The Easyway to quit Beijing

From The Economist’s “Mapping the invisible scourge“:

Berkeley Earth’s scientific director, Richard Muller, says breathing Beijing’s air is the equivalent of smoking almost 40 cigarettes a day and calculates that air pollution causes 1.6m deaths a year in China, or 17% of the total.

Um, holy crap.

A “simpler” life

The joking/not joking tone of this post really gets me.

From Rob Rhinehart’s How I Gave Up Alternating Current:

With no fridge, no dishes, no microwave, no oven, no range, no dishwasher, no utensils, no pests, no cleaning products nor dirty rags, my life is considerably simpler, lighter and cleaner than before. I think it was a bit presumptuous for the architect to assume I wanted a kitchen with my apartment and make me pay for it.

Also, he too has a magnet in his finger, so I guess that makes us best friends.

Being plucked from obscurity

Stefanie Cohen, writing about Robert Askins (playwright, Broadway’s “Hand to God“) for the Wall Street Journal1:

Mr. Askins wrote “Hand to God” five years ago and it was staged in 2011 at the off-off Broadway Ensemble Studio Theater. The show was critically praised, and producer Kevin McCollum, (“Avenue Q,” “Motown” “Rent,” “In the Heights”) who had been told by a friend to see it, introduced himself to Mr. Askins in the lobby after the show…Within 24 hours, Mr. McCollum was in negotiations to option the piece.

This reminds me of the blade of grass paradox, which shows that events with really low odds (being plucked from a small theater and brought to Broadway) aren’t actually as low as you might think. Imagine standing in a large field of grass, reaching down, and touching a blade. There are millions of blades of grass that you might have touched, so the odds of being one of those blades of grass is extremely slim. Yet, a blade of grass did get touched, which means that there’s a 100 percent chance that one of the blades of grass will be touched.

Stories like Askins’ are inspiring (and “Hand to God” is amazing, so the fast track to Broadway is well deserved) but the resulting inspiration is inherently conflicted. Something like this will never happen to you…unless it does. Which it won’t. The odds are extremely low, but not that low(?). What if Askins is that single blade of grass, which has already been touched?

Then again, what are the odds that someone standing in a field reaches down and touches only one blade of grass?

 

  1. Life hack: to view the full WSJ article for free, paste the full URL into a Google search and click the link in the search results.

The Pentagon’s Engineers

David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, for the New York Times:

President Obama’s newly installed defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, toured Silicon Valley last week to announce a new military strategy for computer conflict, starting the latest Pentagon effort to invest in promising start-ups and to meet with engineers whose talent he declared the Pentagon desperately needed in fending off the nation’s adversaries.

While I do believe that the Pentagon “desperately” needs talented engineers, I find it difficult to believe anything else out of the Pentagon’s mouth. I wonder why…

He acknowledged that the documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor, “showed there was a difference in view between what we were doing and what people perceived us as doing.”

Oh, there it is.

Making informed choices with none of the work

David Pierce, writing for Wired:

What does a tweet feel like? What about an important text? To answer these questions, designers and engineers sampled the sounds of everything from bell clappers and birds to lightsabers and then began to turn sounds into physical sensations…Ive was the decider and was hard to please: Too metallic, he’d say. Not organic enough. Getting the sounds and taps to the point where he was happy with them took more than a year.

Some people like to spend hours researching a particular topic before making a decision. Before making any large purchase, they’ll spend weeks reading every product review available and comparing prices across multiple sources. They won’t be happy with any decision unless they feel they’re educated enough to make the best choice.

That process, unfortunately, takes time. Time that could be spent doing other, more valuable, things. Things like working on personal projects or spending quality time with friends and family.

An alternate way to make big decisions is to spend only a small amount of time finding someone who is already an expert in said field. Someone who already knows all relevant information, and who’s opinion you respect. Find out the choice this person has made/would make, and make the same choice yourself.

You’re getting all the benefits of that vast amount of knowledge without spending the hours it would take to come to similar conclusions yourself.

This is one of the reasons I’m most excited to try the Apple Watch. Not because I particularly feel that I need a smart watch (at this point in time, at least), but because a company that I trust to create a compelling user experience has spent months (years?) honing the product. If it does turn out that a smart watch can enrich my life, it’s the Apple Watch that’s going to show that to me. That’s exactly what happened for me with the iPad*.

If I was tasked at choosing what vibration I wanted for a tweet, I’d be lost. I could try out a bunch of different patterns, and eventually find my favorite, but I’m definitely not an expert at things like that — nor do I want to me. I am, however, excited to feel what Jony Ive believes a tweet and text should feel like.

I’ll gladly defer to the experts and get the benefits of their years of research, testing, and training while putting in none of the actual work.

*I laughed when Apple announced the first iPad, swearing I’d never buy one. Then I bought one, swearing I’d return it within 14 days for a full refund. Then I tried it and have been using one since.

I’m back

I quit my job at The Verge a little over a year ago because it was time for something new. I retired this blog, IAmDann.com, and launched Novice No Longer, a website and podcast dedicated to teaching people how to build apps. I maintained that blog, while consulting full-time, for about a year before a new full-time job literally fell on my lap with an opportunity too good to pass up.

Novice No Longer has been quiet for a while (although I’m definitely launching my app-building course for realsies this spring), so I’ve been lacking an outlet for my random thoughts and musings. Rather than clutter NNL with off-topics posts, I decided to bring back IAmDann.

So, here’s where you can find me:

  • IAmDann.com – Random thoughts and musings on a variety of topics that are of interest to me
  • Novice No Longer – My new app-building course, and content related to building apps and becoming an entrepreneur
  • DannBerg.me – Portfolio of my work and projects around the web

I’m not sure how regularly I’ll be posting here. It mostly depends on whether anything particularly peaks my interest at a given moment. But it will certainly be more often than I’ve been posting to my other blogs, since I don’t have any particular goals with this blog beyond sharing my thoughts.