What I learned this week, November 26, 2021

A group of friends in front of the Dallas Museum of Art, night, long exposure

How To Navigate Friendship As An Adult

I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot lately—forming new ones, strengthening old ones, letting go of broken ones. I’ve been thinking about it a lot because I’m of the age where my friends are entering into different areas of their lives: getting married, buying houses, considering having kids. And, as such, it feels harder to maintain the same connection we had when we weren’t bogged down by responsibility.

Worshipping a New God.
Worshipping a New God.

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

One of the cool things is that you could go down into a pit area and look at what was left of the vehicles after they ran their race. If their was enough left in one piece you could even sit in the driver’s seat and get your picture taken. Or you could talk to the drivers. For some reason this driver, from a cheese-wedge shaped car that made it down quickly in one piece, seemed very popular in the pits.

Good conversations take time and attention. Here’s how to have better ones

Having good conversations — with strangers or with your closest friends — is an art. It requires attention, something that’s in high demand these days.

Celeste Headlee has spent her adult life talking. She’s a longtime radio and podcast host, and even did a TED Talk about how to have a good conversation. But she says she was terrible at talking to people when she was younger.

Here are her biggest pieces of advice:


The Science Behind Why We Procrastinate—and How to Stop the Cycle

From making a doctor’s appointment to doing speedwork, new research digs into the reason we put things off.

Electric bicycles, better known as e-bikes, have moved from novelty to mainstream with breathtaking speed. They’ve been a boon to hard-working delivery persons during the pandemic (and their impatient customers), and commuters who don’t care to be a sweaty mess when they arrive. And while the scoffing tends to center around the “purity” of cycling—the idea that e-bike riders are somehow lazy cheaters—that electric assist is actually luring people off the couch for healthy exercise. That’s especially welcome for older or out-of-practice riders (which describes a whole lot of folks) who might otherwise avoid cycling entirely, put off by daunting hills or longer distances.

The Many Lives of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974.
Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974. Michael Putland/Getty Images

In the late 1970s, Leonard Cohen sat down to write a song about god, sex, love, and other mysteries of human existence that bring us to our knees for one reason or another. The legendary singer-songwriter, who was in his early forties at the time, knew how to write a hit: He had penned “Suzanne,” “Bird on the Wire,” “Lover, Lover, Lover,” and dozens of other songs for both himself and other popular artists of the time. But from the very beginning, there was something different about what would become “Hallelujah”—a song that took five years and an estimated 80 drafts for Cohen to complete.

Smoke, steam, and sulfur dioxide coming out of the volcano, Masaya, Nicaragua.

We All Nearly Missed The Largest Underwater Volcano Eruption Ever Detected

She was flying home from a holiday in Samoa when she saw it through the airplane window: a “peculiar large mass” floating on the ocean, hundreds of kilometres off the north coast of New Zealand.

I have a new place I just added to my Bucket List: Pyramiden

Note that this place is literally at the end of the earth – and yet, at a restaurant – he can pay with his Apple Watch.

More Things I learned this week, November 17, 2021

Writing in my Moleskine Journal outside the Mojo Lounge, Decatur Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

The Life-Changing Magic Of Bullet Journaling

I’m a skeptic about many things, and this definitely includes any methods or products that promise to be “life-changing” or “magical.” It’s not that I don’t want to believe that my life can be changed by a particularly thorough reorganization of my sock drawer, or that magic plays some part in how I arrange my bookshelves, but what I’ve tended to find with any attempts to relaunch my way of living, thanks to internet-approved organizing tips, is that the results are, more often than not, prosaic rather than magical and that instead of changing dramatically, my life simply shifts forward incrementally, as it probably was prone to do anyway.

Woman writing in a Moleskine Notebook, Wichita, Kansas

A Brief History of the Cheez-It

America’s iconic orange cracker turns 100 this year

The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of the Fanny Pack

McKeown/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
McKeown/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Back in 1954, Sports Illustrated ran an advertisement for a leather pouch that was touted as an ideal accessory for cross-country skiers who wanted to hold their lunch and ski wax. Hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists could also benefit from this waist-mounted sack, which was a bit like a backpack situated on the hips.

Downtown Dallas, Texas

Cities that grow themselves

They are spreading like branching plants across the globe. Should we rein cities in or embrace their biomorphic potential?

