Tag Archives: facebook

30th Birthday Book Recommendations


Yesterday was my 30th birthday, and I put up a Facebook post requesting book recommendations as a present on my birthday. I’ve done it the last couple years, and got a lot of very interesting suggestions.

I read every day and try to go through 50+ books a year. One, because I’m curious about the world, and two, because it gives me a chance to take a pause from the rush of daily life and to simply think quietly.

The following is a selection from the recommendations I received, specifically books that I have not read and that look interesting. There were of course a lot of excellent suggestion for books I’ve already read like Master and Margarita, The Sound and Fury, Catch 22, The God Delusion, Immortality, Augustine’s Confession, etc.

Title (and Amazon Link)RecommenderComment
Present Shock: When Everything Happens NowDavid D
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden BraidLiz and David JAmazing but definitely not light beach reading.
AnathemBarryIt is one of the best SF books written in the modern era ( that does not sound like high praise considering the crap coming out today, but it is excellent).
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at WorkJosh MIncredible book.
The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom: Movie Tie-In
Anthony GInspirational.
The Experience of Insight: A Simple and Direct Guide to Buddhist Meditation (Shambhala Dragon Editions)
Josh VI'm reading this right now, excellent, clear and no bullshit. Lots of great insight.
Absurdistan: A Novel
The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange TimeAndy
Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got ThereLisa LThis would be the beginning of my required reading list on a sociological survey of contemporary American problems.
Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010Lisa L
The End of Men: And the Rise of WomenLisa L
By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept: A Novel of ForgivenessTina
Manuscript Found in Accra
Matt B
Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Perennial Classics)
Steven S
Gravity's Rainbow (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)Dylan Royce
The Terror: A Novel
Dylan Royce
The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman: A Novel (Andrze Szczypiorski)
Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism)
Ali M
The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!JulianSomething a little different for you.
Leap into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime EuropeEric Z
Pimp: The Story of My Life
Tim C
Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove
Scott M
The Unexpected Universe
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition)
Phil N
The Right StuffJooyoungA really breezy, funny, and well researched non-fictional account of the US space race with Russia!
How to Be Good
Matt C
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the BrainSteve PFun read.
The Art of Love (Modern Library Classics)Nick S
Heroes of History: A Brief History of Civilization from Ancient Times to the Dawn of the Modern AgeAdam
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each OtherNick M
The Last SamuraiMatt S
Home (Vintage International)
Liar's PokerEric S
Nobody Walks: Bringing My Brother's Killers to JusticePhil S

I look forward to exploring these in the months to come.

Building a Habit of Mental Toughness

I’ll often watch and draw wisdom from the following video of Cary Kolat discussing an encounter with a Mongolian wrestler who took an ice cold shower without flinching.

I’ll sometimes post some grandiose self-congratulating declaration on Facebook about my recent progress towards a goal. For example, I’ve been posting recently about the number of takedowns I got in training. I made a goal of getting 200 takedowns in 5 weeks.

These Facebook updates are a sign of my struggling to build a habit of a tough task. Once the habit is built, and it becomes part of my daily life, it no longer will be dramatic enough to  necessitate any kind of acknowledgement. I just do it, quietly, day after day. That’s what drilling has become for me. It’s a very taxing activity mentally and physically, but I got used to it.

I think that’s what mental toughness is. It’s not something you have to convince yourself of having in a sudden rush of motivation. It’s something you build slowly by doing a  challenging/uncomfortable task every day, day after day, without exceptions. It’s simple. Then the ice cold shower that Kolat talks about is no longer a surprise. It’s just a way of life, a welcome twist in our shot stint here on this little planet.

Crowdsourced Reputation: Facebook Likes as a Monetary System for the Future

I’m intrigued by the question of “what form the world’s monetary systems will take on in the 22nd century?” I’ve read it suggested in a few places that a “Facebook like” or its equivalent could potentially become a central holder of monetary value. So in such a world, presumably, information is king. I would earn “likes” by providing useful information, and would then spend those “likes” to gain other useful information.


Unfortunately, in this day and age, a “facebook like” often incentivizes not the exchange of valuable information but the exchange of entertaining information. While truly informative, useful, or insightful content will sometimes gather a lot of “likes”, most of the time the popular stuff is just witty silliness or something with shock-value. News networks and newspapers suffer from the same problem. Most of the time, good old-fashioned investigative journalism just doesn’t sell.

Wikipedia and StackExchange are two sites that give me hope that a crowd-driven reputation system can grow a solid knowledge repository. The incentives on those sites are centered around the quality of information. Anyone interested in having a trollin’-good-time is somehow naturally driven away from those sites. In a way, it’s the very kind of “democracy” that we have in America. We elect a group of “elites” that in theory are supposed to be the most capable in representing our needs as a society. In that same way, StackExchange elects moderators that in theory represent the interests of the community and the knowledge that community is seeking to gather.

YouTube, in particular, has some of the most educational and fascinating content (lectures, documentaries, tutorials, etc), but at the same time it welcomes the random, the offensive, and the absurd. To me nothing represents that better than the #1 video on YouTube is 1.6 BILLION views:

Why App.net Will Fail: No One Likes to Pay for Stuff on the Internet

My heart did not leap from my cynical ribcage in excitement at the overnight fund-raising success of App.net. It’s a social network that’s in very early stages of development. Its business model is very different than that of most similar online services: it charges money for membership. In exchange, you are promised to never ever see an advertisement on their site.

Overnight, they raised over $500K from 7,000+ people. In my mind, this is by no means an indication of the potential of such a business model. Instead, it’s an indication of the fear that people have of the all-too-powerful Facebook compromising their private information, and the hope for a Utopia where where we could all share peacefully in a environment without greed, deception, and used car salesmen. Questioning “the man” is a very popular cyber activity, and this latest social network fundraiser is just a reflection of that.

All that said, from everything I’ve seen online, people simply hate paying for a membership to a social network, no matter how cool that network is. Apps and iTunes are slowly breaking down the psychological expectation amongst the majority that everything on the internet is free, but we’re still far from a global paid social network site being able to grow beyond a few thousand members.

Easiest Way to Live: Remember the Positive, Forget the Negative

In interactions with close friends, casual acquaintances, shifty eyed neighbors, overly complimentary coworkers, and bitter ex-girlfriends, I’m learning one simple truth…

Reality: People have a lot of good qualities and a lot of bad qualities (the good and the bad being purely subjective judgements).

Easiest way to live: Forget people’s bad qualities, and remember their good qualities.

This isn’t some hippie comment about the goodness of people, and that we all should get along. It’s just me acknolwledging that in the long run, life is easier and relationships are more fulfilling if you focus on the good in people (both in their character traits and in their actions).

I have complained about people at times to vent. And I think that’s okay. I grew up in a culture where high-tension confrontational food fights is a way of life. Russians are quick to elevate their voices in arguing about the smallest things. But after the heat of the moment dissipates, there’s always a choice: keep a grudge or let it go. Letting go is the right answer for me 99% of the time.

I’m not preaching forgiveness either, just a message that we are all mortal and will be dead pretty soon, and that assigning immense amount of value to truthy chunks left over from irrational bickering distracts from the few days of contentment that we get to enjoy before it’s all gone.

Get angry only if it’s really needed to send a message in the short term for the better or if it will help you make a positive change. But otherwise, just let it go.

This is something that I enjoy doing, maybe it sounds stupid, but it works for me. If I’ve learned anything about my obsessive brain, it’s that thinking “that guy is an asshole” will quickly turn to “i hate that guy” if I let it. And if you’re not careful that will lead to the worst thing you can imagine… an un-friending on Facebook.

Those Who Can’t Do, Write Blogs About It

The title of this post is a variation on a common adage “Those who can’t do, teach”. I always disliked this statement as it disrespected one of the most valuable (in my view) professions in our society.

