interestedness   42

0675 – being smart vs being kind - 1,000,000 words by @visakanv
"When I was a child, I was told that I was smart. I wasn’t great at socializing, but I was alright. I was the class clown, the smartass, so I did have some friends. But I never really developed the deep, lasting sort of friendships that some people have for life. Sometimes I felt like I was missing out, but most of the time – even now – I think of it as, ‘that’s just what life is like for misfits’. There’s good and bad, and that’s the ‘bad’. The price you pay.

It took me two decades to really begin to aspire to be kind.

What’s so good about being smart?

1. There is a certain intrinsic pleasure to knowing things. Richard Feynman describes this beautifully in “the pleasure of finding things out”. (He was also a very kind person, I believe.)

2. There’s a practical value to it. Smartness is generally correlated with making good decisions that lead to superior outcomes. (It’s necessary but insufficient – smartness is the sharpness of the knife. You still need to handle the knife well, and apply it to the right things. Lots of smart people obsessively sharpen their knives but don’t use it for anything useful or constructive.)

If you’re smart, in the conventional sense, you should recognize opportunities (in my view this requires sensitivity, in the ‘perceptive’ sense) and take advantage of them (in my view this requires strength, in the ‘executive’ sense). You should also spot potholes and avoid them. (Spotting the pothole is perception. Avoiding it is execution. Smartness is the gap between seeing and doing – smartness is orienting and deciding, maybe.)

3. There’s also a social aspect to smartness. I’m not saying that smartness guarantees social success (though I do believe that if you’re truly smart rather than superficially smart, you’ll figure out how to achieve your social desires and/or modulate them appropriately). What I mean is that there’s a sort of global subculture that venerates smartness. Think of all the tropes of trickster type characters, and how people love brilliant assholes like Tony Stark and Dr. House. If you’re smart, you can satisfy quite a lot of your social needs by scoring points with smartness geeks.

The smartness-as-spectator-sport trap

Here’s where it gets a little dicey – winning friends in most smartness tribes – their approval requires being right. It requires Winning. I’m talking about smartness as a contact sport for spectators. You get rewarded for the most brutal takedowns (“Liberal DESTROYED conservative with simple argument, leaves him SPEECHLESS!”)

When you start to get addicted to winning, you start to get attached. You start to avoid certain things – particularly areas that you’re not so sure about. You start picking your battles according to what’s winnable, rather than what’s most interesting or useful.

This is where we get to what separates the pros from the noobs. The smartest people embrace their ignorance. They are intimately familiar with the limitations of their models, and they are excited when they discover that they’re wrong about something. (I recall this book about physics – “Time, Space and Things” – where the author would spend paragraphs explaining the imperfections of all the models he was about to show us. It was lovely.)

Where does kindness enter the picture? Kindness nourishes (not coddles) fragile things and makes them strong

I find myself thinking about Pixar’s Braintrust. It’s a sort of council of storytellers who provide advice and counsel to whoever’s working on a story. They understand that ideas in their formative stages are precious, fragile things, like babies. You can’t shake them too hard at the start, or they’ll die. You need to nourish them and let them flourish first. You need to ask lots of exploratory questions with good-faith, rather than cross-examine them looking for flaws and mistakes. Once it’s found its legs, THEN you can start to challenge it, spar with it, and it’ll grow stronger as a result.

When I was younger, I truly believed that the best way to learn and grow and progress was to subject everything to relentless scrutiny. To debate, argue, attack from all sides. I still believe that that can be true in some cases, and that individuals who are deeply committed to learning and intellectual development can benefit tremendously from welcoming such behavior. Inviting criticisms and takedowns. Soliciting negative feedback.

BUT, I’ve also grown to learn that there’s this whole other side to the picture. What you see is NOT all there is. There’s a lot that you haven’t seen, that you can’t see – and if you saw it with an open mind, you’d almost definitely revise your model of reality.

In the past, I used to argue violently with everything and everyone. Not in a vicious way, just in a high-contact way. It was a sport, it was a way of life. With every fight, I was learning. (On retrospect, I was often just learning how to fight better, or to pick fights where I’d have a higher probability of winning, but that seemed like progress at the time.)

I lost some friends along the way, which I was sad about. But I usually found a way to live with it – mostly by convincing myself that they had in some way been too sensitive.

I had a Kurt Cobain quote in mind – “Better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not”. It seemed radically profound at the time, but on retrospect that’s entire oversimplistic thinking. We have more than two options. (Also, I’m now the same age Kurt Cobain was when he died, and next year I’ll be older than he’ll ever be. Just a thought.)

Here’s what you miss if you’re unkind or non-kind: people opening up to you in private.

A lot of the most interesting information in the world is locked up inside other people’s heads.

If you care about having an interesting life, you have to care about winning over other people – so that you can access that information. If you really want to be smart, you’re going to have to tap into people’s perspectives, insights, questions and so on. You can’t learn it all from books and essays – because there’s a lot of “living knowledge” that never makes it into those things.

People only started opening up to me in private in the last 3-5 years or so, and it’s completely changed my life. I mean, I did have conversations with a handful of close-ish friends a decade ago, but now I have people actively coming to me and telling me things that they wouldn’t dare say publicly. And that’s some very powerful, very interesting stuff. It’s great at many levels. And it’s a very beautiful feeling to be that person that earns other people’s trust.

Just to wrap up – it’s possible to be both smart and kind, obviously. That’s the end goal. Being smart doesn’t mean you’re going to be kind, not-kind or unkind. Being kind doesn’t mean you’re going to be smart, not-smart or stupid.

What I’m saying is – there’s definitely a subset of smart people (and people who aspire to smartness) who think that being kind is unnecessary, or tedious, or for pussies, and so on. And I think that’s extremely unfortunate. Your intelligence gets enriched by kindness. That’s the case I’m making here."
visakanveerasamy  smartness  kindness  directives  intelligence  interestedness  listening  kurtcobain  learning  howwelearn  canon  winning  competition  spectators  action  activism  theory  richardfeynman  knowitalls  social  relationships  grace  reality  argument  2017 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Taeyoon Choi on drawing, teaching, disability, and the difference between work and project – The Creative Independent
"I think the common mistake of a beginner teacher is giving too much: too much preparation and too much energy, too much love. They end up feeling burned out easily.

I try to limit how much I prepare and leave room for students to fill that. I’ve had good success with that recently. Also, I think teachers are often exhausted even before the class begins simply because of mental anxiety. Before class, I try to sleep well, eat a good meal, and be energetic.

Acknowledging that I’m not an expert always really helped me as well. I don’t have answers for many student questions, especially technical questions. Conceptual questions can be confusing too. Sometimes it’s good to say something like, “I don’t know, I’m sorry. Let’s look at it together.” This relieves a lot of burden from your shoulders.

I learn best when I see a teacher working on a problem. If you have a code problem, you’re stuck, and you have an error, what do you do? You open up Stack Overflow. How do you search it? How do you fix things? Learning how to work through a problem is way more important than doing it the “right way.” I try to teach the emotional roller coaster of coding, which is similar to the experience of working on art and having breakthrough moments.

There are many different kinds of teaching. It depends on context. For SFPC, we select students so that we can collaborate with them. The focus is finding and building a community we are excited about. When I teach elsewhere, sometimes it’s more technical and transactional. I think that’s fine; schools have different goals.

Lately I’m trying to focus on supporting future teachers. I think I’m quite good at helping people teach. I taught a class at NYU called “Teaching as Art” and want to do more of that.

