Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. After "Titan" about Rockefeller's life, Chernow became my favorite biographer.
Washington: A Life is another masterpiece by him.
It's always good to go through the histories of founders of great nations, and this is no different. Of particular note is that Chernow is as thorough as ever, going through Washington's business dealings and carefully noting his dress, horseback riding style, and the routes he took when campaigning both militarily or touring as a political leader.
The book drags sometimes - Chernow's hyper-thorough, which is fantastic except when you want the pace to pick up - but some of the details are really fantastic. I got some great ideas on dress, presentation, ethics, communication, building intelligence networks, recruiting, endurance, and diplomacy from the book. Also, the ending of the book is probably the most interesting - seeing how Washington and Hamilton modeled the Federalist platform loosely on British Imperialism was amazingly insightful. The points about state debt, finance, and taxation were fascinating.
Enjoyed this one quite a lot and feeling much more intelligent about early American affairs.
Making your first trip to East or Southeast Asia? Wondering where to go?
Okay, I've spent significant time in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. I can weigh in on those places for you. I haven't been to Macau, Laos, Burma, the Philippines, North Korea, or Indonesia yet - of them, I've heard great things about the Philippines and Indonesia in particular, but I can't comment.
So, some thoughts about every country -
Japan - Still the crown jewel of Asia, Japan has something for everyone. There's ancient and hyper-modern culture mixed all together. There's amazing technology, high levels of development, basically nonexistent crime, ridiculously high standards of quality and hygiene, and the people are friendly and polite. English isn't widely spoken, but the Japanese take being good hosts seriously and you'll be fine in any major city. You can find quite literally anything here - amazing camping and mountains and forests and oceans, or hyper-developed space-age districts in cities.
The downside of Japan - It's fucking expensive. Like, really really expensive. I hate spending money on eating and sleeping - every dollar I put into basic "staying alive" stuff is less money to be invested in commerce or philanthropy, or learning, or having unique experiences that are more interesting than... well, eating and sleeping. Yet, eating and sleeping is brutally expensive here. If you're not a veteran traveler and don't have friends here, you'll be hard pressed to spend less than $100/day in Japan. If you slum it hard, you can maybe get down to $50/day. Everything's ridiculously expensive, ranging from 400% to 2,000% higher than still-developing countries in Asia.
Email from a reader having a tough time. Ambitious, but in a rut. Here's an edited excerpt, my thoughts afterwards -
I had some thoughts as a part of trying to get myself out of a rut. The rut is from a bad combination [...] and a lack of drive and motivation. I'm not sure I can ever fully get out of it. I've been in it in some form or another for as long as I can remember. The following isn't an epiphany. Maybe the rut is something we can never escape, though some do better than others at trying. But I'll keep trying, I think. I've failed to many times in the past to be sure, but I will try. Maybe one day I'll escape it.
It goes on that way for a while - tough times, stuck in a rut, and thinking about it repeatedly. My take -
Okay, you're "ruminating" a lot. Google the term, read something about it.
There's pros and cons of ruminating. It helps you clear up whatever issues you have eventually, but makes you miserable in the process. The answer isn't to just stop ruminating, it's to get solved whatever you want solved and also cut back on ruminating at the same time.
Obvious advice, on the face of it, but one people mostly ignore.
If you're having an argument, conflict, serious disagreement, whatever - what are you trying to get out of it?
"What's my objective? What's most likely to get me it?"
Or, more succinctly, "What is winning?"
On a related note, you also probably shouldn't fight with people over situations that will straighten themselves out.
I'm writing this largely as a reminder to myself.
Sometimes I do something that I think is really cool. Then I go share it with the world. And sometimes, I get feedback that seems off-base to me.
Y'know, I'm wrong a lot of the time. I'm wrong more often than most people, simply because I try to huge volumes of stuff. When I'm 55% sure, I'll usually write up my initial thoughts and just note that I'm not sure if it's correct, but it's what I'm thinking about.
So, I'm wrong a lot. A lot of times, someone points out a glaring error I made. For instance, Jason Shen was kind enough to point out that the vast majority of people think to some extent that business/commerce/wealth is zero sum, so maybe it keeps making sense to talk about "adding value" - oh, right, selction bias on my part since most of my peer group either directly create things that didn't exist before (artists, engineers, programmers, experimental scientists, etc) or facilitate trade and exchange and wealth building (entrepreneurs, managers, investors, financiers, etc).
But most people that aren't directly involved in the creation or trade. The world is complex, most people in the West work in big corporations and don't see how their role directly contributes to new wealth being created. So anyways, mea culpa there, and I'll amend my position. Thanks Jason.
Let's play a game. We're going to flip a coin, you get to call heads or tails, and you get $1 if you win and pay me $1 if you lose.
Pretty straightforward, yes?
We flip the coin a bunch. It comes down roughly half heads and half tails.
Then, suddenly the coin comes down heads six times in a row.
I love building. I love expansion. I love making new things, doing new things.
But that's only one side of the coin. Expansion is fantastic, but you need to consolidate your gains.
Most of the time, you can consolidate a little bit each day. Clean things up, put things away.
But when's the last time you devoted an entire day to consolidation?
I try to do it at least 3 times a month. It's fantastic.
One of the more interesting Wiki-walks to take...
Careful, it might burn a few hours of your life. But it's really fascinating. They might not all be "correct," per se, but they should all be thought-provoking. Learn and enjoy, but only if you don't mind burning the next few hours...
I stayed for a few nights in Chiba with a friend of mine who is a talented martial artist and health and fitness expert.
Per his recommendations, I'm going to try out cutting all carbohydrates six days out of the week (with one cheat day) and fasting one day per week. I cut the carbs two days ago - I already didn't eat sweets, but moving off rice and bread (sandwiches) was somewhat limiting at first... in a convenience store with 400 items for sale, there's literally only 20 or so I can eat.
But that's fine. Surprisingly, I haven't been hungry at all... sometimes I think I should eat, but my stomach hasn't growled at me at all. I'm probably eating too much fried chicken (quick, fast, cheap, widely available in Tokyo), but I'll adjust as I find more options. Tonight I bought a small salad and a big can of tuna for breakfast tomorrow.
My buddy gave me a pair of spare Vibrams he had (same shoe size) and recommended some slight walking and posture changes. Also, some more stretching/strengthening/bodyweight exercises.
I'll work those in over time - I'm quite busy right now, so don't have the attention to devote to a whole new fitness regime immediately. But I'm doing the no carbs/cheat day/fast day right away. I'll post updates in a while with how it's going.
Japan's customer service?
Legendarily good, yes?
Japan has extraordinary amounts of customer service since a large bulk of their belief and daily practice is based around duty-based ethics. This is a rare thing to most Westerners - in the West, we're very willing to fudge the rules to provide a better outcome. It's expected, even.
In Japan, the ethical systems are more along the lines of rules than outcomes. We're generalizing, of course, this isn't everyone. But it's most people here.