I’ve been listening to The Sandman in Audible. The writing is, literally, comic book simple. It’s so bald and direct, people say instead of show. There’s little artistry to it. The dialog and narrative quiping is often cringe-worthy. Instead, the artistry is in the stories, the world-building.
In comparison, I’ve also been listening to the first book in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past series. The two books couldn’t be more the opposite. Proust’s prose is flabby, poetic, and largely, I don’t know, decadent.
I listen to both of these instead of reading them. There’s no way I could get through Proust on the page (rather, the screen since I read everything Kindle - but, whatever). I don’t know if I could take The Sandman seriously; besides, it’s actually a radio play, not a book.
Proust is, though, it’s own kind of world. I listen to it to relax, almost like ambient noise. I miss about 30% to 90% of the book depending on my own mind - if I suddenly go on some trepanning-by-reminiscing. But, I find it relaxing, refreshing, and at times inspiring.
Similarly, when I listen to The Sandman, I feel revitalized by the sheer entertainment of it (a “guilty pleasure”) but also the genius and novelty of the world-building, the reality it builds and how it mixes together Western mythology and cosmology into a fun, new stew. Myth-fusion is always fantastic. (Of course, American Gods is the masterpiece here, but there’s only one of that. Norse Mythology will give you a cheap buzz if you’ve re-read American Gods too many times for it to make you high.)
As another example of stripped down writing, I’m reading through all of the Martin Beck books. These are several layers above the basic prose of The Sandman, but an infinite number of levels below Proust. The Martin Beck books are another form of meditation; in my dark-moods, I’d say they were excellent ways to wile away the hours as you’re waiting to die. I hate true crime, but for some reason, these books are fantastic.
Enjoying The Sandman makes me (re-)realize the value of stripped down prose: being direct, and straight forward. I loath such prose in all forms - but I only think I do. I actually appreciate the economy of it whether it’s in business and tech writing, journalism, or fiction.
I don’t write stripped down at all, I think it’s distasteful and, as an author, boring. I’ve always rolled my eyes at Orwell, and turned up my nose at Strunk and Wright. That’s fine for other people, but not me. And yet, while I like the decadence of Hunter Thompson, I also adore Hemingway and I can’t get enough of Joan Didion’s ethereal economy.
Both are fine, it seems. Rather than say write in either style when appropriate, I would advice to write in the style that you’re good at, and read the style you’re good at reading.
- Software Defined Talk: We should not emphasise this behaviour - I wasn’t on this week, but: Matt and Brandon discuss VMware’s flex, recap Kubecon and aww at the sight of Zoom’s latest earnings. Plus, we are enlisting all listeners to come help stress test Slack Threads.
- Tanzu Talk: SpringOne 2020 Talk Picks - as it says.
- CI/CD stagnation - I like to track CI/CD* surveys as an indication of far along organizations are doing at getting better at software: “digital transformation” where the main focus is using software to improve how you do business.
- Questions for a panel on managing managers - the vision and questions for a panel I did this week at SpringOne.
While not purely original content, I often takes notes and highlights of other stuff, conference talks, papers, books, etc. I publish some of them - I should publish more, but often I’m including notes about projects I’m working on or other secret crap. Anyhow, here’s some from this week:
Relevant to your interests
Links and stuff, usually kept in my blog during the week.
- Re-training your urge to distract and procrastinate - ‘As often as not, distraction is your brain ducking challenging feelings such as boredom, loneliness, insecurity, fatigue and uncertainty. These are the internal triggers – the root causes – that prompt you to find the comfort of distraction and open a browser tab, Twitter or email, instead of focusing on the matter at hand. Once you identify these internal triggers, you can decide to respond in a more advantageous manner. You won’t always be able to control how you feel – but you can learn to control how you react to the way you feel. A trigger that once sent you to Twitter can perhaps lead instead to 10 deep breaths.’
- Getting better at software thanks to VMware Tanzu - ‘“The new Fiserv workflow helped secure 18k loans worth over $1.4bn.... Thanks to Tanzu Application Service & Spring, a team of 15 developers [wrote] 100,000 lines of code & perform 436 releases to production over 28 days.”’
