What Mongolian Nomads Teach Us About the Digital Future

via Wired

People who pack up and transport their house twice a year become choosy about their possessions. I recently traveled among the nomads of Mongolia for two weeks and had a chance to inspect their belongings.

I think we’ll cruise through the future with empty pockets. I won’t need to carry my phone because I should be able to lift up any screen anywhere and have it immediately became my tool, my screen. It recognizes me from my face, voice, heartbeat, and transforms itself into my phone interface. When I am done, I leave that screen where it was…

The environment, if it is rich and well-cared for and understood, shall provide.

The takeaways of using less, making fewer things count more and trusting that the environment will amaze and care for us.

Hark the cries of “hipster!’

Ok, applying this in an urban setting, cloud services allow one’s entire computer to crash and then get back up and working within half a hour. How? Every software and file on that computer was downloaded from and backed up to a cloud. Staff can just request a new computer from IT department, download software and files, then get back up and working!

Look at what formal dress rentals and wardrobe rentals (e.g. StyleTheory) offer – an opportunity to reduce the sizes of wardrobes while refreshing what we wear. Unless you’re like me who always wears the same dress to weddings (surprisingly no one has noticed, or if they have, no one has commented), and still has a ton of clothes to get rid of!

We could all benefit from having fewer belongings (less cleaning, yay!), smaller homes (less mortgage, yay!) and reducing our carbon footprint.

Library Visits Have Gone Way Up Over the Last Two Decades. Here’s Why…

via Oleg Kagan on Medium

Librarians of the old-garde (old as in “in the past”, not as in age) viewed themselves as gate-keepers and protectors of The Collection. They were neutral and impersonal; mere representatives of a vaunted institution and its secret processes and bureaucracy. Their service was frequently equal but not equitable, and they were not known to be especially personable. The new-garde is different; we love people and books (in that order), we have unique and individual personalities which we use to serve our communities better, and we prefer to provide access rather than restrict it.

Library institutions, too, have become more personable and transparent. Many are reducing or removing fines and instituting amnesty months to decrease barriers to access. They are also encouraging librarians to step out from behind their desk and meet people where they are. To help with that are initiatives like mobile libraries, and specially-designed bikes to bring learning and smiles to residents who may not be aware of the breadth of library services.

I’ve loved libraries since young. Trotting to the nearby one yielded 8 books that was devoured in a week or less. Utilising the other family members’ library cards meant more books could be borrowed. JOY!

When studying overseas, one of the first places I would head to were the universities’ libraries. In a new country, it exuded familiarity.

As I do not regularly pass by a library, I try not to borrow physical books in case fines are incurred. Thankfully the library offers ebooks. Auto-returns when due dates arrive.

That all being said, the article has great links to other initiatives done by libraries in USA. Especially the one on removing overdue fines which potentially is a model other libraries can follow.

Long live libraries!

Ireland Wanted to Forget. But the Dead Don’t Always Stay Buried.

via NYTimes

The government repurposed the building to be among the institutions intended as ports of salvation where disgraced women might be redeemed. These state-financed homes were invariably managed by a Catholic order, in keeping with the hand-in-glove relationship between the dominant church and the fledgling state

The high infant mortality rate in some of these facilities was startling. In the Bessborough home in Cork, 478 children died from 1934 to 1953 — or about one death every two weeks.

The investigation’s broad mandate also includes scrutiny of the network’s links to the notorious Magdalen Laundries. The apparent coercion of unmarried mothers to surrender their children for adoption, often to Catholic Americans. The vaccine trials carried out on mother-and-baby-home children for pharmaceutical companies. The use of home-baby remains for anatomical study at medical colleges.

A long read, aptly peppered with black and white photographs, cinemagraphs and a drone video, poignantly written.

Don’t Panic even if you’re up against Apple

via Macintosh.fm (podcast)

Panic was a little pushcard going down the tracks and Apple was a freight train.

…they carved out a niche for themselves in the Mac community, building weird and wonderful nerdy software.

Enjoy the story-telling editing of the Macintosh podcasts.

I tested Coda and Transmit when the Macbook used to work. Clean and easy to use interfaces. Love. Switched to Windows and… groan.

This podcast cheered me up as I sat waiting for the train. It’s lovely that Cabel and Steven managed to survive even as others shuttered.

A Palestinian American running for office in one of the most divided, and most conservative neighborhoods in New York City

via Radio Lab, WNYC Studios (a podcast)

Today, while the divisions between different groups in this country [USA] feel more and more insurmountable, we zero in on a particular neighborhood to see if one man can draw people together in a potentially history-making election. Khader El-Yateem is a Palestinian American running for office in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, one of the most divided, and most conservative neighborhoods in New York City. To win, he’ll need to convince a wildly diverse population that he can speak for all of them, and he’ll need to pull one particular group of people, Arab American Muslims, out of the shadows and into the political process. And to make things just a bit more interesting, El-Yateem is a Lutheran minister.

Radio Lab has one of the best types of audio storytelling. One feels gripped and pulled throughout the story.

El-Yateem’s replies feel genuine and thoughtful. No canned replies. He even slowly says, “I’ll have to think about it”, when faced with a question that challenges him. No defensiveness.

Other articles on El-Yateem:

  1. Bay Ridge City Council Candidate Khader El-Yateem Thinks Southwest Brooklyn Is Ready For Socialism
  2. Khader El-Yateem, Man Vs. Machine

‘Death Cleaning’ Is the Newest Way to Declutter

via Time Health

… people should start thinking about death cleaning as soon as they’re old enough to start thinking about their own mortality. “Don’t collect things you don’t want,” she says. “One day when you’re not around anymore, your family would have to take care of all that stuff, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

Death cleaning may have benefits for the cleaners themselves, and not just for their loved ones, says Goldhaber. Some research suggests that clutter in the home can raise stress levels and reduce productivity. As adults get older, having a house full of stuff may also raise their risk for falls and create other health and safety hazards.

A different way of thinking about getting rid of clutter at home. Sure as heck don’t want to be a pain to whoever has to get rid of my belongings when I pass on!

Having lived in a house filled with things, I was adament that my house would not be the same.

Easier said than done.

The ever-supportive other half cheered with every item I removed as we moved from one country to another.

So glad when a friend visited and marvelled, “wow you all really have little stuff!”

Still making progress!

Communication within Tesla

via Inc

Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager’s manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission. Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not random chitchat, but rather ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well. We obviously cannot compete with the big car companies in size, so we must do so with intelligence and agility.

One final point is that managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way. This is unfortunately a natural tendency and needs to be actively fought. How can it possibly help Tesla for depts to erect barriers between themselves or see their success as relative within the company instead of collective? We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your dept.

Having worked in companies big and small, I’ve always tried to figure out effective ways of communication.

  1. Red tape and the email chain of communication is common, frustrating and reduces productivity.
  2. Some (usually tech) companies use Slack, a chat messaging app, extensively. One even eschewed it in place of internal email. My concern is information overload. Having worked in a company with information overload (too many whatsapp chat groups), it was incredibly overwhelming. More time was spent replying messages than doing work.

But as what Elon’s email stated, instead of simply communicating, we should focus on doing what is good for the company. Working in small companies gave me a certain measure of that opportunity, especially when senior management approval was delayed and a decision had to be made.

Just decide and do!