On Jury Duty

I’m very torn on jury duty. I despise politics, I don’t vote, I rarely follow the news, and I think that most laws should be nullified. I’d prefer to be rid of the whole business.

On the other hand, I deeply believe in justice and want reasonable, thoughtful people on juries.

I’ve so far avoided jury duty by being out of state at college when I was summoned. My plan if I ever got called again was to say some radical thing in order to get kicked out of the selection pool. That is no longer my plan. Now I think that I have an obligation to be the thoughtful, reasonable juror that I’d want if I were on trial.

Building a Wide Base of Knowledge

Someone I’m advising asked me this morning how to build a wide base of knowledge across many subjects and disciplines. Here was my answer:

The short answer is that you need to be curious. Specifically:

  1. Read widely.
  2. Ask people what they are working on and dig in to understand. Ask lots of questions. Spend lots of time listening.
  3. Work on your memory. If your memory isn't that great, take lots of searchable notes.
  4. Build good relationships with people who you can ask about things.
  5. Build up mental models: Conceptual understandings of how things are structured and work.

Finding Wilderness Within Civilization

I read this article from The Guardian about an ophthalmologist who is spending his retirement living out of a backpack and hiking all around the US. Most of it is only mildly interesting, but I loved this part:

The next night, we slept in a copse of gnarled oaks beside a graveyard, a shady grove carpeted with slender, rippling leaves. It was strangely lovely. Eberhart found them everywhere, these forgotten little shards of wilderness. The problem, he said, was that hikers tended to divide their lives into compartments: wilderness over here, civilization over there. “The walls that exist between each of these compartments are not there naturally,” he said. “We create them. The guy that has to stand there and look at Mount Olympus to find peace and quiet and solitude and meaning – life has escaped him totally!”’

I’ve found that it is very important for my well-being to seek out and spend time in this urban wilderness. I live in Yonkers, which isn’t nearly as dense as most parts of NYC, but life here is still dominated by apartments and concrete. For someone who grew up where houses, yards, and trees are the norm, finding these little places are necessary.  

I’ve found three great refuges within walking distance of my apartment. I’m writing this post on my iPad from one of them right now. I like to go for a walk at least once a day and 4/5 days per week (weather permitting) I work outside from one of these spots. Working these places into my daily life greatly improves my well-being.

While I’m not physically more than 50-100 yards from the street, the feel is completely different. Green replaces grey, the smell of grass and trees replace the smell of trash and exhaust fumes, and the sound of birds chirping replaces the sound of car engines.

For times when you need to get away from the city completely, there are tons of great hiking spots within an hour’s drive of NYC: The Palisades, Bear Mountain, Doodletown, Breakneck Ridge, Anthony’s Nose, and Ramapo Lake to name a few. You can even reach a section of the Appalachian Trail by Metro North.

I was having trouble connecting to my Karma Go device on my iPad. Wasn’t auto connecting to the website to authenticate. So I tried the old trick (happened to be the device’s IP) and it worked!

Why I Canceled My Medium Membership

I jumped on-board the Medium Membership train back in March, as soon as I could. I was excited about it. I couldn’t wait to see the great content behind the paywall and to see what new features they were going to roll out just for members.

Well, three months later I’m cancelling my membership. Here’s why:

  • The members-only content isn’t that good. The best stuff on Medium is already available to the public. I don’t care about the thinkpieces Medium features on a daily basis. I bookmark and recommend articles on Medium multiple times per week, so they have data to build a recommendation engine on. They need the archive of content there first, though. 
  • The audio feature is too small to be useful. I check the selection of audio versions of articles 3-4 times per week and I only found one so far I was actually interested in. Unfortunately, the reader sucked. Huge letdown. I can get past it if there is a wide implementation and more articles I wanted to read were available in audio, but that isn’t the case.
  • I don’t need an offline reading list. I’m usually connected. If I’m not, Pocket, Raindrop.io, or Evernote can save a copy.
  • No new tools for publications or authors come bundled with Membership, or at least none that I could find. It would be completely awesome if Members could submit audio versions of their own articles.

I hope Medium becomes profitable and stays around. But unless they roll out more features and get some compelling content behind the paywall, my membership is permanently on hold. Gotta deliver value fast and keep delivering, or your customers wont stick around. 

Yeah, I know I’m n=1 and all that, but it is hard to see the real value add to a Medium Membership. It certainly isn’t worth $60/year to me. I wanted to love it, but it is a letdown.