Categories
Newley's Notes

NN285: Halcyon Huskies

Sent as a newsletter December 12, 2021. Want to join my email list? Sign up here.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above: a recent (and delicious) hot pot meal with friends.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 📖 My newest Books Notes post at Newley.com: “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World,” by Cal Newport.

2) 🦠 Good news: A third shot of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-vaccine neutralized the Omicron variant in lab tests.

3) 🍎 Apple may be working on the hottest new device since the iPhone, my WSJ colleauge Christopher Mims reports: an augmented reality headset or glasses.

4) 🎥 The best movies of 2021, via The New York Times’s A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis.

5) 🗣 Related: Why it’s so hard to understand movie dialogue these days.

6) 🍽 A review of “the worst Michelin starred restaurant, ever” lit up the internet. And the chef appears to have responded in a unique fashion.

7) 👉 The most mispronounced words of 2021.

8) 🦦 A group of otters attacked a British man in Singapore, biting him 26 times in ten seconds.

9) 🚀 Forget using rockets to launch satellites. A startup in California wants to fling them into space instead. (Thanks, Dad!)

10) 🎧 The 50 best albums of 2021, according to Pitchfork.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

“Husky i don’t want stress.”

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." – Aristotle

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Book Notes Tech

Book Notes: ‘Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World,’ by Cal Newport

From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited recently after many years.

These posts are meant to help me remember what I’ve learned, and to point out titles I think are worth consulting.

They’re neither formal book reviews nor comprehensive book summaries, but I hope you find them useful. For previous postings, see my Book Notes category.

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

By Cal Newport
Published: 2019
Publisher: Portfolio
ISBN-10: ‎0525536515
Amazon link

Brief Summary

Use technology. Don’t let technology use you.

My Three Key Takeaways

I’ve read two of Newport’s earlier books: 2016’s “Deep Work” (my book notes here) in which he argued that knowledge workers should focus on their professional activities that deliver the most value.

And I read his 2012 book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” a guide to career development in which Newport says that the common advice to “follow your passion” is misguided; instead, we should hone our craft and deliver output that is rare and valuable.

Since “Digital Minimalism” was published in 2019, Newport has published another book, “A World Without Email,” which I haven’t read. (He’s also launched a popular podcast.)

In “Digital Minimalism,” the Georgetown University computer science professor provides a treatise on how not to let technology sap your attention and keep you from pursuing what’s most important in life. My major takeaways:

  1. Our default approach to technology amounts essentially to digital maximalism: saying yes to all technologies – chiefly social media – because they offer some value. But, Newport argues, we should be digital minimalists: only letting tech into our lives that agrees with and reinforces our values (such as being present with friends and thinking deeply). So: if you must use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, do so sparingly, at set times. And critically: access them from your computer, on a web browser, not via mobile apps, which are engineered to hijack our attention.

  2. I like Newport’s emphasis on cultivating high quality leisure activities that emphasize engaging, in real life, with people. In person. Go hiking with friends. Join a sports team. Meet a friend for coffee. Attend religious gatherings. It’s common sense, of course, but in our digital world (not to mention amid a pandemic), we must remember that social interaction is important, and we must make time to interact with friends and family in meaningful ways. It’s ironic that when we become sucked into social media, we think we’re keeping in touch with friends by liking their photos or posts or tweets, but we are often distracted during real interactions with people, or interact online instead of in person.

  3. Newport also emphasizes the value of solitude. He says we should spend a few hours a week by ourselves, accompanied only by our thoughts, and that this time – no music, no podcasts – brings immense cognitive benefits.

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Newley's Notes

NN284: Pooches in Paradise

Sent as a newsletter December 5, 2021. Want to join my email list? Sign up here.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above: a building in Hong Kong’s Central district that I spotted recently. I love it for its monolithic beauty. It almost looks like it could be a slice of the Death Star.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 📖 My newest Books Notes post at Newley.com: “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living,” by Russ Harris. It came out in 2008 and I’ve enjoyed it over the years. I finally typed up my main take-aways.

2) 🐦 Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as chief executive of the company. He’s also CEO of Square, a financial services company. Then a few days later Square changed its name to Block, a nod to cryptocurrencies and the blockchain.

3) ⚖️ Longread of the week: “Lina Khan’s Battle to Rein in Big Tech,” by Sheelah Kolhatkar in the New Yorker.

4) 💻 Lede of the week, by By Nilay Patel at The Verge: “KatKat Norton is a Microsoft Excel influencer.”

5) 🥃 The creator of a new and apparently good American whiskey is…Coors? (Via Mike W.)

6) 📺 Ridley Scott, director of the original “Blade Runner,” is working on a TV series based on the film.

7) 🍎 Beautiful HD video of Manhattan in 1993 (yes, 1993 – all of 28 years ago, which now somehow feels like a century ago). (Via PB.)

8) 🍟 Why some shapes of fries taste better than others, according to science.

9) 🎸 Inspiring, music-related video snippet of the week: the moment Paul McCartney created the hit song “Get Back.” From a popular new Peter Jackson documentary series on The Beatles (trailer is here).

10) 👏 Emoji, ranked from smallest (mosquito) to biggest (the sun) real-life size.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

When you dress up as your dogs favorite toy.

•••

📚 What I’m reading

I first read Ken Follett’s classic 1978 spy thriller “Eye of the Needle” in high school, and loved it. I recently gave it another read, and found it equally compelling. Perfect pacing. Evocative characters. And pairs nicely with simultaneous nonfiction reading about World War II.

•••

🎥 what I’m watching

🇮🇹 “Azzurri: Road to Wembley” is an entertaining, hour-long documentary on Netflix featuring behind the scenes footage from the Italian national soccer team’s path to victory in last summer’s Euro championship. What team spirit!

•••

😂 Meme of the week, above: George Costanza’s wallet meets Omicron fatigue.

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… To find one real friend in a lifetime is a good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.” – Baltasar Gracian

•••

🤗 What’s new with you? Hit reply to send me tips, queries, random comments, and videos of dogs encountering life-sized versions of their beloved chew toys.

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Book Notes Life

Book Notes: ‘The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living,’ by Russ Harris

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris

From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited recently after many years.

These posts are meant to help me remember what I’ve learned, and to point out titles I think are worth consulting.

They’re neither formal book reviews nor comprehensive book summaries, but I hope you find them useful. For previous postings, see my Book Notes category.

This is a writeup I’ve been meaning to post for some time. I have consulted this book many times over the years and have drawn a lot from it.

It’s not a new book, having been published in 2008, but I find its lessons to be timeless.

Book Notes: ‘The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT.’

Published: 2008
Publisher: Trumpeter
ISBN-10: 1590305841
Amazon link

Brief summary:

Don’t think of “happiness” as it’s commonly understood, which is “feeling good.”

Instead, think of being happy as living a rich, meaningful life in accordance with your values.

My 3 key takeaways:

  1. Homo Sapiens’ brains have not evolved to make us “happy,” or to produce a constant stream of pleasurable sensations. Our brains have evolved to keep us from getting killed. In the modern world, that threat is less a tiger lurking behind tall grass, waiting to pounce, but rather other perils: falling sick, encountering difficulties on the job, or suffering from declining social status.
  2. Don’t believe in fairy tales, such as the notion that things should end “happily ever after.” In truth, we have little control over our emotions and thoughts — but that’s okay. Thoughts are just words that run through our heads. Emotions are like the weather: they’re always changing. The mind (the neutral, “observing self”) is like the sky: it’s always there, regardless of thoughts or emotions.
  3. What is the “happiness trap” referred to in the title? It’s thinking that happiness means “feeling good.” Rather than making ourselves miserable chasing positive sensations — and trying to resist negative ones — we must understand that real happiness means living a meaningful life. And what is a meaningful life? It’s when our actions are in line with our most important values.

