“The next time you face a daunting challenge, think to yourself, “In order for me to resolve this issue, I will have to fail nine times, but on the tenth attempt, I will be successful.” This attitude frees you and allows you to think creatively without fear of failure, because you understand that learning from failure is a forward step toward success. Take a risk and when you fail, no longer think, “Oh, no, what a frustrating waste of time and effort,” but instead extract a new insight from that misstep and correctly think, “Great: one down, nine to go—I’m making forward progress!” And indeed you are. After your first failure, think, “Terrific, I’m 10% done!” Mistakes, loss, and failure are all flashing lights clearly pointing the way to deeper understanding and creative solutions.”

(Via Cool Tools from the book The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird)

Where Libraries are the Tourist Attractions:

Libraries are having a moment. In the past few years dozens have opened across the world, resembling nothing like the book-depot versions from the past.

I love me a good library, bookstore, or flea market when traveling

Most folks feel like imposters at least some of the time. That is especially the case when we’re thrust into new experiences and feel out of our depth.

The way out, I’ve observed, is not to push the feeling away or attempt to resist it in some way. Instead, folks who deal with these feelings well remind themselves that it is just another manifestation of fear.

And, the way out of fear is to take action with the knowledge that there’s no getting rid of fear.

Action, it turns out, is simply our way of acknowledging that there are things more important than fear.

(Via A Learning a Day)

My study of Stoicism was partially driven initially by this sense of imposter’s syndrome. I grabbed on to the ending of this article by Massimo Pigliucci:

So take those failures, and those moments of doubt, as additional
opportunities to exercise virtue and become a better human being:

“The art of life is more like the wrestler’s art than the
dancer’s, in respect of this, that it should stand ready and firm to
meet onsets that are sudden and unexpected.” (Meditations, VII.61)

(Via How to Be a Stoic)

Nobody reads a reference book to be amused, much less charmed. Useful though they are, the vast majority of dictionaries and encyclopedias are poker-faced pieces of work that stick to the facts and present them as soberly—and unstylishly—as possible. One of the reasons why this is so is that such books tend to be written not by individuals but by panels of experts. Try to imagine a joke written by a committee and you’ll get the idea.

Fortunately, there are a handful of shining exceptions to this drab rule, the gaudiest of which is H.L. Mencken’s New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles From Ancient and Modern Sources, a million-word monster (the original manuscript weighed 35 pounds) that is celebrating its 70th birthday this summer [2012]. The “New Dictionary” was a byproduct of its prolific editor’s fanatically industrious journalistic career. For years Mencken maintained a card file of quotations “that, for one reason or another, interested me and seemed worth remembering, but that, also for one reason or another, were not in the existing quotation-books.” In 1932 he decided to turn it into a book. When the “New Dictionary” finally saw print a decade later, Time praised it as “one of the rare books that deserve the well-worn phrase ‘Here at last.'”

Painstakingly organized and cross-referenced by subject, with each entry arranged in chronological order by date of original publication, the “New Dictionary” is formidably wide-ranging. Indeed, the only major writer missing from its index is Mencken himself. (“I thought it would be unseemly to quote myself,” he told a curious reporter. “I leave that to the intelligence of posterity.”) Its 1,347 pages abound with such innocent-sounding rubrics as “Civilization,” “Flag, American,” “Hell,” “Hypocrisy,” “Old and New” and “Science and Religion.” At first glance you might mistake it for a cornucopia of the world’s wisdom—but don’t let appearances fool you. The fathomlessly cynical Mencken wisely warned his readers in the preface that the “New Dictionary” was aimed at “readers whose general tastes and ideas approximate my own…. The Congressman hunting for platitudes to embellish his eulogy upon a fallen colleague will find relatively little to his purpose.” […]

For all its sly wit, H.L. Mencken’s “New Dictionary” is in point of fact a full-fledged reference book, one whose comprehensiveness and logical organization make it wonderfully easy to use. Would that it were still in print, but used copies are easy to find and worth acquiring. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t have occasion to consult the “New Dictionary,” frequently with amusement, usually with profit and invariably with gratitude to its maker, who may have been a cynic but who was also an amateur scholar of the highest seriousness—one with that rarest of scholarly attributes, a sense of humor.

(Via The Wall Street Journal; picture from biblio.com)

I would love for a new edition of this book or a viable ebook. Digital scanned copies can be checked out on archive.org. The drawback is that the scan is dicey in spots. I picked up my dead tree edition off of eBay (or maybe Amazon) in slightly damaged condition originally sourced from the Rowan Public Library of Salisbury, North Carolina.

Charlie Parker (1950)

Bird is building a metropolis with his horn.
Here are the gates of Babylon, the walls of Jericho cast down.
Might die in Chicago, Kansas City’s where I was born.

Snowflake in a blizzard, purple rose before the thorn.
Stone by stone, note by note, atom by atom, noun by noun,
Bird is building a metropolis with his horn.

Uptown, downtown, following the river to its source,
Savoy, Three Deuces, Cotton Club, Lenox Lounge.
Might just die in Harlem, Kansas City’s where I was born.

Bird is an abacus of possibility, Bird is riding the horse
of habit and augmented sevenths. King without a crown,
Bird is building a metropolis with his horn.

Bred to the labor of it, built to claw an eye from the storm,
made for the lowdown, the countdown, the breakdown.
Might die in Los Angeles, Kansas City’s where I was born.

