Category Archives: Life

Ashley, 2008-2017

ashley

This is a post I hoped I would never have to write.

Long-time readers will remember Ashley, our beloved Bangkok street dog, whom we adopted in 2009.

About two weeks ago, on March 7, Ashley died after a brief illness.

Above is a photo from the day we adopted her from an organization that rescued “soi dogs,” as they’re called, in Bangkok.

It’s one of our favorite images of Ashley, since it was such a happy day for us — and because we joke that Ashley looks like she’s laughing in the photo, having tricked her way into a “forever home” as a year-old dog at a time when other owners were snapping up much younger, often cuter puppies from the organzation that saved her.

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Here’s a recent pic of her, from before she got sick.

A and I are still trying to process the news and live with the reality of coming home to an empty house, no longer taking walks with her, and living without her constant companionship on the couch, in the den, in the kitchen and nearly everywhere in between.

She was by our side in Bangkok for five years, then with us in Singapore for two and a half years, and then here in Delhi with us since we moved here last summer.

We adopted her when she was about a year old, and she would have turned nine this August.

(You can read about her history in this post and this one, and here’s one I wrote on the fifth anniversary of adopting her.)

Ashley was no longer a puppy, of course, and she had started to slow down ever so slightly in recent months. While she had some health issues before we adopted her, she was a pretty robust dog, and we expected to have much more time with her. And that’s part of what makes saying goodbye so difficult.

She loved our house here in New Delhi, with our small yard and its many sights and sounds: birds to eye, squirrels to chase, fellow street dogs to romp with, cats to pester.

Ash developed a cough a month or so back, and a subsequent ultrasound revealed a large mass in her abdomen that we later learned was cancerous.

She underwent surgery not long afterwards, and the mass was removed, but she never rebounded fully, and she succumbed to multi-organ failure just a few days later. Fortunately we were with her during her final days and hours, patting her head, stroking her back, and just keeping her company.

She was so weak in her final days that she had to be carried everywhere, yet her puppy-like enthusiasm remained; just an hour before she died, even though she could barely sit up on her own, I took her leash down from a coat rack near the door and she wagged her tail vigorously, looking up at me with her big black eyes.

When she passed away, we had her cremated here in Delhi, and the very sympathetic workers at the facility gave us her ashes in a lovely urn. Now it sits, with her collar and a painting of her A gave me as a gift years ago, on our mantle. (See the photo at the bottom of this post.)

Rather than dwell on her sickness — really just a week or two of the nearly nine years she lived — we have been trying to focus on all the fun we had with her.

Here, to have them all in one place, are a bunch of my favorite photos of her. I’ve posted some of these before, but others are new.

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As a puppy, before we adopted her

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She was in really rough shape

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But was soon…

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…On her way to health

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How she looked when we adopted her

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On the way home, day one

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Taking a nap at home in Bangkok, not long after we adopted her

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A happy, high energy pup

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A favorite past time: hanging out on the balcony.

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At the beach in Thailand

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One funny thing: she liked the beach but hated getting near any kind of water

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Sand on the nose

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At home in Singapore

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On one of many long walks we took in the city-state

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On the couch and in my face, likely because I was eating a snack

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On a jaunt in Singapore

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At Singapore’s Bishan Park

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Looking quizzical

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“Can I please have some of that lamb you’re cooking?”

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If her morning walk was ever delayed, you might open your eyes to see this, with her unruly ear fur — tendrils, we called them — blowing in the air conditioning

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At home in Singapore

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On our balcony here in New Delhi

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On the bed

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After her surgery, wearing a T-shirt to protect the stitches

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RIP, Ashley

I really, really loved that little ball of fur.

Video: New Delhi Street Dogs are Totally Unflappable 

​I often pass this group of street dogs near our office building in Connaught Place. 

These mutts are totally unflappable. 

Honking cars, pedestrians weaving between them, bicycles, horses, you name it. 