I don’t agree with the “those who can’t do, write blogs about it” either, obviously, since I’m a “blogger”. But I have made an observation that athletes, especially at the top of their game, seem to not have much of a presence on the social networks, especially in terms of writing blogs about their training and competition experience. There are a lot of exceptions of course, but in general it seems that these guys and girls are focused on one goal and don’t let much get in the way of that. It’s certainly true that blogging, facebook, twitter, etc can be a time sink.

So… I write this blog post in defense of why I do write blogs. I’m trying to answer the question: “You say you’re so busy. Wouldn’t you get more out of your time if instead of finished up your work and went to bed earlier? Or better yet, go and train on the mat some more?”

After some introspection throughout the day today (limping around on an injured leg), I came to the conclusion that if the devil came to me and said: “I’ll give you double gold at Worlds (at blue belt) this year but you can’t write blogs (or anything else) about judo or jiu jitsu for a year”, I wouldn’t take that. It surprised me to think this, but it’s true. I want to win badly, but what I value even more is the experience of wanting to win and fighting to win. And for me, the experience is greatly heightened through writing about it, even if just in a notebook for myself.

Back to hard training tomorrow, but in the mean time I have many hours of work to do today, and so do you, so stop reading this crap and get to it.

Recommend a Book, Movie, Album That Affected How You See the World

Last year on my birthday (August 15) I asked people to recommend a book or movie that really made them think, and had an impact on their life. I read about 10-15 of the recommended books, which were excellent. Some of the ones I remember off the top off my head are listed below.

So, again, this year, as a hello/present, I’d love to get a recommendation here (or preferably on my facebook) for a book (or movie or music album) that you read / watched / listened to in the past that really made you think, or even changed the way you view the world. It would mean a lot to me. Thanks guys.

Book recommendations I read from last year (and still remember) are:

  • “Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior”
  • “God Delusion” by Dawkins
  • “Reading Turgenev” by Trevor
  • “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
  • “All Quiet on the Western Front” (finally)
  • “Down and Out in Paris and London” by Orwell
  • “Ham on Rye” by Bukowski
  • “Cod” by Kurlansky
  • “Catch-22” (finally)
  • “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bryson

There are many book recommendation that I haven’t gotten to but will definitely read soon:

  • “Stalin: Court of the Red Czar”
  • “The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia”
  • “Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”
  • “The Culture Struggle” by Michael Parenti
  • “The Power of One” by Courtenay

And many more that I’m forgetting now, but have it written down at work. Thanks again, it’s remarkable how many intelligent people I know, and also how many exceptional books are out there. Constantly reading, learning, thinking is essential. I believe that a life of inquiry is a life worth living.

Turn Off Facebook When It’s Crunch Time

I’ve turned off facebook temporarily by adding the line www.facebook.com to my hosts file.

The reason? I have two major presentations coming up. One on August 24th and one on September 7th. The list of to-do items for those is not unmanageable but every to-do item in the list is a major undertaking that’s consuming all my time and mental energy. I mean all my time. My only non-work activity is sleep and occasional exercise.

Despite what it often looks like, I actually don’t use Facebook that much. Most times, it’s a quick view, quick comment, 3-4 times a day. However, turning off facebook has been a symbolic gesture for my brain, to make sure it knows that there’s no messing around… I have to focus, for long stretches of time, day after day, and get this s*** done.

I recommend this to others that are coming up against a tough deadline. It helps.

Facebook vs Twitter

I looked at some user stats of these two online services and was blown away. Go to that link, there are a bunch of interesting pieces of information in that one infographic to think about.

Some of the more awe-inspiring stats are:

  • 52% of Twitter’s 106 million users update their status every day.
  • Women are a strong majority on both services.
  • More high school students use Facebook
  • More college students use Twitter
  • 60-70% of users of both services are outside the United States

A lot of this information may not be so shocking until you start to think about it. These two social graphs are growing day by day, connecting individuals which would otherwise be virtual strangers as the image above shows.