View Skyward, near the Pearl/Arts District DART station, Dallas, Texas

Hundreds of gibberish papers still lurk in the scientific literature

The nonsensical computer-generated articles, spotted years after the problem was first seen, could lead to a wave of retractions.

Sailboats on White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX

Bald Eagles at White Rock Lake Ruffle Feathers of Feds, City of Dallas

The pair has built a nest. Now we humans have to figure out how to protect it.

Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market Waco, Texas

Tiger King 2: the hit Netflix series returns with more bonkers tales from the world of big cat owners

What I learned this week, November 12, 2021

Riace Warriors, I,II,III,IV, Elisabeth Frink, he Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

3 Things No One Ever Told You About Making Friends in Adulthood

There are lots of bits of advice you probably weren’t given growing up. How to budget your money. How to know if you should marry the person you’re dating. How to make or break a habit.

Also assuredly on that list: How to make friends in adulthood.

Fullmoon Bicycle Ride, Dallas, Texas

The Mental Health Benefits of Doing Real Things

Activities such as lifting weights, hiking, or even woodworking teach us humility and keep us grounded in reality

Fall Colors University of Texas at Dallas Richardson, Texas (click to enlarge)

Psychology: how developing a ‘quiet mind’ can help improve your mental health for autumn

When we think about the autumn and winter seasons, we often envisage a peaceful scene. It’s a time where we seek cosiness and wrap ourselves up against the elements, a comforting hot chocolate and weighted blanket never too far away from our reach.

But despite the changing leaves and general feeling of happy hibernation, they are also seasons of great stress, too.

Bluetooth Keyboard and my phone.

Technology has given people more ways to connect, but has it also given them more opportunities to lie?

You might text your friend a white lie to get out of going to dinner, exaggerate your height on a dating profile to appear more attractive, or invent an excuse to your boss over email to save face.

Campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

Hike farther and faster with these training tips

Hiking isn’t just a long walk in the woods.

Sacrifice III, Lipchitz, Jacques, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Why philosophy needs myth

Some see Plato as a pure rationalist, others as a fantastical mythmaker. His deft use of stories tells a more complex tale

Reflecting pool, Art District, Dallas, Texas

Travel Is No Cure for the Mind

It’s just another day… and you’re just doing what you need to do.

You’re getting things done, and the day moves forward in this continuous sequence of checklists, actions, and respites.

But at various moments of your routine, you pause and take a good look at your surroundings.

The scenes of your everyday life. The blur of this all-too-familiar film.

And you can’t help but to wonder…

If there is more to it all.

What I learned this week, November 5, 2021

Woman writing in a Moleskine Notebook, Wichita, Kansas

Want to Retain Information Better? Try This Popular, 70-Year-Old Note-Taking Method

Anyone who has ever attended a keynote, lecture, or presentation of any kind knows how important it is to take good notes. How many times have you been at a presentation for work and afterward wished you had written down that key idea that you somehow can’t remember?

A while back, in my corporate days, I was experiencing this far too often. So I went back to my college days and pulled out a note-taking method I used to use, one of the most popular note-taking methods of all time, the “Cornell Note-taking System.” It’s named after a Cornell University educator who invented the system in the 1940s. Here’s how it works, as explained on the Cornell System official website.

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park, Dallas, Texas

Burn, baby, burn: the new science of metabolism

Scientists believe that the answer lies in the workings of our metabolism, the complex set of chemical reactions in our cells, which convert the calories we eat into the energy our body requires for breathing, maintaining organ functions, and generally keeping us alive.

There was live music at the start.

On not being afraid of failure

Composer Danny Elfman discusses venturing into new territory, taking criticism with a grain of salt, and the difficulty of understanding your own creative process.

Child’s Water Feature, Waxahatchie, Texas

How to make your anxiety work for you instead of against you

Anxiety is energy, and you can strike the right balance if you know what to look for.

Passage from Moby Dick, text marked out to form a found poem.

“Sorry, I only just got this!” The reality of navigating life as a bad replier

I am a self-confessed ‘bad replier’ – if I could add an out-of-office to my phone which would tell all of my friends to expect a reply within five to seven working days, I would. 

Trophy from the Gravity’s Rainbow Challenge. Yes, I read the whole thing.

