How We Learn is Changing

Right? Wrong? It Depends!
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I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of the most important skills I got from my education was the ability to find answers.

I wish education in general was more focused on that skill. Rather than accumulating (and, gak, testing for) knowledge, teach the skill set required to acquire knowledge as needed; a kind of “just in time” skill. When you need to know something, you know how to find it.

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Consistency is a Super Power

A fundamental skill for success

A Crank to be Turned
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Polina Pompliano’s The Profile just celebrated five years of publishing consistently.

… 263 Sunday emails, 100 Profile Dossiers, and thousands of longform profiles.

Quite the achievement.

Coincidentally, I also celebrated a five-year anniversary with one of my publications, Not All News is Bad.

I realized if I had a super-power, it might be consistency.

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Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Dog holding money in its mouth.
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Over the last few years I’ve found myself not just subscribing to an assortment of news and other publications, but actually paying for the privilege.

In the spirit of full transparency for my own publications influenced by these choices, here’s a list of everything I’m actually paying cold hard cash for.

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Superiority, Shaming, and Solutions

Cry
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As you might imagine I read, skim, and scan (let’s just call that all “consume”, shall we?) a lot of content as I pull together 7 Takeaways each week. I do the same for Not All News is Bad, for that matter. (I do it for Ask Leo! as well, but that’s different for the purposes of this discussion.)

Some items call to me, and I’ve never been quite sure why. If you’d asked me my criteria I would have said I have no idea, but, like porn, I just know it when I see it.

As I was meditating this morning one of the reasons made itself known.

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“Drop Everything” Friends

Help!
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(Once again, sorry for the delays between postings. Life. If interested and if you’re not already there I have been sending out 7 Takeaways every week. Generally not my writing, but I do share some thoughts on each takeaway I collect.)

A friend is dealing with one of life’s issues, to put it vaguely. It’s led me to notice our friends and acquaintances often fall into two categories. It’s important to acknowledge them.

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The Mug (Updated)

The Mug

It’s funny how we assign meaning and even sentimentality to inanimate objects.

Consider the mug shown above: it’s actually quite meaningful to me. So much so that at one point I actually stopped using it for fear of breaking it. As a result, I never saw it and it remained in a relatively obscure location.

Last year I came to the conclusion that that was kinda silly, and placed it back into service.

This morning I realized that it’s not just the mug we set aside for some odd perception of safety and desired permanence.

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A Letter From My Mother

A Letter From My Mother
A Letter From My Mother. Click for larger image.

My mother passed in 2003.

In slowly cleaning out the accumulation of things collecting in our basement today I stumbled into the letter pictured above. It’s a draft, undated, and I’m not even sure who it’s to.

But it touched me.

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Every Picture Tells a Story

Some stories just aren’t pretty.

The bedroom wall.
The bedroom wall. Click for larger image. (Image: Leo A. Notenboom.)

In 1981 we purchased our first house. 740 square feet of education lay ahead of us.

So. Much. Education.

Starting with the day we took possession.

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Knowing Isn’t Enough

One more step is required.

Scale
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In 2014 I lost 56 pounds. I went on to lose 10 more beyond my goal after that.

It was intentional and methodical.

After reaching that goal, occasional lapses (Hello, Thanksgiving) would be met with “oh well, I know how to do this”, and the holiday weight would eventually come off.

And then: pandemic.

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Write As If No One’s Watching

They probably aren’t.

Typing
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One of the best books on my infinite reading list is Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It by Steven Pressfield.

The title says it all.

Most writers want to fix it. Most desperately want their work to be read. Some build a business or life around it.

I’m no different, I guess. But I have an additional constraint I find myself fighting: there are certain people I’d love to know are “reading my sh*t”.

Yet I know they’re not.

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Meditation Versus FOMO — The Approach I Use

The “other” app I run.

Monkeys
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This has happened too many times to count: I get a great, or not-so-great, idea I want to act on later.

The problem is I’m not in a position to write it down or save it in some way.

Let’s face it, “I’ll remember it later” is not a valid answer.

Especially as I age.

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A Pre-Microsoft Microsoft Story

I E S I Datacorder II
IESI Datacorder II

Back in the days BM (Before Microsoft), I worked for a small company in Seattle called International Entry Systems, Inc, or IESI. They manufactured Z-80 (8-bit) based data entry terminals consisting of a single line display, a keyboard, and a cassette data recorder (hence the product name: “DataCorder”). All software was loaded from tape. (This was 1980, after all.)

One of the software packages they had available was a copy of Microsoft Basic. I won’t go into the machinations needed to have a working Basic interpreter using a single 40 character line display and a single cassette deck for all storage, but they did.

It was in place, though underutilized, when I showed up.

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Seeing Both Sides is a Curse

If people can’t put you in the right bucket, you must belong in the wrong one.

Black & White
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Being able to see both sides of an argument is a curse.

People want black and white. If you’re cursed with an ability to articulate shades of grey, it’ll be taken as blanket disagreement no matter what your actual opinion.

Anything seen as less than 100% agreement is disagreement.

If we are to survive, that must change.

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Writing as Therapy

Writing
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Earlier today I posted a eulogy for one of our Corgis who passed away last night.

Wrote, posted, and shared on social media.

I started to think it might be useful to consider why, why, and why.

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My “Infinite Reading List”

I’ll never run out of reading material

Mobius Strip
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Now that I’m a few weeks into my process to read more this year, I’ve decided to formalize something that’s been bouncing around the back of my head for a while.

I call it my “infinite reading list”.

No, not that there are an infinite number of books I’ll never get around to reading. Something smaller and much more practical.

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All Eyes are On You — Don’t Screw this Up

Democrats, you’re under the microscope

Gas Co ball, Trocadero, July 1941
Photo credit: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr Commons

In a recent political discussion, I discovered something shocking: the person I was talking with attributed the same horrible fears to my side as I did to theirs.

The bullet lists were nearly identical.

Wow.

I don’t believe there’s a short term fix. “How do we change their minds?” is not the question, because minds aren’t going to change any time soon.

The answer is both simpler and more difficult.

Show them they’re wrong.

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1918 – 2020

Flu Shot

“Investigators today believe that in the United States the 1918–19 epidemic caused an excess death toll of about 675,000 people”

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History was published in 2004, a full 15 years before COVID-19 would race around the planet beginning in 2019.

My greatest takeaway from this book might well be a sense of disappointment: in our inability to learn, in our government’s inability to lead, and in our inability to understand and trust science.

In other words, not a lot has changed in 100 years. And that’s sad.

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Upping My Reading Game

Biggest takeaway

(My apologies for the long delay between personal blog posts. All I can say is “2020”. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

When I was young I was a voracious reader. Lots and lots of books passed through my fingers. Once I discovered fantasy and science fiction the pace only increased. Being a socially awkward only child gave me lots of time to myself, and reading was one of the activities I thrived on.

At one point during my Microsoft career a manager turned me on to self-help and growth literature, and I was once again an avid consumer.

Fast forward <mumble> years and things have changed. I’m not the reader I once was. I watch my wife consume upwards of a book a day, while I’m lucky to do one or two a month.

I want to change that.

I think I have a plan.

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