The value of feedback depends on how you use it

I had a school friend who worked on Saturdays at the local op shop. Whenever an item of clothing she liked came in, she’d put it on view somewhere prominent near the front of the store. If it stayed there unsold for three weeks, then - and only then - she’d consider buying it herself. The result was a fairly unique style - bargain clothing that people who shop in op shops wouldn’t be seen dead in.

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Raising babies? Here's how to survive - I mean, enjoy it

Ben Werdmuller may not be alone in finding it quite a challenge raising a baby while also having a life. Here are some thoughts from my own experience of parenting very young children. tldr; I think I just about got away with it. It’s just a phase First, you will get through it. Though the feeling of being (over-) stretched and (completely) grounded may seem permanent, it really is just a short phase of your life.

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Conducting myself properly

They made me the student leader of the school orchestra. One day the music teacher was sick and he asked me to conduct. I had no idea what to do, except what I’d seen him doing. So I waved my arms around. Today I’m fragmented, overwhelmed by what there is still to complete, and also by all there is to start. Somewhere in the middle, there I am, lost between starting and finishing.

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The real story of Napoleon?

If you’re thinking of viewing Ridley Scott’s movie version of Napoleon 🍿, or if you’ve already seen it, I’d recommend also reading The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. 📚 This Pulitzer prizewinning biography puts Napoleon’s life and times in historical context and it’s an amazing story. The ‘black count’ of the title was Alexandre Dumas, father of the famous author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

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Why I'm writing faster

Why do you write? Everyone has their reasons but I write so I can think: Writing is not simply a way of saying what someone knows but one of the most effective ways to unveil what there is to say. As Baker (1985) suggests, “in fact, writing creates a thought and the capacity to think: with writing you discover thoughts that you barely knew you had” Baker, S. (1985).

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Publish first, write later

Even a flightless bird may contemplate the constant flight forward “Literature is perhaps nothing more complicated and glorious than the act of writing and publishing, and publishing again and again." - Marcelo Ballvé, on the curious writing career of César Aira César Aira on the constant flight forward Argentinian author César Aira’s writing process is more about action than reflection. Here’s an extract from The Literary Alchemy of César Aira, an essay by Marcelo Ballvé, originally published in The Quarterly Conversation in 2008.

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Whether I’m a tortoise or a hare, or a person who resists anthropomorphizing animals just for the sake of a cheap fable, or even a person who’s uncomfortable with competition metaphors, all the same I’m running my own race. ✍️

Having posted Choose your own race and finish it there’s no excuse now not to boost this:

“What kind of runner can run as fast as they possibly can from the very start of a race?"

Choose your own race and finish it

Are you Hare or Tortoise? The idea of writing slowly appeals to me because it comes from Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise. Perhaps you remember it. The hare challenges the tortoise to a race, which he’s obviously the favourite to win. Everyone knows a hare moves much faster than a tortoise. As expected, the hare shoots ahead, then slows for a well-deserved rest, since there’s no way the tortoise will ever catch up.

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yeah, no, that didn’t work. Back to the drawing board. Or whatever board is needed for my wicked plans of social media subversion via POSSE to see the success they so richly deserve.

I’m a big fan of the POSSE approach - Post Once, Subvert Social networks Everywhere. I think that’s what it stands for. Anyway, if I’ve done the plumbing correctly, this will appear on BlueSky, and Mastodon, as well as . But then I’m completely unlicenced so we’ll see

Well I’ve signed up to BlueSky. Dislike sociopathic ‘social’ networks at the whim of seed(y) capital. But I really liked what Paul Frazee did with Beaker Browser (RIP). He’s a leading BS creator (that’s unfortunate!), so I’m willing to test it. Just my feed, mind - I’m still writing slowly.

A blue sky with small white clouds, above a green landscape of fruit trees

A history of thinking on paper

It’s hard to describe how exciting it was to receive in the mail this morning: The Notebook by Roland Allen! 📚 The subtitle is excellent: A History of Thinking on Paper. This reminded me of Walter Ong’s claim about the decisive impact of writing, as a technology, upon the very shape of thought: “Without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does, not only when engaged in writing but normally even when it is composing its thoughts in oral form.

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Finished reading: Movement by Thalia Verkade 📚This is for everyone who’d like to get around their home town better.

In eight different ways, to have a friend is to be one

A few years ago, Barking Up The Wrong Tree reflected on research 1 that identified the eight different kinds of friends you need. But it struck me that this is really a primer on the eight different kinds of friend you need to be to others. Remember the old saying, “to have a friend is to be one”? Well there’s more than one way you can be a friend to someone and you’re probably not making the most of all your opportunities here.

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How to make the most of surprising yourself

Your collection of linked notes, your Zettelkasten, isn’t a ‘second brain’, as though it were separate from your first, actual brain. Rather it is part of your extended mind, which your brain creates constantly by co-opting its wider environment into its own processing activity. Brain and environment together create mind. In the case of the Zettelkasten it’s a very deliberate extension of the brain, with a few simple but powerful generative rules.

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Finished reading: The Circle of the Way by Barbara O’Brien 📚 Plenty of wide-ranging information in this survey of Zen Buddhism, with an international perspective. I discovered plenty I didn’t know, but now want to read more about the impact of modernity on Zen, which could only really be touched on in a book with such a wide historical sweep as this one. This will be on my list: McMahan, David L., The Making of Buddhist Modernism (New York, 2009; online edn, Oxford Academic, 1 Jan. 2009),…

Finished reading: The Real Work by Adam Gopnik 📚A great section on the art of magic and the significance of S.W. Erdnase’s book, The Expert at the Card Table. Apparently, when magicians want to learn a new trick from the top expert, they ask, “Who has the real work?” It’s a useful question, and not just for magic tricks. Gopnik, long a masterly writer, tries his hand at a series of *new * skills, including driving, making bread, dancing, and alarmingly, urinating in public. That last one does make sense, but you have to read the book to find out why. I also found out that when a magician catches a bullet, it’s real. Sometimes, the trick is that you have to catch the bullet.

I’ve written more about this book: What is the real work of serendipity?

It strikes me that one significant feature of mastery is to be able to spot a lucky opportunity and then make something of it. The expert can’t help but see it. Everyone else would miss this chance moment, or else be unable to execute the essential implementation.

Learning to make notes like Leonardo

Leonardo wrote on loose sheets of paper The Codex Arundel, a notebook of Leonardo Da Vinci, is not what it first appears. It isn’t a notebook that Leonardo used. For the man himself it wasn’t a notebook at all. It’s a collection of individual notes, bound for convenience only after his death. The British Library webpage observes: “The structure of the notebook reveals that it was not originally a bound volume.

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Discovering the music of Kyle Shepherd

🎵 As part of the Sydney Opera House 50th Birthday celebrations there was a staging of South African artist/director William Kentridge’s amazing piece, Waiting for the Sibyl. Costume, dance, song, piano, animation, shadow-play. Is it actually an opera? Well I suppose you have to call it something, even though like much of Kentridge’s work it feels sui generis. There is layer upon layer of meaning and reference, exploring the uncertainty of fate in the face of certain mortality , from classical Greek mythology, to Calder’s mobiles, to a decidedly unstable art gallery, to Kentridge’s doppelganger, to ersatz South African gold mining, to Dante, to Dada, to the banality and profundity of communication.

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