My notes and notable quotations:

  • The book is a blend of mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, and even what might be considered Buddhist philosophy. It is based on a form of therapy pioneered by psychologist Steven C. Hayes called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT (pronounced “Act”), which is designed to create “psychological flexibility.” (It strikes me that it’s a combination of Western-style focus on what we as individuals want out of the world, and an Buddhist-style focus on detachment.)
  • “If we live a full life, we will feel a full range of human emotions.” (P. 5)
  • There are six principles for dealing with thoughts and emotions:
    • Defusion: disconnecting from our thoughts, and not fusing with them. For example, if you are ruminating, try thinking: “I notice I’m having the thought that…” This will give you a sort of psychological distance from the thought, providing relief.
    • Expansion: making room for our emotions, not fighting them.
    • Connection: being present in the here and now.
    • The observing self: the part of us that is “pure awareness.”
    • Values: discovering and staying true to what’s important over our lifetimes. These aren’t goals, but ways of acting.
    • Committed action: taking steps to act in accordance with your values.
  • Hayes summarizes what ACT teaches us in this way: We must accept thoughts and feelings and be present, connect with our values, and take effective action. “So here is the happiness trap in a nutshell: to find happiness, we try to avoid or get rid of bad feelings, but the harder we try, the more bad feelings we create.” (P. 27)
  • “Success in life means living according to your values.” (P. 221). Values aren’t goals, which can accomplished and checked off a list. They’re “leading principles” for your life.” Or, “how we want to be, what we want to stand for.”
Categories
Newley's Notes

NN283: Dogs Desperate to Doze

Sent as a newsletter November 28, 2021. Want to join my email list? Sign up here.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above: I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. As I do every year, I made my Aunt Cece’s pecan pie. And this year I finally raised my game by making the crust instead of (for shame) using a store-bought one. It did not disappoint.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🦠 A new Covid–19 “variant of concern”: Omicron, which has spread quickly in South Africa and has made its way to other parts of the world.

2) ⚖️ Three men in Brunswick, Georgia were convicted of murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. (Related: Don’t miss the moving 2020 longform article by Mitchell S. Jackson in Runner’s World called “Twelve Minutes and a Life.”)

3) 👉 RIP legendary Broadway composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim. He was 91.

4) ⚡ Nuclear fusion – clean, cheap, and massively powerful – may be soon within reach.

5) 🛸 The Pentagon is creating a new group to look into unidentified aerial phenomena in restricted airspace.

6) 🍞 Toaster innovation hit its peak in 1948; has it been downhill since then?

7) 📖 Library Athena is a new website that allows you to read free, public domain books.

8) 📱 Here are some classic mobile phones and other gadgets that have been disassembled and framed, such as my favorite old school non-iPhone smartphone, the Nokia E71.

9) 🗣 The Wisdom Project contains Merlin Mann’s life advice.

10) ☕ In praise of the moka pot.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

“That’s my spot!”

📚 What I’m reading

I’ve been enjoying “The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and the Blockchain Are Challenging the Global Economic Order,” by my WSJ colleague Paul Vigna and Michael Casey. It was published in 2015 and has been updated; highly recommended for a detailed, balanced, thoughtful look at a much-hyped topic.

🎥 What I’m watching

We went to see “Dune” the other night, in the theater, and man: It is…majestic. Note: I knew very little of the storyline, and have not read the books, but I love director Denis Villeneuve’s work, especially “Blade Runner 2049.” So perhaps those more familiar with the Dune universe and characters will have complaints. But for a grand work of sci-fi cinema, sprawling in ambition and paced perfectly, with epic music, it delivers. (Trailer is here.)

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“If you don’t make things happen then things will happen to you.” – Robert Collier.

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN282: Dads Doting on Dogs

Sent as an email newsletter November 21, 2021. Want in? Join my email list.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above: taking in a recent sunset here in Hong Kong.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🇺🇸 A group of cryptocurrency investors nearly succeeded in an attempt to purchase a rare copy of the U.S. constitution, raising more than $40 million but losing out to private collector.

2) 🦠 New research on Covid–19’s origins in China points not to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but to the market where animals that can carry the virus were sold.

3) 🎨 A massive new contemporary art museum, called M+, just opened here in Hong Kong; there are concerns about censorship. (I haven’t visited. Yet!)

