Newsletter: ‘I have forgotten how to read’ 📖

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Below are some links worth reading this week along with some art and podcasts recommendations after the jump.

Interesting Reads

I have forgotten how to read. Reading online is much harder than reading a book, not only because of the multitude of distractions (text messages, notifications etc) but also because of the tendency to share for immediate gratification. Writes author and journalist Michael Harris: “Online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.”

How to Manage Stress Like an Olympic Biathlete. The mental game is just as important as the physical one. Focusing on process rather than pursuit may give you a better chance at achieving victory. Says Olympic biathlete Clare Egan: “‘If I hit this, I’ll win the gold medal’ — as soon as you have that thought, you’re definitely going to miss it. That extra push or desire to win is not only not helpful, it’s counterproductive. You have to eliminate that from your mind and focus on the task.”

The Case for Self-Promotion. When it comes to sharing your work, what’s the right balance between pompousness and modesty? Columnist Courtney Marting explains the paradox for On Being: “It’s a total catch-22: if you don’t self-promote, you won’t be known to those who hold the keys to whatever kingdom you’re interested in unlocking. If you do self-promote, you might catch the gatekeepers’ attention, but pray they don’t read your self-promotion as needy or navel-gazing.”

An effortless way to improve your memory. Want to remember more of what you read? Give your brain a 10-15 minute rest. No phones, no distractions, just pure boredom, a quiet room and dimmed lights. “Baguley and Horner both agree that scheduling regular periods of rest, without distraction, could help us all hold onto new material a little more firmly.”

Thought of the week

“To be or not to be. That’s not really a question.”

— Jean-Luc Godard


Other Recommendations

Art

Kasamatsu Shiro (1898 – 1991)

(via @Oniropolis)

Books

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The World As I See It by Albert Einstein: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

Podcasts

“We were born here,” Frederick Douglas said in response to those like Abraham Lincoln who wanted free slaves to settle outside America, “and here we will remain.”

Listen to Frederick Douglass on In Our Time

 

If you found any of the above useful or interesting, I’d appreciate it if you shared with your friends. Thanks for reading.

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The simple technique that boosts your short and long-term memory

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via giphy

Want to remember more of what you read? Give your brain a 10-15 minute rest. No phones, no distractions, just pure boredom, a quiet room and dimmed lights.

Why do we need to reduce interference?

It takes longer for new information to encode and simply consuming more or squandering time on social media will make it even hard to remember.

When we let the mind wander, the brain works backward and connects the dots, cementing those memories that were previously unlinked.

So stop chasing extra stimulation and let your brain rest in its own presence. Your memory will thank you for it.

Read An effortless way to improve your memory

 

 

Newsletter: ‘We are living in total fragmentation’ ⚡

Below are this week’s interesting links and recent discoveries for your weekend reading.

Links

David Bowie predicted Internet-enabled dystopia in 1999. “We are living in total fragmentation…I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg. I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.”

Neanderthals’ Lack of Drawing Ability May Relate to Hunting Techniques. Neanderthals were great hunters but poor artists. According to a study done by professor Richard Coss, their inability to draw could’ve been due to the fact that they didn’t have to work as hard for their food. Homo Sapiens, on the other hand, strategically chased game in the open grasslands of Africa. They developed superior hand-eye coordination as a result of drawing out their prey on cave walls.

Facebook is a video game for adults. Tweeted Mike Bird: “Overheard someone say ‘Facebook did to your parents what they worried violent video games would do to you’ earlier this week and haven’t stopped thinking about it.” Facebook is a weapon of mass propaganda, a platform where conspiracy theories thrive. We should be giving our parents the same lecture they gave us on video games but about their manipulative online use.


The best of the rest

Book recommendation

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Photographers on Photography by Nathan LyonsPersonally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.”

 

What to watch

One minute art history: a unique flow of artworks stitched together to demonstrate a variety of styles.

Peep this musical vitamin

Baltra “Fade Away”

Thought of the week

“True journey is return.”

— Ursula K. Le Guin


Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Wells Baum (@bombtune)

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Newsletter: Instagram’s clash of sameness

Tools shape our thoughts. (pic via the Doug Engelbart Institute)

Each week I surf the net to find interesting links, from videos to books to new music. Here’s the latest collection I think you may like:

Instagram ‘homogenized our creativity’. Not only are we drowning in photos, the conformity of images is ruining the art of photography by simplifying them into cliches. Give everyone a camera and the stage, and they’ll exploit it just like everybody else. The upshot is a mass experience that mostly dulls expression: the same travel pics, coffee cup shots, and innumerable selfies. Scratch it up, discolor the frame; dare to be different.

