I’ve started a new series of blog posts on Applied Sentience: “Teach To The Future”.
Through these posts, I cover subjects like teaching people (especially kids) to write for an online audience:
Or teaching people to see through the eyes of other people, in a rigorous and practical way:
I care a lot about education, especially since I’ve just received 17 straight years of the stuff. But I think we spend too much time on some subjects and not enough on… well, the subjects I cover in these posts. I don’t know much about pedagogy, but I try to stick to skills I do know. As always, let me know if you have thoughts on how to develop these ideas further.
Bonus: If you teach children and want help figuring out a curriculum based on any of the subjects or lesson plans I describe, I’m happy to help!
What is the point of writing a “best books of the year” list?
If you are Amazon or the New York Times — and if you are, how are you reading this, you enormous corporation? — you write the list because you expect that people will buy books from you, or at least listen to you, no matter what you recommend.
I do not expect either of those things to happen. At best, the person reading this might decide to look up a single free story on the internet, or check out a single book from the library.
Thus, I’ve sorted this list into a series of “bests”: a Best Graphic Novel for people who like those, a Best Book About Selling Stuff for people who like those, and so on. Whoever you are, I’d probably recommend many of these books to you. And some of them are free, including my #1 for the whole year!
If you’d like to see a list of every book I remember reading, check out my Goodreads account.
The Best Books of My 2014
Best List Of All The Books
Not in any particular order, save for #1.
- Worm (this year’s favorite) (free!)
- Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death (free!)
- Stories of Your Life (some of the stories are free online)
- A Path Appears
- Making Minds Less Well-Educated Than Our Own
- Poking a Dead Frog
- One More Thing
- The Motivation Hacker
- Mission in a Bottle
- Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got
- Ogilvy on Advertising
- Building Stories
- The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
- The Charisma Myth
- Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead
For those in my reading audience who are not acquainted with the modern-day Disney channel:
There exists a television show called Dog With a Blog.
The subject matter: Exactly What It Says On The Tin.
The Wikpedia article: Priceless post-post-modern literature. Second only to The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars as an example of gonzo Wikipedianism.
* * * * *
This television show is written by a team of adults. The money these adults receive probably helps them support their families. These adults are functioning members of the U.S. economy.
Today, I wish to share the tale of a man with a troubled past, and of a company that used a very flimsy excuse to rid themselves of this man, all for the sake of signalling.
I call it…
The RadioShack Dilemma
A few months ago, I learned about the story of David Edmondson.
Edmondson is the CEO of a company called eRecyclingCorps, but is best known for his resignation from the CEO position at RadioShack (a company with $5 billion in revenue) after it became known that he’d never actually graduated from college, despite his claims to the contrary.
This seems natural enough. After all, who wants a liar at the head of their company? (I’m assuming here that RadioShack forced Mr. Edmondson to resign.)
But certain features of RadioShack’s decision start to look very strange when you view them in the context of Edmondson’s career.
I’m currently enrolled in a moral psychology class. We spend a lot of time talking about human moral instincts — the ways we think about moral situations when we haven’t had time to reflect on the consequences.
Sometimes, our instincts are excellent; they help us save people from oncoming trains when there’s no time to think about alternatives. But other times, they lead us down strange paths.
In which I steal an idea from Venkatesh Rao and publish a series of thoughts that are too short, and perhaps not logical enough, to be full posts.
I try to use raw statistics to get a sense of what life is like in other places. This helps me avoid the selective nature of stories, though stories have their place after the numbers are in.
Here, a startling overview from Chris Blattman et al, in a survey of young Liberian men thought to be engaged in criminal behavior:
“On average the men were age 25, had nearly eight years of schooling, earned about $40 in the past month working 46 hours per week (mainly in low skill labor and illicit work), and had $34 saved. 38% were members of an armed group during the two civil wars that ravaged the country between 1989 and 2003. 20% reported selling drugs, 44% reported daily marijuana use, 15% reported daily use of hard drugs, 53% reported stealing something in the past two weeks, and 24% reported they were homeless.”
—Measuring the Measurement Error: A Method to Qualitatively Validate Sensitive Survey Data
The entire paper is worth reading, and quite readable. Turns out that people are very honest in answering survey questions about “sensitive” behaviors when those behaviors are the norm within their social groups.
(The paper also provides a good lens for looking at cash transfers. In the hands of a man with $34 in the bank, who earns $40 a month, $500 might be enough to prevent multiple acts of theft or purchase a stable home. On the other hand, I’d guess that these men are more likely to spend some of the money on hard drugs than are families in rural villages.)
I’m fond of thinking about stuff that must have happened, even if nobody ever saw it—probably for the same reasons as the good people of Cracked. Famous people and people in the past lived real human lives! They lived those lives for many years. And they all got their hair cut at some point, which is the inspiration for this short screenplay.
Here’s the story. I still need to work on my dialogue and character development before I make any short films, but for a conversation that happened in my head over the span of a single shower, it could be worse.
Partly inspired by B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, perhaps the best book of short stories ever written by a well-known television actor. Lots of celebrities in that book—though I guess B.J. knows them all personally.
I do not know Skrillex personally, but I’d love to meet him: He seems like a really nice guy.