4) 🪛 Apple is introducing a self-service repair program so people can fix their own iPhones and Macs.

5) 📷 Here are the winning photos from the first-ever Natural Landscape Photography Awards.

6) 🏞️ The National Park Service will for the first time be headed by a Native American: Charles “Chuck” Sams III, who is Cayuse and Walla Walla and hails from Eastern Oregon.

7) 📺 Netflix now provides a list of the top ten most watched movies and shows around the world (also viewable by country).

8) 🍑 The ATL Rap Map, painted by designer Joseph Veazey, shows Atlanta spots mentioned in hit songs through the years.

9) 🍴 FoodTimeline.org catalogs things humans have eaten over the millennia.

10) ⚡ Forget Tesla. Is Hyundai making the coolest looking electric vehicles these days, or what?

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

Dads with dog they say they didn’t want GIF

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“A genius is the man who can do the average thing when everyone else around him is losing his mind.” – Napoleon

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN281: Caring Canines

Sent as an email newsletter November 16, 2021. Want in? Join my email list.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above: a Hong Kong alleyway on a recent evening.

🆕 My latest story, an exclusive out Friday, is headlined:

Facebook Is Stifling Independent Report on Its Impact in India, Human Rights Groups Say

It begins:

Human rights groups say Facebook is stifling an independent report it commissioned to investigate hate speech on its services in India, the company’s largest market by customers and where scrutiny of its operations is increasing.

Representatives for the organizations say they have provided extensive input to a U.S. law firm that Facebook commissioned in mid–2020 to undertake the report. The groups say they supplied hundreds of examples of inflammatory content and suggested ways Facebook could better police its services in India.

Facebook executives from the company’s human rights team, which is overseeing the law firm’s effort, have since narrowed the draft report’s scope and are delaying a process that has already taken more than a year, the groups say.

“They are trying to kill it,” said Ratik Asokan of India Civil Watch International…

Click through to read the rest.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🇨🇳 Evan Osnos on Xi Jinping and China’s past, present and future.

2) 🔫 Longread of the week: “My Father, the Hitman.”

3) 🥾 “Nimblewill Nomad” just hiked the more than 2,000-mile-long Appalachian Trail. He is 83 years old.

4) 🐅 “Tiger King” season two is out on Netflix Wednesday. Here’s the trailer.

5) 🇺🇸 🇰🇷 “Sesame Street” is getting its first Asian-American muppet: Ji-Young, a seven-year-old Korean American who loves skateboarding and the electric guitar.

6) 🎧 Airpods are no longer cool. It’s all about wired headphones these days.

7) 🗞 “Storm Lake” is a new PBS documentary about the future of local news, centered on Northern Iowa’s Storm Lake Times. The trailer is here.

8) 🌍 Enjoy this “Timeline of the human condition.”

9) 🚢 MarineTraffic provides an amazingly detailed, clickable ship tracking map.

10) 🏠 McMansionHell is a blog that “roasts the world’s ugliest houses from top to bottom, all while teaching about architecture and design.” (Thanks, Anasuya!)

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

How dogs react when kissed… 🤗🤗

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.” – Kurt Vonnegut

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism

Facebook Is Stifling Independent Report on Its Impact in India, Human Rights Groups Say

That’s the headline on my most recent story, an exclusive out November 12. It begins:

Human rights groups say Facebook is stifling an independent report it commissioned to investigate hate speech on its services in India, the company’s largest market by customers and where scrutiny of its operations is increasing.

Representatives for the organizations say they have provided extensive input to a U.S. law firm that Facebook commissioned in mid-2020 to undertake the report. The groups say they supplied hundreds of examples of inflammatory content and suggested ways Facebook could better police its services in India.

Facebook executives from the company’s human rights team, which is overseeing the law firm’s effort, have since narrowed the draft report’s scope and are delaying a process that has already taken more than a year, the groups say.

