I wanted to get a sense of the kind of things I learn on any given day. So I spent the month of June writing down one specific thing I learned each day.
My goal was for them to be actionable and easily transferable, hoping to identify just how regularly I am learning such things. It was fun. Let me share, from reading, watching, talking and traveling — like to the Great Lakes last month, as depicted above.
I love the idea of learning meaningfully all the time. Here’s my latest check on myself.
Below find what I learned.
- June 1: Tech blindness keeps us from being critical — My colleague Juliana Reyes wrote a piece on Backchannel, helped by reporting she did for Technical.ly, that conveyed acutely the point that since we celebrate innovation without a critical eye, we can miss uncomfortable realities. She said nice things.
- June 2: How to hang a flatscreen TV — I did it into brick. It’s still hanging safely a month later!
- June 3: Stereotype Threat can cause people to freeze — I have listened to podcasts about this but I did more reading on the topic.
- June 4: Beer bottles are brown for UV lights — I was reminded of this during a bewery tour with my family.
- June 5: How to clean out your HVAC condensation release — I got a taste of some basic HVAC maintenance including PVC repair after some leaking.
- June 6: What it feels like to fire someone — More to come on that.
- June 7: What it feels like to tell a team about firing someone — This is different, and I got some feedback about me moving a bit too quickly.
- June 8: Detroit is north of Canada — I didn’t know that until a road trip.
- June 9: Permaculture refers to sustainable agriculture systems — I visited a Michigan organic farm that used chickens to till and fertilize their corn.
- June 10: I learned Tweezle is a brand name. I find a lot of the work I do to learn is quietly fact-checking things people say. While zip-lining in Michigan, many young instructors kept using “tweezle” as a verb to refer to their system of locking in before zip-lining. After some research, I found it’s a word that refers to a specific system. Context is learning too.
- June 11: “No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy” — I had never heard this quote from Amartya Sen before. Though disputed, the concept was novel to me.
- June 12: How to tell an egg is fresh — There are measuring devices and rules using light through air hole. The same logic of air can be tested by seeing if your egg floats. Also after you crack open an egg, the yolk should sit up high over the white. (An organic farmer showed me this).
- June 12: Cops have all kinds of slang words for driving analysis. On our road trip, my cop buddy taught me about rooster plume (from driving Newburgh Drive to Pictured rocks) is dirt behind car. There are also watermelon tracks, signaling an empty trailer had skidded to a stop.
- June 13: Pasties are meat pies popular in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — Those Yoopers (UP-ers) love them and you can buy ’em roadside. I also didn’t know Michigan had so many roots in cherries. I also learned about Mackinack Island’s ritzy history.
- June 14: The bilge is the lowest part of the boat. And bilging is the act of evacuating water from this compartment. I heard this on a sailboat I slept in and from sea kayaking on Lake Superior.
- June 15: I still do not understand what iambic pentameter is. I often return to pretty familiar concepts and struggle to grasp them. Someone referenced this common phrase to describe the flow of English words, and so I went back to define it and I’m still struggling a bit to describe it myself.
- June 16: ‘Friends of’ groups for schools is still a novel concept — While in Pittsburgh, for the first time I spoke about a Philadelphia trend for pre-parents groups that are working to make their neighborhood schools better and friendlier. Though the concept wasn’t invented in Philadelphia, I had assumed it was far more widespread than it is.
- June 17: Coolers are good for keeping food warm too — From a family BBQ.
- June 18: Termite tunnels are a sign of their presence in basements — During a home inspection, I got a far closer look at what to be inspecting for. I learned this from my kindly home inspector.
- June 19: The American drinking age changed more often than I realized — While talking about it over father’s day brunch with my in-laws, I read about the history that predated the 1984 move to making 21 the national standard.
- June 20: Nonprofit relationships with public schools — Though for a year I’ve been on the board of the Workshop School, a project-based public school in West Philadelphia, only in the past few months did I get a clearer picture of the adjacent nonprofit to support school functions. There are similarities to the ‘Friends of’ groups.
- June 21: My Club’s History –I always knew there were many locations since its founding in 1892, but during our latest board meeting, I learned there were four locations of the private, journalists-only Pen and Pencil Club since the 1980s alone. We bought our current location, which we own outright, less than 20 years ago.
- June 22: Where was your coin minted? — I learned the US mint puts letters on their coins to show where they’re from while preparing for giving the first historic tour I have in years.
- June 23: What’s a good laser tag strategy? –I learned what real life laser tag is like, playing for the first time on our team retreat. The move? Protect your base with defenders and send the rest into the field. (Plus go-karts too)
- June 24: How to fold a towel — My wife made sure I got it right. Fold it in half twice before rolling.
- June 25: Concerns about democratic instability aren’t new — Viewpoints of the past are so valuable for context, so I was rightly taken aback when I read this John Adams quote, suggesting that there has always been a sense that a democratic form of government is vulnerable, if more just. Today’s partisan political climate makes that ring truer than I’ve ever known it to.
- June 26: Grow a personal newsletter — I’ve just started but after a couple months, I think I better understand what’s valuable. I hope you’ll join it too.
- June 27: Go to a Pittsburgh incline — I had been there before but in talking to my wife, I learned for the first time that there were once 17 inclines in Pittsburgh to climb Mount Washington. Now there are just two. Transit needs sure change over time.
- June 28: Google Trends are relative — So keep that in mind when reviewing.
- June 29: U.S. Senators were only popularly elected in 1914 — It’s another tricky one, since I certainly had learned about the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution before but I have to return to topics often, and I was reminded again by how recent this change occurred.
- June 30: Why trucks have extra tires — They’re often for dump trucks and are hydraulic and can be dropped down when the truck is fully loaded.
Here’s to learning something everyday.