Ursula LeGuin, in her acceptance speech for the Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards, said this, in defense of writing and humanity:
Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.
Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship …
Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.
Etsy’s work in creating a friendly place for women in tech should be widely emulated. Don’t just sit and wait for women to apply for jobs. Make sure your company is friendly to women. Let it be known that you are interested in recruiting and retaining women. Build your own pipeline for applicants.
Also, read this interview with Maggie Nelson of Findery, about becoming a software engineer.
- The Death of Adulthood In American Culture. I talked about the tragic loss of American adulthood in an interview with Free Lunch Diaries a couple years ago. Oddly, people are also talking about the death of American Childhood. Maybe we’re all merging into a single, unstratified Age. Which is approximately 17.
- Do you Speak Startup? It’s easy to agree with this article, since it builds on one of my earlier blog posts.
- The “Ringo Starr Strategy” is a concept I came up with today, which means, if you can’t be great at something, surround yourself with people who are.
- The Law of Jante, which is the Scandinavian tendency to put the collective before the individual, but is another way of describing Tall Poppy Syndrome (a term I didn’t realize had its origins in The Histories of Herodotus). I first learned of The Law of Jante in an interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard.
“Never memorize what you can look up in books” is a quote often attributed to Einstein, though what he actually said was somewhat different. He was asked, but did not know the speed of sound as included in the Edison Test. When this was pointed out, he said, “[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. He also said, “…The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” See also Ray Bradbury, in Fahrenheit 451:
“Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”
The single thing I’ve found it valuable to memorize is poetry. As a child I learned hundreds of poems by heart, which I can recite even now. I wanted to become a writer, and felt that poetry was perfected language, so having it in my subconscious mind would make the music of language always available to me.
One of the issues we face here in San Francisco and Silicon Valley is a sense that the people all around us are as conversant in startup and tech culture as we are. But we need to remember, and remind ourselves repeatedly, that we’re a small minority in a larger population. We get a lot of attention, because we are new, and trendy, and fashionable, and commercial, on the outer layers of Stewart Brand’s pace layers of culture.
So I was happy to see that Kristina Lee Podesva was presenting “Startups as a Second Language” at Yerba Buena. I met Kristina when she moved from Vancouver to San Francisco, because she was the editor of Fillip, a magazine I had a small part in getting off the ground, and has consistently published significant articles about art and culture.
Here are some of the terms from her presentation, via Ceci Moss:
So jargon-y! Kristina has written more about the project on her site.
You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.