In this edition of Align Center, we have musings on science, writing and meditation, practical tips on improving your cursive, tricks for practicing anything effectively, a long read on resurrecting the woolly mammoth, and my favorite finds from the last two weeks.
◦ selected words
The traditional model of financial “success” goes like this: begin working in a field, develop a niche that provides value, do it better than your peers, build a brand, and in time, people will seek you out for your specialty and pay for it, for the rest of your life. Milton Glaser, renowned designer of the I ♥ NY logo and the only graphic artist to be awarded the National Medal of Arts, explains how this blueprint goes against the personal development model where self-discovery is found through multiple failures, while describing the fear of failure and how it affects creativity.
austinkleon.com (2min read + 7min video)
Are you embarrassed with your handwriting? I admit I am, but haven’t thought of working on it until coming across this illustrated guide on improving your cursive. My homework: banish the loops, close the tops and make straight connections. Another example of things they don’t (but should) teach you in grade school. jetpens.com (9min read)
Meditation has gone mainstream – the New York Times has already published 16 articles this year, not counting their guide on how to meditate, complete with audio guides in 1, 4, 10 and 15 minute formats for every level of busyness. PhD John Yates discusses how the scientific method can be applied to meditation at a time when increasing numbers are focusing their attention on the investigation of the mind. scientificamerican.com (4min read)
Ray Bradbury’s favorite word was cinnamon. 46% of Danielle Steele’s novels mention weather in the first sentence. In his new book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, data journalist (yes, that’s a thing now) Ben Blatt analyzes bestsellers and classics from the 20th century for a light hearted inquiry into good writing. Should you use –ly adverbs like “quickly” or “fittingly”? (Hemingway used 80 per 10,000 words, Vonnegut 101, while the author of Twilight used 134 and Fifty Shades 155). A fun read for word and data nerds. smithsonian.com (11min read)
For 12 years, Dr. Gibala has been researching the shortest possible effective workout via H.I.I.T. — High Intensity Interval Training — to find the least effort needed to gain significant health benefits. I’m a fan of the 7-Minute Workout which has spawned dozens of apps, but how much can a person really accomplish in one minute? Apparently a lot, the studies show. nytimes.com (4min read)
◦ listen in
Before becoming “The Science Guy”, Bill Nye studied to be a mechanical engineer at Cornell. Listen to Bill recollect life as an insecure college student, recalling how an astronomy course taught by Carl Sagan and a guest cancellation on a TV show swung him onto the path to becoming one of science’s greatest ambassadors. theatlantic.com (2m47s video)
Mastering a skill takes practice, but what does practice actually do to our brains? In this TED-Ed animation, learn practical tips on getting the most out of your practice time. ed.ted.com (4m50s video)
◦ eat well
Full of flavor and easier to make than expected, this hearty stew of porcini mushrooms is a keeper. If you can’t find seitan, substitute store-bought vegan sausage. The spicier the better. isachandra.com
◦ read slow
Russian scientists saving the world from catastrophic climate change by using CRISPR genome-editing to grow woolly mammoths and bring back an Ice Age ecosystem in Siberia. Sounds like a great sci-fi novel, but this is actually happening! My early vote for the best long read of the year. theatlantic.com (45min read and/or 26min documentary video)
◦ current read
My new brain crush and host of public radio’s On Being, Krista Tippett, has distilled the greatest insights from the most remarkable minds in science, faith and spirituality into one of BrainPicking’s top books of 2016. Tippett mines her trove of interviews with neurologists, physicists, psychologists, theologians, priests, and poets to artfully weave wisdom across disciplines into a grounded and profound book on the challenges facing humanity, and how words and storytelling can help us ask better questions, create safe spaces for civil discourse, and guide humankind during this time of exponential change and spiritual evolution. Becoming Wise (288p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- Life, Animated – This Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary combines footage with animation to tell a coming of age story of an autistic man with an unrivaled enthusiasm for all things Disney.
- Piano Prodigy Gabriel Parker – Fans of Nils Frahm and Joep Beving will be drawn to this solo pianist. Try the track “Devil in Disguise” on Spotify or this album sampler
- Overcast Easily the best podcast player (podcatcher) from Instapaper creator, Marco Arment. Android users, get Pocket Casts.
◦ humble thought
Last summer, on a road trip exploring the Olympic Peninsula, I asked my friend Byron for podcast recommendations. He named only one – Krista Tippett’s On Being. I didn’t write it down at the time, so predictably it evaporated amongst the park’s giant fir and cedar trees. Eight months later, I’m captivated by this interview with Krista Tippett (linked in the last newsletter), enchanted by her tone, her words, and the questions she asks.
I get overly excited to share finds like this so I message Byron, asking whether he’s heard of this incredible human being. He says, frankly, “Uh, yeah, her podcast is the only podcast I listen to. I told you that on our trip”.
And then three weeks ago while staying at a friend’s house on a work trip, as always, I scanned the crowded bookshelf in the living room. This exercise reminds of my days CouchSurfing and of how it allowed me to discover other ways of living — with book shelves often being a reliable window into a life (cooking was another). One of her roommate’s books stood out to me, with its white text on black spine and compact size. It was Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, whose newsletter I’d just signed up to a month ago and whose finds I’ve stolen twice in this issue.
Things come to you when you’re not ready to receive them. But maybe, if you’re really fortunate, they can also come back at exactly the right time.
Has this happened to you? With what books or art? I’d love to hear about it, just hit reply or comment on the new AlignCenter Facebook group.