Umberto Eco and His Theories and Practices

I am ploughing through “Foucault’s Pendulum” with my Difficult Reading Book Club. There is surprisingly little useful information out there on what is really going on.

The Most Common Type of Incompetent Leader

More Things I learned this week, November 1, 2021

Something In front of Braindead Brewing Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

The Empty Brain

Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

Unexpected phone calls: confessions of people who hate answering the phone

This one goes out to anyone who has ever pretended they can’t hear their ringing phone…

Bicycle Drag Racer on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

The Bicycle Thief

Tom Justice was once a cyclist chasing Olympic gold. Then he began using his bike for a much different purpose: robbing banks.

5 Things High-Performing Teams Do Differently

New research suggests that the highest-performing teams have found subtle ways of leveraging social connections during the pandemic to fuel their success. The findings offer important clues on ways any organization can foster greater connectedness — even within a remote or hybrid work setting — to engineer higher-performing teams. 

Klyde Warren Park Dallas, Texas

There’s a better way to warm up than stretching

Movement is key.

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case Challenging EPA Authority to Regulate Greenhouse Gases (Updated)

A surprising grant of certiorari places a high-stakes regulatory case on the Court’s docket, with profound implications for EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Rotterdam Express Container Ship New Orleans, Louisiana

An Unexpected Victory: Container Stacking at the Port of Long Beach

A miracle occurred this week. Everyone I have talked to about it, myself included, is shocked that it happened. It’s important to 

  1. Understand what happened.
  2. Make sure everyone knows it happened.
  3. Understand how and why it happened.
  4. Understand how we might cause it to happen again.
  5. Update our models and actions.
  6. Ideally make this a turning point to save civilization.

What I learned this week, October 29, 2021

Cedars Open Studios 1805 Clarence Street Dallas, Texas

The 5 Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

This is fascinating – to the point I picked up the book. Will write more about this later.

One of the cool things is that you could go down into a pit area and look at what was left of the vehicles after they ran their race. If their was enough left in one piece you could even sit in the driver’s seat and get your picture taken. Or you could talk to the drivers. For some reason this driver, from a cheese-wedge shaped car that made it down quickly in one piece, seemed very popular in the pits.

The last great mystery of the mind: meet the people who have unusual – or non-existent – inner voices

My inner voice is a talking albino wombat named Earl. Is that unusual?

Somewhere in the Caribbean

These Navy SEAL tricks will help you perform better under pressure

Use this the next time you need to think clearly in a high-pressure situation.

Shakespeare Sculpture, Dallas Arboretum

21 Phrases You Use Without Realizing You’re Quoting William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare devised new words and countless plot tropes that still appear in everyday life. Famous quotes from his plays are easily recognizable; phrases like “To be or not to be,” “wherefore art thou, Romeo,” and “et tu, Brute?” instantly evoke images of wooden stages and Elizabethan costumes. But an incredible number of lines from his plays have become so ingrained into modern vernacular that we no longer recognize them as lines from plays at all. Here are 21 phrases you use but may not have known came from the Bard of Avon.

The most brilliant bookshops in the world

These are great. If I were wealthy, I’d travel the world and visit all of them. Also, locally, I would add two (both used bookstores) – the Big Main Half-Price Bookstore in Dallas, and Recycled Books in downtown Denton.

Music cases and used books… and a bass.

Recycled Books, Denton, Texas
Recycled Books, Denton, Texas

At the Heart of Our Divisions

Socialism is immoral—and it makes us hate one another.

Jars of Kimchi, half and full gallons.

How To Make Easy Kimchi at Home

My mouth waters at the slightest whiff of pungent, fermented cabbage and I’ll eat it with everything from fried rice to dumplings, summer rolls, or, ahem, straight out of the jar. I still have a lot to learn from Mom when it comes to kimchi-making (there are over a hundred different kinds!) but the recipe for mak kimchi, or simple kimchi, has been a great place to start

More things I learned this week, October 25, 2021

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

Is Social Media Hijacking Our Minds?

What the invention of the hypodermic needle was to morphine addiction, the invention of the smart phone was to behavioral addictions (addictions involving a behavior rather than a drug): pornography, gambling, gaming, shopping, tweeting, Facebooking, doomscrolling … the list goes on.

