Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Drama is Resistance

Erin and I about to enjoy solar eclipse totality in Highland. We are shooting this picture blind, as many of you know.

The Email

One of the forms of The Resistance, as defined by Steven Pressfield in his amazing book, The War of Art, is drama. Our species is so addicted to it that we can become a prisoner of our own self inflicted version of it.

Let me give you an example. 

A student emails me about what I'm going to do about class for the solar eclipse, which is on the first day of class, a Monday. 

The class to which he is referring is a Tuesday, Thursday class.  I slap my forehead.  Literally. 

Now, prior Jason would have been so beyond disturbed about the stupidity of this. Prior Jason would have written an email that would be littered with hidden sarcasm. He would have spent perhaps 30 minutes to an hour trying to wrap his mind around how someone could bring themselves to make such an error. 

Eventually, any email that was created would be edited down to this: 

Dear Student,
Our class meets on Tuesday and Thursday, so you don't have to worry. 
-Dr. Shaw

That's it.  That's the email.

Yet I would spend more than a half hour of my time stewing about it. I would be angry about the fact that I couldn't, as a professional, send the more snarky email.  Even getting back to work, I may have to take a break and visit a colleague's office just to tell them the story about it (now wasting TWO people's time). 

However, I am not prior Jason. This time around, I literally did slap my forehead. However, I followed that up by closing my eyes, taking a few deep breaths while thinking to myself how much time I could waste with this individual if I let The Resistance take its course.  I pulled the solar glasses over my eyes, so to speak, and shut all of that other stuff out.

After a few deep breaths, the above email is produced and I move on, because I've got stuff to do (don't we all).  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Google ABC's

"Everybody lies." - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

New Way of Getting Data

Polling people doesn't reveal what's true anymore. We all found that out when Trump became our president. The reason behind this is explained very well in the new book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.  

There are many points made in the book (so far, I'm not yet half way) that are not surprising, but a few that are.  For example, one of the depressing but not surprising realities that surface from Google searches are that

  • "Parents are two and a half times as likely to ask "Is my son gifted?" than "Is my daughter gifted?"" (Reality: Girls are 9 percent more likely to be in gifted programs than boys in school). 
  • "Parents Google "Is my daughter overweight?" roughly twice as frequently as they Google "Is my son overweight?"" (Reality: 28% of girls and 35% of boys are overweight).
  • "Areas that supported Trump in the largest numbers were those that made the most Google searches for "nigger.""

There were a few surprising findings in this enlightening book.  Here is one example.  Select two people at random from any given news site, whether that be Fox News or ThinkProgress.  What would you think the probability would be that the two have different political views?  

My idea of the internet led me to think that it is segregated in the sense that conservatives tend to mainly view conservative sites while liberals view more liberal sites. This led to a guess that would be closer to 0% (a perfectly desegregated site would give close to 50%).  

The result: 45.2%.  


My ABCs of Google Searches

This idea of Google searching providing an avenue of who we really are gave me the idea of finding out who I really was by looking at my Google search history. Simply by typing each letter individually into Google, Google will fill in "suggestions" for you based on what you have searched for in the past.  

Here is a glimpse of my Google ABCs: 

a. amazon music
b. beersmith podcasts
c. cyanide and happiness
d. duolingo norwegian
e. eagle statue washburn campus
f. fractional reserve system
g. great taste of the midwest
h. homebrewing podcasts
i. international monetary fund
j. jse data sets and stories
k. kansas v. board of education
l. loop de loop decorah
m. mirepoix pronounce 
n. nonparametric statistical methods
o. ordering prints online
p. public service announcement vertical videos
q. quantasia sharpton
r. rgb for washburn university
s. sagbraw
t. top paying statistics jobs
u. us news and world report statistician
v. videos not coming up on gopro mtp client disk volume
w. wings of freedom washburn
x. xkcd
y. yo
z. zillow

This speaks very highly about how big of a dork I am.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Homebrew Daily

The beginning of Not Breaking the Chain

As I read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, I eventually found myself wondering where I was giving into the Resistance. It takes his entire Book One (pages 5-57) to define the Resistance. Generally speaking, it is anything and everything that keeps you from harnessing your creative side.

My Creative Side

Along with the occasional blog post (writing), I think my creative expression is most prominent in my home brewing.  I like to make really good beer, and I've always wanted to gain the knowledge it takes to create my own recipes.  It does not take much to create a recipe.  Make sure some malts, hops, yeast, and water are included and you have a recipe. 

That is not what I'm talking about, though. I want to create recipes that make outstanding beer. I want to become a better brewer. 

However, I've been fighting the Resistance without even realizing it. It was telling me things like
  • "There's plenty of craft beers out there to choose from. There really is no need to brew your own beer."
  • "It takes several hours to brew a batch, and you don't have that kind of time."
  • "You're probably never going to make a pilsner-lager, so there is no need to read that email from Brad Smith."
So I made a game plan on how to fight this Resistance. A while ago, I commented on Jonathan Vieker's wonderful blog post, The Secret to Doing Hard Things Daily.  In that comment, I vowed to "use this method of not breaking the chain to achieve the next big goal, whatever that may be."  

The chain to which I was referring is the streak of days in which you have devoted to building the habit or skill you want to build. Once a solid streak is in place, you don't want to break that chain. 

The reason it works is as Jonathan says,
It substitutes a highly specific, immediate goal (avoid the psychological pain of seeing the chain broken) for a vague, long-term goal (develop a new skill or habit). 

How I'm Going to Do It

Obviously, I cannot brew every day.  I do not have the time, money, or the desire to do such a thing. The good thing is, that you don't have to brew every day to get better at brewing.  There is plenty of literature out there about brewing, and there is always something that needs cleaned, measured, or manipulated in the brewing process.  

My plan is to devote some block of time to the following every day.
  • Brewing better beer
  • Pre- and post-brewing related activities (yeast starters, dry hopping, racking, cleaning, etc.)
  • Learning about brewing (reading literature or newsletters, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, etc.)
  • Writing about brewing
Last night, I began reading the book For the Love of Hops, by Stan Hieronymus. Today, I have a keg and tap to clean since I just cashed my Mosaic IPA.  There are home brewing podcasts that I can download for when I'm traveling or walking back and forth to work. I have 54 emails in a folder labeled "Home Brewing" from Brad Smith (his Beer Smith Home Brewing Newsletter).  

In other words, there are things I can choose to do that will take 5 minutes, and some that will take 5 hours.  Whatever I choose, I'm not going to break the chain. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Self Motivating Speech

The Finish of Ragbrai XLV

Somewhere on Day 5 or 6, I remember thinking of my self motivational speech and letting Juan in on a little of it. It goes a little something like this.

The Setup

You are in the middle of doing something very grueling, challenging, and taxing on your body. If that isn't bad enough, there are other elements that can get in the way such as Mother Nature to name one. 

The truth of the matter is that it wouldn't be that big a deal to quit.  Why go through with the rest of this?  Maybe you've accomplished something like this before.  Maybe you've had your fun, and now it is just too much work.  

Those voices in your head are the Resistance.  For more on the Resistance, read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, or Seth Godin's Linchpin.

The Decision

You've all but succumbed to the Resistance, and have decided to quit.  Really... it is no big deal. 

The Ultimate Decision

Now that you've made a decision, you can now make the ultimate one: to continue.

But why? 

Because having made the decision to quit, accomplishing the goal will mean so much more.  When you finish, you will break out in goose flesh and tears will come to your eyes. The Final Countdown may be playing in your head. 

Training yourself to overcome the Resistance is difficult, but defeating the Resistance after it already won is quite a feat.  

It is the best feeling ever.

Ragbrai XLV

Juan and I would never had let each other decide to quit, but the Resistance was there. It was in our individual heads.  We were tired.  Our legs were sore.  

Together, we conquered, and it was a proud and beautiful moment.