I teach because I want to be a student. I still go to classes a lot. Right now I’m learning American Sign Language, which is completely changing everything. I also do yoga. My yoga teacher is an amazing teacher: very generous and supportive. My teacher also takes other teachers’ classes. I think reciprocity is about always learning and respecting another. That’s the only way you could actually offer something."
taeyoonchoi  teaching  howweteach  learning  interestedness  interestingness  2017  pedagogy  cv  unschooling  deschooling  howwelearn  education  disability  sfpc  schoolforpoeticcomputation 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Robert Coles — The Inner Lives of Children - | On Being
"DR. COLES: Which I think is what I’m trying to say here as I speak with you, as I go back to my parents and to my childhood and try to recapture some of that spirit that I knew as a boy.

MS. TIPPETT: It’s interesting to me that those words you used, “questioning spirit,” and not a conventional religious sense are also qualities that you found in children and even in children who came from homes in which the tradition was much more set.

DR. COLES: That’s a very good point you’ve just brought up. Children are by nature questioning. I mean, I know it as a pediatrician and a child psychiatrist. I know it as a parent. I think we all know that children are questioning. And I think there is no doubt that a lot of the religious side of childhood is a merger of the natural curiosity and interest the children have in the world with the natural interest and curiosity that religion has about the world, because that’s what religion is.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: It’s our effort in this planet as creatures who have a mind and use language to ask questions and answer them through speculation, through story-telling, to explore the universe and answer those fundamental questions: Where do we come from? What are we? And where, if any place, are we going? And those fundamental questions inform religious life and inform the lives of children as children, and that merger is a beautiful thing to behold when you’re with children.

MS. TIPPETT: You know what’s nice about what you just said to me too, is I suddenly realized that what you discovered in speaking with these children and listening to them is not only revealing about childhood but it’s revealing of an aspect of religion which we probably don’t pay as much attention to as we should.

DR. COLES: That’s the great tragedy, isn’t it?

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

DR. COLES: Because after all, if you stop and think about Judaism, the great figures in Judaism are those prophets of Israel, Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos. They were prophetic figures who asked the deepest kinds of questions and were willing to stand outside the gates of power and privilege in order to keep asking those questions. And then came Jesus of Nazareth who was a teacher. You might call him the migrant teacher who walked about ancient Israel — now called Israel, Palestine, whatever, the Middle East — seeking and asking and wondering and reaching out to people and daring to ask questions that others had been taught not to ask or even forbidden to ask. And this kind of inquiring Jesus, this soulful Jesus, searching for comrades and, let’s call them in our vernacular, buddies. They were his buddies, and they were willing to link arms with him in this kind of spiritual quest that he found himself, shall we say, impelled toward or driven toward. I don’t want to use driven in any psychoanalytic way …

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: … but just in a human way. And this was the rabbi, the teacher, the exalted figure, a descendant, really, of Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos. It’s that prophetic tradition of Judaism which is so profound and important and which the Christian world is, at its best, the beneficiary of.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: Now, both in Judaism and Christianity, of course, there are rule setters, and at times they can be all too insistent, some would say even a bit tyrannical. But in any event, the spirit or religion, I think, is what children connect with.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: The questions, the inquiry, the enormous curiosity about this universe, and the hope that somehow those answers will come about, which is what we do when we kneel in a church and sit and pray in a synagogue or whatever.

[Sound bite of music]

MS. TIPPETT: Also what I think you’re getting at there and what is also in this compatibility between children and religion also has something to do with, I mean, there’s something mysterious in it as well, something about the mystery of those questions.

MR. COLES: Mystery is such an important part of it. And mystery invites curiosity and inquiry. You know, Flannery O’Connor — talk about a religious person, she was Catholic in background but she was beyond Catholicism; she was a deeply spiritual person. And she once was talking about the kind of person who becomes a good novelist, hoping that she would be included in that company but not daring to assume that that had happened. But once she said, beautifully — it’s in her letters if the listeners want to get one of her books. It’s called, The Habit of Being — but in one of those letters she says, “The task of the novelist is to deepen mystery.” And then she pauses and she says, “But mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind.” And there’s our tragedy, that we have to resolve all mystery. We can’t let it be. We can’t rejoice in it. We can’t celebrate it. We can’t affirm it as an aspect of our lives because, after all, mystery is an aspect of our lives.

We come out of nowhere, don’t we, in the sense that we’re a total accident. Our parents met. There’s the accident. And, you know, we’re born. Obviously, we come from someplace physiologically. And then comes the emergence of our being, which is the psychological and spiritual emergence of our being that takes time, experience, education of a certain kind with parents and neighbors and teachers and relatives and from one another humanly. And this slow emergence of our psychological being and our spiritual being is itself a great mystery. And mystery, you bet — mystery is a great challenge. It’s an invitation, and it’s a wonderful companion, actually."
robertcoles  kristatippett  children  religion  2009  mystery  curiosity  questioning  neoteny  questionasking  askingquestions  judaism  christianity  catholicism  flanneryo'connor  wonder  parenting  spirituality  inquiry  rules  teaching  teachers  howweteach  interestedness  interested  childhood 
february 2017 by robertogreco
dy/dan » Blog Archive » Testify
"Karim Ani, the founder of Mathalicious, hassles me because I design problems about water tanks while Mathalicious tackles issues of greater sociological importance. Traditionalists like Barry Garelick see my 3-Act Math project as superficial multimedia whizbangery and wonder why we don’t just stick with thirty spiraled practice problems every night when that’s worked pretty well for the world so far. Basically everybody I follow on Twitter cast a disapproving eye at posts trying to turn Pokémon Go into the future of education, posts which no one will admit to having written in three months, once Pokémon Go has fallen farther out of the public eye than Angry Birds.

So this 3-Act math task is bound to disappoint everybody above. It’s a trivial question about a piece of pop culture ephemera wrapped up in multimedia whizbangery.

But I had to testify. That’s what this has always been – a testimonial – where by “this” I mean this blog, these tasks, and my career in math education to date.

I don’t care about Pokémon Go. I don’t care about multimedia. I don’t care about the sociological importance of a question.

I care about math’s power to puzzle a person and then help that person unpuzzle herself. I want my work always to testify to that power.

So when I read this article about how people were tricking their smartphones into thinking they were walking (for the sake of achievements in Pokémon Go), I was puzzled. I was curious about other objects that spin, and then about ceiling fans, and then I wondered how long a ceiling fan would have to spin before it had “walked” a necessary number of kilometers. I couldn’t resist the question.

That doesn’t mean you’ll find the question irresistible, or that I think you should. But I feel an enormous burden to testify to my curiosity. That isn’t simple.

“Math is fun,” argues mathematics professor Robert Craigen. “It takes effort to make it otherwise.” But nothing is actually like that – intrinsically interesting or uninteresting. Every last thing – pure math, applied math, your favorite movie, everything – requires humans like ourselves to testify on its behalf.

In one kind of testimonial, I’d stand in front of a class and read the article word-for-word. Then I’d work out all of this math in front of students on the board. I would circle the answer and step back.

But everything I’ve read and experienced has taught me that this would be a lousy testimonial. My curiosity wouldn’t become anybody else’s.

Meanwhile, multimedia allows me to develop a question with students as I experienced it, to postpone helpful tools, information, and resources until they’re necessary, and to show the resolution of that question as it exists in the world itself.

I don’t care about the multimedia. I care about the testimonial. Curiosity is my project. Multimedia lets me testify on its behalf.

So why are you here? What is your project? I care much less about the specifics of your project than I care how you testify on its behalf.

I care about Talking Points much less than Elizabeth Statmore. I care about math mistakes much less than Michael Pershan. I care about elementary math education much less than Tracy Zager and Joe Schwartz. I care about equity much less than Danny Brown and identity much less than Ilana Horn. I care about pure mathematics much less than Sam Shah and Gordi Hamilton. I care about sociological importance much less than Mathalicious. I care about applications of math to art and creativity much less than Anna Weltman.

But I love how each one of them testifies on behalf of their project. When any of them takes the stand to testify, I’m locked in. They make their project my own.

Again:

Why are you here? What is your project? How do you testify on its behalf?"
danmeyer  2016  math  mathematics  teaching  interestedness  pokémongo  curiosity  mathalicious  testament  multimedia  howweteach  interest  wonder  wondering  askingquestions  questionasking  modeling  education  howwelearn  engagement 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — John Holt, How Children Learn Children do not...
"After I re-read that section, I was reminded of Laurence Weschler writing about David Hockney, and how “interest-ing” for Hockney is a verb: it is the continual projection of interest. (The more you look at something, the more interesting it gets.) This was certainly the case with me after I started reading this book, and Holt in general: I, who felt like a somewhat enlightened parent, started noting all the ways I wasn’t paying attention to them, and over time, they have become more interesting to me, not because I’m doting on them more, or even spending more time with them, but because I am looking at them like little scientists, or just little people, who are worthy of interest. (It sounds so stupid: of course a parent should find their kids interesting, but think about how many parents and teachers and adults you know — maybe including yourself — who, secretly, probably don’t.)

Holt’s work has really shaken me up, blown my mind, and given me a different way of thinking about my kids. Some of my favorite bits, below."
johnholt  howchildrenlearn  education  learning  children  trust  austinkleon  lawrencewescheler  davidhockney  art  interestedness  interested  interesting  attention  payingattention  noticing  parenting  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  librarians  teachers  purpose  belonging  work  community  conversation  cv  pacing  meaningmaking  unschooling  deschooling  departmentalization  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  control  independence  anxiety  howchildrenfail  testing  assessment  reggioemilia  punk  games  play  standardizedtesting  love  2016  listening 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Vale Umberto Eco | Overland literary journal
"I still consider it his main contribution to our culture: that of demystifying and modernising the role of the intellectual; of making it more accessible, more contemporary, more relevant. He wasn’t a radical like, say, Pier Paolo Pasolini or Michel Foucault, and never viewed himself as part of a struggle, be it political or existential. He never operated outside of the establishment, either, embracing rather a role of international academic superstar that saw him bouncing for two decades between Italy and the United States. Yet he also helped create lasting institutions, like the modern field of semiotics and the university faculty known as DAMS, in Bologna, where one could survey new phenomena such as mass communications and culture through very old means, reaching as far back as the scholastic philosophy of his beloved Thomas Aquinas, and from there further back to Aristotle. At the time when I went to university, in 1990, this was still an almost singular exception in an academia that clung for dear life to its pre-war methods, structures and concerns.

Then, at the age of forty-eight, Eco became a novelist. Later he revealed that he had come to hate The Name of the Rose, which he regarded as his worst work of fiction but, with all due respect, it’s a silly assessment. That first novel, his best, reflects his approach to intellectual work in that it’s a superficially difficult book, delving at length into obscure theological and philosophical questions, that manages nonetheless to be highly enjoyable and readable. Its themes are the same themes that preoccupied him at the time, chiefly the problem of interpretation. I think we are beyond spoiling the plot, but in the simplest of terms, in The Name of the Rose an occasional murderer becomes a serial one in order to fulfil the plot that the detective has come up with in order to explain the original killings: therefore his subsequent murders are effectively inspired by the fervid imagination of the detective. Like his semiotic work Lector in fabula, which he had just finished writing, The Name of the Rose is about the role of the reader in making sense of a text, only in a literal and essentially comic fashion. As Eco explains in the postscript to the second edition, he had been fascinated by an attempt by the French writers of Oulipo to produce a matrix of all possible murder stories, whose conclusion was that they had all been written save perhaps for one in which the murderer was the reader. That was the paradox, or joke, at the root of it all.

Another way of summarising the plot of The Name of the Rose would be that a deranged monk becomes a killer in order to prevent the recovery of the lost last book of Aristotle’s Poetics, the one on comedy. Therefore the novel is another dramatisation of the struggle between apocalyptic and integrated intellectuals, between deadly seriousness and life-giving irony. Foucault’s Pendulum picks up on the same themes, but with a little more of an edge. The fanatic conspiracists at its centre bear a striking resemblance to contemporary flat earthers and 9/11 truthers, and as a result the book still reads very well: Eco’s concern with textual interpretation, if anything, has become more relevant and more political now that everyone writes as well as reading.

I suggested recently in an Overland article that we are all Umberto Eco now, by which I meant that the internet gives everyone an opportunity to be a published – therefore public – intellectual, such as was afforded to Eco for a mainstream national audience only at the height of his career. The inverse of this observation is that Umberto Eco was Umberto Eco first. That is to say, he exhibited the kind of encyclopaedic intellectual interest that is almost a default, standard setting of the current reader/writer, covering the most disparate of topics like a one-man Twitter or Facebook timeline.

This may be why, in spite of neither being a great admirer of his fiction nor a follower of his semiotic theories, over the years I have found myself drawn to Eco time and again. I think it was his voraciousness, that medieval appetite for universal knowledge that is nonetheless truly modern, his prodigious curiosity, and the obvious enjoyment he derived from intellectual work and was able to transmit to the reader. Of some of his work, in the fold of that vast output, I am truly fond. Like his heroic translation into Italian of Raymond Queneau’s devilish Exercices de style (a one-page narrative about a chance encounter on the bus is re-told in ninety-nine different styles); his introduction to the work of one of my favourite writers, Achille Campanile; his recent, inexhaustible book on the passion for lists in Western thought; and above all so many of his columns, too many to count.

There will be many obituaries, and I’d like to conclude this one with a nod to the one he wrote for the great illustrator, designer and author Bruno Manari, with whom he had long worked at Bompiani on technical and other non-fiction work. In this brief piece for a magazine after Munari’s death, in 1998, Eco recalled his friend’s great talent for sketching complex book layouts with a few strokes of the pencil, equal only to his ability to argue and immediately show that any alternative suggestions would simply not work on the page. It was a little lesson on the craft of publishing that obviously stayed with him: he remembered it four decades later, and it has stayed with me for two decades more. Deep thinking about book design is a form of deep thinking about culture, which is also ultimately the sum of all of our crafts. Eco was above all this: a devoted and joyous practitioner of the art of being interested in things."
umbertoeco  giovannitiso  interestedness  2016  obituaries  publishing  bookdesign  books  culture  brunomunari  semiotics  interpretation  intellectuals  thomasaquinas  pierpaolopasolini  michelfoucault  readwriteweb  publicintellectuals  twitter  facebook  socialmedia  web  online  internet  foucault  interested 
february 2016 by robertogreco
6, 68: Questions
"Imagine a big-budget documentary series on coffee, tea, and chocolate. I’m thinking of something between Planet Earth and Parts Unknown, but with special attention to problems of representation. It’s very easy to imagine this being full of clichés, talking down to both its audience and its subjects. I want to see something that has lovely 30 second panoramic shots of Sri Lankan hills and can hold the camera on a tea-picker talking about their economic conditions in their own words for the same length of time. I want something that can mention certain points about coffee prices and the IMF’s structural adjustments in Rwanda leading up to 1994. I want something that can talk about why several hundred Guere people died in Duékoué on 28–29 March 2011, and what that has to do with a Hershey bar.
I’m not looking for muckraking in particular. I want the interviews with the louche tasting-master, and the gruff operator of the cocoa butter mixer, and the slightly prickly olfactory researcher in the paper-filled office saying something counterintuitive. We all know coffee, tea, and chocolate are touchstones – of shared sensory experience, as social nucleation sites, casual drugs, conduits of globalization, economic staples – we get this. So someone should go out and ring the changes. Walk us through it. Let’s see it. There have been many good, small documentaries about these things, but I want a big one, something with a bank and an arc – crack out the fancy cameras, hire the good interpreters, add some zeros to the travel budget.

