October 9, 2007

Conversations with bookworms

October 9, 2007 - Categories: connecting


People often wonder where I find the time to read books. I wonder if
I’ll ever have enough time _not_ to read books. I get so much out of
them, including incredibly rich conversations with new friends. Here
are two examples from just last week.

I met Driss Benzakour for coffee at
Farcoast last Wednesday. I had first met him at the Third Tuesday
event in February that featured Wikinomics co-author Anthony Williams,
but hadn’t heard from him since then. He got in touch with me because
he was looking for a job, came across my contact information in his
notebook, learned I was joining IBM, and thought I might have some
tips to share.

When I learned that he was interested in consulting, I mentioned a
great book I’d read recently:
Flawless Consulting. “By Peter Block,” Driss said, nodding. Having thus performed the secret handshake of booklovers, we proceeded to talk about a great number of books. I’d mention one of my favorite books, and he’d show the audiobook he’d downloaded from
Audible.com. I scrolled through the list of books he’d listened to, and suggested a couple more. Knowing common books allowed us to take shortcuts in our conversations. We could refer to concepts without explaining them all over again, and we could talk about combinations of book ideas. It was a fun and energizing chat, and we talked about far more than we could’ve if we didn’t have common books.

A similar thing happened when I met Michael Nielsen of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo. Michael showed me a website full of awesome book reviews by one guy with very diverse reading tastes. I said, “He’s building a syntopicon!” Michael guessed that I’d read the classic How to Read a Book. Secret handshake!

Books are terrific. They offer some of the best excuses to connect and
keep in touch with people. If I didn’t read extensively, I’d have to
work much harder at finding common ground and following up with
interesting thoughts! <laugh>

Photo (c) 2007 austinevan, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en-us”>Creative Commons Attribution License

p.s. Here’s another interesting bookworm Michael Nielsen recommended: Cosma Shalizi. When I grow up, I’m going to be like them.

Random Emacs symbol: Info-follow-nearest-node – Command: Follow a node reference near point.

Food photography attempt

October 9, 2007 - Categories: photography

That’s what we had for Thanksgiving dinner. I borrowed W-‘s camera to
take the shot, as his was already all set up. This picture used the
room light and an external flash unit placed diagonally in front of
the pan. I like how the background is nice and soft, the roast is
detailed, and the mashed potatoes are cheery but not overwhelming.

If I could shoot this picture again, I’d add another flash behind the
roast in order to add more definition. I’d also find a way to minimize
the shadow cast by the front edge of the pan, perhaps by raising the
front-diagonal flash or increasing the toplight. I’d get rid of that
sprig of whatever that is in front of the lamb, too. I’d also increase
the depth of field by changing apertures so that more of the roast is
in focus.

W- and I enjoy cooking and taking pictures of food. We usually have
time to get a few shots in before hunger sets in. <laugh>

Random Emacs symbol: mail-parse-charset – Variable: Default charset used by low-level libraries.

Up and over

October 9, 2007 - Categories: life

The raw skin under my ripped blister glistens next to the red and
tingling mounds on my palm, where calluses are beginning to form.
Despite the lingering sensitivity, I’m glad I went to trapeze class
this evening, and I can’t wait to go back as soon as the blister

I’m not there for the pain—who, me? I’m there for the thrill I get
when I set myself a challenge and make progress towards it. I’m there
because I love seeing the other two students try, fail, try again,
learn, and perform, and I want to be able to that too. I’m there
because the things I imagine myself doing once I have more experience
(and thicker calluses!) make it easier for me to get through my daily
exercise routines. I’m there because trapeze scares me, but in a way
that I can overcome that fear.

Today I managed to get my knees over the bar entirely on my own. It
took me one and a half sessions to learn how to do that with plenty of
help from Mark, the ever-so-patient instructor. I learned to swing my
knees up, contract my abdomen, and extend my knees. I learned to
engage my shoulders by tensing them, but not too much. I learned how
to trust myself to hang on while I allowed my legs to swing back,
pendulum-like, around my center. I learned how to bend into the swing
on the way forward, pulling my legs as high as they could go. I
learned to flex my toes in order to clear the bar. And I learned to
stop thinking so much and just do it… <laugh>

I know I’m probably going to forget many of these things and re-learn
them during the next lesson and the next lessons after that, but
that’s okay—learning is part of the fun of it all.

Random Emacs symbol: mm-default-file-encoding – Function: Return a default encoding for FILE.