Hero of the day 3: Bloomberg

Bloomberg is just being more and more impressive. After his Citibike initiative, and attempted ban on big gulps, he’s now tackling recycling. He is just one of the more forward-looking mayors out there. See also his bold plans for preventing the next Sandy. He is a good example of how someone can apply their forward-looking skills in both business (taking out Reuters by focusing on the holistic needs of the trader, as mentioned in Blue Ocean Strategy) and government/urban planning.

I really hope that: a) whoever takes over shows us much foresight (unlikely, I know) and b) that Bloomberg continues his work on the global scale, through more initiatives like his city league for climate change.

Hero of the day 2: Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield. Recently announced he’d be retiring. Worth mentioning for being as much as popularizer of space as Asimov was back in the day (or probably more). You can find some of his tweeted pictures here. Also, for being a Bowie fan (although it seems everyone is these days).


Hero of the day 1: Joss Whedon

Today’s heroes are:

Joss Whedon – for being one of the best out there at mixing highbrow and lowbrow. Who else directs Shakespeare in his home in black and white after filming one of the biggest, most spectacular blockbusters of all time? You could argue that many filmmakers and novelist do this, the need to follow the big with the small, etc. But they often don’t do it well. De Lillo followed up the best novel of the last century, Underworld, with Cosmopolis, which was pretty flat (although looking forward to see Cronenberg’s take on it). Donna Tartt was supposed to write a short novella after her overblown second novel, The Little Friend, that never even came out (although now apparently a third novel is coming out). Whedon, however, succeeds in pulling off both with equal panache. A true example of the hybrid mentality. Here is an interesting podcast interview with him, by the way, where he shows how much Buffy et al are inspired by his mother.

Cluster reading

Saw this TED talk featuring Lisa Bu, talking about reading books in pairs, which is a very nice idea. Over the last year, or really since I started reading exclusively on my Kindle, I’ve been trying to do something similar, either reading in pairs, or triads, or full clusters.

It is definitely the case that with the amount of good books published these days, a lot of them will reference the same examples and the same research. It is therefore quite fun to read them in clusters and compare how they treat similar subjects.

One cluster I’ve enjoyed recently is the Kahneman cluster, featuring various books on system 1 and 2 thinking, and the shortcuts the brain takes when operating under system 1. Maria Konnikova, in her very illuminating Mastermind, calls them System [Sherlock] Holmes and System Watson. Other good recent books that refer to many of the phenomena identified by Kahneman and Tversky (as well as Cialdini) and are worth reading at the same time are e.g. Sunstein and Thaler’s Nudge and Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise.

Quantum leap in Asian civil society?

There was a very interesting article in the FT yesterday, on Asian civil society, and the battles they choose to fight. One of the points made is a comparison between these NGOs’ priorities and how developing countries made a quantum leap in telecommunications and computing, skipping the landline and desktop stages and jumping straight to the smartphone, and text-based apps on feature phones.

It is an interesting analogy, but it is probably faulty, since the battles they choose to fight are probably the only ones they can fight, not a choice. But then again, maybe so was the move to smartphones.

Japanese word for the space between objects

Was listening to a BBC podcast this morning with an interview with Bill Viola, where he mentioned that Japanese has a word for the space between trees. I imagine it’s the concept of Ma, that he’s referring to. It’s a beautiful concept, and a reminder of the quotidian dark matter we have around us.

Daily reminder of our tininess in the universe

I think in order to be happier people, a regular reminder of how small we are in relation to the universe, and what a tiny fraction of the history of the earth we occupy, can be in order.

I think I might have gotten this idea from Alain De Botton’s Religion for Atheists.

Often, this feeling might be best portrayed through an image. Here you can find today’s image: