haven’t had as solid a fallback as they deserved.

Consider this part of a series as we move into the "next normal"..

One appliance in our house which has gotten a lot of use is our hot water kettle. This had already spun up while one of us was home, but one ritual we’ve added to each workday is a morning tea break at around 10am. So one of us starts the kettle, puts the tea in a pot, and we have a quick break between calls or meetings. Ritual helps.

We’ve been given to mental vegetation (or recovery) to some degree, but a lot of TV can be a bit wearing – so as a break, AZ and I have been watching a cosy cooking video programme on YouTube, Glen and Friends. In truth, I don’t know the whole backstory, but from what I can determine Glen’s a videographer and home chef, who has been experimenting with cooking techniques for some time. Each show has a pattern – some discussion about a recipe – where they found it (frequently from old community cookbooks), what he’s done to make it work today. How important it is to wing it – because in our tricky times you may not have quite the ingredients you want. Then a 2 camera setup films the preparation, with successes and mistakes. Magically, at the time for serving, Julie shows up to help taste and opine. Each episode is about 10 minutes, and each will give you a comfy belly and/or inspiration.

A while back, AZ and I connected with a group of music geeks who meet periodically to discuss the records included in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In previous months, we’d all get together in a local pub like The Red Lion, have a bite and a beverage, and hash out that meeting’s selection. But with the closures that wasn’t an option. Happily, I’d plumped for a M365 tenant for my learning, so we’ve been able – with some hiccups and abstentions, to move to online. It’s great to see people’s faces and hear their (unmuted) voices regularly, sharing ideas on a topic we each care about.

In tricky times, it’s been great to have streams of music – either from our own collection, or from those providers of challenging payment practices – so it’s been wonderful to see Bandcamp’s payout model. But the podcast listening – that’s way down.

What’s working for y’all?

A bunch of Podcasts

A collection of podcasts I listen to – not all every episode, not each every week. Sometimes I’ll go weeks at a time and declare bankruptcy. Sometimes I’ll binge a bunch at once. And this is (!) an incomplete list.

The links within are via Pocketcasts, my preferred cross-platform listening tool of choice. Your preference may vary, but a clickthrough of the links will take you to the original…

  • 10 Things That Scare Me – brief interviews with people famous, infamous, and otherwise covering things which cause them alarm – dark secrets to the mundane.
  • Against The Rules – podcast by Michael Lewis on various topics – political, personal, etc.
  • AHIMA Hi Pitch – podcast on health information topics by AHIMA (AZ’s organization). Not a topic you think would be of general interest – but it is.
  • Akimbo – Seth Godin is a marketer and coach, but his brief podcast often delves into personal improvement and thinking.
  • All Songs Considered – periodic programme from NPR on popular music; the core team is also key to Tiny Desk Concerts, which are quite popular in these parts.
  • Almost Tangible:Macbeth – an audio retelling of the Scottish play; limited series of 7 episodes
  • The Argument – NYT podcast with usually Ross Doutat, Michelle Goldberg and Frank Bruni – opinion based coverage of current topics
  • The Axe Files with David Axelrod – Interviews held at the Institute of Politics @ UC.
  • Behind the Tech with Kevin Scott – Interviews on Tech and Society by Microsoft’s CTO. As much policy as geekery.
  • Best of Today – snippets of news and interviews from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
  • The Big Takeover Show – Radio show hosted by Jack Rabid, longtime editor of Big Takeover magazine. Mostly rock.
  • Blamo! – discussions on fashion and lifestyle, hosted by Jeremy Kirkland
  • Bob Dylan: Album by Album – what it says on the tin…
  • Broadcasting House Weekly news roundup and discussion from BBC Radio 4. Charmingly hosted by Paddu O’Connell.
  • Business Casual – Business and entrepreneurial interviews from Morning Brew newsletter.
  • Career Tools and Manager Tools – overlapping podcasts about managing and being an employee – deep dives on topic spaces, often running across multiple episodes.
  • Comedy of the Week – one episode selected form BBC Radio 4’s comedy programming per week.
  • The Daily – one longform story a day, or story behind the reporting – from the NYT.
  • Deep Dish on Global Affairs – interviews conducted by the team at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on current topics.
  • Desert Island Discs – long running programme from the BBC where notables and celebrities select eight tracks they’d take to a desert island. The archive runs in the thousands!
  • Dissect – longform discussion of notable albums – one album per multi-episode season (e.g. My Dark Beloved Fantasy, or this season’s Lemondade).
  • Distributed – discussions on remote and distributed work environments, hosted by Matt Mullenweg of Automattic.
  • Everything is Alive – interviews with commonplace objects (a lampost, a grain of salt)
  • Friday Night Comedy – weekly news-oriented comedy from the BBC. Rotates between the News Quiz (an antecedent to Wait, wait…), The Now Show, Dead Ringers (like the TV show, but no puppets), et al.
  • GZero World – Ian Bremmer of GZero interviews journalists and thinkers on international and other issues.
  • In Our Time – Discussions on the history of ideas and other topics from Melvyn Bragg of the BBC.
  • Israel Story – This American Life (literally – they interviewed Ira Glass in s01e01), but Israeli.
  • KEXP Song of the Day and KEXP Music That Matters – a daily and weekly mix from KEXP in Seattle; generally contemporary, but wide ranging and suitable for many tastes.
  • The Kitchen Sisters Present – archival footage and stories from the former NPR correspondents.
  • The Last Archive – Podcast on mystery and the nature of truth with historian Jill Lepore. In truth, I haven’t listened yet (it just premiered), but it feels like it could be good!
  • Lost Notes – longform stories about a specific music topic or artist.
  • Making… – podcast from WBEZ that has done series on the early stories of Obama and Beyonce
  • Marlon and Jake Read Dead People – Novelist Marlon James and his editor discuss books, usually by old dead white men.
  • Maximum Rock N Roll Podcast – archival recordings of the radio associated to the seminal punk zine.
  • The National Podcast of Texas – weekly interview and roundup from Texas Monthly magazine.
  • Public Official A – WBEZ series about the Rod Blagojevich experience.
  • RA Podcast – mixes and music from electronic music magazine Resident Advisor.
  • Reply All – curious stories about the intersection of internet life, real life, and people.
  • Says Who – weekly rants and discussion of the current situation hosted by Dan Sinker and Maureen Johnson.
  • Slightly Foxed – cozy podcast from the editors/owners of Slightly Foxed Press and magazine.
  • Song Exploder – discussions with artists and producers about how a particular song was written, crafted, or produced.
  • South Side Stories – tales aligned to the Comedy Central show South Side
  • Today in Focus – Daily long form news story or story behind the story – this time from The Guardian.
  • Unlocking Us with Brene Brown – newish Brene Brown podcast of interviews and personal development.
  • The Watt From Pedro Show – Mike Watt (Minutemen, Stooges) radio show recordings – runs the gamut from folk to jazz to punk.
  • What A Day – daily news analysis from Crooked Media — funny, acerbic, grumpy

Bookmarks for February 17th through March 14th

These are my pinboard links for February 17th through March 14th: