Linking Out Loud #22

Oscillation and metamodernism

Hey everyone,

This week I’ve been reflecting on the idea of oscillation as a strategy for resolving tension between conflicting ideals.

Some context. I recently noticed some internal tension as a result of a tough project I’m wrestling with at work. On the one hand, I value perseverance. I want to be the type of person who doesn’t give up easily, who commits fully when faced with a challenge. On the other hand, I value humility. I want to be the type of person who knows when to ask for help, when to make backup plans, and when to stop sinking costs into a lost cause.

How to strike the right balance between the ideals of perseverance and humility? It seems to help to not try to balance them at every moment, but instead to oscillate between them. For a day or two, I’ll go deep into the problem and try to make as much progress as I can. Then I’ll come to the surface and share my learnings with others, so they can help me decide on the best next steps.

I seem to like dichotomies. It strikes me now that more often than not, it’s possible to get the best of both worlds as long as you’re willing to not get them at the same time. Oscillation may be the antidote to a wide range of limiting beliefs:

  • I can’t be kind and honest.

  • I can’t be hopeful and realistic.

  • I can’t be enthusiastic and critical.

  • I can’t be a specialist and a generalist.

  • I can’t be compassionate and detached.

  • I can’t be informed and blissfully ignorant.

Do you have any conflicting ideals of your own that you oscillate between? I’d be curious to hear about them—hit reply if you want to chat.


Links

After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts

25 minutes | Greg Dember | 2018

Related to the idea of oscillation, the term “metamodernism” struck me right in the center of my aesthetic bullseye this week, and I’m still sorting out what exactly it means. Basically, think of postmodernism as detached, savvy, and cynical, like how the humor in Family Guy is all about making as many references as possible and mocking them all. Metamodernism is a reaction against that. It embraces sincerity and earnestness, even as it is self-aware about its occasional sappiness. (Think The Office or Parks and Rec.)

This article outlines eleven characteristics of metamodernism, and provides examples of each. Thanks to Leah Parr for sharing this article and for introducing me to the concept.

>>> Read itl

Epic Marriage Proposal Videos

7 minutes | Greg Dember | 2013

By the same author as the article above, this one analyzes an epic marriage proposal video as an example of “metamodern maximalism”. I normally cringe at public marriage proposals, but this one is pretty special because it’s so homegrown and intimate. You can tell that the people in this video aren’t dancing for internet glory, but simply to express their love for the couple’s relationship. Watch the video first, then read the article for some interesting commentary.

>>> Read it

David Foster Wallace - The Problem with Irony

10 minutes | Will Schoder | 2016

Okay, a final link about metamodernism… I saw this video in 2016, and I still think about it all the time. It fleshed out the conceptual framework in my mind to which I can now attach the label “metamodernism.”

>>> Watch it

The YouTube Revolution in Knowledge Transfer

5 minutes | Samo Burja | 2019

Video, as a medium, allows for the transfer of tacit knowledge—knowledge that can’t be easily conveyed by words alone. You can’t really learn carpentry from a textbook, but you can learn it from a YouTube tutorial. Now that billions of people have cameras, screens, and internet access at any time of day, YouTube is releasing a massive amount of tacit knowledge that has historically been locked up in the minds of experts and any apprentices who were lucky enough to learn from them in person. How did a Norwegian javelin thrower qualify for the 2012 Olympics without ever having a coach? He learned from YouTube.

>>> Read it

Interlocutor as a Service

10 minutes | Pamela J. Hobart | 2020

Pamela Hobart describes herself as a “philosophical life coach”—someone who helps intellectuals to “clarify their thinking and values, so they can make decisions and commitments without cognitive dissonance.” I was fascinated to learn that she delivers her services primarily by email. Imagine that—someone you can write to, whose job it is to take your ideas seriously and help you spot faulty assumptions, all from the comfort of your email inbox. If you want a peak into the workings of an inventive service-based business, this is an interesting read.

>>> Read it


Tweets


Hope you all have a restful weekend,

David

P.S. Last weekend I saw Theo Katzman perform in Vancouver. Gosh, did it ever warm my heart. If you’re looking for some great music, check out his new album. Here’s a picture of me, second from the left, grinning like a fool. In the middle is Joe Dart, arguably the funkiest bass player alive. Next to Joe is Theo himself. Bookending us are my friends Lucas and Alexi.


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Linking Out Loud #21

Hello my friends,

Last weekend I finished Chanel Miller's illuminating memoir, Know My Name. You may recall reading about the woman who was raped behind a dumpster at a Stanford frat party—that was Miller. Her victim impact statement, which was published by Buzzfeed in the summer of 2016, was read by millions. At the time she was known as Emily Doe, a pseudonym used to protect her identity. Now we know her real name, and we're not likely to forget it. If Know My Name isn’t soon taught in high schools across the world, it should be.

I won't try to summarize Miller's story here. Her impact statement does that better than I could. Instead I'll tell you what I came to appreciate by reading her book, which is that enduring the aftermath of sexual assault is like crawling through hell. In particular, the ordeal of seeking justice is horrendously costly, not just financially but also spiritually and emotionally.

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so common for victims of sexual assault to stay silent, Know My Name has your answers. If you’ve ever nodded along silently while someone told you there needs to be more support for victims, but you didn’t know enough about the issue to respond substantively, Know My Name will inform you.

Though the topic of the book is a heavy one, Miller’s writing is eloquent, conversational, and ultimately uplifting. It’s a privilege to spend 350 pages in her company. Highly recommended.


Links

Five Writing Tips

7 minutes | Alex Danco | 2019

I’ve read (and given) a lot of writing advice, so I’m always pleased when I come across plausible-sounding tips I haven’t heard before. This article had four such tips:

  • Overcome anxiety by publishing before you distribute.

  • Beat writer’s block by never starting with a blank page.

  • Introduce parallel tracks of thought by saying "meanwhile" more.

  • Develop a more authentic style by regularly reading your own published writing.

>>> Read it

Type I and Type II progress

10 minutes | Benjamin Reinhardt | 2020

This post makes a distinction that I’ll keep in mind when thinking about progress. Type I progress is that which expands the frontier, like when we invent something new. Type II progress is that which catches up to the frontier, like when we distribute existing inventions to people who don’t have them yet.

>>> Read it

Unconventional strategies for practicing Spanish

15 minutes | Devon Zuegel | 2019

A great list of tips for practicing a foreign language. I’m not currently practicing a language myself, but I love the general pursuit of finding unusual ways to practice a skill. Here are a few of my favourites from this article:

  • Translate your own writing—blog posts, essays, etc. This is a good way to learn vocabulary related to topics you care about.

  • Start a Twitter account where you only write in the language you're practicing, and only follow people who speak that language.

  • When speaking, fill in the gaps in your vocabulary with "Spanglish”. Indicate with your tone of voice that you're taking a complete guess with the word you're about to say. If you guess right, great! If not, you'll be corrected.

>>> Read it

Self-Knowledge by Looking at Others

5 minutes | Eric Schwitzgebel | 2019

Interesting reflections on how we often aren't aware of how we are feeling until we interact with others.

When I come home from work, stepping through the front door, I usually feel (I think) neutral to positive. Then I see my wife Pauline and daughter Kate—and how I evaluate them reveals whether in fact I came through that door grumpy.

>>> Read it

The Sound and the Story: Exploring the World of Paradise Lost

30 minutes | Philip Pullman | 2019

I’m a big fan of Philip Pullman’s YA fantasy series, His Dark Materials, so I was interested to read his reflections on Paradise Lost, his main inspiration.

>>> Read it


Tweets

My friend Matthew is teaching courses on the history of science and AI this semester. He’s going to share many of his teachings in this thread:


Until next week,

David


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Linking Out Loud #20

Annual review, 2019

Dear friends,

Happy New Near! I hope you enjoyed the holidays and that you’re feeling as optimistic as I am about the turn of the decade.

Over the past week, I wrote down all the activities, media, and ideas that defined my 2019 in my first annual review post. I also included some personal trajectories for 2020. A few highlights:

  • I did a fair bit of writing in 2019. This allowed me to make new friends, discover new interests, and deepen my understanding of many topics. I want to continue reaping all these benefits in 2020, so by the end of the year I’ll aim to publish at least 15,000 words on my blog and send 50 issues of this newsletter.

  • In 2019 I developed a love of chess, but it also became a bit of a distraction. I’ll continue playing casually in 2020, mostly with my mother, but I’m also picking up a brand new hobby: I’m going to learn the piano! I’ll share some videos with you as I progress.

  • In 2019 I boarded a grand total of 18 planes, mostly for work but also for pleasure. While I enjoyed my traveling and made lots of great memories, it was expensive and often tiring, not to mention bad for the environment. In 2020 I want to reduce my plane travel significantly and instead travel to places closer to home, especially with friends.

There’s plenty more in my full review, including the books I read, the music I loved, and the products and services that made my life better. Below, rather than sharing links from the past week, I’m sharing an excerpt from my review—the top 10 articles that I read in 2019, ranked by how much they affected my thinking or my behaviour. I hope you find them as stimulating as I did.


The top 10 articles I read in 2019

1. One-Touch to Inbox Zero: How I Spend 17 Minutes Per Day on Email

25 minutes | Tiago Forte | 2015

How and why to process your email inbox. Reading this article caused me to implement a set of systems that drove healthy feedback loops in many areas of my life.

>>> Read it

2. The tyranny of ideas

10 minutes | Nadia Eghbal | 2019

What if people don’t have ideas, but ideas have people?

>>> Read it

3. Theory of Constraints 101: Applying the Principles of Flow to Knowledge Work

7 minutes | Tiago Forte | 2016

To increase the throughput of a system, you need to increase the throughput at its tightest bottleneck.

>>> Read it

4. Status as a Service

2 hours | Eugene Wei | 2019

Social media companies make money off ads, but what they provide to users is an efficient means of acquiring social status.

>>> Read it

5. Deep Laziness

15 minutes | Sarah Perry | 2018

Find activities and behaviors that resonate with the core of your being, then elaborate on them to create still deeper resonance.

>>> Read it

6. Going Critical

30 minutes | Kevin Simler | 2019

An intuition pump for how networks thrive or die.

>>> Read it

7. Being basic as a virtue

10 minutes | Nadia Eghbal | 2019

A counterweight to the idea, which I’ve mostly bought into, that it’s good to relentlessly externalize your learning by writing online.

>>> Read it

8. always bet on text

4 minutes | graydon2 | 2014

It’s fine to focus your creative energy on text rather than other forms of media.

>>> Read it

9. What the success of rock climbing tells us about economic growth

8 minutes | John H. Cochrane | 2019

The first climb of El Capitan, in 1958, took 47 days; in 2017, Alex Honnold climbed it in three hours. This vast improvement is due not to better equipment or stronger muscles, but to increased knowledge—of climbing technique, and of El Capitan itself.

>>> Read it

10. Why books don’t work

30 minutes | Andy Matuschak | 2019

Reading informational non-fiction is an unreliable way to learn.

>>> Read it


No tweets this week, since the links section was extra long. I hope you have a fantastic first week of the year!

Until next week,

David


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Linking Out Loud #19

By David Laing

Hello everyone,

A really cool thing happened on Twitter this past week. Venkatesh Rao challenged people to post a tweet promising one opinion on a topic of their choice for every like the tweet gets. Almost a hundred people accepted the challenge, leading to Threadapalooza, a frenzy of brainstorming on topics as diverse as atoms, solitude, living better, mainstream parenting, books and reading, the physics of basketball, and the risks and dangers of trans life. I participated too, and ended up biting off far more than I could chew:

It turns out that it’s really hard to come up with 100 unique insights on a topic, even one you know extremely well. I’ve learned a lot about chess over the past year, but I had to tap out after 40 tweets. Somebody made a visualization of all the threads that were written over the days that followed the initial challenge, showing just how few people made it to 100:

I’ll be taking a break from the newsletter for the next two weeks to spend more time with family over the holidays. I'll also be reflecting on my year and setting some goals for 2020. If you're into doing annual reviews of this sort, check out this great thread of resources from Tasshin Fogleman. Until then: look to my coming, at first light on the second day of January. At dawn, look to your inbox…


// recently read

Fast earners: South Korea's millionaire, celebrity schoolteachers

8 minutes | Anna Fifield | 2015

South Korea's intense focus on standardized testing has led to the rise of extremely rich teachers who offer test preparation online at a massive scale. If it is true that the future is already here but is just unevenly distributed, we will surely see more of this.

>>> Read it

The ladders of wealth creation: a step-by-step roadmap to building wealth

40 minutes | Nathan Barry | 2019

Wealth creation is a skill like any other, with many levels of mastery. It can be thought of as a series of ladders, each harder to climb than the last: trading time for money, running your own service business, selling productized services, and selling products.

>>> Read it

10 years of professional blogging: what I’ve learned

15 minutes | Andrew Chen | 2019

Two lessons that I found particularly interesting:

  1. Titles should pass the "naked share" test: is it worth sharing even if there isn't anything linked to it?

  2. Build essays out of declarative claims sourced from strong agreement or disagreement in conversions and readings.

>>> Read it

A Patel Motel Cartel?

20 minutes | Tunku Varadarajan | 1999

At the time when this article was written, Indian immigrants made up less than 1% of the US population, but owned 51% of all motels in the country. What explains the Indian-American dominance of this economic niche?

>>> Read it

// top tweets

And finally, something that might come in handy soon:

Happy holidays!

David


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Linking Out Loud #18

By David Laing

Hey everyone,

Last week I started reading Douglas Hofstadter’s 1997 book, Le Ton beau de Marot, which is about the beauties and challenges of translation. This theme is explored through the lens of a single, short poem, written by Clément Marot in the early 16th century.

In the first chapter, Hofstadter provides several translations that preserve the literal meaning but none of the structure of the original poem. Armed with these translations, the reader is challenged to produce a ‘true’ translation that does preserve the structure. Challenge accepted: I spent about five hours working on my translation, and it was a blast. I’ll share it with you after I finish the book—I’m planning to write an extensive review.


// recently read

Steve’s Google Platforms Rant

30 minutes | Steve Yegge | 2011

The story, told by an insider, of how Amazon came to be the market leader in cloud computing.

You wouldn't really think that an online bookstore needs to be an extensible, programmable platform. Would you?

Well, the first big thing Bezos realized is that the infrastructure they'd built for selling and shipping books and sundry could be transformed [into] an excellent repurposable computing platform. So now they have the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, and the Amazon Elastic MapReduce, and the Amazon Relational Database Service, and a whole passel o' other services browsable at aws.amazon.com.

>>> Read it

The Car Bundle

15 minutes | Alex Danco | 2019

A fresh take on the economics of car ownership.

Even if you put aside the some of the more emotional or expressive aspects of car ownership (which are powerful in their own right), car ownership is a compelling deal because it bundles together four core jobs, and practically all car owners use them for at least two of these things: commutingshoppingkids, and recreation. If one or two of those tasks are essential for you, the car will hold pretty strong as an indispensable possession for most people, at least in North America.

That’s why ditching car ownership is going to be really unattractive for a lot of people - no matter how attractive you make the alternatives.

>>> Read it

How to write better emails

5 minutes | Lazarus Lazaridis | 2019

Useful advice, with many examples, for writing emails and Slack messages that make it easy for the reader to extract key information.

>>> Read it

Why haven’t you read The Way of Kings (a musing on Goodreads data for predictive power)

5 minutes | nansenamundsen | 2019

A reddit user reflects on the best books he has read in the past ten years, and notices that they all have high (4.3+) average ratings on Goodreads, have thousands of ratings, and are at least a decade old. I checked the books I read this year, and found that their average ratings would have almost perfectly predicted my own ranking of them. I expect I’ll start considering Goodreads data more deliberately when choosing books.

>>> Read it


// top tweets


All the best,

David

davidklaing.com
@davidklaing


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