All content on this blog from Tim McGhee has moved to the Tim McGhee Substack, and soon, Lord willing, will be found only on that Substack.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Teaching is about more than sharing knowledge

Academically, I discovered, I was underprepared.

I chose an unusual major, culture and behavior, an academic creation of the 1960s that combined psychology, sociology, biology, and anthropology. I chose it because it sounded fascinating, a comprehensive study of the human being, which would help me understand people’s objectives and motivations.

But I still had a way to go on the basics. There were only eight of us in the class and four professors assigned to teach us. Many of my peers came from the best prep schools in the country. Not only did they all seem to know each other, they also knew the work.

My first English paper was on Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener. I got a 68. I then got a 66 on my second. I was failing.

My instructor, Alistair Wood, asked me to his garret office for a meeting. He was a young man dressed like an elderly professor, wearing a tweed sweater and a J.Press sport jacket with patches at the elbows, a tattersall shirt, and a green knit tie.

“Mr. Schwarzman, I want to talk to you about your papers.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Cultivation's balances

Cultivation has its balances. As the mind is made intelligent, the capacity of the soul for pure enjoyment is proportionally increased.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, April 27, 2020

Governed uncommonly well

The common people there (in Rome) know a great deal; they even have the effrontery to complain if they are not properly governed, and to take hold and help conduct the government themselves;

if they had laws like ours, which give one dollar of every three a crop produces to the government for taxes, they would have that law altered:

Friday, April 24, 2020

The essence of humor

Comedy is the art of the unexpected.

This can take a while to build up as a comedian or humorist may spend some time leading his audience to expect he is heading in one direction. Then, when he makes a sudden turn, it's funny because it's unexpected.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The object of education

In the final speech I made as student council president, I laid out a philosophy on education that has remained remarkably consistent throughout my life:

I believe that education is a discipline.

The object of this discipline is to learn how to think.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A life too quiet

She hesitated a moment, then asked, in return, “Is the property near Rome a residence?”


“And pretty?”

“It is beautiful—a palace in the midst of gardens and shell-strewn walks; fountains without and within; statuary in the shady nooks; hills around covered with vines, and so high that Neapolis and Vesuvius are in sight, and the sea an expanse of purpling blue dotted with restless sails. Caesar has a country-seat near-by, but in Rome they say the old Arrian villa is the prettiest.”

“And the life there, is it quiet?”

Monday, April 20, 2020

Mark Twain meets fire engines and insurance

(In Rome) I saw real glass windows in the houses of even the commonest people. Some of the houses are not of stone, nor yet of bricks; I solemnly swear they are made of wood.

Houses there will take fire and burn, sometimes—actually burn entirely down, and not leave a single vestige behind. I could state that for a truth, upon my death-bed.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Why writing is like weaving

The words “text” and “textile” have a common origin, from a Proto-Indo-European root teks, “to weave.”

Writing and weaving are both acts of creation by bringing together.

A storyteller is a spinner of yarns, and the internet’s founding metaphor is of a web.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

What unravels human connection

I didn’t set out to study shame; I wanted to understand connection and empathy.

But if you don’t understand how shame can unravel connection in a split second, you don’t really get connection.
Source: Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

How product developers hook users

What distinguishes the Hook Model from a plain vanilla feedback loop is the Hook’s ability to create a craving.

Feedback loops are all around us, but predictable ones don’t create desire. The unsurprising response of your fridge light turning on when you open the door doesn’t drive you to keep opening it again and again. However, add some variability to the mix—suppose a different treat magically appears in your fridge every time you open it—and voilà, intrigue is created.

Variable rewards are one of the most powerful tools companies implement to hook users….

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Monday, April 13, 2020

Taking a living interest

We have seen pictures of martyrs enough, and saints enough, to regenerate the world. I ought not to confess it, but still, since one has no opportunity in America to acquire a critical judgment in art, and since I could not hope to become educated in it in Europe in a few short weeks, I may therefore as well acknowledge with such apologies as may be due, that to me it seemed that when I had seen one of these martyrs I had seen them all.

They all have a marked family resemblance to each other, they dress alike, in coarse monkish robes and sandals, they are all bald headed, they all stand in about the same attitude, and without exception they are gazing heavenward with countenances which the Ainsworths, the Mortons and the Williamses, et fils, inform me are full of “expression.”

Friday, April 10, 2020

A cry of despair, if not reproach

Then there went out through the gloom, over the heads of such as were on the hill within hearing of the dying man, a cry of despair, if not reproach: "My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" The voice startled all who heard it. One it touched uncontrollably.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Thursday, April 9, 2020

4 factors of online obscurity

A law paper by Woodrow Hartzog and Frederic D. Stutzman notes that a lot of online information isn’t so much completely private but rather obscure, hard enough to access that most people won’t bother trying.

They describe four factors that can lead to obscurity online:

• first, whether your post can be found in search or whether a would-be finder needs to click through an obscure trail of links to find it;

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Hook Model

Habits are defined as “behaviors done with little or no conscious thought.”

The convergence of access, data, and speed is making the world a more habit-forming place.

Businesses that create customer habits gain a significant competitive advantage.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The ills of the time

“The cause of my disquiet,” Balthasar began, calmly—“that which made me a preacher in Alexandria and in the villages of the Nile; that which drove me at last into the solitude where the Spirit found me—was the fallen condition of men, occasioned, as I believed, by loss of the knowledge of God.

“I sorrowed for the sorrows of my kind—not of one class, but all of them. So utterly were they fallen it seemed to me there could be no Redemption unless God himself would make it his work; and I prayed him to come, and that I might see him.

Monday, April 6, 2020

The old Venice of song and story

I began to feel that the old Venice of song and story had departed forever. But I was too hasty.

In a few minutes we swept gracefully out into the Grand Canal, and under the mellow moonlight the Venice of poetry and romance stood revealed. Right from the water's edge rose long lines of stately palaces of marble; gondolas were gliding swiftly hither and thither and disappearing suddenly through unsuspected gates and alleys; ponderous stone bridges threw their shadows athwart the glittering waves.

There was life and motion everywhere, and yet everywhere there was a hush, a stealthy sort of stillness, that was suggestive of secret enterprises of bravoes and of lovers; and clad half in moonbeams and half in mysterious shadows, the grim old mansions of the Republic seemed to have an expression about them of having an eye out for just such enterprises as these at that same moment.

Music came floating over the waters—Venice was complete.

Friday, April 3, 2020

The uniqueness of online chat

The chat format’s astonishing durability signals the true birth of a new form of communication.

Chat is the perfect intersection of written and informal language.

Let’s consider what we know about these formats.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

12 Tips for Healthy Sleep

1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. As creatures of habit, people have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleep patterns. Sleeping later on weekends won’t fully make up for a lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning. Set an alarm for bedtime. Often we set an alarm for when it’s time to wake up but fail to do so for when it’s time to go to sleep. If there is only one piece of advice you remember and take from these twelve tips, this should be it.

2. Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least thirty minutes on most days but not later than two to three hours before your bedtime.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Why innovations fail

A classic paper by John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, stipulates that “many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.”

Gourville claims that for new entrants to stand a chance, they can’t just be better, they must be nine times better.

Why such a high bar?

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