Highlights: Mar 4 - Jun 30

Here's my update from the past.. long time! It's over 2500 words, so I'll make an executive summary here at the top:

The end of the school year was long and grueling, and I think that's largely the reason I never fully caught up with this. Looking back, I hardly wrote anything in my journal from mid-May through the end of June, so most of this is really just from those first 10 weeks or so. Still though, I'm grateful that I have this record and it's been wonderful to go back through it.

If I can use this platform to share just a few things with you... I'd pick these three:

  1. Ta-Nehisi Coates' book, Between the World and Me (Link). You probably either read this 2 years ago when it came out or haven't heard of it. I think it's an important book to read to get a glimpse into why America is the way it is today with respect to race.

  2. A fascinating take from a partner at Andresson-Horowitz on self-driving electric cars and the deeper consequences on goods and markets. I appreciated it as a glimpse into the kind of thinking it takes to work in the business of predicting the future. If you like it, then check out the guy's newsletter. (Link)

  3. A narrative comic about what it means to carry the mental load in a relationship. What's perhaps most universally helpful in this comic is an understanding of this concept of "mental load" that makes it easier to have more conversations towards building an equitable relationship. (Link)

If you want to see more, keep reading :). Remember, this is meant to be a curated list, so it is not at all exhaustive, though it does cover four months, so it may be exhausting to read.

 

Why? To push myself to be a more thoughtful consumer of information, I want to process and highlight content that I read, watch, make, play, listen to, and talk about. I’ve modified my daily journal form to help me keep track of these things, and I want to post a weekly best-of. It’s mostly for myself, but I want to share it in case it might be interesting to anyone else.

 

I watched/saw...

  • John Oliver segments on the Republican ACA (Link), French Elections (Link), Dalai Lama (Link), and Gerrymandering (Link)

  • Anthony Bourdain on Budapest (Link)

  • The Third Man (Link)

  • Moonlight (Link)

  • Cosmos, Ep 10-13 (Link)

  • Hidden Figures (Link)

  • Jeff Kaplan, Lead Director on Overwatch reading and responding to comments from IGN forums (Link)

  • Waterfalls, geysers, continental divides, mudpots, volcanoes, and glaciers in Iceland (Link)

  • YourOverwatch strategy videos (Link)

  • Jose Antonio Vargas - Defineamerican.com (Link)

  • The Who & the What (Link)

  • Boston Foundation's EdTalks (Link)

  • BUG on Educational Games

  • Beautiful data visualization on repetition in song lyrics (Link)

  • Rick Steves (1) and Expedia (2) on Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Ljubljana (Link 1) (Link 2)

  • Some videos on a youtube channel that seems to do a great job explaining interesting science-y stuff! (Link)

  • Wonder Woman (Link)

  • Planet Earth II Episodes 1 and 2 (Link)

  • Hasan Minhaj's Netflix special, "Homecoming King" (Link)

  • Season 2 of Aziz Ansari's "Master of None" (Link)

  • Abstract's Episode 2 about Tinker Hatfield and the Air Jordan shoe line (Link)

  • My students from 2 years ago graduating high school!

  • A talk by Bryan Stevenson in Boston, similar to his TED talk (Link)

  • "Lessons from the Screenplay, Independence Day" (Link)

 

I made...

  • a purchase? Motorcycle!

  • a charitable giving plan with Leaf

  • Video about Iceland in Lightworks (Link)

  • Financial projections for the next few years

  • A tent! and Campfire food!

  • A video game that got top 3 at a game jam! (Link)

  • A 'smart' list of the books I want to read in the coming year (Link)

 

I read...

  • Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull - I recommend this book if you like... Pixar movies; the intersection of art and technology; lessons about organizational behavior from a creative, skilled team.  (Link)

  • Some awesome interviews with Jeff Kaplan, Director of Blizzard's Overwatch. He seems awesome, and I respect and admire the thoughtfulness that he has brought to being a game designer. (Link 1) (Link 2)

  • NASA's public facing hub on climate change! (Link)

  • some interactive pages about machine learning (that I didn't understand much of). Distill is an organization trying to machine learning content easier to understand and visualize. (Link)

  • An SMBC comic that clears up common misconceptions about quantum computing. (Link)

  • Sideways dictionary - a website that uses analogies rather than definitions to explain tech vocabulary. (Link)

  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates - I recommend this book if you like... learning about the side of America that many black and brown Americans experience; masterful craftsmanship with words; taking a long time to finish a short book. (Link)

  • Some of Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein - I recommend this book if you like... learning about all of the ways your brain is bad at making decisions; practical applications of Freakonomics-style content (behavioral economics, decision science). (Link)

