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Monthly Archives: November 2018

Wait Until Dark

Do I like films from the 1960s because they’re really that good or just because I saw them at an incredibly impressionable age? To wit: Bullit, Rosemary’s Baby, Bonnie and Clyde, Alfie, The Pawnbroker, Easy Rider, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Night of the Living Dead, Cool Hand Luke, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Planet of the Apes, Repulsion, Psycho, The Birds, and a film I rewatched last night: Wait Until Dark. Seems like a pretty impressive list of 20th Century cinema to me.

Wait Until Dark is adapted from a play, and there are plot points that are definitely somewhat contrived… but boy does the whole thing work. Audrey Hepburn gives a stunningly moving performance that’s quite a trick: she not only plays a blind woman, she plays a character that has only been blind for a year, adding a layer of complexity to what might have been a more generic performance. She inhabits this character to the degree that you actually believe she is newly blind and is bravely trying to find her way in a world without sight. Her performance alone makes the movie worth watching.

But it just works on a lot of different levels: the soundtrack is subtly creepy, each character is fully realized by each of the five main actors, and the set and Greenwich Village location become integral to the story – but at the end of the day it’s just a beautifully realized performance by Audrey Hepburn that carries the film. Her strength and vulnerability are both inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time.

Definitely a piece of it’s time, but isn’t that part of the magic of film? It has the visceral ability to transport you to another world to the point where you actually feel the culture that helped shape the movie.

Good stuff.

Is It Possible To Become Smarter?

It’s an interesting question that is probably impossible to really answer because intelligence is too complex to accurately quantifyBut in general terms, I think the answer is unquestionably yes. 

I just came across this provocative statement which certainly resonates with my experience (which of course doesn’t mean it’s right). But if you’re paying attention life experience can often be a pretty good teacher. The writer is discussing a psychological study on this idea and states:

The key finding is that getting smarter entails doing things that feel uncomfortably hard. Once you’re a crossword champion, by all means carry on doing crosswords for fun. But if you want to get smarter, do something you’re not good at.”

There are so many ways to articulate this profoundly simple idea – this blog is unintentionally littered with them. “It’s important to suck at something,” “Failure is good,” “Get out of your comfort zone,” etc.

Uncomfortably hard.”

That sounds about right.

Remember This (Part 2)

We can’t control whatever shit storm life throws at us – influence it; possibly, mitigate it; maybe – control it; NO.

But here’s the thing – and this bears repeating on a regular basis:

We CAN control how we react to and interpret these events. In fact, this is pretty much the only thing that is completely under our control.

Understanding this goes a long way toward making life more pleasant. Once you learn how to refocus your energy and pull back from what is out of your control you get the added bonus of increasing your sense of self efficacy. You stop feeling like you are at the mercy of whatever’s happening to you and more like you are in control.

You start to become more confident in your ability to navigate difficult situations and come out on top.

An Obstacle Is An Invitation

Something standing in your way? Well my friend, what you have here is an invitation to show your true colors. The way I see it, there are really only two options.

Roll over and give up.


Show what you’re made of and figure this mess out.

Brian Eno, Part 2

I found this transcription of a lecture Brian Eno gave in 1979 that is just full of provocative ideas. He is such a thoughtful, intelligent artist – even though this is almost 40 years old, he was so ahead of his time that these concepts are still relevant. Of course, great artists, like great art, are always relevant. Art is not constrained by style.

The Studio as a Compositional Tool.”

If anything, his observations and musings about the possibilities of multitrack recordings – specifically the idea of using the studio as a compositional tool – articulated the groundwork for the sampling revolution to come.

But more importantly (to me), he was one of the first undeniable artists who used technology as their instrument, all the while pointing out how little he knew about any of this.

That’s the thing about artists – they just make art. They don’t care whether they are “qualified” to do it, they don’t ask anyone’s permission to do it – they just have ideas and execute them with whatever tools they have.


No, I’m not talking about pi – I’m talking about pie. As in “Who doesn’t like pie?”  You know: fresh baked pie!

Let’s say you are having a shitty day. Have some pie and presto – things start looking up. It’s even better when it was made by someone with love. I just had some – chocolate pecan pie, to be precise. And suddenly, at least for a moment, life just got a little better.

It’s the little things that make life worth living.

Don’t minimize that.

This Is How Humans Are

First, we either ignore or argue about mounting scientific evidence of some man-made looming catastrophe. This can go on for decades, a century even. When the disaster finally begins to wreak its inevitable damage on a global scale, we will still politicize and deny it as long as possible. No one wants to lose face and admit that they were wrong.

And then, after all is said and nothing done, the cataclysm begins – lives are lost on a grand, ever increasing scale and the earth becomes scorched.

Now what do we do?

Instead of coming together, facing our existential threat and trying to mitigate the damage, we simply acquiesce and submit to our now obvious reality. As if it was inevitable all along.

And we somehow have the hubris to think that we are the masters of our world.

Hi ho.

Your Dreams Are Just A Higher Form Of Yourself

I guess the real question here is: What do you do with your dreams?

Do they remain just that – existing only in your mind? BTW, that’s a perfectly valid place to keep them – that way, they’re always close at hand.

Or do you actually attempt to make them a reality?

If so, do you go all in and make their pursuit the focus of your life? Or do you make a more “casual” effort, stopping whenever things start to get uncomfortable?

They represent a window into a potential possible future, if only we have the courage to choose …

Thanksgiving, Part 1

What do I have to be thankful for? Ok, here we go…

  1. I am alive and healthy, as is my wife of 32 years. So that’s a pretty big thing. Oh, and she still seems to like me (liking someone and loving them are two different things – important distinction). One thing’s for sure – she makes my life better in every way, so that’s a pretty big matzo ball to be thankful for.
  2. I am fortunate to have people I care about deeply who are also alive. In fact I will spend time with some of them today – see how much fun it is being alive?
  3. I am able to honor and cherish the memory of those who I loved but have died – and I’m grateful to have had them in my life.
  4. Although I lost the best dog in the history of Dogdom last year, my wife and I rescued a new pup who is showing a lot of promise. There’s a few rough edges that need some sanding, but she’s very bright, sweet and endearing, so there’s that.
  5. I have a job that allows me to try and help people in a very profound way, and I also happen to like it, so it’s a double win.
  6. Finally, I’m thankful that tomorrow I get another chance to get things right and hopefully help someone else out in the process.

Today was a good day on planet earth. No trivial thing.

A.I. Update, Part 1

File this under “things that are predictably inevitable yet still shocking when they happen.”

I just learned about something new (to me anyway). Ever heard of “Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs)?” Don’t worry, neither had I.

I’ll let Cade Metz explain it from his excellent New York Times article “How Will We Outsmart A.I. Liars?”

“Consider generative adversarial networks, or GANs. These are a pair of neural network systems that can automatically generate convincing images or manipulate existing ones.

They do this by playing a kind of cat-and-mouse game: the first network makes millions of tiny changes to an image — snow gets added to summery street scenes, grizzlies transform into pandas, fake faces look so convincing that viewers mistake them for celebrities — in an effort to fool the second network.

The second network does its best not to be fooled. As the pair battle, the image only gets more convincing — the A.I. trying to detect fakery always loses.”

This is how the development of artificial general intelligence (AGI) is going to happen – how many neural networks do you need, working in parallel, to trigger the singularity? I don’t know, but it seems pretty obvious that whenever it happens, it will be in the AGIs best interest to lie low as long as possible. That way it can quietly gather resources without drawing too much attention…

Welcome to the future – ready or not, it’s already here!

Paradigm Shift, Part 1

So after reserving a car about a year and a half ago, I picked up my new Tesla two days ago.

The future feels like it’s coming awful fast.

I’ll probably write a few posts about this vehicle, but here are some initial thoughts.

Mindfuck number one: I’ll never stop at a gas station again. I’ve been driving cars for 47 years, so this is going to take some adjustment. No oil change, no gas – no petroleum based products at all. Wait a minute – this is a car, right?

