Mental Pivot

Notes and observations from a lifelong pursuit of learning.

 
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Mental Pivot #36: Personal Progress: Expectation vs. Reality (Web Comic)

Thought I’d try out a completely different format for this week’s opening thought…

Now onto this week’s recommendations and a resumption of normal programming…


What’s Old on the Blog:

How to Save and Read Articles and Long-Form Web Content on a Kindle

I love my Kindle Paperwhite. Not only does it excel at book reading, it's also a great tool for reading news stories and long-form journalism in a distraction-free environment (I’m looking at you smartphone). With the right app, you can easily send articles you find browsing the web to your Kindle and read and annotate them in one place at your leisure. Win-win.

My recommendation? Push to Kindle from FiveFilters. It's available as a native app, browser plugin, and web service. It’s changed how I consume web-content. It might do the same for you.


Articles:

  • 50 (Short) Rules for Life from the Stoics: Ryan Holliday condenses the breadth and depth of Stoicism into a manageable list of key tenets.
  • Belonging Is Stronger than Facts: The Age of Misinformation: A look at three interdependent factors fueling misinformation: 1) tribalism and identity; 2) demagoguery; 3) social media. Per the Bard: "The fault…is not in our stars but in ourselves…"
  • How College Became a Ruthless Competition Divorced from Learning: Daniel Markovits (The Meritocracy Trap) laments the social Darwinism of higher education: "It perverts our culture's understanding of what education is, and makes us forget that schooling has value beyond status seeking." Note that Markovits, Yale and Oxford alumnus, is a product of the elite education system he now decries.
  • If You Want to Make It as a Writer, for God's Sakes, Be Weird: Freddie deBoer offers a good reminder that transcends more than writing: in a crowded market, you must differentiate. Per Henry Ford: "If you always do what you've done, you'll always get what you've got." It's a lesson I struggle with.
  • New Technology Has Enabled Cybercrime on an Industrial Scale: Digital scams are a growth industry: robocalls, email spoofing, illegal gambling, crypto-theft, ransomware, and more. "Why walk into a bank with a sawn off shotgun to steal £30,000 when…you can start a ransomeware campaign and make millions?" [Note: The Economist paywalls its articles, so I'm linking to the copy on archive.is which has an annoying interstitial CAPTCHA hurdle.]
  • On Substack, You Can Never Go too Far: Helen Lewis critiques personality-driven journalism and reminds us that, much like Neil Postman, media is often more about entertainment than substance, even when it takes great pains to appear as the latter.
  • Politics and the English Language: George Orwell was both smart and prescient. In this 1946 essay, he takes aim at the incompetence and ambiguousness of modern prose. Among the culprits: lame metaphors, failure to use simple verbs, pretentious diction, and meaningless words. I wonder how many sins I've committed in this newsletter (yikes).
  • The Ultimate Guide to Inflation: The "I" word has been in the news of late, so it makes sense to equip yourself with a reasonable understanding of the types of inflation, risks, and repercussions.
  • Why Do Older Individuals Have Greater Control of Their Feelings?: A short interview with psychologist Susan Turk Charles whose research examines how we experience and process emotions as we grow older. Physical and cognitive capabilities might decline, but emotional regulation improves (something to look forward to—maybe).

Podcasts

  • The 21st Rewrite: It's described by its host, William Caldwell, as an "in-depth screenwriting podcast." I'm no screenwriter, and thankfully you don't need to be one to enjoy Caldwell and his guests' insightful analysis on effective storytelling. Bonus: you can interact with the host directly via the social podcast app, Syncify. Look for user @21st_Rewrite.
  • Conversations with Coleman: How to Think with Julia Galef: Galef is the cofounder of the Center for Applied Rationality and author of The Scout Mindset. The conversation focuses on intelligence vs. truth-seeking, tribalism, epistemology vs. instrumental rationality, and personal identity footprints.
  • The Line: "In 2018, a group of Navy SEALs broke ranks and accused their chief, Eddie Gallagher, of murder—sucking them all into the biggest war crimes trial in a generation." This 6-episode series hosted by Dan Tabersky examines how blurred the line between right and wrong is in war. Enthralling, thought-provoking, and surprisingly balanced. This is my top pick for this week.

Odds & Ends:

Longtime readers of this newsletter know that I love a good reading list. I shared my proposed list for 2021 at the start of the year in Issue #18. Here's a quartet of compelling lists that might inspire your reading habit or help bolster your personal reading list:

  • So You Want to Study Philosophy: Susan Rigetti's reading list for the amateur philosophy enthusiast. She includes accessible introductory books, tips on how to read and study effectively, and a full-blown curriculum covering all the major branches of philosophy (epistemology, metaphysics, logic, etc.). Rigetti has also written a popular reading guide on physics (she also has a forthcoming guide on mathematics coming soon).
  • Hacker News Books: Hacker News (HN) is a fantastic community for startup and tech geeks like me. This site aggregates book mentions and conversations from HN into reading lists that can be filtered by week, month, and all-time. While business, science, and programming books are well-represented, there are always some interesting selections listed outside those expected subjects.
  • The Greatest Books of All Time: This “list of lists” was generated from 129 other book lists. As such, it largely consists of literary classics (e.g., Joyce, Cervantes, Tolstoy). It’s a boon for fiction readers. You can view the constituent 129 lists here.
  • The Liberal Arts Crash Course: Jamie Paul's list of 25 books (plus 25 bonus titles) is designed for its applicability to (American) politics and public discourse, per the author. There are some gaps in this list, but in all fairness, curating a short-list like this is a highly subjective editorial exercise.
  • Visualizing SEP is a clever frontend for exploring the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (recommended in Issue #32) through a graphical interface that highlights the interconnections between individual topics and articles.
  • Trove.to is a neat tool for curated discovery. Reminds me of the explosion of user-generated list-creation tools from the Web 2.0 era. Everything old is new again, or something like that.

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