The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin – the tactics used by the tournament hosts at the end are a bit enraging, but this is a great meditation on strategies and tactics you can use to excel in any field. Here are some that stood out:
- Using an interval-training-like tactic of brief, but deep breaks that punctuate periods of deep intensity.
- To use your emotions rather than trying to ignore them through a zen meditation-like stance. Channeling anger rather than trying to deny that the emotion exists. This runs counter to the conventional wisdom of trying to remain composed and calm in every moment and is intriguing.
- To find/define a slow zone, a state of mind in which you are completely comfortable and relaxed before important performances. He describes a way to do this.
Antifragile by Nassim Taleb – while I enjoyed this tome most of all for its unveiled attacks on the economic establishment, the book discusses many important ideas, one of which echoes Josh Waitzkin’s training techniques above – the case for periodic stress, which strengthens certain systems. This in contrast to applying a perpetually low-level intensity that has the tendency to make systems fragile. I was also struck by how certain physical phenomena also become more stable when randomization (white noise, random shaking, etc.) is applied to it.
Spoon House in Gardena – this is Italian-Japanese food. If I could speak to this owner, I would ask him or her an endless series of questions. First, why on earth with the tastiness of your food haven’t you expanded? How do you achieve such consistency in your pastas, where it tastes the same every single day of the year? Where in the universe did you learn how to cook your baguettes in that way and what happened that one month during 2011 when your baker ‘was gone’ and you substituted those inferior dinner rolls for your manna-bread? What else would you recommend on your menu besides the bolognese and carbonara, because I’ve been there a few dozen times in the last three years and cannot overcome the potential switching cost of ordering anything else on the menu? What business in the world besides yours still serves a one-dollar salad on the menu? What on earth is in that salad dressing?
Breastfeeding class by Susan Orr – We’ve been taking these kinds of classes in anticipation of our little one. I brought in an iPad expecting to flip through it during periods of filler. I never had the chance to turn it on, because Susan gave three hours a night, over two nights, one of the most engaging presentations I have ever had the chance to sit through, period. She had the ability to make a class on the scientific benefits of breast milk and technical details of discharging it, incredibly engaging. Speakers in general can learn from her mix of anecdotes, statistics and facts, humor, Q&A, and other stories. Another lesson that the best speakers in general are those who know their craft and are enthusiastic about sharing it.
Young Titan by Michael Shelden – this book covers Winston Churchill’s early to late twenties. I am struck by his love life, which was one series of rejections after another. It humanizes him. You can also observe where the rejections probably came from. As a friend once told me, context removed, ‘you’re coming on too strong, man!’
LAX – For a second straight month, worst airport in the world. The lack of a dedicated bus lane (where no other cars can drive) means that in order to pick anyone up, you have to swerve completely through (not into), a double-wide lane where shuttles for every major hotel, auto rental shuttles (of every brand), and parking lot (A, B, C) buses, are each individually stopping, overtaking and cutting each other off, stopping again, and trying to exit the lane, only after which you get to the inner lanes, where there is no space to actually pick people up because the police do not enforce the no stopping at the curbs, so people end up parking in the middle of the middle lanes to load and unload their passengers. I understand the airport did spend millions on upgrades, but they went to no visible upgrade except into the new shopping mall built into the international terminal.
Parks and Recreation – I enjoyed the last season, but can’t get over the feeling that they should have ended it midway through Season 6. With everyone in disparate locations, already having achieved varying degrees of success, it lacked a cohesive bond because there were layers of people and places to overcome when portraying the interactions between the original characters. It lacked an immediacy. I missed Ann and Chris. I missed Ron’s metaphysical struggle between his libertarian beliefs and his job. I missed Leslie Knope fighting the good fight against the ordinary and idiosyncratic citizens of Pawnee and Eagleton, rather than against bureaucracies and corporations. I missed Tom’s irrational confidence as he was on the up-and-up. I missed juvenile April. I missed Ann’s house. I missed the drab, boring office that kept everyone together. I missed Pawnee itself as much of it was set in Washington. I know it is standard narrative structure to have characters change, but not sure if it had to go on this long past their actual development. All the original constraints had been removed and many people and situations were almost unrecognizable. I love this show and all the people in it.
Glitch Mob’s Drink the Sea – on repeat. This album, is a beautiful sequence of tracks that evokes every conceivable emotion, from joy to arrogance to paranoia to loneliness to excitement to an unbelievably bittersweet nostalgia, to which I shed tears at the end. The last song reminds me of The Killers’ Everything Will Be Allright – a finale, like music being played like a radio transmission by the last survivor of a ghastly planet, and – bewitchingly hopeful.