Clancy Martin, Diary: The Case of the Counterfeit Eggs, London Review of Books (2009-02-12). Walking among the crowded jewellers’ benches I realised that with the right marketing I could make millions. I would have no competitors. The upfront costs of the deal could be financed quickly and easily if we made a few eggs that, so the story would go, I had managed to ‘purchase’ while I was in Russia: a couple of lost Fabergé masterpieces. As in the art and antiquities business, and among philatelists, tricks like these are not unheard of in fine jewellery. I had counterfeited before.
Jerry Useem, How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All, The Atlantic (2017-05-01). (notes) Simply put: Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers—in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction—are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us.
Michael Hogan, OK Boomer: How Bob Dylan's New JFK Song Helps Explain 2020, Vanity Fair (2020-03-27). Maybe he is doing the same thing Allen was doing: trying to use his favorite songs and movies as shields against the idea that life is absurd and meaningless. And maybe—I have no idea but maybe?—Dylan is trying to break the chain of political evil by building a chain of artistic goodness. Several of the lyrics suggest that the JFK assassination was the beginning of something very bad. Something that is still plaguing us today
Alex Tabarrok, Sicken Thy Neighbor Trade Policy, Marginal Revolution (2020-03-29). The second reason why export bans are a mistake is that when there are economies of scale banning exports can decrease local consumption. A company that knows that it cannot export will be less willing to invest in building new plant and infrastructure, for example. We see exactly this phenomena in the brain drain “paradox”. Brain drain proponents argue that developing countries need to ban exports of human capital (i.e. don’t let people leave) to keep skilled workers at home. But in fact places like the Philippines, which export a lot of nurses, also have more domestic nurses.
Jon Methven, Effective Immediately: We Are Closing Our Homeschool, McSweeney's Internet Tendency (2020-03-18). We know there are parents out there who can both love their children unconditionally and also teach them Common Core mathematics. If this global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we are not those parents. Just because we chose to close our homeschool, it does not mean your mother and I do not love you. It means we love you enough to know we can either love you or teach you algebra, not both.
Seth Godin, Public health, Seth's Blog (2020-03-16). Often, it’s only coordinated action that can help the entire community. And coordinated action rarely happens without intentional coordination. Don’t do it because you finally got around to it. Don’t do it because it is in your short-term interest. Do it because we all need it done.
It’s difficult to overinvest in building and running competent public health systems and management. And sometimes we don’t realize how important the system is until we see how unprepared we are. [Which is why, alas, today is a good day to stay home].
Jeff Huang, My productivity app is a single .txt file, jeffhuang.com (2020-01-31). My daily workload is completely under my control the night before; whenever I feel overwhelmed with my long-term commitments, I reduce it by aggressively unflagging emails, removing items from my calendar that I am no longer excited about doing, and reducing how much work I assign myself in the future.
It does mean sometimes I miss some questions or don't pursue an interesting research question, but helps me maintain a manageable workload.
Jason Kottke, Some People, kottke.org (2020-03-20). Some people lost their jobs.
Some people can’t sleep.
Some people are watching free opera online.
Some people can’t work remotely.
Some people have contracted COVID-19 and don’t know it yet.
Some people can’t concentrate on their work because of anxiety.
Some people can’t afford their rent next month.
Marc Weidenbaum, Taxonomy of Speakers at MoMA, Disquiet (2020-03-01). When you enter a given space, you may hear something, but excepting rooms dedicated to individual works, it can be unclear which piece correlates with the sound. Speakers are everywhere. Room after room you enter has audio; the question becomes: From which of these many pieces in front of me is it emanating? This isn’t a puzzle. It never takes long to sort out. But in the process of untangling several such circumstances, patterns begin to form and cluster, and in turn a taxonomy of the speakers comes into shape.
David Craddock, Where in North Dakota is Carmen Sandiego?, The Video Game History Foundation (2020-03-08). Research entailed more than making up clues. Lock tackled Government, which meant that if a case led students to Bismarck, the state capitol, she was in charge of devising reasons for the pranksters to be there. Other trivia could be so obscure—such as “gandy dancer,” slang for railroad workers and a term very likely to be unheard of to the game’s target audience—that accompanying history texts, assembled by the committee for inclusion with the game, were practically mandatory. Landsleedle and other teachers had accumulated a wealth of information on North Dakota, but had made most of it themselves. North Dakota was such a small state that even book publishers steered clear of it, certain that publications on the region would lose money.
Sophie Gilbert, Marc Maron’s End-of-the-World Anxiety, The Atlantic (2020-03-12). As Maron cycles through snake-oil salesmen and the Fox News bubble and the discomfiting “dovetailing of late-stage capitalism and Christian end-times prophecy,” he seems to touch on a timely insight. The most natural instinct of humankind is to want something to believe in. Whether that’s the second coming of Christ, the affirmation of asanas, or even just the momentary self-definition that comes with posting a picture on Instagram, the desire is the same: to feel like more than an aberration, more than a squishable bug on a giant shoe. Maron knows this better than most. He’s the rare star who found real fame in his 50s, after an early career defined by bit parts and failed auditions and canceled radio shows.
