Sam Smith – Nirvana – Tune Of The Week

If I’m honest, this isn’t my tune of the week. So far, this is my tune of the year.

Thoughtful songwriting, a heartfelt performance and dramatic but not overstated production make Sam Smith’s “Nirvana” one of the best tracks I’ve heard in a very long time.

Mix Of The Week: DJ Alex Old School Mixtape Volume 3

It’s been a while since I posted any Tune Of The Week or Mix Of The Week selections. Mostly it’s been because I’ve been busy with other things, but also because I haven’t found any real knockout mixes.

This mix from DJ Alex dropped me straight back in to the 90s RnB club scene, with tracks by Dr Dre, Usher, TLC, Aaliyah and Dru Hill. I can almost hear the swishing of the parachute pants…

DJ Alex Old School Mixtape Volume 3

Listen to more Old School Mixtapes here

Find DJ Alex on Facebook here

DJ Alex Old School Mixtape Volume 3Tracklist

0:00:08 – Fugees – Killing Me Softly
0:03:31 – Whitney Houston – My Love Is Your Love
0:05:54 – Bob Marley – Turn Your Lights Down Low (Feat. Lauryn Hill)
0:08:30 – Brandy – I Wanna Be Down
0:11:10 – Usher – You Make Me Wanna
0:13:34 – Missy Elliott – Sock It 2 Me (Feat. Da Brat)
0:16:07 – Ginuwine – Pony (Feat. Timbaland) (Ride It Mix)
0:17:58 – SWV – Can We (Feat. Missy Elliott)
0:20:37 – Total – What About Us (Feat. Missy Elliott & Timbaland) (Remix)
0:22:57 – 702 – Where My Girls At? (Feat. Missy Elliott) (Remix)
0:25:22 – Dru Hill – How Deep Is Your Love (Feat. Redman) (Remix)
0:28:11 – Jay-Z – Can I Get A… (Feat. Amil)
0:30:48 – Big Pun – Still Not A Player (Feat. Joe)
0:32:30 – Destiny’s Child — Jumpin’ Jumpin’ (Feat. Lil’ Bow Wow) (Remix)
0:34:22 – Aaliyah — Try Again
0:36:44 – TLC — No Scrubs (Feat. Left Eye)
0:39:36 – Diana King — Shy Guy
0:42:00 – Shaggy — It Wasn’t Me (Feat. Rikrok)
0:44:19 – Dr. Dre — The Next Episode (Feat. Snoop Dogg & Nate Dogg)
0:46:43 – Bow Wow — Bow Wow (That’s My Name) (Feat. Snoop Dogg)
0:49:03 – Gina Thompson – The Things That You Do (Feat. Missy Elliott) (Bad Boy Remix)
0:51:52 – K-Ci & JoJo – You Bring Me Up
0:53:54 – Brian McKnight – You Should Be Mine (Don’t Waste Your Time) (Feat. Mase)
0:56:44 – Horace Brown – Things We Do For Love
0:59:23 – Next — Too Close
1:01:54 – Soul For Real – Candy Rain (Feat. Heavy D.) (Remix)
1:03:46 – Faith Evans – All Night Long (Feat. P. Diddy) (Remix)
1:06:28 – R. Kelly — Home Alone (Feat. Keith Murray)
1:09:22 – Mariah Carey — Fantasy (Feat. ODB) (Bad Boy Remix)
1:12:07 – Zhané – Hey Mr. DJ (Feat. Rottin Razkals)
1:14:39 – Hi-Five – I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)
1:17:05 – Janet Jackson – That’s The Way Love Goes

How to charge your Android phone battery in hboot

The situation was grim. My HTC One X was stuck at the hboot screen. The bootloader was re-locked (I was trying to flash a new RUU) so I couldn’t get to CWM Recovery. The battery was dying. Things did not look good.

I had ignored the advice on the xda forum and was messing around on a low battery charge…

At this point, I would usually just flash the Unlock_code.bin file and reopen the bootloader, except I couldn’t – the battery was too low. And the battery can’t charge in hboot, it can only charge in CWM recovery. But I couldn’t get to CWM because the bootloader was relocked. Oh, what a frustrating paradox.

Using the fastboot getvar battery-voltage command I could see that there was an ever so small change in voltage when I charged, but not enough. I needed 3680mV in order to be able to flash the unlock token.

