Interpretation of dreams
Few things make my ears hurt more than listening to an untrained violinist. It’s insufferable. On the contrary, hearing a skilled violinist is a delight, perhaps second only to an expert piano player.
I listened to an accomplished violinist by accident recently. I was working. My window was open. It was raining. And then it started: a faint viola. A good one. It played for a solid hour without hitting a single stray note. It was the best live performance I’ve heard in a while.
I wonder if the player even knew their was an audience. I hope they practice again soon.
Readers: What’s your favorite unaccompanied solo instrument?
You can find it here. Have a great weekend, everyone.
Ultimate Ears Boom
Reporting for Fox, here are 7 low-tech goods I’ve enjoyed this year.
“The Princess Bride” 20th Century Fox
As a writer, I sometimes get reader mail.
Most of it relates to typos. Some of it relates to disagreement or additional viewpoints. On occasion, I even get fan mail—how lovely.
As for typo-related mail, most of that is really nice. “Hey, Blake. Enjoyed your story on [insert popular story here]. Noticed a typo, however, and thought I’d share.”
Some of it gives me the benefit of the doubt. “Hi, Blake. Perhaps your spellcheck mistakenly changed ‘espoused’ to ‘expelled’?”
“No, kind reader,” I’ll reply. “My bad diction stuck again. Thanks for keeping me honest.”
Still, some of the mail I receive is unforgiving. As if my mistakes should disbar me from contributing to mainstream media. As if I should master English before using it to articulate a point, tell a story, answer a question, or inspire change. Continue reading…
In addition to sporadic columns and the upcoming book, I’m publishing the first episode of The Offline Podcast today to help spread the message. Here’s what you can expect from the show: Continue reading…
“I see the way people use smartphones as a phenomenon that looks to me like a publicly-accepted decline in the way people interact with each other.”—Peter Cohen via Josh Steimle
From the singer/songwriter of one of my favorite aught bands, Grandaddy. Made with a dash of Rentals.
In an effort to reduce the spam I email to friends and family, take this:
My household is in the minority. We don’t use our iPad much, preferring instead smartphones, TV apps, and good old-fashioned laptops with keyboards.
That changed this week when I discovered an accessory that transformed the family iPad into something mesmerizing. A simple, $10 wall dock. Adhere it to the wall. Slip in any old tablet, enable slideshow mode, and voila! The device becomes useful wall art.
Since assembling the dock, I’ve caught most members of the family staring at, smiling at, and enjoying the iPad for extending periods of time, thanks to the 10 years of photographic evidence on display. It’s the best way I know to move albums from a hard drive into the living room.
“I don’t mean to alarm you, but she may have brain cancer.”
That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard as a parent. Uttered to me by a confused pediatrician after failing to diagnose my two year-old daughter for the umpteenth time, the sentence dashed my hopes and struck fear in me like no other.
It started like this. Two weeks prior, my daughter began vomiting in her sleep. Curiously, she would upchuck like clockwork — three hours after bed. After a few days, she begin dropping weight. Her eyes sunk in. She looked sicker than any of my children had before. Continue reading…
Humans are usually influenced in one of six ways, argues Robert Cialdini in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I suspect there are a lot more subtle and intricate ways to influence, but I think Cialdini certainly covered the highlights in his popular book published in 1984. They are as follows:
- Reciprocity. Humans feel obligated to return favors and gifts, even unwelcome ones—which partially explains why their are so many free samples in life. Hence, giving away something for free is an effective way to influence. You can avoid this influence by distinguishing uninvited gifts from welcome ones. For example, “I didn’t want this free food sample to being with, so I won’t feel obligated in giving you anything in return if I take it. Another thing to beware of are unwelcome concessions; say a door-to-door salesman that asks you to donate a large sum to a cause you aren’t interested in, only to lower the donation amount in the hopes you’ll donate something. The takeaway: Don’t donate unless you want to, not because someone is seemingly compromising. Continue reading…
In a market economy, I believe state run economic development can sometimes be a good thing. But I suspect it’s usually a bad thing. Here’s why, in which a Rhode Island state treasurer cautioned against backing a celebrity owned company that would ultimately become a $75 million bath for taxpayers:
“In general, I would proceed very carefully on this. [The company] is in the Boston area where there are 200 venture capital firms, and it is in a very hot area of gaming so if it were in fact a compelling investment I would have to think it would be well funded already by venture capitalist; the fact that many have looked at it and passed is a red flag.” Continue reading…
I was asked to compile a list of my top 25 songs for a recent family reunion. Here it is for all to see.