Look, I can pitch some episodes right now:

• The Chain. First episode if they’re 40 minutes, first three if they’re 20. For each of the drinks, we go from a plantation, through processing, to a shelf. I don’t care if we have to blur out logos because we don’t have permission. All we’re doing is orienting the viewer in the jargon and in our style.

• Health. What does caffeine do in the brain? What is addiction, like medically what is it? We talk to long-distance truckers. Why does green tea make some people sleepy? Are coffee, chocolate, and tea good for you? (Not: Is there a negligible trace constituent of chocolate that, if you feed ten grams per kilogram per day of it to rats, they have infinitesimally lower blood pressure? Not: “Black tea has long been said to be…”.) Why do these plants have caffeine at all?

• Land, Part 1. We’re at the edge of the Mau forest in Kenya. It’s the largest highland forest remaining in East Africa, and it’s disappearing fairly quickly – for, among other things, controversially, tea. And there are suspicious evictions: some people don’t seem sure where various park borders really are on the ground. Tea is economically complicated because it’s valuable but the markets are variable. We think about how multicropping, banking, a welfare system, trade, and hierarchical ownership are all ways of aiming for economic sustainability. We hear from two different tea smallholders, and one who had to make the switch to dairy. We hear from optimists, and from environmentalists talking about how hard it is to balance conservation against development. Comments from insightful academics who have worked in the area (say, Pratyusha Basu, who has looked at gender and dairy farming here) are recounted to and remarked upon by the smallholders. As in every episode, precedence is given to academics with more local experience – say, in this case, Naomi Shanguhyia, who grew up in the area and did a doctorate on tea farming among other things. What’s this? A grandparent remembers the UK and Canada’s program of persecution, encampment, and torture in the area in the 1950s, and how the montane forest was used as a redoubt. We think about the fact that coffee and tea both like high elevations in tropical climates, and bring this to James C. Scott’s ideas about using hills to hide from state power, and the taxability of tea.

• Everything Else. Stuff people do with cocoa that isn’t candy bars or hot chocolate: Why is cocoa butter used so much in beauty products? How do you make tejate? Or mole Guatemalteco? We talk with Mexican experts to reconstruct a plausible recipe for the earliest known drinking chocolates, and taste-test it. Coffee: How good a fertilizer is coffee grounds? Tea: Check it out, you can make cellulose from kombucha.

• Fermentation and Oxidation. How are washed and unwashed coffees different? What does the “washing” look like? When chocolate pickers cover the beans with banana leaves, what’s going on? How could it be that as recently as ten years ago we thought Pu-erh tea fermentation was led by black mold fungus, but now we think it’s primarily Aspergillus luchuensis? What do completely green/unfermented versions of each drink taste like if you make them in the ordinary way? What about over-fermented versions? We visit several tea processing facilities in China, taking flavor and microbial profiles of the leaves at various stages, and talk to people in Tibet for whom Pu-erh is the primary source of certain micronutrients.

• At Home. We look in detail at how some people who grow and collect the drinks use them. How does a Nilgiri tea picker brew it, or do they? Do cocoa farmers in rural Côte d’Ivoire know what chocolate is? (Spoiler: many of them do not.) When I hear that some Ethiopian coffee-growers like to roast their beans with butter, is that the same butter as is in my fridge? (This is, of course, an excuse to look at living conditions. But also I’m just mundanely curious about recipes.)

• Hipsters. Where does American third-wave coffee come from? What was the causal braid from Ethiopia through invasion to Italy through occupation to GIs on the US’s West Coast to hipsters to the national fashion for Seattle in the 90s to people being mad at the word “barista”? We talk to competitors and judges at the World Barista Championships, treating them with the dignity and assumption of subjectivity that is due to any human being, and with the people who write lengthy tasting notes that make you kind of embarrassed for them. How has the flat white been spreading over this last decade? Can people with bangs and beards tell the difference between Blue Bottle and Starbucks in a double-blind taste test? We talk to mom and pop coffeeshop owners about the economics, difficulties, and pleasures of the business. (I know just the ones. The rumors that I liked their coffeeshop so much that I moved into their spare room, 2011–2012, are slightly exaggerated.)

• Timing. We visit with a commodities day-trader, a logistics expert at a processing plant, a logistics expert at a shipping company, someone who works with agricultural prediction, meteorologists, trendspotters, whatever you call the people who develop and test things like Pumpkin Spice Latte®, and so on. Starting with recollections from farmers, we look at how weather and politics in given years affected prices. (What happens in Chiapas if the belg was late?)

• Final Episode. We look at behind-the-scenes footage. How did the interviewers talk to the interviewees when the (main) cameras weren’t rolling? We meet the fixers, the translators, the camera operators. The presenters talk about what they learned: as cliché as it is, do they think about a latte differently now? We watch people who were interviewed watching episodes they were in – or rough cuts, at least. What about the time in New Guinea when rain got in the $50,000 camera? How many shots did the medical insurer insist they get before equatorial travel? What news has there been of issues covered in the first episodes? A producer explains how they persuaded someone at the head office to sign off on some inadvisable travel that produced a single 30 second subsegment. An editor describes how they tried to wedge that shot in but there was just no way. We see that shot.

Is this making sense? We could easily brainstorm as many again – on history, on economics, on botany. I want something that would mostly fit inside this decade’s dominant documentary formats, but which wouldn’t take the “look at the quaint poor people” stance that is still mostly normal. (Nor the “anything called development must be good” stance, nor the “look what corporations did” stance, nor, nor, nor.) I want to learn why the Japanese market buys almost all the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee produced. I want to learn why Coffea liberica isn’t more popular, and what’s up with the boutique chocolate market segment since Dagoba got bought, and whether tea pickers can talk to each other while they work. I’m willing to have a slightly square documentary if that’s what it takes to talk about the effects of theobromine, and a slightly radical one if that’s what it means to talk about why people making luxury goods can be hungry, and a slightly Vice-y one if that’s what it takes to look at child labor up close. It seems like such an obvious topic, so woven into timely and visually appealing issues."
charlieloyd  questions  curiosity  2015  coffee  tea  interestedness  howtoaskquestions  questionasking  learning  howwelearn  commodities  systemsthinking  food  drink  health  history  geography  science  politics  askingquestions  interested 
october 2015 by robertogreco
6, 67: Side pass
"Q: Where do you find the time to write a newsletter?

A: I think of things that I was going to do, but which I don’t want to do as much as I want to do a newsletter, and then I don’t do those other things, and do the newsletter instead.

Q: You said once that you were pretty optimistic about the world’s future, despite your deep fear of climate change. Why?

A: Well, short version, because of what I think of as the genre of whig graphs. I strongly disagree with the hypercapitalist, only-humans-matter, business-as-usual agenda of most people I see deploying those graphs. (← Between that sentence and the coming sentence is where a longer version would have to do a lot of careful bridge-building. →) But I have much more trust in the futures of vaccinated, nourished, educated, relatively non-traumatized children who are close to the world’s biggest problems than I do in my own analyses. The risk in this stance is quietism. In any case, I think we’re in big trouble. My optimism isn’t a kind of satisfaction, only a kind of hope.



Q: How do I learn to write better?

A: Not sure. But maybe try stuff like: Write about things you care about. When you read something that surprises you, think about why, and how it could have been different. Good writing teaches you how to read it. As a reader, pay attention. As a writer, reward attention. Accept that you can’t make any one piece of writing avoid every valid criticism, communicate the whole truth, or please everyone you’d like to please. Notice peers whose writing is like yours and watch them learn. Find things you appreciate in writing that you (or common wisdom) don’t like. Ask someone who knows better than me.

Q: As you might expect from the fact that I subscribe to your newsletter, I think we share some tastes and interests.

A: What do you read and pay attention to? Dunno. I follow a lot of amazing people on Twitter. When I come across something especially interesting, I assume it’s part of a network of interesting things and try to map that out. (For example, if I particularly enjoy a book, I’ll do web searches for the people thanked in the acknowledgments.) Looking for gaps, ruthlessness about things that are supposed to be interesting but aren’t, etc. I don’t know! Really there’s nothing in particular that I would point to other than the entire internet."
charlieloyd  2015  reading  writing  howweread  howwewrite  process  learning  howwelearn  generalists  twitter  education  unschooling  attention  interestedness  interested  classideas  communication  ideas  hypercapitalism  future  hope  optimism  climatechange  humanism  newsletters  futures  quietism 
september 2015 by robertogreco
What I Have Learned About the Art of Listening • Kate Krontiris
"The best articulation I have ever heard for what listening is came in a talk that Nate Matias gave at the Media Lab earlier this year.

“Listening is the art of making others eloquent.”"



"So my first observation is that, to be a skillful listener, it really helps to have had the experience of being listened to."



"My second observation is that the body often conveys more information than the voice."



"My last observation is that truly transformational group processes require listening on at least three levels.

We’ve already discussed the body language.

The second level is the spoken content of the discussion.

Here, as a facilitator, I’m keeping a few things in mind at once: first, the thing we were supposed to be talking about. Second, the live material that folks are sharing. And third, a kind of cache of what everybody has said.

This is important because I’ll use all of this material to ask questions that draw together themes, and offer options for moving forward.

The third level of listening relates to the emotional landscape in the room.

Here, I’m listening for subtle changes in tone, or a particularly direct or challenging question — observing how people are feeling, regardless of what they are saying.

Many of you reading this are are embedded in groups that are trying to accomplish ambitious things, and so here is one idea for improving listening as a component of exercising leadership.

Try shifting your own view of yourself in the group from “leader,” “Expert,” or “participant” to “coach.”

This involves making fewer statements and asking more questions, modeling a kind of listening that empowers people to solve their own problems instead of solving problems for them.

So those are my top observations about the art of listening. Feel free to share yours as well!"
listening  katekrontiris  2014  natematias  noticing  howto  interestedness  bodylanguage  interested 
october 2014 by robertogreco
How to Be Polite — The Message — Medium
"But no matter. What I found most appealing was the way that the practice of etiquette let you draw a protective circle around yourself and your emotions. By following the strictures in the book, you could drag yourself through a terrible situation and when it was all over, you could throw your white gloves in the dirty laundry hamper and move on with your life. I figured there was a big world out there and etiquette was going to come in handy along the way."



"Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

Because nearly everyone in the world believes their job to be difficult. I once went to a party and met a very beautiful woman whose job was to help celebrities wear Harry Winston jewelry. I could tell that she was disappointed to be introduced to this rumpled giant in an off-brand shirt, but when I told her that her job sounded difficult to me she brightened and spoke for 30 straight minutes about sapphires and Jessica Simpson. She kept touching me as she talked. I forgave her for that. I didn’t reveal a single detail about myself, including my name. Eventually someone pulled me back into the party. The celebrity jewelry coordinator smiled and grabbed my hand and said, “I like you!” She seemed so relieved to have unburdened herself. I counted it as a great accomplishment. Maybe a hundred times since I’ve said, “wow, that sounds hard” to a stranger, always to great effect. I stay home with my kids and have no life left to me, so take this party trick, my gift to you.

A friend and I came up with a game called Raconteur. You pair up with another Raconteur at a party and talk to everyone you can. You score points by getting people to disclose something about their lives. If you dominate the conversation, you lose a point. The two raconteurs communicate using hand signals and keep a tally on a sheet of paper or in their minds. You’d think people would notice but they are so amused by the attention that the fact you’re playing Raconteur escapes their attention."



"But a whole class of problems goes away from my life because I see people as having around them a two or three foot invisible buffer. If there is a stray hair on their jacket I ask them if I can pluck it from them. If they don’t want that, they’ll do it themselves. If their name is now Susan, it’s Susan. Whatever happens inside that buffer is entirely up to them. It has nothing to do with me."



"Politeness buys you time. It leaves doors open. I’ve met so many people whom, if I had trusted my first impressions, I would never have wanted to meet again. And yet — many of them are now great friends. I have only very rarely touched their hair.

One of those people is my wife. On our first date, we went to a nice bar with blue tables and, in the regular course of conversation she told me at length about the removal of a dermoid teratoma from her ovaries. This is a cyst with teeth (not a metaphor). I had gone in expecting to flirt but instead I learned about the surgical removal of a fist-sized mutant mass of hair and teeth from her sexual parts. This killed the chemistry. I walked her home, told her I had a great time, and went home and looked up cysts on the Internet, always a nice end to an evening. We talked a little after that. I kept everything pleasant and brief. A year later I ran into her on the train and we got another drink. Much later I learned that she’d been having a very bad day in a very bad year.

Sometimes I’ll get a call or email from someone five years after the last contact and I’ll think, oh right, I hated that person. But they would never have known, of course. Let’s see if I still hate them. Very often I find that I don’t. Or that I hated them for a dumb reason. Or that they were having a bad day. Or much more likely, that I had been having a bad day.

People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment. I know that doesn’t sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation. And not being obligated is one of the sweetest of life’s riches.

There is one other aspect of my politeness that I am reluctant to mention. But I will. I am often consumed with a sense of overwhelming love and empathy. I look at the other person and am overwhelmed with joy. For all of my irony I really do want to know about the process of hanging jewelry from celebrities. What does the jewelry feel like in your hand? What do the celebrities feel like in your hand? Which one is more smooth?

This is not a world where you can simply express love for other people, where you can praise them. Perhaps it should be. But it’s not. I’ve found that people will fear your enthusiasm and warmth, and wait to hear the price. Which is fair. We’ve all been drawn into someone’s love only to find out that we couldn’t afford it. A little distance buys everyone time.

Last week my wife came back from the playground. She told me that my two-year-old, three-foot-tall son, Abraham, walked up to a woman in hijab and asked “What’s your name?” The woman told him her name. Then he put out his little hand and said, “Nice to meet you!” Everyone laughed, and he smiled. He shared with her his firmest handshake, like I taught him."
etiquette  paulford  2014  listening  politeness  behavior  social  cv  canon  understanding  people  apologies  patience  love  empathy  socializing  relationships  secondchances  interestedness  silence  interested 
august 2014 by robertogreco
[Tyranny of the Curriculum] What is Extra in Education? | ThinkThankThunk
"You wanna know what keeps me up at night? Not climate change. Not the fact that Ke$ha makes more in a minute than I make in a decade. Not the fact that Iowa is slowly but surely wasting the prairie’s soil and everyone’s fresh water so it can produce Pepsi, ethanol, and beef.