  • Some of The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis - I recommend this book if you like... Moneyball or any other Michael Lewis books; getting underneath the superficially boring story of two psychology researchers collaborating for a couple of decades to prove to the world that people are not rational actors. (Link)

  • A fascinating take from a partner at Andresson-Horowitz on self-driving electric cars and the deeper consequences on goods and markets. I appreciated it as a glimpse into the kind of thinking it takes to work in the business of predicting the future.If you like it, then check out the guy's newsletter. (Link)

  • About the difference between using 1-color cells and 2-color cells as a genius shortcut to high-resolution images. You'll need to get on Quora to see this. (Link)

  • Google's guide to what teen's think is cool. (Link)

  • About ggplot2, an R-library that seems to be behind a lot of data visualizations on the internet. (Link)

  • An interview with Ro Khanna, the Silicon Valley Congressman who's got a pretty bold universal-basic-income-style Earned Income Tax Credit buff to try to spur grassroots economic development. (Link)

  • A dive by the author of Evicted into the enormous, regressive, government subsidies to homeowners that widen the gulfs of income inequality that exist today. Did you know that the National Association of Realtors is among the highest spenders among lobbying orgs in America, second only to the US Chamber of Commerce? (source) (Link)

  • About iconic political and news-related games from the past decade selected for an "Art Games" exhibit. Some fascinating themes include the Madrid train bombings of 2004, the Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, and drone strikes in northern Pakistan. (Link)

  • An awesome blog post about recent differences in product and philosophy between Apple and Google's Map products. (Link)

  • Some of Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah - I recommend this book if you like... Trevor Noah; learning about South Africa or Apartheid; Invictus (the movie about Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team); humorous stories mixed with poignant lessons in history and life under apartheid. (Link)

  • An article about how one of Jared Kushner's organizations preys on low-income folks in a system of morally bankrupt yet entirely legal practices. (Link)

  • A narrative comic about what it means to carry the mental load in a relationship. (Link)

  • A thorough comparison of Google Maps and Apple Maps that lends some transparency to the kinds of decisions and background updates are happening that we might not notice. (Link)

  • An op-ed about how people act differently in the US vs. England about class stratification. The author (British) claims that affluent English people are much more aware of their privilege than Americans, and that they have a sense of duty to balance the playing field. Americans - even liberal ones - tend to favor systems that preserve privilege and create a "wealth trap". (Link)

 

I listened to...

  • A few episodes of This American Life (#610: Grand Gesture; #612: Ask a Grown-Up; #613: OK I'll Do It; #614: The Other Mr. President; #615: The Beginning of Now; #617: Fermi's Paradox). They're all great, but I'd say... 612 was the best overall, 614 taught me a lot about Putin and Russia, and 615 taught me a lot about Trump, Breitbart, and America's current political landscape. (Link)

  • A few episodes of Freakonomics (mostly the Earth 2.0 series) featuring economists contributing their ideas for how Earth could be better off if we "restarted". One guy said that he didn't like the premise and wouldn't take the job of chief economist of the world because he thinks that the world has evolved the way it has very deliberately. He also wouldn't want to, for example, import Sweden's economic system and government to the American system because they were designed for different constituencies. This raised a question that Leaf and I come back to often about whether or not someone should leave the country if they don't like the way things are. (Link)

  • I also listened to an older episode of Freakonomics about gender barriers that was very eye-opening for me. A couple of economists (who are women) shared their research and suggestions on how to diminish or eliminate structural gender barriers in society. For example, one person found that (American?) women are more risk-averse, so MC tests (like the SAT) that penalize for incorrect answers are actually disproportionately penalizing women.  Another great take-away for me was when one economist said that she hoped that her research didn't make women want to TALK differently but rather hoped that everyone would learn to LISTEN better and more fairly. (Link)

  • An episode of Planet Money about immigration. Three different economists offered their own ideal immigration plans. One was to limit the total number of immigrants and to distribute those visas deliberately and tax those immigrants' incomes to go back to their home countries. Plan #2 was to come up with a maximum number of visas and then auction them off to businesses in high- and low- cost tiers. Plan #3 was total open borders. (Link)

  • An episode of Omnic Lab, a podcast about Overwatch strategy. What I like most about hearing pros talk about the heroes they play is getting an peek into their deep understanding of the strengths and limitations of their characters. They have a clear sense of which maps, positions, and duels are advantageous or risky, and I imagine that makes them die a lot less often than I do when I play. (Link)

  • I've listened to a few episodes of Designer's Notes - a podcast about game design. I've mostly listened to Rob Pardo talk about Blizzard and his work on Starcraft through World of Warcraft, and I've also heard some thoughts from the designer of Papers, Please. (Link)

 

I talked about...

