We are verbs, not nouns

We are verbs, not nouns:

In Keep Going, I have a chapter called, “Forget the noun, do the verb,” and after seeing it on the poster, a reader asked if it was inspired by Stephen Fry. I had no idea what she was talking about, so I did a little googling.

In 2010, Fry was interviewed by “14-year-old Eden Parris in an interview for a Radio Times feature that enabled young readers to meet their TV heroes.” During the course of the interview, he “warned Parris that language could shape and limit people’s ambitions”:

Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it – that is your punishment, but if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.

Of course, this would’ve been perfect for the book, but that is one of the universal laws of writing books: once you finish them, you find all the stuff you should’ve included but left out based on your ignorance.

The quote I did put in is from R. Buckminster Fuller’s classic, I Seem To Be A Verb:

Back in 2013, The New Statesman ran a piece called “What Atheists Can Learn from Believers,” in which the writer Karen Armstrong emphasized religion as a verb. “Usually religion is about doing things and it is hard work.” She pointed out that in the modern west, there’s this idea that you have to believe first, and then do. But no, “we have turned faith into a head-trip,” when, originally, the English word “belief” meant something like, “commitment.”

Credo ut intellegam – I commit myself in order that I may understand,” said Saint Anselm (1033-1109). In the late 17th century, the English word “belief” changed its meaning and became the intellectual acceptance of a somewhat dubious proposition. Religious people now think that they have to “believe” a set of incomprehensible doctrines before embarking on a religious way of life. This makes no sense. On the contrary, faith demands a disciplined and practical transcendence of egotism, a “stepping outside” the self which brings intimations of transcendent meaning that makes sense of our flawed and tragic world.

It’s remarkable to me how much you could apply what Armstrong is saying to creativity or making art. “If you don’t do religion, you don’t get it,” Armstrong says. Religion is something we do, a “practical discipline in which we learn new capacities of mind and heart.”

Paul Thek, “96 Sacraments

“It’s a practice,” Mary Karr says of her own faith. “It’s not something you believe. It’s not doctrine. Doctrine has nothing to do with it. It’s a set of actions.” I remember once, when asked to make a case for religion, she replied, “Why don’t you just pray for 30 days and see if your life gets better?

So many people think you have to first call yourself an artist, know who you are and what you’re about, and then you can start making art. No, no, no. You do the stuff first, then you can worry about what it is, who you are. The important thing is the practice. The doing. The verb.

We aren’t nouns, we are verbs. Forget the nouns, do the verbs.

(Via Austin Kleon)

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Miniature Gardens Inside the Drainage of Japanese Retaining Walls

Miniature Gardens Inside the Drainage of Japanese Retaining Walls:

all photos by @sakanakudo

In hilly and mountainous Japan, retaining walls are a common sight. As the name implies, they’re designed to retain soil to a slope and keep it from spilling into streets and other areas that us humans use on a daily basis. And where there are retaining walls you’ll also likely find drainage systems: piping that’s essential to keeping water from building up behind the wall and creating unwanted pressure.

The sight of these walls and drainage are so common that most people would walk right past them without thinking twice. But for one Japanese amateur photographer who goes by the name sakanakudo, the drainage pipes and their constant moisture represented rich, miniature ecosystems. Here are some of sakanakudo’s recent shots of the miniature gardens he’s found growing inside the pipes.

The next time we walk past a retaining well, we’re definitely going to stop and poor into the drainage!

(Via Spoon & Tamago)

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Bruce Schneier: You want real IoT security? Have Uncle Sam start putting boots to asses

Bruce Schneier: You want real IoT security? Have Uncle Sam start putting boots to asses:

Infosec’s cool uncle says to hell with the carrot

Any sort of lasting security standard in IoT devices may only happen if governments start doling out stiff penalties.

So said author and security guru Bruce Schneier, who argued during a panel discussion at the Aspen Cyber Summit that without regulation, there is little hope the companies hooking their products up to the internet will implement proper security protections.

“Looking at every other industry, we don’t get security unless it is done by the government,” Schneier said.

“I challenge you to find an industry in the last 100 years that has improved security without being told [to do so] by the government.”

Schneier went on to point out that, as it stands, companies have little reason to implement safeguards into their products, while consumers aren’t interested in reading up about appliance vendors’ security policies.

“I don’t think it is going to be the market,” Schneier argued. “I don’t think people are going to say I’m going to choose my refrigerator based on the number of unwanted features that are in the device.”

Schneier is not alone in his assessment either. Fellow panellist Johnson & Johnson CISO Marene Allison noted that manufacturers have nothing akin to a bill of materials for their IP stacks, so even if customers want to know how their products and data are secured, they’re left in the dark.

“Most of the stuff out there, even as a security professional, I have to ask myself, what do they mean?” Allison said.

That isn’t to say that this is simply a matter of manufacturers being careless. Even if vendors want to do right by data security, a number of logistical hurdles will arise both short and long term.