Luckily, I found this amazing ingenious trick on the XDA forums: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1658084&nocache=1

 

[infobox]

@echo off
:start
fastboot getvar battery-voltage

fastboot reboot-bootloader

ping /n 6 localhost >nul

goto start

[/infobox]

 

How to run the script when in USB Fastboot mode

  1. Open a text editor and paste in the code above
  2. Save as a .bat file. I saved mine as loop.bat – make sure it is in the same folder as fastboot and adb
  3. Connect phone to computer by usb and check to that Fastboot can see it (‘fastboot devices’)
  4. Start the batch in command prompt ‘start loop.bat’
  5. Get hyponitised by the slow, steady progress
  6. Once you reach the required 3680mV type ‘stop’
  7. Flash your unlock token by executing ‘ fastboot flash unlocktoken Unlock_code.bin’
  8. Cross your fingers

What this does is reboot the bootloader repeatedly. Which each reboot, the charge moves up incrementally, maybe 1 or 2 mV; and sometimes even down.

After leaving the bat file to run for an hour, I finally made it 3680mV and flashed the Unluck token. The stretch between 3660mV and 3680mV is the most agonizing, with change happening suuuuuuper slooooooowly.

Once you can get to CWM recovery, let your phone charge for a few hours, so that you can install your ROM or RUU without fear. As and aside, the ‘Mount USB’ commend does not work for the HTC One X on the build I tried (5.8.4) of Clockword Mod Recovery Touch, but it does work in the regular version, so if you still need to copy your rom to your USB, don’t use Touch. Although, it is easier just to flash using fastboot flash rom zip nameofrom.zip

9. Breathe a sigh of relief

Trains and Ripples: How your decisions can mess up someone else’s day

On Monday, I missed the train. I wasn’t late, there was no train crash, nothing drastic happened. The train conductor simply decided to leave a few minutes early. Four and half minutes early, to be exact. I know this because I missed the train by no more than ten seconds and was on the platform, out of breath checking the time.

This one, seemingly small action on the conductor’s part had a major impact on my day. Instead of one train home, it now meant two taxis, a bus and traffic. Instead of air-conditioned comfort and relative safety where I could spend 20 valuable minutes working or reading, I got an uncomfortable muggy bus and was wary of using my phone. All because of a few minutes.

Lately, I’ve been reading “Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims” by François duc de La Rochefoucauld. It’s filled with short, concise little epigrammatic sentences that boil concepts down to a short quip. Like one liners for philosophers.

While Googling around to find more examples epigrams, aphorisms and maxims, I found this one, in the field of Human Ecology.

We can never do merely one thing (i.e. everything is connected). – Garrett Hardin’s Three Laws of Human Ecology

The train driver could never just do one thing – leave a few minutes early. He changed my day, my mood, the way I felt when I interacted with others later that day. In a word: Ripples.

And this got me to thinking about all the seemingly small actions and decisions we take on a daily basis that influence other people in ways that are exponentially beyond our comprehension.

In my capacity as a manger/ leader of a team of people, I’ve made a concious effort to try and see the ripples of my actions. For the most part, I’m not smart enough to make the connections, but when I do manage a line between the dots, it’s scary to see how we can change the lives of others with actions that mean little or nothing to us.

I ‘m interested by this new perspective, and will definitely try to see the more far reaching consequences of my actions, no matter how small they may be.

Audibooks Are For Fiction

Over the past few years I’ve developed a great appreciation for audiobooks. The ever growing number of titles available (especially on Audible) and the increase in the quality of the recordings make them a joy to listen to.

It seems though, that audiobooks are not suited for non-fiction. At least not for me.

The first audiobook I listened to was Malcom Gladwell’s “Blink.” I had previously read the book and wanted a recap on it’s basic tenets and hypotheses. For this, the audiobook was the perfect format. I listened while I walked the dog, in traffic and pretty much anywhere I could find a few minutes. As I had already been through the material, this was a great way to recap. I was hooked.

audible

Soon Daniel Silva, Neal Stephenson, George RR Martin and other non-fiction writers made their way to my iPod. This was a great way to experience books, especially when traveling (I was making loooooong trips every 3 months and the books really helped pass the time).

