Reframe: You Live and You Learn

Pause and think about this phrase we say, often after we empathize with a friend’s retelling of a story. Chances are it’s a story of a mistake, disappointment, or some other sort of spilled milk.

“You live and (you) learn”.

Have you said this or heard it said recently?
How many of those times was it with enthusiasm or an exclamation point at end
Why do we not say this phrase enthusiastically, more frequently?
After all, it is a phrase acknowledging life experiences and a journey that has survival, persistence, and self-improvement woven into it.
It’s about a truth of life. How about we reframe it this way – all else held equal, we are given the choice to live and learn, versus to live and NOT learn.
Could you convince yourself to ever pick the latter?

So why not say this phrase more enthusiastically, celebrating each day the decision we actively make – to live and learn.

2017 Reading Goal 36% Complete

For the past two years I’ve tracked the book titles I’ve read each year on a list.
I set an (overly) ambitious goal of 50 books last year (2017) – that’s an average pace of one a week, with a couple weeks off.
I fell quite a bit short with 18 books completed and 4 in various stages of progress, marking a 36% progress towards my goal (hey, PhD life gets busy).
I was on pace around early April with 13 books completed. Then my progress abruptly slowed, I figure some of this was due to summer traveling and grad school, but it was enough to halt my momentum.

This year I’ll scale back by setting a goal of 30 books.

Here’s a brief annotated list of my top five favorites from 2017:

1. The Idea Factory by Pepper White
An MIT mechanical engineer’s chronicled PhD journey.
A must-read for science PhDs and anybody thinking about grad school.

2. Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
A guy tells the ups and downs of his Silicon Valley adventure story: from fledgling startup and Y Combinator, to being acquired, to living in a sailboat.

3. The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck
A sixty year old writer decides to cross America on the Oregon Trail, modern times, but in old fashion – bringing mules, covered wagons, and his brother.
He ties his journey to the history of those who traveled the trail before him.

4. Living on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett
Reflections on life and time management in the Victorian Era.

5. Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir
Read this for a perspective on how slack (I’m referring to the concept of margin for error, not the workplace chat app) affects outcomes across many aspects of life.

Fresh Start: Lesson in Crash Recovery

Even with the best laid plans, the services we depend on everyday sometimes do fail. And when they do, it’s possible they fail hard. This time, it was my budget VPS (virtual private server) provider in April: hardware failure. Picturing a server rack short-circuiting in smoky fashion somewhere in a concrete data-center in upstate New York, was my imagined poetic ending for the last iteration of my personal website and all its data – images, words, ideas.

I decided it could be a fresh start, though I thought recovering from this crash would be faster than the pace it actually panned out. Somehow it took me all of 2 weeks to initially discover that my site was unreachable without my noticing. I spent another 2+ weeks negotiating with my service provider to migrate and compensate me for the downtime, a complete write-off of the stub of a blog I had started several years ago when I was partway through college. I don’t think I wrote more than a dozen or so posts over that period. However, most of that is lost now, with selected morsels maybe surviving in the internet way-back archive. I decided it was futile to keep the hope of recovering my data and that is how I arrived at arrangements for a cyberspace renewal of my webpage starting from scratch.

Moving forward, I learned my lesson of proactive redundancy. Always keep frequent backups of your self-hosted blog (or anything else of value that you’d like to recover some day).

Bear with me, as my site goes through a rebirth!