  • On my way home, I stopped to chat with a postal worker I see regularly in my neighborhood. After talking about the mail for a bit, I asked for his name, and he asked for mine. "Dinesh", I said. He squinted his face and turned his ear towards me with a cupped hand. "Di-nesh", I repeated slowly.

  • Still too much. "What do people call you for short?"

  • I took 9th-grade students on a field trip to the SAP Boston office. The office was cool, and I learned more about what SAP does. It seems pretty essential to the operation of MANY businesses, and that's both interesting and intimidating. The way employees were describing the organization, it sounded almost like a nation-state of sorts. It has 84,000 employees, you can work in many different sectors, and it operates with almost government-level bureaucracies in terms of communication and organizational structures. I wonder how it compares to the extent that I feel like I'm working for CHS, BPS, Massachusetts, or the US Department of Education. Private industry is something I still feel like I know very little about, so I enjoy learning what I can about it.

  • As Leaf was updating her resume, she realized that the past 3 years of her life amounted to only one new section, whereas the previous years were filled with new experience and education. She noted that until now, life had been mostly measured by change ("that year, I lived in Spain, and this was the year I moved here", etc.) but in the most recent phase of our lives, that rate of change has slowed drastically.

  • Leaf and I started what I think will be a very long conversation about charitable giving. We started throwing around ideas about donating a percentage of our income and how to diversify between giving locally and giving where our dollars have the greatest utility, because those two are largely at odds. It's an important conversation to have, and I'm glad we're starting down that road. Leaf heard about a couple of people in the Boston area who have done a lot more thinking than us about it, and I'm grateful that they've published some of their thinking and results! (Link)

  • I talked with Sam and Sandeep about strengths and challenges of people from an executive background going into public service compared to people with only public sector experience. Sandeep and Sam seemed to converge on the idea that people from business were more skilled at uniting many people around a specific goal. In retrospect, maybe it's that people from the private sector are more skilled at leadership, and people from the public sector are more skilled at diplomacy.

  • We've had 3 meetings of the Discussion Group!

    • 1: Larissa facilitated around the topic of

    • 2: Nalin chose the topic of casual racism and microaggressions.

    • 3: Leaf facilitated around the topic of personal experiences with socioeconomic class.

  • Whether the Taza founding story was a classic example of cultural appropriation (and if so, what should have been done differently?)

  • My students and I talked about a range of things from global warming and habitat loss to college costs and the purpose of school. Some students felt stymied by questions about the meaning of life and humans' purpose on earth. I said that the news stresses me out, and I talked about the dissonance I have with many of the institutional policies in schools, and that resonated with students.

  • My housemates and I talked about a variety of things related to family planning and parenting. We talked about how to think about whether or not to have children, and how best to go about it ethically and responsibly. Generally, we all seemed interested in raising children to show them the world, to have a close-knit group to experience life with, and to do something that feels especially important to human existence. But there was more disagreement when we attempted to draw lines between whether to adopt or have one's own children.

  • My friend who works in artificial intelligence taught us about the field of computational neuroscience where he's been working. He described their current strategy as trying to understand and emulate the best and most efficient features of a brain, like how airplanes mimicked birds but don't flap their wings.

  • Over dinner, I had a great conversation with friends about developments in biotech- specifically CRISPR and the upcoming head transplant. We were generally cautious of the unknown consequences of things like eradicating mosquitos or selecting qualities of fetuses. But we also shared a sense of inevitability about it all.

  • I talked about the distinction between 'doing good' and 'doing good well' with a friend who works in the nonprofit philanthropy space. We debated whether it would be better to invest in future technologies or to invest in alleviating present-day suffering.

  • I talked about an old article from 2012 that argued that being "busy" is often a self-imposed mindset and that most people who say they are busy have chosen to do the activities that make them busy. This is contrasted with people who are busy beyond their control who rarely profess how busy they are - they just do what they need to do and are exhausted. (Link)

  • What it means to be American - specifically, whether a prescriptive or descriptive interpretation is more accurate.

  • Socioemotional skill development (or lack thereof) in Medical school

  • Sweet spots on the spectrum of student independence in a middle-high school classroom

  • White folks who teach in the hood (Link)

  • How to think about summer plans

  • The extent that we feel control over our stress level vs. it controlling us

  • How early in dating to try to assess long-term compatibility

  • Balancing depth and breadth in learning languages

 

I played...

  • Overwatch! I dropped from ~2600 to 1800, and then I've climbed back up to 2300. Still pretty low in my opinion, but I think my upward trend will continue...

  • with my new laptop! It's a (now old) Microsoft SurfaceBook.

  • Munchkin

  • Escape Room

  • around on the motorcycle

  • on a playground

  • Made a sillly Porthos-inspired video in Iceland

  • I started playing Breath of the Wild on Switch!!

  • Art games at the Cyber Arts Gallery!

  • Other games at the game jam