Archive for March, 2006

Ferrazzi podcast.

31 March 2006

Folks, I've endorsed Keith Ferrazzi and his approach to building relationships before.  For a great, pithy introduction to the ideas laid out in his book, Never Eat Alone, check out this podcast he did with

Too much information.

30 March 2006

Given the demands of mid-semester, I have cut down on my usual blog reading (and writing, for that matter). But tonight, I'm in just the mood to catch up a bit. To my chagrin I see that I have . . . nineteen Firefox tabs open besides the one in which I'm composing this. That's how I read blogs: I open up my RSS reader, go through the RSS summary pages, and open anything I want to read in a new tab. Then I can go through the tabs, reading each one as little or as much as I want, then ctrl-W'ing it into oblivion and picking up with the next one. A fair enough system, and I do tend to wrap things up quickly when it's time for bed, work, or something else pressing.

Anyway, in my grazing I came across this post at 43 Folders . . . which led to this piece from Newsweek . . . which reminded me of this post I wrote three weeks ago . . . about this feature in FORTUNE.

I mean, it's crazy. Especially since the common thread through these is the idea that to do something big you have to close out the overflow of information. Hang on a sec . . .  Okay, that was about eight or ten minutes, and now I'm down to just this one screen.  I bookmarked a couple of things that I might want to look at again.  I read the two things that looked really good.  The rest is gone, and I'll find it again when I want it — or not.

Now I'm going to go read a book

Choose a big problem.

30 March 2006

This post from Irving Wladawsky-Berger of IBM cites Burt Rutan to make the point that "if you want teams of people to perform at an extraordinary level, you need to challenge them with problems that really inspire them."

I read that shortly after having a fascinating conversation with one of my professors in which he stressed the need for great works of scholarship to be "problem-driven." It's not enough for a scholar to pick an interesting era or an interesting phenomenon to study, and it's not enough to carry out a study that treats complex topics from interesting angles. There must be a problem that the scholar is trying to solve — some grand question that begs for a smart answer.

This resonates with something I quoted a couple of months back from Richard Hamming: "If you do not work on an important problem, it’s unlikely you’ll do important work. It’s perfectly obvious. Great scientists have thought through, in a careful way, a number of important problems in their field, and they keep an eye on wondering how to attack them." It also matches with Gian-Carlo Rota's description of Richard Feynman's methods.

I can't tell you how many bright people I know — in business, in scholarship, in art, or in life generally — who have never given themselves a big problem to solve.  They sometimes don't know what to work on, or what to do with themselves, in part because they haven't thought enough about what big problem awaits their assault on it.

The moral of this story:  go big. 

Oil is the world’s most important commodity . . .

30 March 2006

. . . until water becomes a problem

This item from The Business Innovation Insider features an interview with Gary White, the founder of WaterPartners International.  They are doing innovative work to bring clean water to the world's poor, especially via microfinance.  Worth checking out.

It's also worthwhile to spare a thought for where our current water-use practices are taking us.  What sort of water future do we want?

Commonplace: Bradbury

29 March 2006

“Quantity produces quality. If you write only a few things, you’re doomed.”
—Ray Bradbury

Good advice for underprolific writers.

Wish list: Ariel Atom.

27 March 2006

I'm not saying it's practical, I'm just saying that, if you're looking for something to get me, this would make a nice birthday present.

Ariel Atom

And it's only £35,000. A bargain, really.

(Thanks to Seth Godin for the tip.)

The World Cup approaches . . .

27 March 2006

No, not that one, which is fine for footie fans, but this one, which provides yet one more reason for me to take my wife to the Caribbean next year.

As I write this, Ricky Ponting is hitting his second century of the match in Australia's Test against South Africa.

Yes, this is gibberish to most of my countrymen. The story of how I became a cricket fan is an amusing one, which I'll relate in detail sometime . . .

Finish anything.

25 March 2006

Take one thing in your life–the most overdue, the most nagging, the smallest/easiest, the quick/dirtiest, or the most important–and finish it, today.

Not tomorrow, not partway, not maybe.  Set aside lesser things and finish one thing that’s been on your mind too long.  Seize the main chance offered by this day.  If you can, do this twice today.  Tomorrow may be too late.

Do not multitask.

24 March 2006

Yes, I've talked about this before. Repeatedly. But now I have even more evidence.

1. From Kathy Sierra (. . . and I can't believe she was in Austin for SxSW and I managed not to clue in . . .):

Multitasking makes us stupid?

2. Via Kathy, I found this great piece from Joel Spolsky. (If you're not a programmer, read him anyway. I can't program anything and I love his stuff.)

Human Task Switches Considered Harmful

Super-hybrid cars.

23 March 2006

Some environmentally minded “hot rodders” have come up with tweaks that make hybrid cars even more fuel-efficient.

Experimental Hybrid Cars Get Up to 250 Mpg