- VMware Tanzu strategy - ‘Spring helps developers build cloud native applications without learning new tools. Tanzu then becomes the best place to run those applications. It’s putting power back into the hands of the developer to do things that were previously done in standalone products.’
- The weekly review is critical - ‘If you don’t do this, there is a good chance that some important outstanding task gets lost in the older and dusty parts of your system. When that happens, your mind is going to realise that it can’t trust the system, and it will take back the responsibility for remembering all outstanding work.... Without the weekly revision, you also don’t know whether the next actions you work on are the most important work you could be doing. Maybe the note that you created a few weeks ago is now more important.’
- Java running on kubernetes - ‘Among the 95% of Spring users who are containerizing applications, 44% said they have deployed those applications on Kubernetes clusters, with 37% planning to do so as well. Among those planning to embrace Kubernetes, 84% said they would do so within the next 12 months.’
- US Spaceforce using VMWare Tanzu - ‘“The legacy application that we had before took about three years to build and was about 10 times the cost of what we were able to do in six months with VMware’s support,” Krolikowski said.’
- Alone by pen - “If you consider at what pains men are to be alone: how they climb mountains, enter prisons, profess monastic vows, put on eccentric daily habits, and seclude themselves in the garrets of a great town, you will see that this moment of taking up the pen is not least happy in the fact that then, by a mere association of ideas, the writer is alone.”
- Tennis - if you like Yacht Rock, as I do, you’ll like the band Tennis.
- Always keep the tanks full - ‘His system also offers a low barrier to entry. Psychologists have found that one reason we procrastinate is self-doubt and efficacy issues—the upfront costs of a new project often loom large when future outcomes are so uncertain. But the costs of jotting down just one well-formed note isn’t a deal-breaker. If an idea has value, it will rise to the surface as more related notes emerge.’
- Using an agile product cycle to respond quickly to market needs - ‘Right trumps fast: Throughout the project, we strove to maintain a constant balance between doing things right and doing them fast. Striking such a balance can lead to some challenging decision-making, but a key learning for the team was to default to doing the right thing, which avoided rework and wasted time down the line.’
- Paying attention, diary form - ‘I began to wonder why the verb that goes with “attention” is “to pay”. Is it a debt? A duty? A tax? An outlay of energy? Work seems to be involved in the phrase, or perhaps sacrifice. And what do we get back, if we pay it? I couldn’t believe, as I worked through my notebooks, the smallness of some of the things I had noticed 30 years ago. My god, I was the queen of attention! How I paid $1.19 for two chops. The fact that I ironed a tablecloth. A grown man who had never heard of Dolly Parton. A nun who said she had blushed “as red as these carrots”. My friend’s golden shoes. Some garden dirt that smelled like mushrooms. A hard-boiled egg. A handful of 3B pencils. A shred of Christmas tinsel caught in a doctor’s hair. How precious these things seem when I come upon them again, what treasures, what tiny bombs of meaning, though when I wrote them down I thought they were nothing but chips and fragments between bouts of narrative – the raw material that I used for daily practice.’
- COVID tech spending - ‘Specifically, 59 percent of executives surveyed say that COVID-19 has created an impetus to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives, yet approximately four in 10 say they will halt investment in emerging technology altogether as a result of COVID-19. Executives have shifted their focus to must-have technologies, and 56 percent of those surveyed say cloud migration has become an absolute necessity due to COVID-19. However, investments in a number of emerging technologies will likely increase over the next year, such as 5G (44 percent of respondents expect spending to increase compared to 26 percent who expect spending to decrease); process automation (43 percent expect an increase compared to 25 percent who expect a decrease); AI (39 percent versus 31 percent); hybrid cloud and/or multi-cloud (38 percent versus 28 percent); blockchain (34 percent versus 30 percent); edge computing (34 percent versus 33 percent) - with the exception of smart analytics (32 percent versus 35 percent).’
- Looking in the mirror - ‘Research on mirror meditation (Well, et al, 2016) finds that 10 minutes of looking at one’s own reflection with no goal other than to be present with oneself reduces stress and increases self-compassion (and has no effects on narcissism). Female participants report greater comfort with their appearance (e.g., more comfortable not wearing makeup) and more focused attention on their internal feelings than their external appearance after doing the practice regularly (Well, 2017).’