Tomorrow’s World: Children in 1966 predict what the world will be like in the year 2000. Well-spoken, cynical, and eerily accurate, in 1966 these kids predicted what life would be like in the year 2000. Their predictions include the rise of robots and job loss due to automation, the threat of nuclear war, the backlash against globalization, sea levels rises, etc.

How To Become A Centaur. We are living together with machines in a symbiotic relationship, just as the pencil or the bike augment our minds and bodies. Contrary to the popular opinion that AI will replace mankind, the relationship with robots could be a non-zero-sum game. “AIs are best at choosing answers. Humans are best at choosing questions.”


Book I’m reading

Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer“Scientists describe our brain in terms of its physical details; they say we are nothing but a loom of electrical cells and synaptic spaces. What science forgets is that this isn’t how we experience the world. (We feel like the ghost, not like the machine.) It is ironic but true: the one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know. This is why we need art. By expressing our actual experience, the artist reminds us that our science is incomplete, that no map of matter will ever explain the immateriality of our consciousness.”

Video I’m watching

Bob Marley would’ve been 73 years old today. To celebrate the reggae legend, watch teenage cellist and 2016’s BBC Young Musician of the Year winner Sheku Kanneh-Mason perform a cello version of Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.”

Song I’m digging

Johnny Jewel “Mirror Image”

Thought of the week

“Everything we see hides another thing; we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.”

René Magritte


Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Wells Baum (@bombtune)

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Newsletter: Want to be more creative? Go for a walk.

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Robert Doisneau, ‘Pony des Arts‘ (1953)

Below are this week’s interesting links and recent discoveries for your weekend reading.

Want to be more creative? Go for a walk. The chair-based lifestyle is not only killing us, but it’s also stifling good ideas. If you ever get stuck in a creative rut, science shows that you should go for a stroll to get your endorphins moving. As learning scientist Marily Oppezzo notes in her TED presentation below, walking generates twice the ideas. Even if you walk and then sit, your mind will continue to generate novelty.

TEDxLondonBusinessSchool: A future imperfect: why globalisation went wrong. The myth that no two countries with McDonald’s refuse to fight each other appears to be just that. Realism is back, manifesting itself through the whims of protectionism. So, are we doomed to conflict? Not necessarily. It is in these moments that pessimism and inventiveness coexist.

The emotional journey of creating anything great. The key to achieving anything is not necessarily maintaining that excitement but pushing through all the CRAP (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure) and maintaining a beginner’s mindset.


Book I’m reading

The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu“Malcolm Gladwell summed it up this way: “Sesame Street was built around a single, breakthrough insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them.”

Video I’m watching

Emotions ebb and flow like the notes and bars in a classical music rollercoaster.

We can visualize the sine wave of any chorus. Music imitates the whimsical nature of life. It gives us an inkling of how the world works.

Thought of the week

“It is somewhat ridiculous to suppose that the invention of a motor car can render horses less necessary to man”

— Saddlery and Harness Magazine, 1895


Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Wells Baum (@bombtune)

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Faith can move mountains

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Photo by Kristopher Roller

“There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life,” writes Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote.

Futuring is a tough business. We toggle between our present number of choices along with desires and goals that reinforce the prioritization of time.

Knowing that we can’t do it all, most people reach for what’s most immediately accessible and end up regretting about what could be. They stifle themselves in exchange for feeling ‘safe.’

For others, death compels action. Their gut instinct refuses to accept standing still and succumb to mediocrity. Yet, their expedition may incorrectly rest in jealousy, a fear of missing out, rather than chasing a purpose.


Faith in the unseen

Our vocation chooses us. We grade our impact by how much we cling to that sense of priority rather than chasing other people’s dreams.

In reality, there is nothing out there that will make us fulfilled forever. But the attempt to cultivate happiness by pursuing what’s meaningful remains a noble attempt to maximize our time on Earth.

Newsletter: Do what you’re best at

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‘Lady of the Lake’ by Horace Pippin (1936) via The MET

Below is this week’s collection of interesting links. Catch my favorite tunes from last year plus check the latest video from Harvard research on seven things to do to be happy.