Tyler Cowen, Don’t Worry. America’s Response to the Coronavirus Will Improve., Bloomberg (2020-03-09). To be clear, Americans cannot count on any of these responses to be automatic. And it is still essential for the president and other leaders to send the right signals. Nonetheless, it is too early to write off the U.S. response as pathetic; being a laggard is an old and dangerous American tradition. It is past time, however, to flip the switch and get moving.
Sergio Pistoi, DNA Is Not a Blueprint, Scientific American (2020-02-06). DNA is not a blueprint: it’s a recipe coding for thousands of different proteins that interact with each other and with the environment, just like the ingredients of a cake in an oven. Whereas a blueprint is an exact, drawn-to-scale copy of the final product, a recipe is just a loose plot that leaves much more room to uncertainty. Open a packet of cookies: each one was made from the same recipe and baked in the same conditions, but there are no two that are identical.
Ben Swire, How a Kid's Perspective Improves Design Research, Ideo Blog (2020-01-16). Our project teams grab Quinn for their brainstorms because she listens to the problem and tries to solve it. She doesn’t think about financial viability or the laws of physics—she just thinks. Eventually, it's our job to add those things back in, but in the divergent phase of a project, she's a superstar.
Although she's prone to insert dinosaurs and robots into her concepts, she cuts to the core of an issue and simplifies the needs behind it in a way that can inspire us to develop a dinosaur-free solution.
Giovanni Russonello, Overlooked No More: Valaida Snow, Charismatic ‘Queen of the Trumpet’, The New York Times (2020-02-12). And she often graced the movie screen, helping to bring black music from the vaudeville stage into the audiovisual age. African-American newspapers and the international press celebrated Snow both for her immense skill and for her novelty as a female trumpet master. She encouraged that coverage and bent it to her ends, telling tall tales and making her interviews as much a performance as her stage act.
David Lerner Schwartz, How Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Continues to Show Up in Literary Fiction, Literary Hub (2020-03-05). Stories are tools to shape life, providing structure from otherwise chaos. The difference between our lives and narrative is a beginning, middle, and end. I like to think books built for interactivity are less about the linearity of story and more about the power of the cyclical. They prime us to pay attention to interconnection, the possibilities that could be, should be, won’t be depending on factors pre-decided by the author and also chosen by the reader in the moment. Retrospection, too, can be narrative, a looking back at the aggregate. A realization of quantity, a comparison of quality. A gradient instead of a line.
Kate Klonick, What Artificial Intelligence Is Not, BLARB (2020-02-22). Philosophers, ethicists, technologists, and people with blogs have devoted a lot of energy and time to fearing or not-fearing the singularity. The singularity might never happen. Or it might. But if you are in a sinking ship and taking on water, it might be better to spend your time on pumping, fixing holes, and finding lifeboats than worrying about a pirate attack. So too is it perhaps more prudent to spend time on the urgent and knowable problems of AI than those imagined ones that might not ever come to be.
Tracy Mayor, 6 career hacks from Apple VP Kate Bergeron, Ideas Made to Matter (2019-03-14). That said, she tells aspiring managers on her team that they need to be able to let go of a personal sense of ownership on projects. “If it's all about you, stay an engineer. You solved a hard problem. You can take that personal level of satisfaction when the product ships.” Managers, on the other hand, need to be able to draw true satisfaction from the success of others.
Matthew Cobb, Why Your Brian Is Not a Computer, The Guardian (2020-02-27). One sign that our metaphors may be losing their explanatory power is the widespread assumption that much of what nervous systems do, from simple systems right up to the appearance of consciousness in humans, can only be explained as emergent properties – things that you cannot predict from an analysis of the components, but which emerge as the system functions.
Mark Manson, 10 Important Lessons We Learned from the 2010s, markmanson.net (2019-12-29). The television age trained us to be docile and receptive. “Show me the shiny funny things, oh, glorious fun box.” But the internet requires us to be active participants in our own consumption. Taking responsibility for that consumption—and managing ourselves when we over-indulge on that consumption—is a difficult and never-ending task.
Seth Godin, Quality and effort, Seth's Blog (2018-11-01). We ignore checklists and processes because we've been taught that they’re beneath us.
Instead of reacting to an error with, "I need to be more careful," we can respond with, "I can build a better system."
If it matters enough to be careful, it matters enough to build a system around it.
Shane Parrish, How Not to Be Stupid, Farnam Street (2020-01-02). By the way, if you're in any field and you want to find ways to innovate, focus on words that are commonly used and try to define them simply.
It took me about a month, and I defined stupidity as overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information. Right? It's crucial information, like you better pay attention to it. It's conspicuous, like it's right in front of your nose and yet you either overlook it or you dismiss it.
Natasha Frost, What do Boeing CEO's Dennis Muilenberg's apologies actually mean?, Quartz (2019-10-31). Right now, Boeing's apologies appear to be more focused on rebuilding the relationship with customers than on actually fixing the problem or offering an explanation. It's not surprising if they thus ring a little hollow—especially since the company's attempts to fix the problem appear to be being done at the behest of the FAA, rather than its own leadership.