Then, I decided to try my hand (ear?) at listening to non-fiction titles – starting with David Rock’s “Your Brain At Work”. I was shocked to find that I had an exceedingly tough time getting to grips with the material. Since I had previously had a good experience with non-fiction (listening Gladwell) my attribution bias kicked in and I assumed my bad memory was to blame or maybe my inability to process this new, dense information.

Lately, I’ve been trying out the Amazon Whispersync feature – where I can listen to a book AND read it on my Kindle. If I leave off at a point on my Kindle, the Audio Book will scrub to that point in the recording, it works wonderfully. The problem is, I don’t.

I noticed an annoying trend: I would only be able to deeply understand the sections I had read on my Kindle, and would have only a fleeting recollection of the sections I listened to via Audiobook. This invalidated my earlier bias theory, since I was able to comprehend the same material just fine when reading it.

This happened to me during Charles Duhig’s “The Power of Habit” and again during Bill Bryson’s (phenomenal) “A Short History of Nearly Everything”

The information would not sink in if it was merely listened to.

Now, I’ve formed some theories as to why this is:

1) Unless I was traveling in a cab or a plane, I was never “just listening” to the book.

There was always something else diluting my focus. Since our brains are primed to a) always scan our environments for threats (e.g a jogger while driving) and also to minimize the resources allocated to non-essential tasks, this is now kind of obvious to see. As I’ve written before, there are different ways to pay attention, the most effective of these being Deep Attention and another less-effective being Hyper Attention. Being able to concentrate on one thing at a time allows for Deep Attention, which has better knowledge retention than the scattered, unfocussed Hyper Attention.

2) I would fall asleep

Most of the time when I tried to sit and consciously, actively listen to the material for more than 20 minutes, I would fall asleep. An overwhelming number of audiobook narrators have rich, soothing voices. Which would then richly soothe me off to sleep.

So; I could listen while walking or driving and not retain much, or focus on the material and only get 20 minutes worth of quality listening. Not a great trade-off.

This is why I enjoyed the fiction, but the heaver stuff became confusing and frustrating.

3) Pausing to think is harder, or rather, less easy with audiobooks.

When reading a book, I often stop to contemplate and frame a passage of text, ask myself a question about this new information to test it out and THEN move on. This all happens in a few seconds, but it also happens very often. When listening to the book, I need to reach for the phone/mp3 player, unlock it and then hit play. It only takes 2 seconds, but it’s enough to throw me off, so I stopped doing it. I don’t take the time to completely interrogate and absorb the material. Since the brain learns by asking questions and my brain was no longer doing this, it’s obvious that I wouldn’t learn anything.

All of this means that by the end of the book, I have questioned little, thought less and retained almost nothing. The books become disposable.

Now, however, there is an up-side. I have a number of books that I need to re-read (really read) and not just listen to. Which means that there is a vast quantity of fascinating paradigms for me to try on, ideas to question and knowledge to glean. I think this is going to be fun.

Here are some of the books I will be re-reading

  • Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  • The Paradox Of Choice – Barry Shwartz
  • The Power of Habit – Charles Duhig
  • Your Brain At Work – David Rock
  • Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and The Brain
  • What Every BODY Is Saying – Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins
  • A Short History Of Nearly Everything
  • Super Freakonomics – Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • Winner Takes All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World – Dambisa Moyo
  • Getting Started in Consulting – Alan Weiss

I don’t know how to read. You probably don’t either.

Let me back up a little before I explain…

For the past few years, I’ve been fascinated by the field of behavioral economics. After being introduced to the concept by Malcom Gladwell in his (excellent) book Blink, it’s pretty much all I’ve been reading since (with the odd biography and pulp fiction novel thrown in).

Two areas in particular have captured my attention:

1. Decision Theory – how we making decisions every day; which factors influence us (e.g. Making decisions when tired vs well rested). This is especially useful to me professionally in the field of exploitation Marketing.

2. Thinking about thinking – specifically in relation to optimizing your body and environment for thinking e.g. Study before or after exercise, creating the optimal environment for study. Closely related to decision theory, but more about the overall cognitive process and not just the decision aspect.

Recently, I’ve had to add a third area to study:

3. Learning to read.

I, like you, learned to read as a child. Now though, I find that my instruction was only given in the most technical sense. I can turn the scribbles on a page or the stuff on a screen into words and understand their definition.