How to Write a Blog Post. The writing process is messy one that includes not only different formats but also different places. Sometimes it starts on paper; other times it starts on your smartphone. Just be ready to view it a few times before you hit publish. Writes Michael Lopp, “Repeat until it starts to feel done in your head. If it’s handwritten, type it into a computing device. When you are close to done, print it out on paper. Sit somewhere else with your favorite pen and edit your work harshly. If this piece is important, let someone else edit harshly.”

They Are Watching You—and Everything Else on the Planet. The maw of Orwellian watchability is here, in our pockets and from above. Says director Gus Hosein of Privacy International: “if the police wanted to know what was in your head in the 1800s, they would have to torture you. Now they can just find it out from your devices.” The invasion of privacy explains the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin which as Nassim Taleb writes “gives us, the crowd, an insurance policy against an Orwellian future.”

Self-Awareness Can Help Leaders More Than an MBA Can. The work isn’t going anywhere so you might as well take it in stride. There is one thing you can do to avoid burnout: take a break. “Taking regular short breaks, of even just one minute, gets you out of habitual thinking and behavior. It provides you space for awareness to arise and to see things clearer.”

Best of 2017 🎶. I finally stopped procrastinating and put together a ten-track list of my favorite songs from 2017. Mount Kimbie and King Krule kick the playlist off with ‘Blue Train Lines’ in what’s one of the best tunes I’ve heard in years.


Book I’m reading

The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu“As William James observed, we must reflect that, when we reach the end of our days, our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default. We are at risk, without quite fully realizing it, of living lives that are less our own than we imagine. ”

Video I’m watching

7 actions that could make you happier:

1 — Meditate
2 — Be kind
3 — Buy experiences rather than things
4 — Make your surroundings positive
5 — Find something to look forward to
6 — Physical activity
7 — Do what you’re best at

Thought of the week

“I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.”

Orson Welles (1956)


Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Wells Baum (@bombtune)

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Take a break and debug yourself

The work isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it just keeps coming. Your productivity will ebb and flow to the whims of the daily grind.

But there is one thing you can do to bring back your focus: take a break.

“Taking regular short breaks, of even just one minute, gets you out of habitual thinking and behavior. It provides you space for awareness to arise and to see things clearer.”

A simple break may also release you from the prison of traditional thinking. Our dominant thoughts aren’t always the best ones.

As Umberto Eco reminds us: “We like lists because we don’t want to die.” But in order to stay alive, we also need to destress and unthink.

There will always be another chance to ride the wave of opportunity. A clear mind may increase your chances of surfing the right one.

Newsletter: Harvesting human attention

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“Druze man in Lebanon plays football” by Samer Mohdad (via Rabih)

Below is a collection of links I think you’ll find interesting. Watch the world’s first drone rescue after the jump. Enjoy!

Is the Answer to Phone Addiction a Worse Phone? How can we win back our focus in the distraction era? Turn it gray. That’s right: we need to dull our screens to bore our senses. Turning the phone grayscale doesn’t make it dumb, it just makes it less attractive. Writes Nellie Bowles in the New York Times: “I’m not a different person all of a sudden, but I feel more in control of my phone, which now looks like a tool rather than a toy. If I unlock it to write an email, I’m a little less likely to forget the goal and tap on Instagram. If I’m waiting in line for coffee, this gray slab is not as delightful a distraction as it once was.”

Seeking the Lost Art of Growing Old with Intention. The Father of National Parks John Muir once said that “most people are on the world, not in it.” His words must have influenced naturalist and author Bernd Heinrich. The 77-year-old runner who still completes a 6-minute mile remains awed by the beautiful power of nature: “We all want to be associated with something greater and more beautiful than ourselves, and nature is the ultimate. I just think it is the one thing we can all agree on.”

The Subtle Art of Getting Your Work Noticed. When asked how to achieve success, comedian Steve Martin advised to “be so good they can’t ignore you.” The author Cal Newport wrote a book with the same title. But I like the way life hacker Zat Rana emboldens the adage by saying “Be so interesting that they can’t ignore you.” Being good isn’t enough; being interesting and unique is way more memorable.


Book I’m reading

The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu“The game of harvesting human attention and reselling it to advertisers has become a major part of our economy. I use the crop metaphor because attention has been widely recognized as a commodity, like wheat, pork bellies, or crude oil. Existing industries have long depended on it to drive sales. And the new industries of the twentieth century turned it into a form of currency they could mint. Beginning with radio, each new medium would attain its commercial viability through the resale of what attention it could capture in exchange for its “free” content.”

Video I’m watching

Lifeguards deployed a drone to save two struggling teenage swimmers stranded in rough seas off the coast of Australia.

This is apparently the first time drone technology carrying a flotation device has rescued swimmers.

Watch: Drone to the rescue

Thought of the week

“Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

Martin Luther King Jr.


Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Wells Baum (@bombtune)

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Newsletter: ‘8 hours of what we will’

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“8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, and 8 hours of what we will.” — Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, 1886

Below are this week’s interesting links and recent discoveries for your weekend reading.

The London Milkman. Photographer Fred Morley staged the famous photo of a milkman walking through the destruction of London after the German blitz during the Second World War. “Morley walked around the rubble of London until he found a group of firefighters trying to put out a fire amidst the fallen buildings, as he wanted that specific scene in the background…Apparently, Morley borrowed a milkman’s outfit and crate of bottles. He then either posed as the milkman or had his assistant pose as the milkman.” While the British government censored images of London’s destruction, it promoted this photo to show the world Britain’s resiliency and evoke a sense of calm.

How to do nothing. It’s not easy to escape the computer screen or leave that portable rectangular glow behind, but disconnecting is becoming indispensable to our mental health. We don’t always need to be switched on. Writes bird watcher Jenny Odell who likes to decompress at the park: “The function of nothing here, of saying nothing, is that it’s a precursor to something, to having something to say. “Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech.”

Why You Should Write a Memoir—Even if Nobody Will Read It. According to recent studies, writing your own memoir has various psychological benefits. Whether for private eyes or for public viewing, writing extensively about traumatic events helps you break free from the cage of anxiety. “Psychologists believe that by converting emotions and images into words, the author starts to organize and structure memories, particularly memories that may be difficult to comprehend and accept.”


Book I’m reading

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman“Here is a fact: nothing in all civilization has been as productive as ludicrous ambition. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshipped by man.”

Video I’m watching

Perhaps what we see isn’t what we get. Instead, life is just computer code and humans are information.

So does a simulated life mean that we can live forever? Says theoretical physicist James Gates: “If the simulation hypothesis is valid, then we open the door to eternal life and resurrection and things that formally have been discussed in the realm of religion. As long as I have a computer that’s not damaged, I can always re-run the program.”

Are we living in a computer simulation?

Thought of the week

“If hate could be turned into electricity, it would light up the whole world.”

— Nikola Tesla


Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Wells Baum (@bombtune)

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There is a time for everything

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gif by John Corsi 

The time you spend away from your task still qualifies as work. That includes doing the dishes, running errands, and taking care of the kids—whatever responsibilities you think to impede your central occupation contribute to its success.

British novelist Jon McGregor gives a good example of how he manages his writing despite making time for everything from Tweeting to taking care of his children.

“I rarely manage a whole unbroken day at the desk. And it can be frustrating, sometimes. Once or twice a year I manage to get away somewhere and live like a hermit for a week, eating and sleeping next to a desk and talking to no one and getting a lot of work done. Imagine if I could work like that all the time, I think, then. Think how productive I’d be! But if my life was always like that, I suspect I’d have very little to write about.”


Locking yourself away in isolation is a forlorn attempt to escape all that matters. Patterns can backfire, especially when it comes to creativity which thrives on observation and sudden randomness.

There is a time for everything

While productivity can be messy, time away from work is not squandered time. Instead, it is spent accumulating experiences and visualizing how the ideas you’re chewing on will all come to focus when you sit down in and commit to the day ahead.

The discipline of work is just as necessary as the chaotic daily tasks of life. In fact, the best things in life often disrupt it, forcing you to rethink priorities and see how it all connects.

Contrary to popular opinion, busyness is not a badge of honor. Life seeds all the ideas.

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Newsletter: ‘To be great is to be misunderstood’

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via giphy

Happy New Year! Below are some interesting links and recent discoveries for your weekend reading.

Instagram and Facebook are ruining our fond memories of vacations. If you want to remember a vacation or any other experience, you’re better off framing a picture rather than just posting it on your Instagram feed where images get consumed and quickly forgotten.

The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation. In 1968, Doctor Paul Ehrlich warned the world of its excessive population with his book entitled The Population Bomb. “The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” he wrote, “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” While Dr. Ehrlich’s dire warnings never panned out (at least yet), his book sparked a much-needed debate about “the potential consequences of overpopulation: famine, pollution, social and ecological collapse.”

David Perrell’s Twitter thread on simplifying complexity. This Twitter thread is full of life advice on how to achieve simplicity, including how to invest, catch a baseball, and how to remain an avid learner.

