Saturday, July 28, 2018

Radical Candor

Radical Candor explores the best ways to give feedback to others in constructive ways. It uses a few different quadrants to identify types of employee trajectories as well as the means of giving feedback. "Radical Candor" is feedback given in a truthful, empathetic manner. An alternative is being blunt and mean without being empathetic. This is actually preferable to being too empathetic, but not telling people what they are doing wrong. (You may think you are being kind, but this often just postpones the big nasty confrontation and doesn't give the person the chance to change.) Employees trajectories use different axes of performance and growth. Some employees want to become excellent at what they are doing and do not want to grow to other positions, while others want to grow. Different life events can impact the phase that an employee is in. Bosses need to understand that and give appropriate feedback.
The author has worked in tech startups as well as with Google and Apple. She gives many examples from her experience, including a large number where she made mistakes and how she would have done it better. Sometimes being "nice" ended up making things much worse for everybody in the long run. It is better to provide truthful, accurate feedback than to try to whitewash everything. Putting on a nice front, while being passive aggressive internally does not help. She provides interesting comparisons between the two cultures. At Apple people tend to get really good at certain things, while at Google, they are always looking for new challenges.
It is also important to get buy in from others when doing something - even if the something seems good. She gave an example of a failure at Google where she had attempted to implement a top-down reorganization. It was a valuable restructure, but she did not have buy-in from her direct reports and many ended up leaving. Luckily, she had the opportunity to try again, and was able to do it successfully after working with her team, rather than imposing her will.
The book contains many tools to help encourage radical candor at work. Much of it must originate from above. However, anybody can try to bring it about, though they must be cautious in how they do it. (She does tell a horror story of a worker that was fired for being radically candid with his boss. Luckily, this worker ended up in a better job.) In the end more open communication can help everybody to succeed.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God centers on the life of Janie Crawford, an African American woman who wanted to live her own life. She was raised by her grandmother Grandma, whoworked as a nanny for a white family. Janie did not realize that she herself has not white until she couldn't find herself in a picture of the kids playing. Even so, she did have some "white" features which would play a roll in her later life. Grandma had grown up as a slave and lived through the civil war. She longed to have the ability to sit on the porch and do nothing and desired that of her granddaughter. She wanted to make sure Janie was properly married off soon after she "Became a woman". Janie was soon married to her first husband. She had hoped to love him, but their relationship never grew. He wanted her to be able to work hard and help on the farm. One day while he was out another man appeared that showed ambition and wanted to treat her "right". She eventually left with him and went to a "negro city". This man would go to become the mayor and they would run the store and live the life of luxury. However, Janie missed that chance to talk with common folk. After her husband died, she met a younger man named "Teacake". They would eventually get married and spend some time living in the Everglades working as harvesting crew. This marriage was much more down to earth. They were respected working class and made friends with many people. During this phase, she encounters a "white black" lady who respects Janie because of her paler skin color and "whiter" features and talks down to the more crude darker skinned blacks like Teacake. Janie doesn't buy into this argument. One day a hurricane comes through. They ignore the warning signs, and then make a mad dash to flea the rising lake at the last minute. In the process a dog bites Teacake. This leads to him coming down with Rabies and going mad. He raises a gun to shoot Janie. She has another gun and ends up killing him. She is acquitted in the trial, with many of the black audience muttering that a black woman or a white can get away with anything.
The novel focuses on life in the black community in the post civil-war era. There is still the challenge of rising up from out of slavery. Many people were like grandma and just wanted the chance to finally sit around and be lazy on their own. There were the few with the drive to make something of their life. However, they had to fight the trap of becoming something like what they detested earlier. Janie's second husband was resented for his living the life "above" that of his fellow men. However, he did gain their sympathy when he bought an old mule and freed him to live out his last days on his own. With Teacake, Janie was able to live a life of independence. They were striving for their own goals, not necessarily to live like white men. They, did not expect anything to be given to them. They were also quick to make friends with other immigrants. While they were mostly lived in a "black" world, events would make them realize they were not truly equal. After the hurricane, Teacake was pressed into service to bury the dead. Only the whites would get proper coffins. When they were ill, they would seek a white doctor as the "best" option. Once accused of murder, Janie appeared before a white jury. Life was "separate but equal" except when it wasn't. Native Americans also make a brief appearance, only to be talked down by the population, but later proven to be right. This book does a great job in showing how people lived their lives as complicated racial relationships were evolving in the Untied States.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

R.I.P. Jamis Aurora

Jamis Aurora recently entered the home of bikes beyond their time. He has been superseded by Jamis Coda. He was born in 2008, living the first part of his life in California. During his lifespan, he has traveled thousands of miles. Strava puts the count at almost 15,000 miles. However, it is missing most of his early life. Actual mileage is probably in the 30,000 - 40,000 mile range. He has added a kickstand and fenders that have lasted his entire life. In his youth, his front wheel was replaced with a dynamo wheel to power some lights that have endured the remainder of his life. His back wheel, however, has gone through multiple iterations, with the current one nearing expiration due to weight and brakes. Tubes and tires have been replaced multiple times. The drive train has also been replaced multiple times. The cranks and bottom bracket recently were all replaced due to a fracture of one crank arm. The seat has been hanging in there despite broken rails. One water bottle cage has passed away. The rack is broken and now tied to another rack. Handlebar tape and plugs have been replaced. Even the frame has a crack (that appears to be related to weld stress.) Brake pads have been replaced multiple times. New cables have also been run. Pedals have been replaced with mismatches. Very little remains in working order from the original: the handlebar, stem, shifters, brakes and derailer. Mr. Aurora had lived a great life on the west coast, climbing many hills and enduring countless headwinds, all while hauling plenty of gear. He had endured numerous attachments and panniers. He would probably have gone through another round of internal replacements had his frame not shown the cracks.
He had superseded Specialized Globe, who was stolen. He was preceded in death by a sister, Schwinn Ten Speed, an uncle Trek, and grandfather Giant and stolen sister Breezer Villager. He is survived by an older brother, Breezer Zag-8, cousins Bakfiets, Bike Friday Triple, Mangoose, Trek, Novara, Specialized, Like-a-bike and Isla.

Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation

What is time? That is a question the Alan Burdick tries to answer in Why Time Flies. Dictionaries often include a somewhat circular definition of time. We know what it is and we can sense its passage, yet it doesn't seem to be a physical sense like touch or smell. It feels that time passes slower when we our younger, but then speeds up as we get older. Some studies have "proven" this, yet there have also been flaws in the studies. "New" events do appear to take longer than repeated events. This may be do to the more resources that are spent processing the newness than are needed for reprocessing the old. The brain also does a lot of "tricks" to make the real world appear as we expect it. When there is a small delay between the time you touch a key and the character appears on a screen, the brain correlates those with being instantaneous events. If a character then appears instantly upon keypress, the brain will interpret that as happened. "Time" may pass in an orderly manner. However, their are a lot of "tricks" that the brain pulls in our interpretation of the passing of events. This book does a good job in investigating many of these tricks and pointing out that the science behind time is still in its infant stage.