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wanderingstan
San Francisco, Boulder, Berlin
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I had never thought much about this issue before seeing --of all things-- a South Park episode "Crack Baby Athletic Association". From the wiki: Despite Cartman insisting that they are a nonprofit organization, Kyle tells him that he is uncomfortable with the idea of selling the babies' likenesses to EA Sports while giving them nothing, so Cartman promises to find out how "other companies get away with it". He goes to the athletic department at the University of Colorado dressed as a Southern slave owner and referring to the University student athletes as "slaves", but gets no advice on how to treat his own "slaves" from the affronted president. It is ridiculous that the universities can profit so much from the players. http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/episodes/s15e05-crack-baby-athletic-association
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Interesting Vonnegut quote from a related thread on Metafilter: http://www.metafilter.com/110986/Tyler-Cowens-story-about-stories "I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood how innocent and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, with such abominable results: they were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books. Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales. And so on. Once I understood what was making America such a dangerous, unhappy nation of people who had nothing to do with real life, I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done. If all writers would do that, then perhaps citizens not in the literary trades will understand that there is no order in the world around us, that we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions 1973
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Each minute bursts in the burning room, The great globe reels in the solar fire, Spinning the trivial and unique away. (How all things flash! How all things flare!) What am I now that I was then? May memory restore again and again The smallest color of the smallest day: Time is the school in which we learn, Time is the fire in which we burn. Calmly We Walk Through This April's Day
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Horning doesn't mention if he was alone in nature, which another factor. On a remote jungle hike in Columbia, totally off the grid, I found myself to be far more "present" with my hiking companions. For one thing, there were no interruptions; no text messaging during conversations, no one running to meetings, no breaking news. But also, my mind stopped wandering around so much. I could get totally lost in the story of a dinner companion without those background thoughts of, "I need to email X later" or "How should I answer that text message from Y?" Everyone was simply and fully paying attention to each other. It was a good reminder of how communication and relationships can be. And it wasn't really so bad to catch up on email when I got back!
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Amazing! I just read that essay a few days ago. It appears along with other great essays in her book Slouching Towards Bethlehem. From that collection I would also recommend "On Self Respect", available here: http://mallaryjeantenore.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/an-essay-worth-sharing-joan-didions-on-self-respect/ For myself, I keep two sets of notebooks going at all times. One is private, usually left at home, where I record what's going on and how I feel. (As Didion says, "Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.") The other is smaller, messier, always in my pocket, easily withdrawn for writing good ideas and to-do items. Smartphones do not work. Often the crux of a thought is expressed by arrows across the page linking words, or small diagrams. And Ben's point is gold: you do not want to appear to be emailing. Krishna, with a little practice you can learn to continue to listen even while writing. And when people see you begin to write, usually will stay in a "holding pattern" around the idea while you jot.
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Berlin has a similar late night culture, with some of the "Best clubs" not starting until 4-5am. Young friends in startups here say that it's acceptable to show up as late as 10am, but still there is a general feeling of sleep-deprivedness for those that try to balance social fun and work success. Even without workplace timelines, I find it hard to be productive when in the "party timezone." Starting to work at noon just never feels right!
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"...because they feel they need to understand things better if they are to understand a thing at all." Amen!
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...and possibly also the proliferation of short-n-sweet online media: blog posts, youtube clips, twitter, etc. It's weird how simply checking my Facebook news feed can feel like an "accomplishment" sometimes! It's also why I like books with short chapters. (Though the trend has not historically always been from long-to-short. I remember reading Augustine's "Confessions" and loving his uber-short chapters and how I could read an entire "book" in one sitting. E.g. see http://www.ccel.org/ccel/augustine/confessions.iv.html )
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Back in 2000 Courtney Love --of all people-- wrote a prescient article about music that I still think off in the context of "free". "Music is a service to its consumers, not a product. I live on tips. Giving music away for free is what artists have been doing naturally all their lives." http://archive.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/06/14/love/print.html
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"Hiked around an active volcano." That was an adventure! All-in-all a good year. I was glad for my part in it, and glad for your part in mine.
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Remember that there are forces behind these "Everyone must vote" movements, and these forces have agendas. I'm sure the group registering voters at the rock concert would not be equally zealous about reaching those coming out of churches on a Sunday morning. Any interest group who wants to compete politically must get their supporters to register and vote--even the dumb ones or those just following social pressure. Signing up voters has become an arms race that every political agenda must compete in.
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I tend to agree with Richard Feynman that it's good to require professors to teach. The questions of the students are often the source of new research. They often ask profound questions that I've thought about at times and then given up on, so to speak, for a while. It wouldn't do me any harm to think about them again and see if I can go any further now. The students may not be able to see the thing I want to answer, or the subtleties I want to think about, but they remind me of a problem by asking questions in the neighborhood of that problem. It's not so easy to remind yourself of these things. Richard Feynman on Teaching Professors must remember how to to communicate their ideas with non-experts. One class a semester, which they can choose, hardly seems a distraction. Thanks for posting your IM chat, Ben. Nice format.
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"...setting up sophisticated life hack infrastructure IS their time wasting device." So true! Friends of mine in Boulder talked about "Productivity Porn". They would waste all there time reading about new tips and systems to be productive, only to be more behind than ever.
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Chris Yeh's point about people with wrong convictions is true. But on in the long run, I'll take someone who is active within an idea over someone content to be ignorant. Someone who is engaged--even wrongly--is eventually bound to learn *something*.
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Excellent point. New non-entrepreneur acquaintances sometimes have trouble fitting me into their "Who's higher, Who's lower" mental model. I love that.
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I would also add "similar time zone" to the list. When one person is in "early morning coffee wakeup mode" and the other is in "after work late night work call mode", it's hard to find the right rhythm for the call.
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