Lignite Mining Mural Fair Park Dallas, Texas

Goodbye Middle Class: 50 Percent Of All U.S. Workers Made $34,612.04 Or Less Last Year

If we keep going down this path, soon we won’t have much of a “middle class” at all. When I first started writing about the economy many years ago, I often wrote about the tens of millions of “working poor” Americans that were enduring so many hardships. But at this point most of the nation now falls into the “working poor” category.

The full mural (previous photo center bottom) – Ace Parking, Dallas, “The Storm” Art Mural on Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street

Inside the extraordinary experiment to save the Stradivarius sound

An entire town went quiet so the world’s most iconic violin could be immortalized.

The Trinity River was still boiling, but it had obviously been higher a couple days earlier. The dropping river left its burden of mud. Soon enough all will be dust.

What is dust? And where does it all come from?

Everything in our homes gathers dust. But what exactly is it? Where does it come from, and why does it keep coming back? Is it from outside? Is it fibres from our clothes and cells from our skin?

Yes, but it’s a lot more than that.

The Cooper Time Cube

With only 1,000 ever made, the CTC was noted for its uncanny ability to always sit perfectly in the mix and was used on many hit records, such as “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus and “Low Rider” by War, for its spectacular short delay and doubling effects.

It’s basically a speaker and microphone separated by a twenty foot coil of garden hose.

How to (Finally) Put an End to Pointless Arguments

Bicycle Drag Races Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Dallas, Texas

Want to Live Longer? New Study Shows You Should Focus More on Exercise Than Weight Loss

The major takeaway from this study is that “you do not need to lose weight to be healthy,” said Dr. Gaesser. “You will be better off, in terms of mortality risk, by increasing your physical activity and fitness than by intentionally losing weight.”

I think this old, stupid joke is… I laughed harder at this than anything else I ever did.

What I learned this week, October 15, 2021

Artwork in the Braindead Brewing Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

The great reimagination of work’: Why 50% of workers want to make a career change

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Americans to reassess their relationships with work. 

The Labor Department’s most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary suggests that roughly 4 million Americans are quitting their jobs each month in a trend that has become known as “The Great Resignation.” 

I am shocked at how many people are leaving my place of work. The most common reason is the vaccination mandate – but a lot of people are just burned out. It won’t be long – but I will join them soon. It’s pretty much all I think about.

Standing Man With Radiating Words, Leslie Dill, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

25 Words That Don’t Mean What They Used To

It’s to be expected that the words we use will change and develop over time as they begin to be used in original and innovative new contexts. But in some instances, these developments can lead to words gaining new meanings entirely different from their original implications—and the 25 words listed here have done just that.

Something In front of Braindead Brewing Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

How to declutter your mind

If your brain is a heaving mess of work and life to-dos, find some focus with these straightforward steps from Ryder Carroll, creator of the Bullet Journal.

Damian Priour, Austin Temple (detail) 2000 fossil limestone, glass, steel In Memory of Buddy Langston 1947-2004 Frisco, Texas

12 Old Words That Survived by Getting Fossilized in Idioms

English has changed a lot in the last several hundred years, and there are many words once used that we would no longer recognize today. For whatever reason, we started pronouncing them differently, or stopped using them entirely, and they became obsolete. There are some old words, however, that are nearly obsolete, but we still recognize them because they were lucky enough to get stuck in set phrases that have lasted across the centuries. Here are 12 words that survived by getting fossilized in idioms.

Fountainhead Charles Long Northpark Center Dallas, Texas

Are we really mindless victims of consumerism?

To prove the advertising industry’s omnipotence, critics have been repeating some myths for more than half a century.

A Stoic’s Key to Peace of Mind: Seneca on the Antidote to Anxiety

A twenty-four-hour news cycle that preys on this human propensity has undeniably aggravated the problem and swelled the 8% to appear as 98%, but at the heart of this warping of reality is an ancient tendency of mind so hard-wired into our psyche that it exists independently of external events.

New Orleans Gargoyle, Thomas Randolph Morrison, New Orleans, Louisiana

How to (Finally) Put an End to Pointless Arguments

Count me as a Buster Benson fan. His 2016 Cognitive bias cheat sheet is legendary among behavioral designers. I have a framed print out of his codex in my home and I’ve enjoyed his writing on various topics for years. He has extensive experience building products that move people at Slack, Twitter, and Habit Labs.

