A Prediction for the 2020 Election

I think that the 2020 presidential election will finally be when we’ll see colors other than red, white, and blue showing up as main branding colors in a mainstream candidate. 

The 2016 election and people’s response to Trump paved the way for “outsiders” and given people permission to color outside the lines. 

I’d love for that to lead to a fracturing of the two party system into dozens of smaller parties, but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon. We’ll have to settle for more exciting campaign branding. Baby steps. 

How to Avoid Pastoralism

I’m rereading Breaking Smart Season 1 right now and I got to thinking about Rao’s concept of pastoralism vs prometheanism and how to avoid it. 

Whenever you find yourself pining for a specific technological solution, especially one that was dreamt up more than 15 years ago, ask yourself whether or not you want the actual specified solution or to solve the problem which the thing you pine for was supposed to solve. 

If it is the later, you should work on a new solution that takes into account the changed social and economic situation in the time that has elapsed and what is now technically possible that wasn’t before.

Don’t keep working toward a technically difficult, but outdated, solution just for nostalgia’s sake. Question your motives and work toward solving the problem again. 

Focused vs Unfocused Reading

  1. The gap between focused and unfocused reading is huge, especially when compounded over time. 
  2. Reducing distractions can lead to huge improvements in the number of pages read and understood. Maybe even more than traditional speed reading methods. 
  3. On my flight to Chicago this weekend, I read half of James Hogan’s Inherit the Stars. On the flight back to NYC, I reread 60% of Breaking Smart Season 1. Each leg was a little over 2 hours. I got through much more of each of these books than I have in equivalent amounts of time at home. It was like I had tunnel vision on the flight because I couldn’t get up and had no distractions available. 
  4. I need to do a better job at implementing airplane-like focus at home so that I can cover more ground in less time. I’m going though the 10 Days to Faster Reading book right now, but its methods aren’t that appealing to me. Working on my focus might be a better route. 

Cronuts (Finally)

After watching the Cronut craze and wanting to try one for the last few years, I finally decided to go get some. I work from home and set my own hours, so why not? I preordered them two weeks ago, worked late night on a project, and took the morning to go pick some up and take them to my wife’s office. 

The verdict: They were delicious. The May flavor is Raspberry Earl Grey. 

I’ve had a few knockoffs, but I’m glad I tried the original. Dominque Ansel Bakery has incredible standards and hits the mark every time. The dough was crispy on the outside, soft and flakey on the inside, and the filling was creamy and rich. 

I’m glad I picked some up via preorder and avoided the lines. I got to check this off the NYC list. I probably won’t do it again because they weren’t good enough to justify the effort a second time, but damn they were good the first time. 

New Music Friday: Indie Edition

Dr. Quandry. Guy out of Boston I’ve been following since 2008. Experimental instrumental stuff. Great working music.

I recommend listening to his new album, Wayfarers II.

He also has an album of sitar stuff that I find strangely interesting: Quanny Sitar

My answer to “What are the best things to do on weekends as a student at Hillsdale College?” on Quora

Over at Quora: What are the best things to do on weekends as a student at Hillsdale College?

My answer:

Take a break from studying and spend the weekends increasing your hiring potential after you graduate by doing one of the following things:

  • Work at either an on-campus job, one in town, or a remote online job and build up marketable skills for your resume. I was a photographer for the External Affairs office and a tech for the campus’s IT Services while I was at Hillsdale. Both of these things taught me a lot about problem solving, working with other people, and about building a portfolio of transferrable skills. They also put money in my pocket.
  • Freelance work. Learn something like design, web development, copy editing, etc. Build yourself a website and take on a few clients to make some extra money and to build up your portfolio. I taught myself how to build and customize WordPress sites at Hillsdale when I wasn’t studying.
  • Blog. The more you write, the better you will get at it. One of the most rewarding things I did for myself during my Hillsdale years was blogging every single day of my sophomore year. This taught me a lot about discipline, deadlines, producing on a schedule, and distilling my ideas. My writing improved dramatically over that year. Blogging on your own domain name will also help build your personal brand and set your apart from your peers upon graduation.
  • Projects. Tons and tons of projects. This is something I wish I had done more of during my undergrad years. Take everything you want to learn and turn it into a month-long project.
    • Want to learn photography? Get a camera (or borrow one) and take photos of different subjects each week for a month.
    • Want to improve your photography skills? Take only black and white photos for a month. Or focus on lighting for a month.
    • Build a 1-page webapp that has simple functionality to learn a popular javascript framework.
    • Prefer something more academic because you want to go to grad school? Write a series of profiles on famous people from history or current-day. Choose a subject and profile 10 lesser-known but important figures in the space.

