When I’m bigger

My sons tell fantastic stories about what they’re going to do and be when they’re grown up: spies, taxi drivers, race-car drivers, generals, fathers of improbably large numbers of children (!), expert fighters, designers, inventors… The stories are a wonderful mix of the improbable and the impossible with a smattering of the realistic and the actual thrown in for good…

Plato on ageing well

I love this little riff from the start of Plato’s fascinating-but-politically-iffy* Republic: We went with Polemarchus to his house; and there we found his brothers … There too was Cephalus the father of Polemarchus, whom I had not seen for a long time, and I thought him very much aged. He was seated on a cushioned chair, and had a…

A slice of the pie

Jane has one pie. John has none. Should Jane give John a slice? The situation is unequal, but we need some context – including some history – to be able to decide if it’s unfair. Your feelings might change if… Jane and John were each given a pie by a friend, but John has just finished eating his. Jane bought…

By invitation and by necessity

I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of “outsiders coming in.” … I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I am here because I have basic organizational ties here. Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here…

A somewhat reassuring thought

When your wariness about the future tips over into anxiety, when the world is not turning not only upside down but also inside out, and it looks like things might fall apart – it might be helpful to think of the best of times (either your own or some time when things were generally better) and then remind yourself that…

The operative word

Misquoted dialogue from Madam Secretary: “With the lives of tens of thousands of people on the line I hope this works.” “Hope being the operative word.” “Isn’t it always?”

Tyler Cowen on reading fast, reading well, and reading widely

This is a great riff on how reading works and on the network effects of reading. Links below. Tyler says: … I go through five or ten books a day. And which parts of them I’ve read you can debate – maybe it washes out to be two or three books a day. Some good nights you can get through…

Who says?

Does it matter who says it? Science says: “It doesn’t matter who said it. What matters is the evidence and the reasoning.” Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts Richard Feynman Thomas Hobbes said much the same: Words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the money of fools, that value them…

I’d rather be

If you’d rather be doing something else, please go and do it. You are more useful there than here. But if you really would rather be, say, drinking beer, you probably could be. Which means that actually you’ve chosen to do this instead. So maybe you mean “Drinking beer is more immediately pleasurable than this, but instead I choose to…

In the frame / boxing clever

We always live with constraints: A bad boss (perhaps the world’s worst); A stifling bureaucracy; A chaotic lack of structure; Incompetent managers; Bungling colleagues; Crippling technical debt on key products; An overwhelming to do list; Limited time or energy; Poor quality tools; A team that’s too small; A team that’s too big; A shortage of champions for your work and…