Talk to a stranger today

I’m cleaning out my Instapaper right now as I’m in between books. So, here:


Individuals and governments pour money into making commutes slightly more bearable by investing in everything from noise-canceling headphones to more spacious seating. But what if the research showed that we would improve our commutes more by investing in social capital — interacting with the strangers sitting all around us?


The great thing about strangers is that we tend to put on our happy face when we meet them, reserving our crankier side for the people we know and love … Many of us assume, however, that our well-being depends on our closest ties, and not on the minor characters in our daily lives … [however] introverts and extroverts alike felt happier on days when they had more social interactions.


More surprisingly, interactions with weak ties correlated at least as highly with happiness as interactions with strong ties. Even the bit players in our lives may influence our well-being.

via The New York Times, photo by hannu.oskala used under a Creative Commons license.

Best things I’ve read this week


I read a lot and also like to share

I’ve been meaning to have a place for the exhaust of my day-to-day and off-day readings and meanderings around the web that’s more personal than my blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc. (I want to get to know you!) It’ll be a mix of media and journalism, but mostly other things I’m interested in like foreign affairs, politics, tech, culture, travel, etc. And sometimes updates about what I’ve been up to.


** Oh and this is NOT a morning tip sheet. It’s more like a lazy Sunday afternoon, or whenever I have time, love note.

An original thinker of our time

Two pieces I’ve been meaning to share are these two on the economist, Albert Hirschman. The first is by Malcolm Gladwell, “The Gift of Doubt: Albert O. Hirschman and the power of failure.”

Hirschman liked to say that he had “a propensity to self-subversion.” He even gave one of his books that title. He qualified and questioned and hedged as a matter of habit. He never trusted himself enough to indulge in grand theorizing. He pursued the “petite idée,” the attempt, as he said, “to come to an understanding of reality in portions, admitting that the angle may be subjective.”

I hadn’t heard of Hirschman before–that bad grade in that one macroeconomics class perhaps scarred me–but after reading that piece, I looked him up and found the other piece by his biographer, Jeremy Adelman in the New York Review of Books.

Hirschman, born in 1915 in Berlin, was an economist by training, and he spent a lot of time reading Adam Smith, but his great intellectual loves were Montaigne (with his advice to “observe, observe perpetually”) and Machiavelli. … Part of what made Hirschman distinctive, even unique, was his ability to develop large themes from sharp observations of particular practices, and thus to connect apparently unrelated social phenomena. … Hirschman was delighted by paradoxes, unintended consequences (especially good ones), the telling detail, inventories of actual practices (rather than big theories), surprises, and improvisation.


“But the next thing he said was, ‘If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, get on, don’t ask what seat.’ I tell people in their careers, ‘look for growth.’ Look for the teams that are growing quickly. Look for the companies that are doing well. Look for a place where you feel that you can have a lot of impact.”

via ABC News