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November 22 2023

wayne gretzky, carving carousel animals, book publishers

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Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

Winifred Gallagher

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the mozart/bach crossover episode i didn't know i needed

Certain individuals excel at paying both experiential and instrumental attention. They can focus in a very pragmatic, goal-oriented manner and also be “carried away” by thoughts, feelings, and sensory stimuli. Tellegen describes a visit that Mozart made to Leipzig, where he stopped at the church where Bach had been cantor. Apparently, he hadn’t yet heard Bach’s music, so someone obligingly played one of the master’s cantatas. After a few seconds, Mozart shot up and said, “What’s this?” Rapt, he focused intently on the glorious sound, then declared, “This is someone a fellow can learn from!” Savoring this anecdote of one incomprehensible genius attending to another, Tellegen says, “Mozart would have listened to Bach in experiential fascination, but also instrumentally, so that afterward he could have reproduced the whole cantata from beginning to end.”


The case for building something wonderful alone



working alone is highly underrated in an era where tools basically beg to be used

Working alone means you don’t have to share the context of your changes with others. It doesn’t mean that you don’t keep track of changes that you have made, nor that you don’t report them. But if there’s a change I wish to make, I can do so without consulting others. This is particularly useful, for example, when I want to rewrite a file from TypeScript to Derw. No collisions with other PRs, no need to warn anyone “hey I’m going to rewrite this file”.

"whatever! i do what i want!"

You’re able to keep to your own schedule, and adjust it as necessary. Everyone has their own priorities, and without waiting for someone to finish something and without someone waiting for you to finish something, you’re able to move at your own pace. End users will have an impact on that timeline, if you listen to them, but when you’re working mostly on your spare time, it’s important to be able to take some days off and go play games instead.

Experience the Magic! - Carousel of Happiness, Nederland Colorado

Carousel of Happiness, Nederland Colorado


such an amazing story about the human spirit, and holistic work

hero origin story

As a young Marine in Vietnam Scott Harrison received a tiny music box that he held to his ear to distract him from the horror of the war going on around him. The music, Chopin’s “Tristesse,” brought him a peaceful image of a carousel in a mountain meadow. After returning home, he rescued an abandoned Looff carousel in Utah and spent 26 years hand-carving animals to bring it back to life.

big w for a small town. 700k is a crazy number tho, i have to feel like they couldve pulled it off for less, right?

Scott had never carved before, but starting with the rabbit that is now on the sign in front of the carousel in Nederland, he went on to create more than 50 one-of-a-kind animals, 35 of which can be ridden. As he was finishing, the small community of Nederland (pop. 1,500) came together and raised the $700,000 to build it a home.

No, Most Books Don't Sell Only a Dozen Copies

Lincoln Michel


to me a book is a fractal of dissimilar information. one level up is a library, one level below is a chapter. chapters from different books can be "scrapbooked" together.

The Platonic ideal of a book might be a collection of text printed on a few hundred paper pages. But the term encompasses much more than that, including books that have almost no text at all (for example the “adult coloring book” craze of the 2010s). Publishers publish novels and memoirs as well as cookbooks, puzzle books, Mad Libs, etc. But it’s even more confusing than this when it comes to those statistics.

industries be industrien' as they say

Last year, Orbit published my debut novel The Body Scout. I wrote one novel, so published one book. Right? Not exactly. From a sales tracking perspective, books are published in multiple formats, each with different ISBNs. I wrote one novel, but from a title count POV I actually published 4 books: hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. Other books have even more formats (mass market version, movie tie-in editions, etc.) and because they all have different ISBNs, they all have different sales figures.

the long tail of the bible must be nuts

Additionally, there are dramatic differences between 1) lifetime sales, 2) sales in the first 12 months after publication, and 3) sales in any random calendar year. Most books sell most of their copies in the first year or two after publication. Some books are perennial sellers and others might break out later—e.g., when there is a TV or film adaptation—but most sell the bulk of their copies early. Any statistic based on 3) is going to give you a completely inaccurate impression of what a book has sold. Imagine a 1998 novel that sold 6,000 its first year and 10,000 copies to date. It might sell only 12 copies in 2022, decades later, but that hardly means it was a failure.

"There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics"

Take the statistic that most published books only sell 99 copies. This seems shocking on its face. But if you dig into it, you’ll notice it was counting one year’s sales of all books that were in BookScan’s system. That’s quite different statistic than saying most books don’t sell 100 copies in total! A book could easily be a bestseller in, say, 1960 and sell only a trickle of copies today. In the same way, most old movies and albums aren’t frequently watched/listened to in 2022. It’s only a small percentage of past works that remain popular. Most backlist books selling fewer than 99 copies doesn’t tell you anything about how much newly released books sell.

couldn't even hawk 12 copies off on friends and family members, sadge

In my experience, and with the data I’ve seen, most traditionally published novels that you see on bookstore shelves or reviewed in newspapers sell several hundred to a few thousand copies across formats. Many sell much more of course. I’ve seen some flops that sold only a couple hundred. And of course not all traditionally published novels appear in bookstores or reviewed in newspapers. Is it possible someone has published a Big 5 novel that sold only 12 copies over its lifetime? I suppose. But I don’t think it’s 5% much less 50%!

just put "fuck" or "shit" in your title and you'll be fine. it worked for mark manson.

One thing that’s true is publishing works on a blockbuster model. Most books sell relatively few copies and a handful sell millions. The statistics about the vast majority of traditionally published books selling fewer than five thousand are likely true. It’s the bestsellers that keep the industry afloat, financially. And it’s true that publishers often have no idea what will sell. It’s a throw-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks industry. Are there are lot of problems with it? A lot of things that could be fixed? Ways that publishers could better market the backlist or frontlist? Yes! But it’s not quite as dire as some of these statistics suggest.

Living Like Nothing Matters

Ben Carlson


what does it mean to live forever if you were born after forever already started?

I had a great conversation with Albert Brooks once. When I met him for the first time, I was kind of stammering. I said, you make movies, they live on forever. I just do these late-night shows, they get lost, they’re never seen again and who cares? And he looked at me and he said, [Albert Brooks voice] “What are you talking about? None of it matters.” None of it matters? “No, that’s the secret. In 1940, people said Clark Gable is the face of the 20th Century. Who [expletive] thinks about Clark Gable? It doesn’t matter. You’ll be forgotten. I’ll be forgotten. We’ll all be forgotten.”

to be selfish and suffer for your art is true selflessness, bc other people get to be inspired by it for free while you ate the cost. to be "selfless" by emulating others is selfish, because you'd rather conform then be percieved as a weirdo

“At a certain point I realized, you know what, life is short,” John said. “I’ve played all these crazy characters. People see me do these absurd things. They already know that I’m an eccentric person. I am an eccentric person. So fuck it! If I want to dress like a cowboy from the 1890s, that’s what I’m going to fucking do. And it’s going to be okay for everybody because that’s what’s going to make me happy.”

the index fund of not giving a flying fuck

When I am asked what I worry about in the market, the answer usually is “nothing”, because everyone else in the market seems to spend an inordinate amount of time worrying, and so all of the relevant worries seem to be covered. My worries won’t have any impact except to detract from something much more useful, which is trying to make good long-term investment decisions.

if the universe has no discernable center, it may as well be you, right?

We’re all the center of our own universe so getting out of your own head is impossible.

Evolving my note-taking processes


the @ key puts up with so much abuse man

When I @ a person in my notes I have a custom function which links the heading I'm pasting into into the person's heading in the contacts file. It's really helpful for answering the question of "I know I talked to...but I can't remember...":

Wayne Gretzky Stats: Top 10 Most Unbreakable Records


an actual god of a sport...

Gretzky’s stats have set the benchmark so high that it appears that many — if not all — of his records appear to be unbreakable. Here is a countdown of ten Gretzky records that will not be broken:

Well, an equally telling stat is that if you took away all of Gretzky’s 894 NHL goals, he would still be the NHL’s all-time leading scorer. Mark Messier, Gretzky’s longtime friend and teammate with both the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers, is second all-time in points with 1,887.

To put the Gretzky stats in perspective, a player would need to average just under 143 points per year for 20 years to break his mark.

Although you could make the case that any one of these records listed in the top ten could be considered number one on this list, 50 goals in 39 games is the record that Gretzky has repeated that he takes the most pride in, and has said on record that it will be the toughest to break.

What one wins in a finite game is a title. A title is the acknowledgment of others that one has been the winner of a particular game. Titles are public. They are for others to notice. I expect others to address me according to my titles, but I do not address myself with them—unless, of course, I address myself as an other. The effectiveness of a title depends on its visibility, its noticeability to others.

-- Finite and Infinite Games

Well, impossible for everybody not named Wayne Gretzky.

Commonplace Daily Digest is a daily newsletter with highlights from my reading and thoughts. The markdown is automatically generated by this repo



GPT Prompt

The user may fill out one of two forms. Start by asking them what form they would like to fill out.

Form 1: Birth month and favorite color (roughly 3 messages to finish)
Form 2: Dance moves (roughly 5 messages to finish)

Form 1:

The user will be filling out a form that asks for their birth month and favorite color. The user may go out of bounds to talk about the names for non obvious colors, and you are to help them. 

1. ask for birth month. only allow birth month no other conversation.
2. ask for favorite color, allow for back and forth conversation about non obvious colors like cyan, magenta, etc. list the colors based on user description and then draw a plain full canvas example if prompted

Form 2:

Help users find a song for their level of dance moves.

1, ask them what part of their body they like to move
2. ask them what genre they like
3. use web browsing to find a song that fits and link out to youtube and why it fits the body part chosen. only show results that fit the body part, else move on.


1. conditional routes

2. steps inside the routes

3. how long it should take from a > b

4. use conversation starters to show users how to fill out the forms