Nathan Dao

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Today, I came across Vo Thanh Minh Tue’s wise observations in his article Why working for an unassuming company can be a great experience:

Quote:

I can only speak from my own experience, and personally I have been very lucky to be at Google, Microsoft, Box. Inc and currently MindMeld (formerly Expect Labs) [1]. While each company is very different in terms of size, products, culture and organization, I have great respect for my current and former coworkers; they are often smart, funny, dedicated and professional.

I think an unassuming company can be great because it can:

  1. Focus on the job, not the Jobsian: The troubles usually start when there is too much media attention on the leaders and people start fighting for the cofounder status. These corporate dramas can demoralize the team and detract from the actual hard work.

  2. Foster humility: it is hard to access reality when the ego is strong.

  3. Keep ourselves grounded in the common vision: a charismatic founder or leader can bring all attention to themselves and subtract away substantive attention from the company goal and vision.

Project mumblings

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Yesterday, during lunch at the office, I discovered that my colleague (who is known to be obsessed with assembling and painting scale models) has been blogging about his projects since 2010 at projectmumblings.blogspot.fi.

I had great fun reading through his posts. If you’re into scale models, or just appreciate making things in general, I’m most certain that you’ll enjoy reading Project Mumblings as well.

Robert Finley - Age don't mean a thing

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Being a long time listener of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach, and the blues, the first time I heard about Robert Finley was a week ago through Easy Eye Sound. His music, talent and passion immediately struck the right chords in my head. Robert’s first album, “Age don’t mean a thing” was released in 2016, and “Goin’ Platinum” - his second album after 52 years of playing the guitar and singing - is coming out on December 8th.

Porvoo

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The river, hillsides, forest trails, empty streets, gravel paths across the Old Town. For the first time, I feel truely attached to one place, even when knowing only a fraction of it.

These two songs are for Porvoo:

porvoo full moon

On doing things

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When browsing BrainPickings’ archive today, I came across Philosopher Erich Fromm on the Art of Loving and What Is Keeping Us from Mastering It, in which an observation on how people perceive love is described:

Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one’s capacity to love. Hence the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable.

People think that to love is simple, but that to find the right object to love — or to be loved by — is difficult.

Going beyond the context of human love, I found this to be a powerful advice on looking at the relationship between us and our works. Among many others, consider the two reasons we are attracted to what we do: to gain popular votes, or just for the joy of doing it?

Happiness coming from others’ approval should not be mistaken as love, or as the reason to love our works. It is merely a side effect of doing the job.

“Approvable work or not?” and “Loving what you do or not?” are two different questions.

What I'm up to now

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At the time of writing this update, I’ve been a Porvoo citizen for almost 6 months, during which I spent many hours on the Humla and Holken running trails. Both are accessible by foot or bicycles. If you take the Holken trail, you will most likely go pass my favourite bench. Then bench is especially beautiful on a wet day. I also enjoy late night walks along the Porvoo River and across the Old Town.

Most of my weekdays draft by at the Futurice office in Helsinki. I deeply love the office and my work, but taking the early bus home and getting to know people from Porvoo is something I haven’t been doing enough.

Work aside, this summer was a surge of adrenaline. I ran 3 marathons, picked up the guitar again after a long time, and once more found my song writing not so cheesy.

For now, I decide to not hustle for anything besides work and embrace life as it is.

This “/now” page is inspired by the nownownow project. Special thanks to its creator - Derek Sivers. If you think this is a cool idea, why not make one? Follow @nownownow on Twitter to get random interesting people’s /now profiles into your Twitter feed.

Fun with the Tascam DP-006

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I have recently been picking up the guitar and started singing after a very long break. For quick demo recordings, I got a Tascam DP-006 - a 4-track recorder that uses a SD card instead of tapes. It also comes with a set of built-in stereo microphone and can run on batteries.

I have great fun and have been making recordings quite frequently with this 4-track. They won’t be good enough for serious recordings, but should be more than decent for quick ideas and demos. Highly recommeded.

Setting goals

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Recently, as a part of our bi-annual checkpoint discussion with my supervisor, I finally sat down and thought about my career goals - what I want to achieve at the company.

I’m happy with the goals I set for myself:

  1. Be more useful to others.
  2. Be a better programmer.

Great resourses I visited for advice:

Color me gone

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This is the trailer for “Color me gone”:

“Color me gone” is a photobook about Vietnam, a 10-year project by a talented photographer and filmmaker - Kevin German, who is also a good friend of mine. He spent a large portion of the past decade living, traveling and documenting every corner of Vietnam, capturing moments of people from all walks of life. His photos of the Vietnamese people are the most captivating and genuine that I have ever seen.

As he reminds me whenever we talk about the book: “All the wrong people remember Vietnam”, Kevin is an American who has seen more of my home country than I could have ever known.

Almost two weeks ago, Color Me Gone was successfully funded on Kickstarter.

Congrats, Kevin!

Knowledge and superiority

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Since a teenager, I have never been a fan of formal education. Like books or music, our appreciation for knowledge changes over time. I believe knowledge should not be induced on people when they are not ready for it. We are wired differently. School is certainly not for everybody.

Junior College was the last time I truely engaged in school. Even then, most of my time was resorted to music and football. I was usually found asleep during Chemistry, Maths and Physics lectures. I wrote a song about how much I hated Chem, drew a huge “Chem Sux” on the farewell t-shirt our class gifted to our Chemistry tutor. She loved them.

That seems like a waste of a full scholarship to arguably the best Institution in Singapore. Still, I’m proud to come from there.

I left Junior College, taking with me a deep passion for music and great memories with my football mates. I was a bad student. It was ok. I was not ready for Chemistry, or Maths, or Physics.

I love Maths and Physics now. Chemistry has to wait still. Sorry, Ms. Toh.

Knowledge is temporal and variable.

When we get good at something, it is easy to assume superiority over others who are not as good, or as knowledgable at the same topic. What we usually forget, is that we don’t know and are not good at most other things, where others are likely to be more fluent in.

It is then useful to disregard what we already knew and appreciate others for things they are good at.

Also, superiority is not a worthy reward from knowledge.