Aw, yeah, preaching the gospel of lazy productivity! I have several talk and workshop opportunities coming up!

Engineers for Engineers (talk)→    Higher Web (workshop) →    Web Directions (talk AND workshop) →

Feast of the Drowned

Book Review

Another one of those books that I'm not sure why I have it, but, eh, shrug, I guess I can read it since I'm mildly interested in it (though more for answering, "Why did I buy this again?" than for "I am WAY excited about this book!").

This was a stunningly fast read. As such, I'm fairly certain I bought this book as a free book (thanks to Bookbub), because I can't imagine paying $9 for this book.

Yes, it's a Doctor Who book, but it reads like someone is describing a television episode of the Doctor. Imagine the whole thing being read in David Tennant's voice, and you have the gist of the book.

The Doctor's character is as expected, the mystery solved, some people die, some people don't, the world goes on. Essentially, you're typical Doctor Who episode.

If you're a Doctor fan, have at it, read away (just maybe borrow it from the library). If you're not a Doctor fan, eh, skip it.

Dead Souls

Book Review

Okay, this book.

Right, this book.

I have no idea why I have this book. I have tried to read this book three times. This time was the fourth time, and I guess that the fourth time is a charm. And, hey! I managed to finish it! Go me!

I couldn't stand this book the first three times I started this book. Aaaaaaaaaaand, well, once I managed to read to about a third of the say in, I was okay enough with it to finish it. Finally.

Right, so this book is part of the Inspector Rebus series. It was clear enough that reading the rest of the books isn't really required, which I appreciated. I didn't care for the writing style, unsurprisingly. I liked that I knew the areas (-ish) of the book. The plot was okay, and the mystery mysterious enough to be interesting. Enough clues, but not too many to make the plot obvious. It had that going for it.

I didn't like this book, so, unsurprisingly, I don't recommend this book. Maybe someone else thinks differently.

Excerpts from Practical Empathy

Blog entry

Excerpts that resonated for me from “Practical Empathy.” by Indi Young, Rosenfeld Media, LLC, 2015.

Empathy is, ironically, often used for persuasion. In marketing, in politics, in the media—the purpose of understanding someone else is often to induce a change in his beliefs or behavior. This is not the only use of empathy. Empathy is also used to encourage growth or maturity in young people, teaching them to respect perspectives that are different than their own. Empathy is used to affect subject, tone, and vocabulary to be able to initiate communication with a person.

Questioning someone to get more information about what is driving the request is not a form of disrespect, it is collaboration.

When lack of empathy is widespread, working within a broken culture feels awful. You try to do the right thing, but instead you witness everything spiral out of control.

It’s better to embrace the humanity of the people you work with than to expect the efficiency and productivity you might have if people weren’t people.

Just like reporters are supposed to cite three sources for a fact, and like homeowners are supposed to get three estimates for repair work, run your brain through three different perspectives (see Figure 6.6). You can do this in a matter of a few minutes. The three perspectives can be from similar behavioral groups or from dissimilar ones. Running through three other perspectives helps you make adjustments to your ideas so that they are even stronger.

In Western culture, using demographics as shorthand for people’s thinking is widespread. You get hit with it in media, entertainment, professional presentations, and casual conversation. People make demographic statements without knowing it, or they make demographic statements as hyperbole.

Now is the time to stand upon your newly earned understanding of others. This includes your understanding of your peers’ and stakeholders’ purposes. Rather than latch on to an idea you think will support people better, latch on to your knowledge about those people and about the people you work with. Let other people lead the way, iterating through some ideas. To have any strength and hope of thriving, ideas need to be created collaboratively. Many heads are better than one, and an idea is always stronger when it gets bounced around a bit. See if the people you work with come up with the idea that was lurking at the back of your brain—make it a game—and watch if the ideas that get discussed don’t surpass that lurker anyway. The importance of letting go of ownership of ideas and ideation is that you will be able to assess the value of ideas more clearly. This is part of the empathetic mindset.

There is a fine line you’ll need to watch for when you’re developing trust from a coworker or a direct-report. If you lead that person to believe that you agree with her, but you really don’t, she could feel betrayed later when she finds out. In a situation like this, you’ll want to work on expressing your curiosity and understanding about this other person’s point of view, instead of reflecting back a perspective that you don’t truly hold. If your curiosity is genuine, if you prove that you care, she will be able to tell, and that alone will be your foundation for developing trust.

Oddly, a bunch of these quotes rang of "Holy f--- I wish I had this when I was at Twitter," because everything was so dysfunctional there. Didn't think about or notice any lack of empathy or understanding once when at Shopify. I believe this says something about the two cultures.

The Girl With All the Gifts

Book Review

I'm fairly sure I bought this book after a Book Riot post of the best books of 2014. It has zombies in it, which pretty much goes right along with my current delight with zombie books. I've been lucky so far to have read some good zombie books (World War Z, and Mira Grant's Feed trilogy), and this one continues that trend.

The beginning of the book is odd, and I struggled to follow along but briefly. Once I relaxed into the story, it read very quickly. I really like the explanation of the cause of zombie-ism (new word, totally correct), along with the consequences of the continued existence and development of said cause. The social fallout of a post-apocalyptic zombie world is also well portrayed, with different levels of coping with the end of the world (as we know it).

The ending was satisfying, with pretty much the only way the zombie world could continue (given the parameters of zombie-ism provided).

I enjoyed this book and recommend it if you like the zombie fiction genre.

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)

Book Review

This book was recommended to me in Susan's Slack channel by Francis. It had been mentioned in a meeting as a good business book to read. I read the first chapter, maybe the introduction, online, and bought the book. It's about the theory of cognitive dissonance and how reality intrudes on our beliefs, causing us to do things we don't think we would do.

The book is an easy introduction to the theory and the consequences of what happens when we have two opposing beliefs, how we justify bad actions to ourselves, and how we do those bad actions in the first place (one small step at a time). It also describes just how many people don't follow scientific methods before making declarations, making assumptions, or moving forward. In particular, most people including those in the health professions, don't understand statistics and control groups.

Memory is another area where justifications are made. The book discusses false memories, as well as how people remember how bad things are. The depth of "bad" is dependent on your desire for the experience, and inversely proportionate. If you want to do something and it sucks, it sucks less than if you do something and didn't want to do it, even if the experience is the same. You know, that whole justification thing, which is why we were reading this book to begin with.

The fundamental issue in all of this justification, however, is the lack of space to make mistakes. Mistakes are associated with being stupid in American culture, which means kids are trained to fear making mistakes. This, in turn, incentivizes not trying.

It's a horrible way to live, by the way.

I recommend this book highly, along with the philosophy of "Try, try harder. Fail, fail harder. Try, try again."