Category Archives: Friends, Family, Life

Life Lessons from Programming: Check your assumptions

Jon Udell wrote a short piece that resonated with me on taking a principle from software engineering and applying it to discourse and relationships: “Check your assumptions”.

He takes the idea that when debugging, you should:

Focus on understanding why the program is doing what it’s doing, rather than why it’s not doing what you wanted it to.

And translating that to:

Focus on understanding why your spouse or child or friend or political adversary is doing what he or she is doing, rather than why he or she is not doing what you wanted him or her to.

That flips your behavior from one that is trying to modify someone else’s behavior to someone that is listening actively.

Pretty profound.

What other examples of this to think about?

New Year, New Beginnings

We’re almost at the start of a new year and saying it is a great time to reflect is such a cliche. But cliches have a great deal of truth to them, that’s why they persist.

I wanted to post the following for those entering the new year, and might be wondering, what’s next, what should I do, or what is my place.

Rahul Bijlani: “You Are Not Running Out of Time or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Began Enjoying Infinity”:

Ironically, when I started to cross some of my own personal benchmarks, I discovered that something was very wrong – I kept moving the goalposts.

I think I have the ultimate business plan, and nobody is running out of time any time soon.

Bill Watterson: “Kenyon College Commencement”:

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive.

Roz Duffy: “here and now”:

So if I said the other day to just show up, today I’m suggesting (mostly to myself), enjoy the present moment. Take it all in, look at it, laugh at it, and just be all up in it.

NYTimes: Tara Parker-Poke: “Laws of Physics Can’t Trump the Bonds of Love”:

“There is something a lot greater than energy. There’s something a lot greater than entropy. What’s the greatest thing?”

YouTube: zefrank: “An Invocation for Beginnings”:

David Remnick’s profile of Springsteen at sixty-two a meditation on age and passion

New Yorker: David Remnick: We Are Alive: Bruce Springsteen at sixty-two:

“You are isolated, yet you desire to talk to somebody,” Springsteen said. “You are very disempowered, so you seek impact, recognition that you are alive and that you exist. We hope to send people out of the building we play in with a slightly more enhanced sense of what their options might be, emotionally, maybe communally. You empower them a little bit, they empower you. It’s all a battle against the futility and the existential loneliness! It may be that we are all huddled together around the fire and trying to fight off that sense of the inevitable. That’s what we do for one another.”

Katherine Goldstein “fell in love with a computer nerd and ended up marrying a rock star”

I loved reading Katherine Goldstein’s story at Salon about her marriage to Travis Morrison, and the surprise different world she became part of:

As a kid, I imagined many things for my life. Marrying a rock star was not one of them. I appreciate and enjoy music, but have no passionate or fanatical interest in it. I don’t know any obscure bands and can’t talk knowledgeably about any artist’s “catalog.” I don’t particularly like going to see live music that much—it’s too loud, and I get too tired….

I started dating Travis Morrison, a computer programmer who worked at my company in early 2010. We got to know each other through chatting at the lunch table. We were the only people in our small office who regularly brought in food from home. I had the vaguest recollection that I had heard from a colleague he had been in some kind of famous band, but I didn’t really know the details..

Make sure to read the rest of the story.

Want to help grow empathy and fight self-centeredness?

There have been more than a few reports outlining a decline of empathy, but did you know (or maybe forget that) reading literature can help you experience another person’s life through reading? A recent study found that it is true (wow, I actually wrote that sentence here and probably deserve some shame.. anyways…).

While the story in Psychology Today is centered on business, it must still be true that the stories we tell our children have impact. Read with them, and read them stories that help them see the world for what it is and can be.

If you are in financial distress and can’t see the immediate value, know that in addition, literature can provide a gateway to other humanities, which is leverage that help navigate the world. Earl Shorris, who recently passed away, and whose book, “The Art of Freedom: Teaching the Humanities to the Poor” will be published in 2013, said the following:

Numerous forces—hunger, isolation, illness, landlords, police, abuse, neighbors, drugs, criminals, and racism, among many others—exert themselves on the poor at all times and enclose them, making up a “surround of force” from which, it seems, they cannot escape. I had come to understand that this was what kept the poor from being political and that the absence of politics in their lives was what kept them poor. I don’t mean “political” in the sense of voting in an election but in the way Thucydides used the word: to mean activity with other people at every level, from the family to the neighborhood to the broader community to the city-state.

Read the whole article: Harpers: Earl Shorris: As a weapon in the hands of the restless poor”

We focus so much on teaching concrete skills in school, as a means to an end, to get a job, but having that as the lone purpose of education is a mistake. I don’t know where I’d be without the books I’d find myself reading way back when. I had thought they were a means to escape whatever was going on my life thru my imagination, and sure, they were, but it turns out they helped me immeasurably in every day life and still do to this day.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

The famous quoted passage from John Donne below has been brought up a few times the past few weeks. Here is the whole: “Meditation 17″:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.