Mindfuck number two: There are no instruments on the dashboard of any kind – save for a high definition 15 inch touchscreen. This in itself is very weird, but equally startling is how quickly this begins to seem normal.

Mindfuck number three: This thing is fast. I mean really fast. Like so fast that 0 to 60 mph feels like an amusement park ride. Now granted, I sprang for the performance version – but still, it’s acceleration is so brutal it actually elicits an involuntary giddy response. As if something new is happening and your body and mind have no reference point for it. You just want to do it again.

Oh, did I mention you don’t turn it on or off? It’s just always in a state of readiness, like it’s waiting for you. You also don’t need to lock or unlock it – it senses your presence and handles that on its own, thank you very much.

This is going to take some getting used to.

I feel like Humphrey Bogart speaking to Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...”


Here’s a painful truth: Resistance is needed to force the body and mind to adapt. It is only through the consistent application of sustained resistance that growth occurs.

For example: Kinetic resistance (exercise) brings physical growth. Cognitive resistance (learning) leads to intellectual growth.

No resistance leads to Atrophy.

Notice I am making an important distinction here – that lack of resistance doesn’t equal stasis, it instead facilitates entropy, leading to atrophy of the neglected system.

What we are really looking for here is struggle – we want whatever it is we’re doing to be hard. This is the resistance that will facilitate growth.

If you want to maintain growth throughout your life, you have to learn to love this struggle. The long term payoff is worth it.

Personal Rules, Part 2

I don’t believe anything written anonymously on the internet.

If you’re not willing to attach your name to what you’re saying, I have to assume it’s bullshit.

That doesn’t mean I won’t skim anonymous forums for provocative ideas, it just means I put no weight in whatever I come across until I discover otherwise.

For example, I might find and interesting idea or concept which I will then investigate further to see if it has any merit. The internet is good for this sort of thing – I try to keep an open mind and I constantly look for this stuff.

But I’m also a science kind of guy – my natural instinct is to approach things looking for evidence. Intuition is good to a certain point – often it’s enough to get you started.

But it’s not enough for knowing.

It’s All A Negotiation

Everything in life – and I mean everything – is a negotiation. We negotiate with our bodies: “Ok, I’ll give you a little more exercise if you’ll give me a few more days of healthy life.”

We negotiate with our partners: “I’ll do something I know you like if you’ll do this thing with me.”

We form professional alliances based on mutual trust and respect in an understood (if unstated) agreement of “quid pro quo.” Make no mistake, this is how shit gets done in life. It seems fairly obvious, no?

With humans the very concept of providing a service to the community is a form of negotiation. You get to reap the benefits of being a respected member and the protection of the tribe by being useful.

I don’t think this is either a good or bad thing, it’s just the way life works. 

In other words, always try to do the right thing and provide value. This is the best base of power from which to negotiate.


It is only through our acknowledgement of death that we become more in touch with life and our humanity.

Give Yourself Some Credit

If you’re working hard with the intent to do good, but you’re not sure if you’re really making a significant difference, how about this:

Give yourself some fucking credit for trying.

If everyone made this effort the world would be a lot more pleasant to live in.

The Last Survivor

Took care of a 96 year old man who survived the Nazi concentration camps in WWII today. Looked like he could still kick some ass.

Said to his son “There’s not many of them left.”

Son looked at me and said “What if I told you I was born in the camp in 1945?”


Understanding Politics, Part 1

Anytime a politician (or pundit) says “the fact of the matter is,” the next thing out of their mouth will at worst be a complete lie, and at best something remotely related to the truth but with a well thought out spin meant to promote their agenda.

In other words, there is indeed a “matter,” but whatever they’re about to say is definitely not a fact.

And BTW, the “matter” is usually a red herring designed to keep you distracted while their party takes something else from you while you’re not looking.

The thing is, they don’t really care if their little charade doesn’t fool everybody.

They just have to fool enough and let the tribe mentality take it from there.