My 2022 resolutions

If 2020 was a collapse, 2021 was a timid rebound. I hope to return to goals of 2019 with newfound learning and momentum to make 2022 something special.

Last year was a step back toward friends and family, thanks to a historic vaccination program and despite ensuing covid variants. I’m optimistic for continuing the development of a post-pandemic world — even though we know now that covid will almost certainly transition into a new seasonal affliction.

I see hopeful sign posts. I have plans to attend a wedding in each of the first four months of this year, all of which were postponed at least once, and they are planned to have the good food and dancing that any good wedding of old once had. For at least two of them, SACMW and I will be staying in hotels, while our baby stays with a grandparent; I understand these were once fairly normal acts in The Before Times but they’re novel, and downright exciting, to me now.

I am very eager to return to some form of travel in 2022 but it all feels so uncertain. So, though I initially considered resolutions like “Use my passport again” and “Get on a plane,” the pandemic and new parenthood combined kept those off the list for this year. Nonetheless, I have high hopes for next year.

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My 2021 review

This year was better than 2020 but boy it brought its own historic stresses.

I am thankful for the remarkable vaccination program, for frontline workers, fiscal stimulus and the limitless inventiveness of humanity. I saw more family and friends this year than in 2020. My coworkers and I got ourselves to a stronger position than where we were even in 2019. I’ve regained a balance on knowing I am both extraordinarily fortunate and regularly challenged by the world.

Earlier this year, burnout caught up to me, and I had to confront those demons. I took a step back from social media and spent more time with my baby daughter and good books. Much of what I loved about my life in 2019 is still on a pandemic pause (travel, routine restaurant visits, indoor events and more). I found ritual and joy and added new habits. No matter how much this pandemic changes the world for good, I’ve changed — as a parent, the owner of a remote-only company and just a bit older and more experienced.

Thank you to so many who helped me grow this year. I hope I contributed at least as much.

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I bought my daughter an NFT

Constrained ownership of digital assets could mean thrilling possibilities.

The chaotic pandemic contributed to a frenzied focus on a new stage for non-fungible tokens. I was introduced to the concept a few years back and followed with interest the explosion of attention more recently. I wanted to purchase an NFT to become more familiar with the process, to support an artist and, most importantly, to give my young daughter a small slice of this strange moment in time.

The process is still quite clunky, expensive and fairly confusing — with multiple related systems. It helped that I also recently went through a similar process to chip into a DAO.

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A Brief History of Time: Stephen Hawking’s 1988 classic theoretical physics book

A single “theory of everything” exists. We just haven’t found it yet.

That’s one of the main arguments from theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), as articulated in his 1988 bestselling book A Brief History of Time. The book helped make him one of his generation’s best known intellectuals, and he used an array of impressive technologies to help him continue to shape public thought during his long battle with ALS. It helped popularize many obscure and complex ideas.

Though he didn’t win a Nobel Prize in his lifetime and he occupied a kind of celebrity status, he did contribute meaningfully to his field. In 1974, in his early 30s, Hawking argued that black holes would emit heat energy, so-called Hawking radiation, which would mean that, unless they otherwise added mass, a black hole could eventually vanish. He helped us discover that black holes might not even be, you know, black. That work gave him needed pedigree to write this book, which is a relatively breezy read while also citing much of the most exciting ideas in theoretical physics and even cosmology.

As a hobbyist consumer of pop science, I’ve long wanted to read this text. Much of what he wrote about has been covered by an array of science Youtubers and writers I follow. Yet I still got much from the book. Do read it. Below I share my notes from the book for myself.

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Yeah, I chipped into a decentralized effort to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution

The fractional ownership that has been advanced by blockchain technology is an exciting future — even if its popularity borders on the inane. Comparisons to early commercial applications of the internet seem apt. It’s difficult to decipher what will last and what will fade.

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How to make a great checklist

No matter how expert you are, a simple, carefully-constructed list will improve the quality of your output.

That’s the central point that author Atul Gawande made back in 2009 in his popular business book The Checklist Manifesto, which followed an article he wrote for the New Yorker. It’s a short book that others have recommended to me before, so I finally grabbed a copy and breezed through it. His central point is clear enough that it likely could have remained a longform article, but the book is easy enough a read that’s worth the time. If you haven’t already give it a try.

Below find my notes from the book, including tips for making a better checklist yourself.

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Spaces between words weren’t common until the 7th century

From the Economist:

A book seems such a simple structure that it feels less invented than self-evident, the innovations behind it hard to see. Yet every chapter in its progress was slow, bound on either side by centuries of sluggishness. Turnable pages didn’t really arrive until the first century bc; the book form didn’t take off properly until the fourth century ad. The separating of words with spaces didn’t get going until the seventh—verylateforsomethingsouseful. Finally things accelerated: first came the index, in the 13th century, then Gutenberg, then, in 1470, the first printed page number. You can still see it in a book in the Bodleian Library.

Works Rules! Google research and data on running more effective companies from the 2015 book

Given its large scale, data-driven culture and willingness to experiment, Google has produced a considerable amount of intelligence on operating effective organizations.

Much of it was shared in the 2015 bestselling book Work Rules! by Google’s former chief people officer Laszlo Bock. It’s long been on my list, and earlier this year I finally finished it up.

I recommend you get yourself a copy of the book. Below for my own future reference, I share notes from my reading.

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How to be happy

version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks back. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

I spent a lot of time living in Tokyo 15 years ago on my bicycle, riding to this park or that garden with one or another book on Eastern philosophy or Asian history. Two concepts I learned about happiness have endured.

One is from a famous passage attributed to ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. He’s translated as writing: “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

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Is that a Fish in Your Ear? notes on the 2011 book by David Bellos on translation

Translation isn’t about specific word choice. It’s about meaning.

But, then, there are many different kinds of translation. The very old act of translation both creates and defends language in an interconnected world. Earlier this summer, I finished a 2011 book by translator David Bellos called “Is that a Fish in Your Ear: Translation and the Meaning of Everything.” [PDF] Find a review here of it. This is a different approach to understanding language, which has been an interest of mine for years.

You should read the book. For my own purposes, I’ve captured my notes below.

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