Bridge by bridge, solo by solo, set by set, chord by chord,
woodshed to penthouse, blue to black to brown,
Charlie Parker is building a metropolis with his horn.
Might just die in Birdland, Kansas City’s where I was born.

by Campbell McGrath
from Poem Hunter

(Via 3 Quarks Daily)

If you need an intro, check out this collection from the David W. Niven Collection of Early Jazz Legends hosted on archive.org.

Note: I meant to send this yesterday but forgot to publish.

[…] See them at the top play much of the material from Remain in Light, as well as from previous album Fear of Music (released 40 years ago today), where the experiments with African rhythms began, at the Capitol Theatre in New Jersey in 1980, with an expanded lineup including King Crimson’s Adrian Belew. The experimental guitarist is in incredible form throughout the show, as is the entire band. Byrne was clearly enamored with Kuti’s original musical vocabulary. “The whole concept was different,” he tells Babcock, “the grooves were so great. The grooves are intense, trance-inducing,” and themselves the product of generous borrowing. Fela drew from the music of James Brown, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis, from the Black Power movement, fusion, and psychedelic rock.

Talking Heads brought those transformed borrowings back to the U.S. and transformed them again into the kind of music only these musicians could make, born of deep appreciation and study, skill, and the willingness to freely expand their own idiom while still retaining their distinctive voices.

(Via Open Culture)

Easily my favorite Talking Heads album. And I’ve enjoyed it covered live by Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo.

How to Use a Thesaurus Correctly, According to Martin Amis:

Martin Amis uses a thesaurus. The British novelist and critic is known as kind of a snob, and the thesaurus is known as a dangerous tool abused by amateur writers trying to sound smart, but as you’ve probably guessed, Amis uses his thesaurus very differently than a college freshman. In the Big Think video […] (via Open Culture), he describes a better way to use a thesaurus. […]

Amis uses a thesaurus to match the style and rhythm of his words. He might find his current word too long or short for the sentence it’s in. Or he might want to avoid an awkward rhyme or alliteration. He points to Vladimir Nabokov, who changed the English title of his novel Invitation to an Execution to Invitation to a Beheading. Say both out loud and you’ll hear the improvement.

He also double-checks his word use by looking up words in the dictionary—not necessarily to check their definitions, but to check their etymology. For example, he says, the lapid in dilapidated comes from the Latin word for stone, so while he might refer to a dilapidated house, he wouldn’t refer to a dilapidated hedge.

You don’t have to be as careful as Amis with your word choice.

(Via Lifehacker: picture Mark Miller)

You should be as careful as Amis. I try to be:

if you truly want to write better, pay more attention to the rhythm of your words, and study their usage and etymology. Your thesaurus and dictionary are one right-click away—use them well.

Check out my Tools page for a listing of mostly free resources for writing, presentation tools, and tips.

On ‘Experts’

This is a good post from Om Malik where he talks about what makes an expert:

Just because someone labels you as an “expert” doesn’t mean you are one. People get a lot of credit these days for stumbling onto things that may very well have happened had they been standing there or not. In addition to luck and talent, it takes time to become actually good or great at something. It’s not so much the 10,000-hour theory that is popular these days, but rather it’s about learning the lessons that only time can reveal.

Most ‘experts’ are fake. If you call yourself an expert, you are certainly lying to everyone and yourself. True experts are hard to find, because they are focused on their craft so intensely, that you rarely know who they are. At least that has been my experience.

(Via The Brooks Review Member Feed)

This struck me after having read Brian Krebs’ article about Marcus Hutchins, the guy who was responsible for both stopping the spread of the global WannaCry ransomware outbreak in 2017 and spreading the “Kronos” banking trojan in his younger days. Krebs describes Hutchins as an “accidental hero”, a “security enthusiast”, and a “security expert”. The middle one is probably the most correct of the bunch, but “security professional” is best.

The hero descriptor is perhaps more egregious than an expert label. We, in general, throw hero around far too liberally. In the WannaCry case, Hutchins was not unique in his discovery. He was first. Hutchins did not display exceptional courage, nobility, or strength when he registered the domain for DNS sinkhole-ing the malware. He did spend money and time, and he benefitted a lot of people, organizations, and companies through his swift action.

I value Krebs’ reporting and the risks he takes when writing some of his pieces, but I did not care for this. Let’s temper descriptors, shall we?

New Haneda flight paths over residential areas to begin in March 2020 in bid to boost capacity ahead of Olympics:

The government on Thursday announced a date for the introduction of new flight paths over Tokyo to increase capacity at Haneda airport in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics.

On March 29, planes will be able for the first time to descend and climb over densely populated Shibuya, Shinjuku and Shinagawa wards in central Tokyo.

The change could have a large impact on residents. Current approach and departure paths pass only over Tokyo Bay and aircraft are at high altitude when they cross built-up areas. […]

Sensitive to the impact on residents, the ministry drew up measures to minimise noise. These include revising the angle of approach when landing and bringing planes in more steeply.

It also addressed the potential problem of objects falling from aircraft and held briefing sessions with residents.

Yikes! If my assignment in Japan extends, my house hunting will definitely take this into account. My building is tall and I’m on the top floor, so really not looking forward to this.

Thank goodness I’ll be able to judge things in advance:

Trials of the new routes will take place later this month, when the government will use a small aircraft to fly the paths and check airport facilities. Tests with a passenger plane will begin in late January.

 

(Via Japan Times latest articles)

Watch: sights and sounds of Tokyo in 1934 / Boing Boing:

Everything in this restored film about Tokyo is interesting — the street celebrations, the sporting events, the children’s swordplay drill — but the standout is listening to Japanese ambassador Hiroshi Saito talk about the country’s desire to remain on good terms with the United States.