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Stuff I read: October 2015

Have been meaning to make this an automatic process since I try to keep the reading page updated, but here’s a list of books I read last month along with pull quotes:

October 2015

  • Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy NOTES: had low expectations for this (enjoyed his first few books years ago but have since realized that his stories are just that… stories, which is hard to explain but maybe it’s that I’m trying to be more analytical in my thinking at this stage in my life and while previously I was much more in tune with the emotional side. Whatever though, this had some good points about what drives (and kills) relationships.
    • Quote about a retreat he visited where people weren’t allowed to say what they did for a living: “… they wanted to keep the group as pure as possible. He also said when people finally revealed their jobs, it made him sad. He said friendships and relationships would develop over the intensity of the week, but when people learned some people made a lot of money and others didn’t, or some people were slightly famous and others weren’t, they divided into perceived categories. Interestingly, he said, it wasn’t the rich who separated from the poor, but quite the opposite. He said people who didn’t feel like they’ve accomplished much felt insecure around those who had. Bill said he wished he lived in a world where people couldn’t say what they did at all. He said the world would be a healthier place if nobody were allowed to wear a costume.”
    • On the different types of manipulators in the world: scorekeepers (people who see the world as a zero sum game, they make relationships feel like a contest), judges (people who can never be wrong in life and use that to manipulate others), the false hero (someone who talks up the future and how they’ll save whoever / whatever and uses that to manipulate others) and the fearmonger (obvious). Watch out for these types of people in your life.
    • Really interesting / relevant chapter for me titled the “The Risks of Being Careful”, which has a bunch of anecdotes about how his first books and thoughts rolled out onto paper very quickly but then his next couple books took many many years because he started caring about what people thought whereas previously he had no fans and no bestsellers and wrote whatever he wanted without thinking deeply about it. Book talked about this in terms in what you say… but also how it influences procrastination and getting things done. Fear is a major cause of procrastination.
    • Quote: “To remind myself to never go back to being careful, I made a list of new freedoms.. I am willing to sound dumb. I am willing to be wrong. I am willing to be passionate about something that isn’t perceived as cool. I am willing to express a theory. I am willing to contradict something I’ve said before. I’m willing to have a knee jerk reaction, even a wrong one. I’m willing to apologize. I’m willing to be perfectly human.”
    • Chapter / section on how having a meaning in life is exceptionally important. Need to read Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Three recommendations out of that: 1) Have a project to work on, some reason to get out of bed in the morning and preferably something that serves other people. 2) Have a redemptive perspective on life’s challenges. That is, when something difficult happens, recognize the ways that difficulty serves you. 3) Share your life with a person or people who love you unconditionally.
    • Quote: “Don, all relationships are teleological.” by which he means that all relationships are going somewhere (for better or worse), which means that it’s important to look forward in relationships and plan, which is something I’m not super great at.
  • Nautilus: Issue 029: Scaling NOTES: Not a book but a couple of noteworthy articles this month on war games, futurism, gender and Fermi’s Paradox.
  • Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life NOTES: Mixed feelings about this book… was kind of hoping that it would be more applicable to normal, every day life but it’s 98% for soldiers in combat situations and it says it’s for law enforcement but they’d probably be better off not approaching their jobs as if it’s always a combat situation. It did bring to light this whole world of non-verbal communication that I’ve been aware of but haven’t understood. Some interesting quotes / thoughts:
    • Quote: “… profiling is heuristically and intuitively driven. It is built like a heuristic but applied with intuition. The basic foundation of .. profiling involves quickly establishing a baseline and determining anomalies, as well as quickly identifying threat indicators.”
    • Nine principles of human nature that apply to profiling: Humans are creatures of habit. Humans are lazy. Humans are lousy liars. Humans will run, fight or flee. Humans telegraph their intentions. Humans are predictable. Humans are not good at multitasking. Humans are generally clueless. Humans can’t do very many different things.
    • Six human behavior domains: Kinesics (conscious and unconscious body language), biometric cues (biological autonomic responses), proxemics (interpersonal spatial interaction), geographic (patterns of behavior within an environment), iconography (expression through symbols), atmospherics (collective attitudes that create distinct moods within an environment).
    • Bunch of interesting body language characteristics to note: Dominant (feet planted on floor, legs splayed, standing legs shoulder width apart taking up more space, seated leaning back with hands behind head, standing with hands on hips, standing and leaning forward in an aggressive manner, thrusting chest out, arms spread out on an object (table), hands clasped behind back as if judging, wrist and palm facing down when shaking hands or greeting, pointing with hands while talking or lecturing, steeple gesture with hands (perceived as intellectual and confident), not averting a gaze, touching other people (which demonstrates control over another person).

      Submissive: seated feet and legs crossed and tucked underneath chair, seated feet wrapped around chair (stability), leaning forward apologetically making the body smaller and less threatening, arms pulled into body, wrists and palms exposed in greeting, shoulders lowered and not protecting neck, averting eyes or failing to make eye contact.

      Uncomfortable: feet bouncing, feet oriented toward door or exit, legs crossed while seated, forming a barrier, legs shoulder width apart while standing, torso leaning away, arms crossed across chest, arms / hands covering crotch / groin, shoulders raised, eyes glancing around room

      Comfortable: feet motionless and relaxed, legs crossed or uncrossed with inside of thigh exposed, standing with legs crossed, torso upright and leaning in..

      With all of these you’re looking for multiple indicators, not just one thing, when attempting to get a read on how someone is feeling.

    • Big section on blinking, which was really interesting and probably isn’t all that useful in real life but the facts are that you link more per minute when you’re under stress, emotionally aroused or when you’re attempting to mask emotions. Average rate is 6 to 10 times per minute.
    • Proxemic pull / push: people will approach things they like / that they expect will deliver pleasure and will avoid things that are unappealing or could cause them pain.
    • On symbols, especially relevant in light of the the Confederate flag stuff earlier this year: “… Flags are a prominent means of providing group identity and solidarity. A flag advertises a group’s prescence in an area, it establishes a rallying point for the group’s members. Flags are also often rich in symbolism. Many provide extensive clues to the values and ideologies of the group.” Emphasis mine.
    • Quote: “… moods and emotions are first experienced subconsciously, in any given situation, we will initially “feel” what is going on before we become consciously aware of it. Being attuned to your own emotional response in any situation can increase the speed at which you cognitively understand what is going on.”
    • Quote: “Moods are emotions are also contagious. They pass from one person to another subconsciously through mimicry and other means. This is true particularly of negative emotions. One person with negative emotion (anger, anxiety, fear, etc.) can infect a large group.” Really interesting to think about in terms of team dynamics / management.
  • The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape NOTES: great book if you think that someday you want to live on a farm or if you like the idea of your job being something more than moving electrons around.
    • Quote: “My grandfather went to… Paris once. He knew what cities had to offer, but also had a sense that they would leave you uprooted, anonymous, and pushed about by the world you lived in, rather than having some freedom and control. The potential wealth on offer counted for little or nothing set against the sense of belonging and purpose that existed at home.
    • Quote / story about his grandpa and what he taught him: “He loves to tell stories. True stories. This is how he passes on his values. How he tells me who we are. They have morals, these stories: 1) We don’t give up, even when things are bad. 2) We pay our debts. 3) We act decently. 4) We help our neighbors if they need it. 5) We do what we say we will do. 6) We don’t want much attention. 7) We look after our own. 8) We are proud of what we do. 9) We try to be quietly smart. 10) We take chances sometimes to get on. 11) We will fail sometimes. 12) We will be affected by the wider world… 11) but we hold on to who we are.

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