The point I’m trying to make with this post is that if you intend to stand out after graduation, you need to do something that the rest of your peers aren’t willing to do. Yes, I know the academics are difficult (I was in the Honors program and I graduated early), but so is getting a job after graduation. Set yourself up for success by doing something other than studying all weekend every weekend.

Two questions to ask when you are stuck on a project

  1. What is this project about?
    This is sometimes a tough question, but figuring it out makes all the difference. If you figured it out at the beginning of the project, simply reminding yourself what the goal of the project is and what the core parts of the project are can be enough to get you back on track. If you haven’t answered that question before and are doing it for the first time, start broad, then keep refining it and narrowing it down. Don’t throw in the towel just because it is tough. When you come out on the other side, your project will be much clearer. Don’t do anything in your project that doesn’t lead directly to the main theme of the project.
  2. What’s missing?
    Once you’ve figured out what the project is all about, ask yourself what is missing. What does your still need in order to reach its stated purpose? Write those things down and start working down the list.

This is paraphrased from Steven Pressfield’s Do The Work.

January-June 2017 Self-Improvement Projects

Every month I do a PDP – a personal development project. These PDPs are either theme or project-based and I must do something specific every single day to further that project or theme.

Here’s what I’ve done so far this year:

  • January: Circadian rhythm fasting. Fast for 13-16 hours starting after dinner each day. Try to have dinner as close to sundown as possible.
  • February: Continue fasting and complete a Whole 30 – eating only real fruits, veggies, and meats for 30 days straight. No sugar, dairy, grains, additives, or desserts.
  • March: Read for at least an hour every day
  • April: Writing a valuable blog post every single day, either on cooklikechuck.com, cagrimmett.com, Medium, or the Praxis blog.
  • May: (Still in progress) I began May by deciding to launch LeonardRead.org, but then I pivoted because I decided that it would be better to build the website later this year when FEE has completed their digitization of LER’s journals. I didn’t know that was a work in progress until talking to someone there. So then my self-improvement this month became a series of mishmash items:
    • This Microblog project
    • Staying off of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. I’ve been posting to Facebook and Twitter via Buffer, but I’ve successfully kept myself logged out of the services so I don’t fall down the rabbit hole of mindlessly surfing. I removed those apps from my phone and I keep WasteNoTime installed in my browser to keep me in check. It has been great so far. I’ve spent more time reading real books instead of surfing.
    • Going through 10 Days to Faster Reading. Currently two days in.
  • June: (planned) I’m planning on developing drawing skills in June. My textbook will be Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I have all of the tools I need, and I plan to draw every day in June. I’ll keep a log of my progress and post it here.

Ted Kooser on Writer’s Block

Writing Routines, a great new sites that gives behind-the-scenes look at the daily habits of writers and authors, has an interview with Ted Kooser, a former US Poet Laureate. I love his answer to a question on writer’s block:

William Stafford, one of our great poets, said that the best thing to do about writer’s block is to lower your standards, and it’s the best advice to give someone who’s stalled.

How to clean up text pasted from Google Docs with Atom and Regular Expressions

Have you ever pasted text from Google Docs onto your blog (WordPress or otherwise) and had to fix wacky formatting? Here is how to quickly strip out all those extra HTML tags using regular expressions with Atom.io, a free text editor.


Ideas for WordPress Projects

A la James Altucher’s Ten Ideas a Day

  1. Implementing microformats into a theme
  2. Make a Timeline Builder plugin
  3. Make a book review custom post type and template
  4. Export WordPress posts and import them into Day One
  5. Tutorials explaining typical WordPress structure
  6. Persistent to-do list posts
  7. Plugin or custom post type for documenting learning
  8. Reduce database calls with hardcoding things that won’t change in your own child theme
  9. Create defaults and new widgets for WPBakery’s Visual Composer
  10. Interact with WordPress via the REST API. Visualize posts with D3?

After 10 years of knowing about Pixelmator for the last 10 years, I finally dumped Adobe Photoshop and made the switch last month. The hardest part has been relearning how to do certain tasks, but the tutorials and documentation are great. I don’t see myself going back any time soon.