Range by David Esptein - Book Notes

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
by David Epstein
Goodreads | Wikipedia

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion of the “10,000 hours rule” in his very readable book Outliers. It goes roughly like this: practice a specific skill deliberately for about 10,000 hours, and you’ll get to world-class level in that thing. The takeaway from that seems to be: pick what you want to do early, and stick with it.

David Epstein respectfully disagrees, and he lays out his arguments and copious supporting data in his book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. You can find discussions between the two on this topic on YouTube - and in one from February 2020, Gladwell says that Epstein has convinced him.

A great introduction to the big idea is Epstein’s TEDx talk on this topic:

Kind and Wicked Domains

Epstein, borrowing terminology from other authors, makes a distinction between “kind” and “wicked” learning environments.

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Contact Managers Suck: The Micelf Whitepaper

Contact Managers Suck: The Micelf Whitepaper

Contact apps haven’t changed since smartphones came out more than ten years ago. It’s time to give them a makeover.

I quit my job in August 2019 to go vagabonding - solo traveling all over the world. Before Covid-19 cut the trip short in February 2020, I visited 14 countries in Europe, Asia, and Oceania.

I met dozens of great people that I wanted so stay in touch with - and I found it surprisingly hard to do so. It felt like everyone had their own pet favorite way to stay in touch - some Instagram, some WhatsApp, some old school email and some just a phone number. Sometimes I’d open three different apps before I finally found a way to contact the person I wanted to talk to.

It felt crazy, and I asked everyone how they did it - and people just shrugged. No one had a good way, other than picking one specific app (generally either WhatsApp or Instagram) and trying to stick with it as much as possible.

It felt crazy because it is crazy. Can we do better? Should we even care?

Happiness is Love

We should care because “Happiness is love.”

That’s the principal finding of The Grant Study, a 75-year longitudinal study of hundreds of people who grew up in Boston neighborhoods between 1940 and 1945, and which continues to this day.

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Programatically Creating Ubuntu Images with systemd's mkosi

mkosi is a great tool to programmatically create reproducible images of operating systems. This has a lot of applications in IoT, security, automated testing, managing servers etc. I like it a lot.

mkosi can make images of Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, ArchLinux, and OpenSuse. There are some differences between those distributions, though, and probably because of that some things are supposed to work… don’t, for some distros.

This post is about the quirks of making Ubuntu images with mkosi. In some cases, the documentation for how to make mkosi do something for an Ubuntu images is just plain wrong (though presumably it works for other distros). In other cases, I had a hard time finding information. Hopefully this post helps you to get mkosi working for Ubuntu images in less time than it took me.

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Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation - Book Notes

Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation
by Steven Johnson
Goodreads link

We have this popular notion of the inventor as a lone genius laboring in the wee hours of the night in his garage until finally Eureka! - a flash of insight and a new technology is born, to be patented and sold for profit.

But is that really how innovation works? Where do good ideas come from, and what kinds of environments best support innovation?

That’s core question that Steven Johnson tries to answer in this book.

The Adjacent Possible

The Adjacent Possible is a framework for thinking about the space of innovations that are possible with at a particular point of time.

Most new good ideas come from taking other good ideas and recombining them in novel ways to create something new. To create the printing press, Gutenberg combined technology from winemaking presses, movable type from blacksmithing, paper, ink etc.

Think of the status quo in a specific area like a room with four doors. The adjacent possible are the rooms immediately next to this room. Each time one door is opened, the adjacent possible expands - opening one door leads to three more doors that can be opened next.

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