Allison and Schneier agreed that simply trying to port over the data security policies and practices from the IT sector won’t work, thanks to the dramatically different time scales that both industrial and consumer IoT appliances tend to have.

“Manufacturers do not change all the IT out every five years,” Allison noted. “You are looking at a factory having a 25- to 45-year lifespan.”

Support will also be an issue for IoT appliances, many of which go decades between replacement.

“The lifespan for consumer goods is much more than our phones and computers, this is a very different way of maintaining lifecycle,” Schneier said.

“We have no way of maintaining consumer software for 40 years.”

Ultimately, addressing the IoT security question may need to be spearheaded by the government, but, as the panelists noted, any long-term solution will require a shift in culture and perception from manufacturers, retailers and consumers. ®

Sponsored: Following Bottomline’s journey to the Hybrid Cloud

(Via The Register – Security)

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The Org Chart Test

The Org Chart Test:

I believe the org chart is one of the three critical artifacts that must be easily discovered and well-maintained. Why? First, let’s start with a definition. In my favorite part of Managing Humans, the glossary, I define an org chart as:

A visual representation of who reports to whom. Org charts are handy in large organizations for figuring out who you’re dealing with.

That’s one good use case, but one is missing. An org chart should also effectively describe, at a high level, how the product is organized and also who is responsible for what. An org chart should be legible.

(Via Rands in Repose)

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Gorgeous, illustrated Japanese fireworks catalogs from the early 1900s

Gorgeous, illustrated Japanese fireworks catalogs from the early 1900s:

The Yokohama Board of Education has posted scans of six fantastic catalogs from Hirayama Fireworks and Yokoi Fireworks, dating from the early 1900s. The illustrated catalogs are superb, with minimal words: just beautiful colored drawings depicting the burst-pattern from each rocket.

(via Kottke)

(Via Boing Boing)

Also at Open Culture and Spoon & Tamago.

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In memory of a local reporter who made small stories big

In memory of a local reporter who made small stories big:

Nikki, 30, was found dead in a suspected homicide on Monday.

(Via Poynter – A global leader in journalism.)

This was in paragraph 4, sentence 2 of an otherwise nice piece. Not sure what message was intended by Kristen Hare and/or her editor(s). I am keen to learn.

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The Value of a “Good Old Newsletter”

The Value of a “Good Old Newsletter”:

From Kai Brach, Publisher of Offscreen magazine and the Dense Discovery newsletter:

“Funny enough though, the good old email newsletter is currently experiencing a bit of a comeback. Perhaps as a reaction to the bottomless, anxiety-inducing social feeds, the email sits patiently in your inbox until you deem it worthy of your attention. Not able to read it now? No problem, come back to it later, it’s right there where you left it.

That’s why I’ve always loved email as a medium. Sure, I spend a lot of time reading and writing them – which arguably is not the most creatively productive time of my day – but it’s still the one digital medium that abides by my rules (or filters). No sudden change in algorithm; no YOU-NEED-THIS product plugs; no strangers chiming in with rude comments. I decide what and when to read. Perhaps best of all: I can have constructive, civilised conversations with other people. Imagine that?!”

Amen. And it’s a really good time to subscribe to mine.

(Via Blog – CJ Chilvers)

Nah … I still prefer full-text ATOM RSS over email newsletters. I prefer summary RSS over email newsletters.

I think if more people knew this option was an option, they’d opt in.

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Information Attacks on Democracies

Information Attacks on Democracies:

Democracy is an information system.

That’s the starting place of our new paper: “Common-Knowledge Attacks on Democracy.” In it, we look at democracy through the lens of information security, trying to understand the current waves of Internet disinformation attacks. Specifically, we wanted to explain why the same disinformation campaigns that act as a stabilizing influence in Russia are destabilizing in the United States.

(Via Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices)

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MIA Emacs Writers

I have a bunch of TODO entries in my orgmode files for improving all kinds of bits of my Emacs config. I was looking through them for a minor issue (which I solved) when I realized three of the sites I value for Emacs content are mostly or completely silent.

Sacha Chua is busy with family and life. I appreciate that she still puts out a weekly Emacs News post.

The other two, unless you follow them on Reddit and GitHub, you’d be worried that they were trapped under something heavy.

Oleh Krehel, a.k.a. abo-abo, has a site at (or emacs. His last post was in March 2018.

Artur Malabarba, a.k.a. Malabarba, has a site at Endless Parenthesis. His last post was in October 2017!

The stuff all of these folks posted are still valuable and enrich the Emacs and Org-Mode community. I think it would be better if they were still writing on a regular basis. But, you know, life and work and family and stuff happen.

I, for one, look forward to their return.

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Two Years in Japan!

Hey, Kids!

Today is my official second anniversary of my living in Japan. I spent it at a Spanish festival and an American craft beer festival in different parts of Tokyo.

The weather was delightful. The people, friendly. I enjoyed being here.

Thank you to my friends and colleagues and those others who’ve made my time here so much fun. And thank you to my family for your support.


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