Gilly: You know all that from staring at marks on paper?
Samwell: Yes.
Gilly: You’re like, a wizard.

– Game of Thrones

The problem is, that I never formally learned the next part of the process – interrogating the argument presented by the words, extracting their salient points, finding their strengths and flaws and then understanding them fully and deeply.

This lack of inspectional or analytical reading skills has resulted in countless wasted hours. More and more I know know that I have merely skimmed the books in my collection, and not truly read them.

So, for the next few weeks, I’m going to make a conscious effort to learn to read “properly”. I don’t want to merely look at the words on the page until I’ve seen them all. My goal is to digest, inspect, analyze and then understand the material.

I feel that this is a worthy investment of effort and energy that will pay off many times over I discover new works, and truly grasp old favorites.

Here’s to the next chapter.

Lester

Die Strandlooper

I love this picture. It was taken on a vacation back home to Cape Town, South Africa while out to lunch with my family. It reminds me of my home town, my family, the ocean and good food, all of the things I grew up loving.

The name of the restaurant is “Die Strandlooper” which means “the one who walks on the beach.” They serve 10 courses of seafood magic and home made bread, all against the backdrop of strumming guitars, cawing seagulls and what you see above.

If you’re ever in Cape Town (or anywhere on the South African West Coast), you should look it up. And be sure to take a walk on the sand, so you too can be a Strandlooper.

 

Everyone in the company is involved in Customer Support or Sales

More and more I’m seeing that there are two things everyone in the company is involved in:

  • Sales
  • Customer Support

Every single department can trace back to these two in some way or another. You’re either helping to bring in new business or support (and extend) existing business.

Management is accountable for performance and results, and neither of these can be adjusted without affecting Sales or Customer Support.

Consider two (very simple) examples

  • IT department dropping the ball? Slower computers for your Customer Service staff means a worse experience for your customer.
  • Accounting dragging their feet on your supplier payments? That could mean higher prices in future, or less flexibility on payments and ultimately, less value to pass along to the customer.

As far as I can see, everything, everywhere comes down to Sales and Customer Support.

So if you think your position is removed from these so-called ‘low level’ positions – think again. Imagine you did a terrible job, now see how that would affect customers. Now imagine that you did a fantastic job (which of course, you already do) and see how this helps the customer, the business and ultimately – you.

 

Microsoft’s Touch Mouse is a terrible, terrible thing.

I had originally planned this to be a lengthy review. Using this thing made me brood over adjectives to forever tarnish it in the eyes of the 4 people who would read this post. My review would to be great (probably not). It would be insightful (they rarely are). It would highlight the flaws and strengths of this much hyped device in a logical and fair way (I  don’t have much of either).

But, the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to do it. I realized that I all I really wanted to do was satisfy that most basic of human desire – to bitch about something that’s pissing me off, all the more so because it’s not what you call cheap.

So now, there is no review. There are no bullet points comparing features with the Apple Magic Mouse. There is only this:

 

The Microsoft Touch Mouse is a terrible, hateful, anger inducing thing. I have now flung mine across the room. Do not buy one, your fingers will hate you.

 

That is all.

microsoft-touch-mouse

“Every article must do something” or How I Psyched Myself Out Of Writing.

I haven’t written anything in a long time. Let alone anything real or worth reading. For the most part it’s been music I enjoy or faux gadget reviews (I’m terrible at reviews).

And I think I’ve finally figured out why. After reading post after post about what makes ‘good’ online writing, I forgot the whole reason for writing in the first place. I also got it in my head that “Online Writing” was somehow vastly different to just regular “Writing.”

For the last few years, I’ve been stuck with an assumption that anything I write online should ‘do’ something. Instead of just being, there was now an additional pressure for the words to be active and do. Like they were in the circus.

Initially I tried to convince myself that this added ‘direction’ would give me a target to write at, and make it easier to focus. In practice it did the opposite. It rendered me paralysed and inert, because I couldn’t meet all of the goals I had set (to help me write). Simile slipped away. Metaphor melted into keyword density and wit gave way to article structure. Ok, to be fair there wasn’t much wit to start with.

All of which resulted in me not writing anything at all.

Here are some of the things I convinced myself that every piece had to do.