Book I’m reading

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo EmersonA foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

Video I’m watching

The millennial whoop explains why all pop music sounds the same. Spotted by musician Patrick Metzger, this is how he describes the hook:

It’s a sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, typically starting on the fifth. The rhythm is usually straight 8th-notes, but it may start on the downbeat or on the upbeat in different songs. A singer usually belts these notes with an “Oh” phoneme, often in a “Wa-oh-wa-oh” pattern. And it is in so many pop songs it’s criminal.

The annoying ‘millennial whoop’ pattern 🎤

Thought of the week

A good candidate for Word of the Year in this category is “fake.” “Fake” once meant “counterfeit” or “inauthentic,” like a fake Picasso or a fake birth certificate. It is now used to mean “I deny your reality.” “Hoax” is used with the same intention. (“Alternative facts,” another phrase associated with reality denial, seems to have been mocked out of existence.)

— Louis Menand in his New Yorker piece: Words of the Year


Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Wells Baum (@bombtune)

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Goal setting 2018 where all believing is betting

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Photo by Wells Baum

Offbeat, except in normal life.

Shaken, not in rage to be stirred.

A contrarian, narrowed into a consensus view.

Constant surprises, a search for settlement.

Ludicrous ambition, tolerable mediocrity.

Finally a new year, with more conviction this time.

Writes Gary Lachlan in The Caretakers of the Cosmos: “Without goals, without some purposeful anticipation, we live, Frankl said, only a ‘provisional existence’, a kind of marking time which is really a death in life.”

In the game of goal setting, all beliefs are gambles.

Newsletter: Time passes slowly

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‘The Century: New Year’s Number’ by Frederic Remington (1902)

Happy last Friday of 2017! Below are some interesting links and recent discoveries for your weekend reading.

Time Passes Slowly. “The internet put a huge dent in boredom,” writes Bob Lefsetz in a recent blog post. We are suffering from the glut of entertainment options on our rectangular screens. Remember what it was like to be bored before the internet spread its wings of distraction?

Forgetting is just as important as remembering. Forgetfulness optimizes for better decision-making. Says professor Blake Richards, “It’s important the brain forgets irrelevant details and focuses on what will help make decisions.”

The Age of Outrage. There’s no doubt our democracy is crippling due to a slew of fake news, ethnic-nationalism, and a gloating ego with authoritarian tendencies who spouts spurious patriotism. But our founders knew best how to protect against tribalism by building “the right springs and gears” into a constitution designed like a giant clock. Says NYU professor Jonathan Haidt: “They built in safeguards against runaway factionalism, such as the division of powers among the three branches, and an elaborate series of checks and balances. But they also knew that they had to train future generations of clock mechanics. They were creating a new kind of republic, which would demand far more maturity from its citizens than was needed in nations ruled by a king or other Leviathan.”


Book I’m reading

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. “While experimentation is scary to many, I would argue that we should be far more terrified of the opposite approach. Being too risk-averse causes many companies to stop innovating and to reject new ideas, which is the first step on the path to irrelevance. Probably more companies hit the skids for this reason than because they dared to push boundaries and take risks—and, yes, to fail. To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail.”

Video I’m watching

We take coffee for granted.

Judging by the ubiquity of Starbucks stores, you’d think that coffee was abundant. But the coffee we like to drink, the fruity-tasting coffee arabica, is projected to decline given the dual pressures of climate change which reduces suitable land to grow coffee and the ever-growing human demand for a “cup of joe.” So how do we grow more coffee?

The Race to Save Coffee

Thought of the week

“We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason … On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us.”

— Thomas Babington Macauley in the 1830 Edinburg Review


Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Wells Baum (@bombtune)

Support my blog

Your support goes a long way: for every contributed dollar, I can keep the blog running and continue to provide you interesting links.

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▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ 99%

2018 is almost here. If you’re like most people, you’re looking to start fresh in the new year.

Start small

When it comes to starting new habits, people aim too high. The trick is lowering the barrier to success to make it feel like you’re winning.


That could mean one push-up or walking at least five minutes until you’re ready to extend your goal. Exercise happens to be one of the ‘keystone habits‘ that unleashes other positive changes like eating healthier or making your bed.

Step by step, habits undermine the resistance to help you do even more.

If you’re still struggling to get started, do it badly. There’s no shame in imperfection if it helps get you closer to the pellets.

Change is first and foremost a decision. It’s the results that happen slowly.