As for my methodology, I didn’t submit a single political or consensus vote (i.e. notice no Beatles songs or critically acclaimed “Smells like Teen Spirit”). I only picked songs that are personal favorites; great songs that have special meaning to me, even if some of them are admittedly inferior to others not included on this list. And since my remembering self is biased, the list skews to recent favorites.
Enjoy. Continue reading…
Why are suckers born every minute? How can we explain “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is“? Why are humans encouraged to “think twice” before doing things? And why do we judge “books” by their covers?
The answers to those questions and many more can be found in Daniel Kahneman’s eye-opening book, Thinking Fast and Slow. It’s a fascinating, enlightening, and scientifically accessible read.
After decades of research, Kahneman discovered that the brain makes decisions in two ways. The first is system 1 thinking—the fast, almost involuntary, and largely gut-based decision-making required to operate. It quickly processes tasks like “eat this, pick up that, move out of the way,” and even, “stay alive.” System 1 makes hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions each day and is the “hero of the book,” says Kahneman. System 1 gets things done.
System 2, on the other hand, is slow to engage, deliberate, and lazy. It deals with doubt, uncertainty, statistics, and heavy cognitive loads like writing, performing surgery, solving advanced math—anything that requires intense focus, really. System 2 is not emotional. It’s the part of your brain that questions the source, asks for hard numbers to back up claims, and is innately critical. It deems things guilty until proven innocent. Continue reading…
Last month, iTunes shuffled a humble group of songs to my playlist and with them a wave of nostalgia.
The tracks themselves aren’t much, just old, amateur recordings from a short-lived college band I played in. Before iTunes recalled them, I hadn’t heard them in almost a decade.
But they ain’t bad, either. I played drums. My good friend Robert played bass. And the older brother and manager (Hi, Mac!) from the singer of Imagine Dragons played guitar. That totally sounded like the 31 Flavors girl from Ferris Bueller or Chunk from Goonies, but whatever. Continue reading…
Build character, not intelligence. That’s the gist of what parents, educators, and society should do to help children succeed, argues Paul Tough in his new book.
Many of Tough’s “findings” are obvious, mind you. More scientific validation of common sense than childrearing enlightenment, at least for balanced parents.
Nevertheless, Tough succeeds in synthesizing some important focal points for raising upstanding kids. Here they are, with my added commentary:
- Let children fail. It’s tempting to want to force a child to learn from yours and other’s mistakes. Life doesn’t work that way. You should certainly own up to your mistakes while showing them others’ and hope the child listens. But you must respect a child’s right to fail. It’s the only way they’ll feel the full experience of life. Let them own their failures as much as society lets them own (if not coddles) their victories. And let them know that failure is not who they are, it’s just something they do en route to winning. Continue reading…
Like many of you, I go through food phases. Here’s what I’m particularly keen on eating, making, and cooking right now: Continue reading…
If you’re reading this, you’ve successfully traversed a foreign array of tubes, electrons, and cyberspace servers to my new home.
As you can see, it’s all about “me, me, me” now. It’s a vain attempt to self-promote more and a concerted effort to reduce the number of people that mistakenly call me “Harold.”
It was time. 2007 was the last time I redesigned this eight year-old website.
So I updated a bunch of stuff and added new pages of interest, including: Continue reading…
The following people are giants in my eyes. Without their supportive shoulders and encouraging spirit, I would be at a disadvantage: Continue reading…
The consultant I paid (Hi, Josh!) to tell me what I already knew — and I’d do it again with a 10 foot pole… Am I saying that right? — said I needed to promote myself more. To that end, here are a few work-related accomplishments I’m proud of:
- Have written for half of the top 20 U.S. media (dozens more in the top 100)
- Have worked for a handful of Fortune 100 companies, dozens of Fortune 500 ones, and some of the coolest little guys I know. Continue reading…