“They are trying to kill it,” said Ratik Asokan of India Civil Watch International, one of the organizations that provided the law firm with input. Mr. Asokan said that Facebook has raised technical objections through the law firm that have caused delays, such as changing definitions of what can be considered hate speech and included in the report, undermining what Facebook said would be an independent study. The law firm hasn’t provided a timeline for completing it, he said.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN280 Dynamic Disco Dogs

Sent as an email newsletter November 7, 2021. Want in? Join my email list.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

🙏 If you like NN, please share this link so others can subscribe.

🪔 Image of the week, above: Happy Diwali from Hong Kong! Anasuya and I celebrated the holiday over dinner with friends.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 👏 This feels like big Covid news: Antiviral pills, which lessen Covid’s effects on those infected, appear to be coming soon.

2) 🦠 Also in Covid updates: vaccines for kids are imminent. The CDC recommended children ages 5 to 11 get Pfizer’s short.

3) 💻 Wondering what to make of Facebook – er, Meta – and the so-called metaverse? Here’s Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” on “productizing reality.” (Thanks, Stuart!)

4) 🔨 File under “the world in 2021”: Transitory workers are moving around the U.S. helping fix climate-related disasters.

5) 🔍 Marginalia is a search engine made to “help you find some things you didn’t even know you were looking for.”

6) 🏠 The pandemic is breathing life into America’s suburbs.

7) 😴 Eleven artists explain their bedtime rituals.

8) 🏠 Arquitectura Libre features Adam Wiseman’s photos of “fantastical” houses funded by workers who have sent home money to relatives in Mexico, India, and Romania’s Transylvania region.

9) 📺 David Chase, creator of “The Sopranos,” seems to suggest what many have long assumed: that Tony was whacked in the series finale.

10) ✍️ Wes Anderson’s latest film, now out: “The French Dispatch,” about (if I’m discerning the plot correctly) the publication of a New Yorker-like magazine by expat staff in mid-century France.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

🐕 “4 puppies walking to Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive full song.” (Via PB)

•••

Dog-related reader submission of the week:

Mike and Marsha

Thanks to NN reader Mike S., who sends along this photo of him and his wife, Marsha, in their award-winning Halloween “101-Dalmatians” costume!

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“The beginning is always today.” – Mary Shelley

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Misc.

NN279: Don’t Mess with Luna’s Dog Bed

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, October 17, 2021. Want in? Join my email list.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above: Hong Kong’s skyline, seen from a recent outing on Victoria Harbour.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 👉 Last Saturday my colleague Jeff Horwitz and I had a new story out as part of The WSJ’s Facebook Files series.

The headline: Facebook Services Are Used to Spread Religious Hatred in India, Internal Documents Show

It begins:

Mark Zuckerberg praised India in December as a special and important country for Facebook Inc., saying that millions of people there use its platforms every day to stay in touch with family and friends. Internally, researchers were painting a different picture: Facebook’s products in India were awash with inflammatory content that one report linked to deadly religious riots.

Click through to read the rest (no WSJ subscription required for the link above)…

2) 🗞 …Then on Friday, a follow-up, with my colleague Rajesh Roy, after our story ran: Facebook Faces Official Questions in India Over Policing of Hate Speech.

3) 💻 Meanwhile, Facebook has rebranded as Meta, a decision that in part “reflects the company’s perceived growth opportunities beyond its namesake social-media platform,” my colleague Steven Russolillo writes.

4) 📹 On license plate scanners and American neighborhoods.

5) ✒️ New Yorkers are embracing ephemeral tattoos that last about a year and cost a few hundred dollars.

6) 🎨 Lee Me Kyeoung creates beautiful paintings of Korean corner stores.

7) 📖 Amazon lets authors go directly to readers via its Kindle Direct Publishing wing. Is that changing how novels are written?

8) 📺 Interesting data visualization: Ratings for the longest-running TV shows over time.

9) 🧘‍♂️ Here is eight hours of deep space video footage set to ambient music.

10) 🐕 When dogs tilt their heads, they’re not just being cute. They might also be thinking hard.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

🐶 “This is Luna. In her defense, that is her bed. 14/10 she did nothing wrong.”

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“Hate is a lack of imagination." — Graham Greene

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley