Cubicles are Bullshit

There is a place inside every American middle and high school that misbehaving students are sent for rehabilitation. It’s called ‘In-School Suspension,’ or I.S.S. The method of this punishment is that unruly kids are taken out of regular classrooms and placed in a quiet room with desks that have ‘privacy’ walls – the idea being that if they can’t see other students they won’t be provoked to interact with them and disrupt the teacher’s authority. An enforcer sits in the room, overseeing everyone to make sure they aren’t just sleeping. Actual school work is expected to be completed during this time. What no one tells these kids, as they sit in I.S.S., is that they are getting a lesson of much greater utility than they realize – they’re being taught how to sit in a cubicle, which very many of them will inevitably end up doing once they become adults. As far as interior design goes, the differences between sitting in I.S.S. and working in …

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the Obstacle is the Way

Ryan Holiday, ‘The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art Of Turning Trials Into Triumph.’  2014 Portfolio Hardcover, 224 p.  Holiday’s premise, and that of the philosophers whom he quotes rigorously, is that any challenge in life is best met head on. I was immediately intrigued by the book’s brash attitude. Over and over again, the point was made that obstacles, challenges and trials are essential to the human experience, and attempting to live without them or constantly avoid them is meaningless and harmful. Breaking the philosophy into three distinct methods, he highlights Perspective, Action, and Will as the means to defeat any hardship. Perspective, the first, defines how to approach a setback. It is the “fundamental notion that girds not just Stoic philosophy but cognitive psychology: Perspective is everything.” Take an obstacle for what it is: not how it makes you feel, what it might imply for the future, what its cause may have …

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I’m actually wearing pants right now

I  just finished reading ‘The Year Without Pants,’ written by a Scott Berkun, a former manager at WordPress.com. It’s an in-the-weeds tale of life at a distributed (remote work) company, something anybody who has ever sat in a cubicle fantasizes about. I picked the book up because I wanted to know more about working from home, and whether it’s a realistic alternative.   I love WordPress, the company, which is a great way to write, receive feedback, and share my thoughts with whoever wants to read them. As a user of their products I totally endorse their mission and what they stand for. But a few things about the story make me think the author wasn’t completely sold on working remotely all of the time.   The story finishes with the writer’s departure from the company, only a few years after starting. To me, this makes a pretty big statement. He doesn’t really elaborate on his decision to leave, aside …

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the Four Hour “Lorem Ipsum”

What would I do with the extra thirty-six if I only had to work for four hours, every week? In Tim Ferris’ book, The Four Hour Workweek, the answer to that question is given less attention than the ‘how-to’ guide for finding oneself in such a quandary. As he recounts his own experience, the author presents the alternative ‘new rich’ lifestyle of time spent dwelling nomadically through Europe, learning languages, and adopting several new ‘kinesthetic’ activities per year as the alternative to cubicle-dwelling wage slavery. For a creative mind, some of the ideas might be poisonous to accept – Ferris proposes a ‘physical product’ driven business as the only path to a life of R&R; he argues that selling widgets, gidgets and gadgets is the easiest framework for removing oneself from the day-to-day operations of a financial enterprise. Artists, singers, athletes, counselors, teachers, beware – there are no four hour workweeks in your future, if you can’t outsource …

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Three Books About Computers

I’ve been reading some more essays on software engineering and computer programming lately, from the three following books. Here’s a brief synopsis and some of my thoughts on each: Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age – Douglas Rushkoff The back jacket of this book describes Douglas Rushkoff as an author and media theorist – not as a programmer, which should be a yellow flag for anyone coming to this text looking for pragmatic programming advice. That said, he offers an easily digestible summary of trends in internet technology, and where he thinks society as a whole would benefit most if certain standards of thought were subscribed to in the future. Many of his concepts are agreeable, if a little alarmist. (Which is okay, because I think I might be turning into a bit of an alarmist myself.) I think the most important message Rushkoff is trying …

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on the ‘Tubes’

Now that much of the tactile interaction we have with the internet are completely wireless, it’s easy to forget that the ‘Web’ is actually a giant physical network of cables, wires, tunnels, and tubes. Andrew Blum’s book ‘Tubes’ digs into the physical infrastructure that makes up the internet and illuminates the nooks and crannies where all of our Facebook likes and Netflix Queues are speeding around the globe. What was originally a system of cables used to transmit telegrams and connect telephones has morphed into a data network of immense proportion. Massive and monolithic, switching stations and data centers placed at geographically efficient coordinates quietly store and transmit the exponentially growing glut of information that we create and consume every day. This book is the story of the ‘unsung heroes’ who get their hands dirty connecting all the pipes, dredging out the tunnels, and sailing long voyages to lay the …

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a Year Without Books, Maybe

Everyone seems to have a theory about how to interact with books, from Kafka and his “frozen sea” to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – “Put down that book you’re using as a shield.” I’m turning 29 next week, which means I’ve got one year left before I’m thirty. Thirty is about five years away from senility and a wheelchair, according to my research. For most of my twenties, I’ve been an impressively compulsive reader. I have a dozen books I’m half-reading at any given time, and I’m on Amazon once a week filling up my shopping cart with more that I don’t buy, or do and don’t have time to read. I hear an interview with an author on NPR and decide their book is exactly what I need to understand my life at this precise moment, or I’m provoked after stumbling on a subject I had never considered before. I download …

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on Taking Sips (of Books) (part 2)

Last May, I published a list of all the books (42) I had sampled on Kindle.  The editors of WordPress featured the post on the ‘Freshly Pressed’ section of the WP homepage, bringing thousands of readers here and prompting hundreds of comments. The suggestions that readers left the comments were helpful, but not totally followed. From the first list of samples, I ended up buying 6 of the books – 5 on the Kindle, and one in paperback. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien What Technology Wants – Kevin Kelly Aleph – Paulo Coelho Alone Together – Sherry Turkle Beautiful Testing – Adam Goucher The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis Two I finished reading – Lewis and Turkle – the rest I’ve begun but haven’t finished. (Tolkien 35%, Kelly 51%, Coelho 17%, Goucher 77%) I’ve also finished  probably 15 others that weren’t sampled or on the list. I have continued my habit …

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