  • highlight me as an expert in the field of X
  • boost my social profile
  • showcase my knowledge on the topic of Y
  • be targeted to search engines
  • be built to get more page views
  • make people want to share it
  • encourage the reader to leave a comment.

Since I started reading Medium a few months back, and seeing writing for the sake of expression and merely for the sake of itself, I feel like I have some more perspective now.

This little blog is not the New York Times, nor Pitchfork nor Engadget. Yet for some reason I was trying to write as if it was. Or not write, as it were.

So here’s to the meaningless rambles, uninformed opinions and idiotic things I’m bound to say. And typos. Probably lots of typos.

Tread softly #quotes

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

 

W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)
“He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven”
from the Collected Works of W.B. Yeats

tread-softly-wb-yeats

Fresh Air – Brother Ali – Tune Of The Week

This week’s selection for Tune Of The Week is a feel-good hip hop track by Brother Ali. The positivity in the lyrics and the head-nodding funk production make this a new favourite.

Brother Ali – Fresh Air

Brother Ali – Fresh Air Lyrics

[Verse 1: Brother Ali]
Ant check this out
I’m the luckiest son of a bitch that ever lived, I spend life doin shit I love
Got the world’s most beautiful kids and don’t nobody do it like us
Sunday morning play Al Green, make pancakes and watch cartoons
Sometimes get to change that scene, catch a plane and see somewhere new
Just got married last year, treated so good that it ain’t even fair
Already got a boy, now the baby girl’s here, bought us a house like the Berenstain Bears
Not two years ago I was homeless, I mean crashin on the couch of my homies
Now I’m crashin on the couch with Conan, signed a mortgage and bought my home, shit
Should of seen when they handed me the keys, I still couldn’t believe that it was mine
Like “baby hurry up let’s leave, before these damn people change their mind”
Ha, and shit what can I say? I would have made these damn songs anyway
Some of y’all still listen to ’em everyday, beautiful thing, I bow my hand and pray

[Chorus x2: Brother Ali – w/ ad libs]
I love the life I live, my laughter and my tears
I don’t know where it’s goin but I like it like it is

[Verse 2: Brother Ali]
Uh, I get a lot of love in my hometown, twin cities, y’all know how it go down
Same club where Prince shot “Purple Rain”, advertise my name and it’s sold out
I’m surrounded by greatness, my loved ones are amazin
Sometimes I look in their faces and just think of the lives they’re changin
And I don’t just mean Rhymesayers, my son’s grandmother quit freebasin
Desiree got eight years straight, now that right there cause for celebration
Ah, I’m so happy for her, we used to fight like cats and dogs
But she ain’t even mad that I left her daughter
She calls me her son, so that’s my mama

[Chorus: w/ ad libs]

[Verse 3: Brother Ali]
Ah, keep it goin now
All my life I had this music, my heroes have all saluted
I don’t need y’all to like my new shit, them dudes are the reason I do this
I done did so much cool shit, lived a lifetime in the last two years
Got the memories to prove it, look what a dude who ain’t even graduate high school did
Ha, used to always be the new kid, laughed at ’cause I never used to pull chicks
Now I turn down more girls than them rich ass pitiful ball playin fools get
Sometimes I smile so wide, I think about the dreams that I’ve lived
Shit even if I died tonight y’all, I’m the luckiest son bitch that ever lived

[Chorus: w/ ad libs until the end]

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmania.com/fresh_air_lyrics_brother_ali.html
All about Brother Ali: http://www.musictory.com/music/Brother+Ali

Daft Punk Random Access Memories Stream

Hot Damn! It’s the new Daft Punk album! Stream the FULL Random Accessories Memories below!

UPDATE: Looks like Grooveshark pulled the tracks off the site, so the playlist is no longer working :(

You also access the playlist using this link: http://grooveshark.com/playlist/Daft+Punk+Random+Access+Memories/86452553

Stream Daft Punk Random Access Memories

Daft Punk Random Access Memories

This is Water. David Foster Wallace Commencement Speech

In this moving and inspirational talk, David Foster Wallace puts forward that the freedom awareness provides is the freedom to decide how to interpret your surroundings. The freedom not to be a slave to the default settings forced on us by what is around us.

This is water. I am learning.

David Foster Wallace Speech – This Is Water.

2005 graduating class of Kenyon College.