No, it’s the tyranny of the curriculum, because without that oppression, we would actually have an entire population who could solve those aforementioned problems.

Disclaimer; super pissed right now.

“Tyranny”? Too harsh?

I once had a student develop a computational model that predicted the behavior of Alzheimer afflicted networks using a software neural net that she and I wrote together. When I asked if she’d like to pursue her research for math and science credit, she came back the next day, espousing the rhetoric of the oppressed:

“No, well, I have to get my required credits done in class, so I won’t have time.”

She, and almost every other student believes that “interesting” is extra. They believe in the monopoly on credits, learning, and schedules that schools have packaged and sold, despite also claiming to be “bored.”

That’s tyranny folks. I have more stories exactly like this, but my blood pressure can’t handle typing them.

That’s why I’m super pumped that BIG is growing, and fast. Thank God, because I’m actually super scared of Ke$ha."
shawncornally  2014  curriculum  openstudioproject  lcproject  interestedness  interested  projectbasedlearning  extra  tcsnmy  credits  learning  schedules  highschool  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  pbl 
may 2014 by robertogreco
dy/dan » Blog Archive » My Opening Keynote for CUE 2014
"I started by describing why edtech presentations often make me aggravated. Then I described my "edtech mission statement," which helps me through those presentations and helps me make tough choices for my limited resources."

[Direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRsE6mKkDjw ]

BTW. I was also interviewed at CUE for the Infinite Thinking Machine with Mark Hammons.

[That video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1J831tffJ4 ]
edtech  danmeyer  teaching  math  mathematics  technology  curiosity  cue  cue2014  perplexity  online  internet  howwework  sharing  blogging  professionaldevelopment  learning  education  noticing  interestedness  del.icio.us  rss  interestingness  keynote  documentcameras  photography  video  mobile  phones  remembering  ela  languagearts  wcydwt  2014  askingquestions  presentations  engagement  lectures  lecturing  questionasking  interested 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney - NYTimes.com
[Don't read this here, go read the entire article.]
[Update (20 Sept 2014): Now Radio Lab has done a story. http://www.radiolab.org/story/juicervose/ ]

"Owen’s chosen affinity clearly opened a window to myth, fable and legend that Disney lifted and retooled, just as the Grimm Brothers did, from a vast repository of folklore. Countless cultures have told versions of “Beauty and the Beast,” which dates back 2,000 years to the Latin “Cupid and Psyche” and certainly beyond that. These are stories human beings have always told themselves to make their way in the world.

But what draws kids like Owen to these movies is something even more elemental. Walt Disney told his early animators that the characters and the scenes should be so vivid and clear that they could be understood with the sound turned off. Inadvertently, this creates a dream portal for those who struggle with auditory processing, especially, in recent decades, when the films can be rewound and replayed many times.

The latest research that Cornelia and I came across seems to show that a feature of autism is a lack of traditional habituation, or the way we become used to things. Typically, people sort various inputs, keep or discard them and then store those they keep. Our brains thus become accustomed to the familiar. After the third viewing of a good movie, or a 10th viewing of a real favorite, you’ve had your fill. Many autistic people, though, can watch that favorite a hundred times and seemingly feel the same sensations as the first time. While they are soothed by the repetition, they may also be looking for new details and patterns in each viewing, so-called hypersystemizing, a theory that asserts that the repetitive urge underlies special abilities for some of those on the spectrum.

Disney provided raw material, publicly available and ubiquitous, that Owen, with our help, built into a language and a tool kit. I’m sure, with enough creativity and energy, this can be done with any number of interests and disciplines. For some kids, their affinity is for train schedules; for others, it’s maps. While our household may not be typical, with a pair of writerly parents and a fixation on stories — all of which may have accentuated and amplified Owen’s native inclinations — we have no doubt that he shares a basic neurological architecture with people on the autism spectrum everywhere.

The challenge is how to make our example useful to other families and other kids, whatever their burning interest. That’s what Team Owen seems to be talking about. How does this work? Is there a methodology? Can it be translated from anecdote to analysis and be helpful to others in need?"



"The room gets quiet. It’s clear that many of these students have rarely, if ever, had their passion for Disney treated as something serious and meaningful.

One young woman talks about how her gentle nature, something that leaves her vulnerable, is a great strength in how she handles rescue dogs. Another mentions “my brain, because it can take me on adventures of imagination.”

A young man, speaking in a very routinized way with speech patterns that closely match the “Rain Man” characterization of autism, asks me the date of my birth. I tell him, and his eyes flicker. “That was a Friday.”

When I ask the group which Disney character they most identify with, the same student, now enlivened, says Pinocchio and eventually explains, “I feel like a wooden boy, and I’ve always dreamed of feeling what real boys feel.” The dorm counselor, who told me ahead of time that this student has disciplinary issues and an unreachable emotional core, then compliments him — “That was beautiful,” she says — and looks at me with astonishment. I shrug. He’d already bonded in a soul-searching way with his character. I just asked him which one.

It goes on this way for an hour. Like a broken dam. The students, many of whom have very modest expressive speech, summon subtle and deeply moving truths.

There’s a reason — a good-enough reason — that each autistic person has embraced a particular interest. Find that reason, and you will find them, hiding in there, and maybe get a glimpse of their underlying capacities. In our experience, we found that showing authentic interest will help them feel dignity and impel them to show you more, complete with maps and navigational tools that may help to guide their development, their growth. Revealed capability, in turn, may lead to a better understanding of what’s possible in the lives of many people who are challenged."



"For nearly a decade, Owen has been coming to see Griffin in this basement office, trying to decipher the subtle patterns of how people grow close to one another. That desire to connect has always been there as, the latest research indicates, it may be in all autistic people; their neurological barriers don’t kill the desire, even if it’s deeply submerged. And this is the way he still is — autism isn’t a spell that has been broken; it’s a way of being. That means the world will continue to be inhospitable to him, walking about, as he does, uncertain, missing cues, his heart exposed. But he has desperately wanted to connect, to feel his life, fully, and — using his movies and the improvised tool kit we helped him build — he’s finding his footing. For so many years, it was about us finding him, a search joined by Griffin and others. Now it was about him finding himself.

“Owen, my good friend,” Griffin says, his eyes glistening, “it’s fair to say, you’re on your way.”

Owen stands up, that little curly-haired boy now a man, almost Griffin’s height, and smiles, a knowing smile of self-awareness.

“Thank you, Rafiki,” Owen says to Griffin. “For everything.”

“Is friendship forever?” Owen asks me.

“Yes, Owen, it often is.”

“But not always.”

“No, not always.”

It’s later that night, and we’re driving down Connecticut Avenue after seeing the latest from Disney (and Pixar), “Brave.” I think I understand now, from a deeper place, how Owen, and some of his Disney Club friends, use the movies and why it feels so improbable. Most of us grow from a different direction, starting as utterly experiential, sorting through the blooming and buzzing confusion to learn this feels good, that not so much, this works, that doesn’t, as we gradually form a set of rules that we live by, with moral judgments at the peak.

Owen, with his reliance from an early age on myth and fable, each carrying the clarity of black and white, good and evil, inverts this pyramid. He starts with the moral — beauty lies within, be true to yourself, love conquers all — and tests them in a world colored by shades of gray. It’s the sidekicks who help him navigate that eternal debate, as they often do for the heroes in their movies.

“I know love lasts forever!” Owen says after a few minutes.