More things I learned this week, October 9, 2021

Timber, by Gene Koss, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana (click to enlarge)

Why it’s not surprising that young men are abandoning college

The recent surge in stories about young men abandoning higher education — college women outnumber men 3 to 2 — may have surprised a few headline writers, but the graffiti about the decline of men and boys has been on the wall for decades.

Wildflowers south of Dallas.

Friluftsliv: the Nordic concept which could help to boost your mental health

Is your mental health in need of a boost? Here’s how embracing the Nordic concept of ‘friluftsliv’ could help.

I pour a can of tomato sauce over the pasta, garlic, one chipotle pepper (only one!) and onions that I have been cooking in olive oil in a medium dutch oven.

The Pasta Sauce Hailed as the World’s Best Is Surprisingly Easy to Make at Home

First, the ingredients. You’ll need a 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes; one peeled, halved onion; and 5 tablespoons of butter. (Yes, 5 whole tablespoons of butter.) You’ll also want a pinch or two of salt.

Put everything together in a single pot and set it to simmer over medium heat on the stove for 45 minutes, uncovered. Give it the occasional stir.

And that’s it. After the 45 minutes is up, toss out the onion halves, and pour the sauce over your favorite pasta. Easy.


How I finally learned to sleep

For decades, Kate Edgley struggled with insomnia. She tried everything, but nothing seemed to work… Here, she reveals the terrible toll it took on her life – and how she eventually realised her dreams

Both parties’ ignorance of electoral reality has led to our present political discontents

Here’s a jarring thought: Most political analysts and most political strategists for our two political parties have been operating off flawed data and flawed assumptions. The result has been one political surprise after another and the election of the two most unsatisfactory presidents, in the minds of many voters, since Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan in the 1850s.

“Schitt’s Creek” & Local Economic Power

Much of the show’s thematic arc follows the Rose family as they slowly loosen their grip on the superficial beliefs and identities they previously held and come to embrace the community—ultimately becoming far warmer, more compassionate citizens in the process. One of the real victories in storytelling throughout the show’s arc is the absence of heavy-handed moralizing or preaching. Rather, the town and its people simply exist as they are, and themes are explored through a matter-of-fact demonstration of how things could be. This is true in the refreshing, straightforward way that David and Patrick’s openly gay relationship plays out, as well as the theme I’d like to discuss here, which is the lack of corporate control over the small town’s economy. 

My Xootr Folding bike on the West Bank Levee Trail

Circuit Trail Conservancy breaks ground on Trinity Forest Spine Trail

Faster, please.

What I learned this week, October 8, 2021

Here’s some origami I did. I’m working on a story and I decided to origami my draft. The design is called, “This is a bunch of crap.”

Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live

Without inner narratives we would be lost in a chaotic world.

Gridman 3 Stephen Daly 2007 Sandblasted Aluminum Dallas, Texas

The chronic stress survival guide: how to live with the anxiety and grief you can’t escape

Stress can feel like a baseline condition for many of us – especially during a pandemic. But there are ways to help alleviate the very worst of it, whether through support, sleep or radical self-care

6 Decluttering Strategies Minimalists Swear By

It’s time to tackle that junk drawer.

Loco Gringos

How to Be Self-Aware

Only when we admit we have a problem can we begin to find solutions. In the first episode of How to Build a Happy Life, we explore the neuroscience of emotional management, practices that help us befriend our inner monologue, and challenges to getting in touch with our feelings. Our journey to happier living starts with the question: How do I feel right now?

The aluminum grid of the Winspear Opera House sunshade – very high overhead, reflected in the pool.

Misplaced Nostalgia Obscures Truth About the Left

Our social and political deterioration did not start with Joe Biden’s election or Jonathan Greenblatt’s elevation to the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League.

Simple Mathematical Law Predicts Movement in Cities around the World

A new model could help model disease transmission and urban planning

At the Heart of Our Divisions

We didn’t need a new poll from The University of Virginia Center for Politics and Project Home Fire to tell us that many Democrats see fascists when they look at Republicans and many Republicans see Communists when they look at Democrats. Forty-one percent of Biden voters and 52 percent of Trump voters at least somewhat agree that the time has come to split the country into red and blue states. There is a widespread feeling on both sides that we are not friends but enemies.