Unhappy People Want A Cause

A politician at a podium speaking to a large crowd, viewed from behind the speaker. The crowd is filled with a variety of unhappy facial expressions and raised fists, signaling discontent and protest. he background is adorned with red, white, and blue bunting, adding a patriotic element to the scene.

I recently finished reading Magic Slays, book 5 in a light fantasy series by Ilona Andrews, set in an interesting alternate world that includes periods of time where magic is real.

There are factions, and zealots, and conflict, and more. The thing you’d expect from an engaging story.

But a series of paragraphs late in the book, as the characters were preparing for its major battle, caught my attention for reasons I think will become clear.

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Did Tolstoy Understand Social Media?

When words from the early 20th century feel spot-on in the 21st

Leo Tolstoy postage stamp
Leo Tolstoy (Image: canva.com)

As the new year starts, I elected to change my daily reading source. For the past couple of years, I’ve been reading passages from The Daily Stoic. This year I’m starting A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy.

Same idea, an essay a day for the entire year.

Tolstoy grabs my attention right out of the gate on January 1.

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You Are Entitled to Your Opinion

But not absolution from the consequences

Shouting into a bullhorn
(Image: canva.com)

We often hear people complaining they’re being discriminated against, losing friends and acquaintances, and even being “cancelled” because of the opinions and beliefs they hold and express, or the practices they engage in. Somehow they seem to feel that they should be able to hold, express and practice without consequence.

Because, of course, they believe their position is correct. As the One True Answer, it should obviously be honored and respected. Not to do so is, itself, disrespectful.

That’s not how it works.

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Musings on AI, Learning, and Copyright

A photorealistic image representing the complexity and nuances of AI's relationship with copyright and content creation. The scene includes a human figure surrounded by a swirl of books, magazines, love letters, emails, essays, and scribbled notes, symbolizing the diverse content humans consume and internalize. Nearby, a large, abstract representation of an AI language model, depicted as a complex, digital brain-like structure, is absorbing a vast array of similar content, showing the immense scale of data it processes. The background is split into two halves: one side illustrates a traditional library, representing human learning and creativity, and the other side is a futuristic digital landscape, symbolizing the digital realm of AI. The central theme is the comparison of human and AI content consumption and creation, with an underlying question of copyright and originality, subtly represented in the image.
(Image: DALL-E 3)

One of the more contentious parts of the rise of AI is its relationship to the rightsholders for the content on which it is trained. Many consider it blatant copyright infringement.

I’m not so sure.

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You are Someone’s Odd Duck

An Odd Duck
(Image: Midjourney)

Have you ever looked at someone and thought to yourself: huh. Something’s a little off.

Nothing bad, really, just … different.

Not quite right. Not quite normal.

Maybe they’re a little eccentric in some way.

Perhaps you’ve said to yourself (or, *cough*, your spouse) “well, they’re certainly an ‘odd duck‘”.

Have I got news for you.

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Put On Your Own Mask First

Airplane Oxygen Mask Demonstration
(Image: canva.com)

I’m fairly convinced my mother died before she had to because of the stress of taking care of my father, who had dementia.

While trying to be everything to her husband, she failed to take care of her own needs and her own health. The result was not just that she passed away too soon, but even in her own eyes she passed away before what she saw as her job was complete. My father outlived her by four and a half years.

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Appreciating Progress

Work in Progress
(Image: canva.com)

I’ve previously expressed disappointment in people who seem to go out of their way to find fault in good news. They work to snatch negativity from the jaws of the positive.

There’s a related mindset I see that isn’t really negative … but it’s not really positive, either.

It’s something I see arising from black and white thinking and an instant gratification mindset.

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Looking for Negativity

Searching for ... something.
(Image: depositphotos.com)

I publish a daily newsletter called Not All News Is Bad. Several years ago I found myself in need of a reminder that there’s more going on in the world than the shitshow most news sources seem to focus on.

I forced myself to find at least one good news story every day. I started sharing that publicly, and eventually it became the daily newsletter. At this writing, it goes out to about 1,500 subscribers every morning.

It doesn’t happen often, but one thing that makes me shake my head is when a recipient of a good news story goes digging for negativity.

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The Radio’s Playin’ Some Forgotten Song

Highway into the sunset.
(Image: canva.com)

I have a fond memory of the song Radar Love by the Dutch group Golden Earring.

It’s 1973 or 1974. I’m one of the principle photographers for my high school year book. Our track team is competing across the state at Washington State University’s facilities, and I’m driving the 300 miles (one way) to be there take pictures, and then driving back the same day. The radio of my Toyota Corona is tuned to the local top-40 station at the time (KJR Seattle), and then its sister station (KJRB Spokane) as I make my way east.

And playing loudly, and often, in all its tinny cheap-AM-radio glory, was Radar Love.

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On Aging and Loss

The bell curve of aging.
(Image: canva.com)

We all want to live a long and healthy life. We want to be the ones making it far through the bell curve of life expectancy. I know I do.

There’s an unanticipated problem with succeeding.

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The Internet Is An Interesting Place

Marienplatz Glockenspiel, Munich, Germany
Marienplatz Glockenspiel, Munich, Germany

I was recently chatting with someone, and the topic turned to a business trip to Munich I’d taken many years ago.

One evening, I encountered a street performer playing an accordion in an archway near one of the city plazas. The acoustics were amazing. He had chosen his location well. He was selling cassette tapes, so I bought one. I thought I’d digitized it, but for the life of me I’ve been unable to find the result.

SO. Internet to the rescue, I hoped.

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The Cost of Failure

Flying Man Vincent de Groof Falling Down (Image: Old Book Illustrations)

We often judge opportunities based on the potential benefit or “up side” as it’s often called. If we do ‘X’ we get ‘Y’. Typically the risk we consider is simply not getting ‘Y’ if we fail to accomplish ‘X’.

I’ve come to rely on an additional approach to judging both opportunity and risk. I call it the “cost of failure”.

It’s quick, easy, and now one of my most important evaluation tools.

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Contentment vs. Passion

Aspire versus Desire
(Image: canva.com)

Is it possible to be simultaneously content and passionate about something?

By content, I mean in the Buddhist sense of acceptance of the present moment.

By passionate, I mean wanting something more, and feeling strongly about it.

It’s something I wrestle with.

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Old Haunts

Lucky Store, Juanita Washington, 1977
Lucky Store, Juanita Washington, 1977 – (Photo: Leo Notenboom)

Pictured above is an aerial photo I took of the grocery store I was working at in 1977. I’m in the process of digitizing a large collection of my old photos, and it’s one that resurfaced. A friend of mine was a private pilot, and on one of our flights we flew over the location.

Here’s the location today, courtesy of Google Earth.

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What If You Missed The Meeting?

A framework for keeping your mouth shut

Zip It!
(Image: depositphotos.com)

We love our opinions. We really do. We’re so proud of them, and we’re so eager to share them with anyone who’ll listen, and many who won’t.

And yet, there’s the adage: “Opinions are like assholes: everyone has one, and no one wants to see yours.”

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OrganTok

Royal Albert Hall - Central View Square
The Organ of the Royal Albert Hall, London. (© User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons)

Social media gets a lot of negative press. It’s blamed for the increasing political divide, for increased rates of depression, particularly among teenaged girls, for being some kind of spying tool used by corporations and foreign governments, and more.

And, to be completely honest, much of that is probably accurate.

But it also overshadows the fact that there are some very positive things happening on social media as well.

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The Value of Curation

7 Takeaways is weird

So. Much. Information.
So. Much. Information. (Image: depositphotos.com)

I started 7 Takeaways it for myself, to “force” me to consume higher quality content more consistently. Apparently I start newsletters to make myself do things.

Curating for others was never on the agenda, not really. Besides, there are so many other curated newsletters, and many of them are so much better. Hell, I get some of my ideas from them!

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Retirement is Obsolete

Midjourney AI: "an empty rocking chair on a porch with an elderly man running through a field in the distance"
Midjourney AI: “an empty rocking chair on a porch with an elderly man running through a field in the distance”

I “retired” in 2001 at 44, after an 18-year career at Microsoft.

There was a spreadsheet (in Excel, of course) that calculated I was done. The meteoric rise of the Microsoft stock price and the serendipitous timing of my joining came together to give me options (including literally stock options), for which I am forever grateful.

However.

I was recently reading some articles discussing the traditional transition from the work-a-day world — aka a “job” — to a world of leisure and choice — aka “retirement”.

I was getting increasingly uncomfortable with the assumptions and preconceptions of what it means to retire.

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Walter

Brookehaven Evening News

May 21, 2013 – February 19, 2023

Walter
Walter (Click for larger image.)

Walter was a sweet boy, with a penchant for bread. We’re pretty convinced that given the choice between steak and bread, it’d be bread every time. (Though, to be fair, his tastes grew to encompass anything “bread like”.)

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Acknowledging Anxiety

Teddy Bear
(Image: canva.com)

It almost feels trendy to talk about anxiety these days.

In part, I suppose, because it’s become more prevalent due to the pandemic, and politics, and social media, and, and, and …

But has it though? Has become more prevalent, or just more visible?

Based on my experience I would say: why not both?

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