We’re approaching Chevy Chase Circle, five minutes from where we live. I know I need to touch, gently, upon the notion that making friends or finding love entails risk. There’s no guarantee of forever. There may be heartbreak. But we do it anyway. I drop this bitter morsel into the mix, folding around it an affirmation that he took a risk when he went to an unfamiliar place on Cape Cod, far from his friends and home, and found love. The lesson, I begin, is “to never be afraid to reach out.”

He cuts me off. “I know, I know,” he says, and then summons a voice for support. It’s Laverne, the gargoyle from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

“Quasi,” he says. “Take it from an old spectator. Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’s all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without you.”

He giggles under his breath, then does a little shoulder roll, something he does when a jolt of emotion runs through him. “You know, they’re not like the other sidekicks.”

He has jumped ahead of me again. I scramble. “No? How?”

“All the other sidekicks live within their movies as characters, walk around, do things. The gargoyles only live when Quasimodo is alone with them.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because he breathes life into them. They only live in his imagination.”

Everything goes still. “What’s that mean, buddy?”

He purses his lips and smiles, chin out, as if he got caught in a game of chess. But maybe he wanted to. “It means the answers are inside of him,” he says.

“Then why did he need the gargoyles?”

“He needed to breathe life into them so he could talk to himself. It’s the only way he could find out who he was.”

“You know anyone else like that?”

“Me.” He laughs a sweet, little laugh, soft and deep. And then there’s a long pause.

“But it can get so lonely, talking to yourself,” my son Owen finally says. “You have to live in the world.”"
autism  learning  parenting  comics  disney  health  movies  communication  fables  myths  legends  morals  ablerism  capabilities  abilities  differentlyabled  capacities  howwelearn  howweteach  neurotypical  psychology  dignity  interestedness  connection  love  howwelove  friednship  teaching  listening  folklore  via:timmaly  ronsuskind  interested 
march 2014 by robertogreco
gis-advice.md
"Find interesting people. You’ll learn a lot more from a great professor (or mentor, or friend, or tutorial) talking about something outside your specialty than you will from someone boring who’s working on exactly what you’re interested in. Don’t get insular! All the best artists I know have close scientist friends and vice versa.

That principle alone should expose you to enough interesting ideas that you will be able to see the most productive paths for yourself. I guess I could go on:

Look for real problems. “Let’s make a map of the furthest point from a McDonalds in each state” may be a useful exercise, but it’s not a real problem. Accurately measuring how earthquakes propagate is a real problem. Making sure that indigenous land rights are represented is a real problem. Finding early evidence of village destruction is a real problem. That doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time on scientific and humanitarian topics, especially as a student! But your work is valuable and should be spent on things you care about, even if they’re silly. If you learn to ask interesting questions that no one else is asking, you will get a good reputation among the people whom you would actually want to work for.

Learn as much statistics as you reasonably can. Trust me. Half the time I solve a tough technical problem it involves learning some stats, and then suddenly I see all these other places where that bit of knowledge applies. In fact, I’m making a note: I should learn more stats.

Read Edward Tufte’s books front to back several times, even the parts that don’t seem to have anything to do with maps."



"If you need to do some work (a course, a job) that you don’t believe in, fine, and try to learn something from it. Pay the bills. But don’t bring it on yourself. Don’t say “Well, Yoyodyne makes kitten-seeking missile guidance computers and their contract doesn’t allow side projects, but I need something solid on my résumé, so I’ll just spend four years there while I get on my feet.” It might work by chance, but odds are it’ll lead to selling out, burning out, and just generally being no use to yourself or anyone else. The GIS industry is a moving target: don’t aim for a good job, aim to invent it.

One of my coworkers came to the company from a project to map the history of the ancient Mediterranean; another got on the radar because he was mapping the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk. Our lead developer was a philosophy/studio art major. I dropped out. Very few of us majored in GIS or CS. But we all ended up here because each in our own way we fundamentally care about geography – place, space, and helping people work with representations of their world more easily. Of course we’re a startup so things are a little unusual, but really, to any company worth working for, showing initiative, carefulness, curiosity, and delight in geography itself matters so much more than any one item on your CV.

When people say “do what you love” they don’t mean “goof off and trust the world to provide”; they mean “you’ll be working below your abilities whenever you don’t have intrinsic motivation, so find it”.

Stick with open-source tools as much as reasonably possible. There are various advantages, but one is that in principle you can always look inside them and figure out exactly what they do. In practice that’s rarely easy, but it’s still valuable. You also get to share your work with a much larger community – given that maybe 3% of the population can afford a closed-source GIS package, 97% of Earth’s latent GIS talent is in the open-source world. Help bring it to fruition:

Teach. Any time anyone is paying attention to you, you’re teaching anyway, so it’s good to be deliberate about it. This might take the form of a notebook blog, for example: “Today I tried to do X with method Y, but got result Z. Will try again next week”. Teaching forces you to think carefully in certain ways (as does programming!). Teaching also helps you keep ethics in mind. Mapping is a special kind of power that most people cannot tell is being abused even when it is; having to justify something to a student is one technique to keep in mind the consequences of things."
charlieloyd  2013  advice  learning  interestedness  problemsolving  gis  teaching  inventing  understanding  unschooling  values  motivation  intrinsicmotivation  potential  interested 
december 2013 by robertogreco
You Are Boring — The Magazine
"Everything was going great until you showed up. You see me across the crowded room, make your way over, and start talking at me. And you don’t stop.

You are a Democrat, an outspoken atheist, and a foodie. You like to say “Science!” in a weird, self-congratulatory way. You wear jeans during the day, and fancy jeans at night. You listen to music featuring wispy lady vocals and electronic bloop-bloops.

You really like coffee, except for Starbucks, which is the worst. No wait—Coke is the worst! Unless it’s Mexican Coke, in which case it’s the best.

Pixar. Kitty cats. Uniqlo. Bourbon. Steel-cut oats. Comic books. Obama. Fancy burgers.

You listen to the same five podcasts and read the same seven blogs as all your pals. You stay up late on Twitter making hashtagged jokes about the event that everyone has decided will be the event about which everyone jokes today. You love to send withering @ messages to people like Rush Limbaugh—of course, those notes are not meant for their ostensible recipients, but for your friends, who will chuckle and retweet your savage wit.

You are boring. So, so boring.

Don’t take it too hard. We’re all boring. At best, we’re recovering bores. Each day offers a hundred ways for us to bore the crap out of the folks with whom we live, work, and drink. And on the Internet, you’re able to bore thousands of people at once.1

A few years ago, I had a job that involved listening to a ton of podcasts. It’s possible that I’ve heard more podcasts than anyone else—I listened to at least a little bit of tens of thousands of shows. Of course, the vast majority were so bad I’d often wish microphones could be sold only to licensed users. But I did learn how to tell very quickly whether someone was interesting or not.

The people who were interesting told good stories. They were also inquisitive: willing to work to expand their social and intellectual range. Most important, interesting people were also the best listeners. They knew when to ask questions. This was the set of people whose shows I would subscribe to, whose writing I would seek out, and whose friendship I would crave. In other words, those people were the opposite of boring.

Here are the three things they taught me.

Listen, then ask a question
I call it Amtrak Smoking Car Syndrome (because I am old, used to smoke, thought that trains were the best way to get around the country, and don’t really understand what a syndrome is). I’d be down in the smoking car, listening to two people have a conversation that went like this:

Stranger #1: Thing about my life.
Stranger #2: Thing about my life that is somewhat related to what you just said.
Stranger #1: Thing about my life that is somewhat related to what you just said.
Stranger #2: Thing about my life…

Next stop: Boringsville, Population: 2. There’s no better way to be seen as a blowhard than to constantly blow, hard. Instead, give a conversation some air. Really listen. Ask questions; the person you’re speaking with will respect your inquisitiveness and become more interested in the exchange. “Asking questions makes people feel valued,” said former Virgin America VP Porter Gale, “and they transfer that value over to liking you more.”

Watch an old episode of The Dick Cavett Show. Cavett is an engaged listener, very much part of the conversation, but he also allows his partner to talk as well. He’s not afraid to ask questions that reveal his ignorance, but it’s also clear he’s no dummy.2

Online, put this technique to use by pausing before you post. Why are you adding that link to Facebook? Will it be valuable to the many people who will see it? Or are you just flashing a Prius-shaped gang sign to your pals? If it’s the latter, keep it to yourself.

Tell a story
Shitty pictures of your food are all over the Internet. Sites like Instagram are loaded with photo after photo of lumpy goo. What you’re trying to share is the joy you feel when the waiter delivers that beautifully plated pork chop. But your photo doesn’t tell the story of that experience. Your photo rips away the delicious smell, the beautiful room, the anticipation of eating, and the presence of people you love.

Instead, think of your photo as a story. When people tell stories, they think about how to communicate the entirety of their experience to someone else. They set the stage, introduce characters, and give us a reason to care. Of course, that’s hard to do in a single photo, but if you think in terms of story, could you find a better way to communicate your experience? How about a picture of the menu, or of your smiling dinner companions? Anything’s better than the greasy puddles you have decided any human with access to the Internet should be able to see.

Expand your circles
Several years ago, my wife and I went on a long trip. We had saved a little money, and the places we were staying were cheap, so we could afford private rooms in every city but one. Guess where we made the most friends? In Budapest, where we were jammed into a big room with a bunch of folks, we were forced into situations we never would have sought out. I wouldn’t have met Goran, the Marilyn Manson superfan who was fleeing the NATO bombing of Belgrade on a fake Portuguese visa. Or Kurt, the Dutch hippie who let us crash on his floor in Amsterdam. Stepping out of your social comfort zone can be painful, but it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do.3

As you widen your social circle, work on your intellectual one as well. Expose yourself to new writers. Hit the Random Article button on Wikipedia. Investigate the bromides your friends chuck around Twitter like frisbees.

When you expand your social and intellectual range, you become more interesting. You’re able to make connections that others don’t see. You’re like a hunter, bringing a fresh supply of ideas and stories back to share with your friends.

The Big Bore lurks inside us all. It’s dying to be set loose to lecture on Quentin Tarantino or what makes good ice cream. Fight it! Fight the urge to speak without listening, to tell a bad story, to stay inside your comfortable nest of back-patting pals. As you move away from boring, you will never be bored."
interestingness  interestedness  listening  scottsimpson  2012  uniqueness  hivemind  echochambers  noise  howtolisten  howto  storytelling  cv  homogeneity  diversity  exploration  interviewing  instagram  twitter  blogs  blogging  podcasts  dickcavett  boringness  interested 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Being self-taught — vanSchneider Blog
"1. It's about the process. Just do it and start with the first thing that comes to your mind. There is absolutely nothing you can do wrong.

2. Don't listen to other people who're telling you what's right and what's wrong. Those people will always try to keep you small and hold you back. Don't listen to them. People always told me that I'm naive  — and yeah, maybe I was. But I always was optimistic and I knew that I'm doing the right thing. 

3. Surround yourself with people who motivate you and always making you feel good about what you're doing. These personalities are rare - so if you found them, keep them.

4. Help other people. Even if you're at the very beginning of something, use your knowledge to help others. Why? Try it, magical things will happen, I promise.

5. Always surround yourself with people who're "better" than you. That's what Donny Osmond said and I think it's partly true. But try to replace "better" with "crazier" or "different".

6. Break the rules. That's actually one of the most important things at being self-taught. Be a rebel, break the rules and don't be afraid of anything. What if you fail? Get up, try again. If you don't like it? Don't do it, do something else. It's that simple.

7. Stop complaining. I know, that's fcking hard and I'm not really good with this either. But complaining is always the easy route and nothing actually happen when you do it, except you're surrounding yourself with a lot of negative energy."
via:ableparris  autodidacts  autodidactism  self-teaching  self-directedlearning  education  learning  unschooling  deschooling  life  design  tobiasvanschneider  complaining  complaints  rules  breakingrules  self-taught  donnyosmond  georgesteinbrenner  helping  interestedness  curiosity  people  relationships  doing  making  rightandwrong  process  autodidacticism  interested 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Alphonso Lingis | Figure/Ground Communication™
[Wayback: http://web.archive.org/web/20131102040148/http://figureground.ca/interviews/alphonso-lingis/ ]

"…being a university professor is not even work. All you do is go to the campus maybe 6-8 hours a week and talk about books that you chose and that you love. I was never interested in administration or professional arguments and quarrels. I found that if you do your job, people leave you alone.

I went to other countries every year in the summer simply because I was interested in the world, and I still am. I don’t plan where I go and I don’t want to know anything about the country before I go. I prize that first impression. When I get there, I go to a book store and I buy all the books in languages I can read–guidebooks, history books and so on. But I don’t want to know anything before I go."

"the attitude coming from the administration. They want what they call “accountability”. They want empirical, quantitative ways to judge."

"I have a strong personal need to admire; I’m always looking for people to admire and places and cultures and political systems I admire."
ethics  art  performanceart  presentations  performance  technology  onlineeducation  education  howweteach  quantification  accountability  philosophy  travel  learning  teaching  administration  highereducation  highered  nelsonmandela  gandhi  interestedness  listenting  noticing  culture  admiration  interviews  2012  mashallmcluhan  alphonsolingis  interested  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Why Not Be Jubilant? - Lapham’s Quarterly
"The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc. In other words to be fully awake to everything about you & the more you learn the more you can appreciate & get a full measure of joy & happiness out of life. I do not think a young fellow should be too serious, he should be full of the Dickens some times to create a balance.

I think your philosophy on religion is okay. I think every person should think, act & believe according to the dictates of his own conscience without too much pressure from the outside. I too think there is a higher power, a supreme force, a governor, a something that controls the universe. What it is & in what form I do not know. It may be that our intellect or spirit exists in space in some other form after it parts from this body…"
interestedness  nature  balance  fathers  1928  appreciation  happiness  belief  religion  presence  noticing  wisdom  living  life  whatmatter  parenting  letters  jacksonpollock  interested  from delicious
september 2012 by robertogreco
Why Good Classes Fail [Digital Ethnography blog]
"So rather than focusing on emulating particular techniques and methods, we should be doing everything we can to embrace, inspire, and use our own empathy in order to better understand and relate to our students. It is only from this space that we can effectively generate and use the appropriate techniques and methods for any particular task. In this way, there is no “recipe,” “secret sauce,” or “silver bullet” for teaching effectively that can be used by anybody, anytime, anywhere. Instead, I’m proposing a “generative” method, one in which we “generate” the appropriate method that takes into consideration the broadest range of factors that we can manage to accommodate."
howweteach  howwelearn  method  carlrogers  2012  listening  interestedness  disinterest  disconnection  disengagement  engagement  gardnercampbell  pedagogy  students  connection  reproductiion  scalability  personality  approach  silverbullets  de-scripting  unschooling  highereducation  education  learning  teaching  empathy  michealwesch  interested  scale 
february 2012 by robertogreco

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