They could care less. 

They just keep dozing, sunning themselves as New Delhi buzzes all around them. 

A level of zen I can only one day hope to attain!

Previously: a super-enterprising street dog I saw back in August.

The difference between saying something and actually doing it 

About a quarter of the time I take Ubers here in Delhi the driver asks me, when I get out, to give him a five-star rating. (Drivers must maintain a certain rating to ensure they can continue working on the platform.)

Usually I just nod my head and say “yeah okay,” and proceed to give them whatever score I would have given them anyway. 

The other day a driver did something different. 

As I was getting out of the car he said “sir” to get my attention, then pointed at his phone, where he had selected five stars in his rating for me

Then when he saw I was looking, he pressed submit.

When it came time for me to score him later, I also gave him a similar rating. 

He was a good driver indeed, but he also understood the law of reciprocity. He knew the difference between just saying something and actually taking action. And that I may well feel inclined to help him out too (since riders are also ranked). 

Clever. 

Why We Gain Weight Over the Holidays

Stephan Guyenet, an obesity researcher whose work I’ve linked to in the past, on why we tend to get fat over Thanksgiving and Christmas:

Thanksgiving is a special time in the United States when we gather our loved ones and celebrate the abundance of fall with a rich palette of traditional foods. Yet a new study suggests that the 6-week holiday period that spans Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve accounts for most of our country’s weight problem (1). Understanding this fact, and why it happens, gives us powerful insights into why we gain weight, and what to do about it.

The human brain is the product of millions of years of survival in the face of scarcity, and it has a number of hard-wired tricks up its sleeve that helped us stay alive in the world of our distant ancestors. One of these is an important function called reward, which mostly whirrs away below our conscious awareness. In a nutshell, every human brain is wired with specific motivations that help us seek the things that are good for us, including physical comfort, sex, social interaction, water, and of course, food (3). But not just any kind of food: the brain isn’t wired to make us crazy about celery sticks and lentils, but rather to seek concentrated sources of fat, starch, sugar, and protein that would have met the rigorous demands of ancient life (4, 5, 6). In everyday experience, we feel cravings as we smell turkey roasting in the oven, or see a slice of pumpkin pie obscured by a generous dollop of whipped cream. This craving, along with the enjoyment we feel as we eat delicious foods, is the conscious manifestation of reward.

Click through for more info, and steps to help curb holiday weight gain.

Video: How Human Population Has Exploded Over Time

Embedded above and on YouTube here: “Human Population Through Time,” a video from the American Museum of Natural History. From the description:

It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billion—and only 200 years to reach 7 billion. But growth has begun slowing, as women have fewer babies on average. When will our global population peak? And how can we minimize our impact on Earth’s resources, even as we approach 11 billion?

Amazing to see the spikes after agriculture began, and then especially after the industrial revolution.

How to Achieve Musical Success, According to a Map from 1913

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Atlas Obscura:

When it comes to finding success, practice does really make perfect.

That’s the message behind this 1913 allegorical map entitled “The Road to Success,” a drawing that turns the figurative journey towards artistic triumph into a cartographic depiction of an actual climb towards victory.

The map appeared first in an October 1913 edition of The Etude, a magazine covering musical topics that was also known as Presser’s Musical Magazine, named for its editor Theodore Presser.

I love it. Applicable to much in life, not just music. Click through for a bigger version. And beware bohemiansim!

Some news: WE MOVED TO INDIA!

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More on this in future posts, but…A and I moved to India! I’m penning this post from New Delhi, our new home after two and a half years in Singapore.

Above is a Tweet I posted sharing the news. Below is the Newley Notes missive in which I explain a bit more.

I’m very excited about this new adventure. Expect more posts on India, tech, and life in the world’s second-most-populous nation.


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly (most of the time) newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

This is a special edition: it’s the first one I’m penning from New Delhi, our new home!

Anasuya and I moved here from Singapore about a week and a half ago — hence the weeks-long Newley’s Notes absence — and are settling in well so far.

I’ll be working out of the WSJ bureau here in the capital of the world’s second-most-populous country. I’m so, so excited to be in this vibrant, dynamic nation, and to be able to focus more on tech developments here. And having family and friends nearby is a huge bonus.

It’s an exciting time for India, a country of 1.3 billion where people are increasingly coming online for the first time, many on low-cost smartphones.

How is technology changing their lives? Is it improving them? What are some of the world’s biggest tech firms — Facebook, Google, Amazon, Uber — doing to win here? How are local startups innovating? These are questions I hope to answer in my stories.

On to this week’s edition.

What I wrote in The WSJ

Grab, an Uber Rival in Southeast Asia, Is Set to Raise $1 Billion

The story, which I wrote with two exceptional colleagues in Hong Kong, begins:

As Uber Technologies Inc. turns away from China, a competitor is raising funds to cement its dominance in Southeast Asia and fend off the tech titan based in San Francisco.

Uber’s decision to sell its China business to Didi Chuxing Technology Co. is giving Singapore-based Grab renewed confidence it can take on Uber and win on its home turf. Grab says it has captured much of Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing market with more than half of private-car rides in the region.

Valued at $1.6 billion in its previous funding round, Grab is planning to raise about $1 billion in fresh capital from investors including Didi and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.,a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The first chunk of that fundraising, a $600 million dose, is expected to be completed this week, the person said.

How Uber Plans to Avoid Getting Didi-ed in India

The story begins:

Uber is upping its game in India following its retreat from China.

The San Francisco ride-hailing company earlier this week gave up its costly battle for users in China, selling its business there to homegrown rival Didi Chuxing Technology Co…

What I wrote at Newley.com

Three additions to my “book notes” series of posts, in which I share notes from my readings.

Book Notes — ‘Never Eat Alone,’ by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Brief recap: A popular book about the power of networking. I didn’t find it revelatory, but appreciate the central theme, which is common sense: that you should help friends just to help them, not because you expect something in return. In other words, as the author writes, networking can be a huge advantage – but don’t keep score.

Book Notes — ‘Deep Work,’ by Cal Newport

Brief recap: Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, argues that knowledge workers must devote themselves entirely to the most sophisticated and valuable contributions they can make – they must concentrate on what he calls “deep work.” Common sense, yes, but the book provides some compelling insights and plenty of practical tips. Highly recommended.

Book Notes — ‘Den of Thieves,’ by James B. Stewart

Brief recap: An absolute classic. Pulitzer-prize winning Jim Stewart tells, though in-depth reporting and riveting storytelling, the story of the insider trading scandals that rocked Wall Street in the 1980s.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Nice Cargo Shorts! You’re Sleeping on the Sofa

A lighthearted WSJ story out of New York that blew up online — we’re talking 83,000 Facebook shares and 600 comments. The nut graf:

Relationships around the country are being tested by cargo shorts, loosely cut shorts with large pockets sewn onto the sides. Men who love them say they’re comfortable and practical for summer. Detractors​ say they’ve been out of style for years, deriding them as bulky, uncool and just flat-out ugly.

2) After you’ve read that, check out this hilarious Vice piece, in which the author unpacks the WSJ story.

3) When LBJ Ordered Pants From the White House

Speaking of clothing, this is not new, but new to me. Visit the link and scroll down to the hear the remarkble audio of a phone call Lyndon Johnson made to the Haggar clothing company in Dallas in 1964. Audio is possibly NSFW, given graphic anatomical descriptions — not to mention audible burping.

4) America Seen From Abroad: Arrogant, Nice, Tech-Savvy, Free

I love this. The AP asked people all over the world for their impressions of Americans.

One of my favorites:

— “America? Uhh, that’s a huge country. Burgers, the American dream, choppers, … Elvis, cowboys. We dream of America and they dream about Europe. But one thing for sure, they cannot make beer.” — Knut Braaten, 43, handyman, Oslo, Norway.

5) App of the week: Prisma, which turns “every photo into art.” It’s like Instagram, but it makes your pics way cooler.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

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Book Notes — ‘Deep Work,’ by Cal Newport

Note: For some time I have kept, on index cards, written notes about the books I’ve read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. For now I’m assigning them all to my Book Notes category. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

Deep work

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
By Cal Newport
Published: 2016
ISBN: 1455586692
Amazon link
Rating: 9/10

Brief recap: Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, argues that knowledge workers must devote themselves entirely to the most sophisticated and valuable contributions they can make – they must concentrate on what he calls “deep work.” Common sense, yes, but the book provides some compelling insights and plenty of practical tips. Highly recommended.

My notes:

  • What is deep work? It’s the core stuff we are trained to do, for which we’ve developed deep expertise – the crux of what makes us experts in our field.

    Or, as Newport writes:

    Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

    What isn’t deep work – or, as he calls it, “shallow work”? Newport says it’s activities that a recent college graduate could learn how to do relatively quickly.

    So, if you’re a consultant, let’s say, you must devote yourself entirely to your most important work, like producing deliverables for clients or bosses. Eschew all but the most critical email, needless meetings, social media and other distractions – even though it may seem like this stuff is important to your job.

  • Social media is largely a waste of time, and should avoided, Newport says. But our culture is so techno-centric – we are living in Neil Postman’s “technolopy”, he writes – that this is difficult:

Deep work is at a severe disadvantage in a technopoly because it builds on values like quality, craftsmanship, and mastery that are decidedly old-fashioned and nontechnological. Even worse, to support deep work often requires the rejection of much of what is new and high-tech. Deep work is exiled in favor of more distracting high-tech behaviors, like the professional use of social media, not because the former is empirically inferior to the latter. Indeed, if we had hard metrics relating the impact of these behaviors on the bottom line, our current technopoly would likely crumble…

  • After laying out, in the first half of the book, why deep work is important, Newport goes out to provide some tips for building more deep work into one’s life. A few that I liked, and have since implemented:
    • Keep a scorecard: log not only how many hours per day you’re able to spend on deep work, but track with a paper and pen, and post in a conspicuous place, details on when you’ve reached important milestones, such as completing important projects.
    • Train yourself to embrace boredom in order to build focus: Newport notes that a key requirement of deep work is the ability to concentrate deeply for long stretches of time, and that means resisting the temptation to surf the web or check in on social media when boredom strikes.

    • Ponder your work when walking. In a notable passage, Newport says he often takes long walks to and from his office, devoting the time to thinking about problems that are vexing him at work, searching for solutions.

    • That said, guard your downtime: Though Newport is a successful academic, publishing regularly, he argues that because he consistently focuses on deep work, he doesn’t have to work marathon hours. This is crucial because focusing is more mentally demanding than shallow work, and the brain needs time to relax. Newport even describes how he mentally prepares to leave his office every day, saying out loud to himself that he is finishing his work and shutting off his computer, serving as a reminder that it’s time to tune out a bit.

  • Newport earlier authored another interesting book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.”

    The premise of that work: Follow your passion is terrible advice. True work satisfaction often comes only after a good deal of time, once we’ve developed expertise. So pick something you’re good at, that you like, and that society values. Then develop a craftsman’s mindset, honing your skills over time. Also worth checking out.

Short Film: Guy Who Built Enormous Model Train Set

Some Kind Of Quest from Andrew Wilcox on Vimeo.

Embedded above is “Some Kind of Quest,” a short documentary about Bruce Zaccagnino and Northlandz, a 52,000-square-foot model train setup he created in New Jersey over a period of four years.

Dedication, pure and simple.

Related video: the Belgian gentleman who is really into marbles.