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Thoughts on Leadership from Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great

Posted on 08 June 2012 by Austin Yoder

There’s a shorter way to a higher goal—the goal of voluntary obedience. People are quick to obey the person who’s wiser than themselves. A sick man will beg a doctor to guide him back to health, and a whole ship’s company will listen to an experienced captain. Likewise, travelers cherish the guide who knows the safest way. But if people think that obedience will lead them to disaster, then nothing—not punishments, not persuasion, not even bribes—will get them to come along. For no sane man can be lured to his own destruction.”

I remarked that the best way to secure obedience is to be both wiser and better informed than those we rule. “To be sure,” said the king. “If you wish to be thought a good estate manager, or a good horseman, or a good physician, or a good flute player without really being one, just imagine all the tricks you have to invent just to keep up appearances. You might succeed at first, but in the end you’re going to be exposed as an impostor.”

Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War (pp. 20-21). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

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Posted on 02 February 2012 by Austin Yoder

Great quotes: Musashi

I’m reading Musashi right now at Sebastian’s recommendation.  Awesome awesome book so far and I’m barely 1/4th of the way through. I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot lately, and this little passage really resonated with me.

I’m thinking about incorporating gratitude into my self tracking regimen. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that sort of thing, and I always feel good about life when I’m mindful of the things for which I’m grateful.

Musashi would have liked to have a try at working with the clay. Since boyhood he had enjoyed doing things with his hands, and he thought he might at least be able to make a simple tea bowl. Just then, however, one of the potters, an old man of nearly sixty, started fashioning a tea bowl. Musashi, observing how deftly he moved his fingers and handled his spatula, realized he’d overestimated his own abilities. “It takes so much technique just to make a simple piece like that,” he marveled.

These days he often felt deep admiration for other people’s work. He found he respected technique, art, even the ability to do a simple task well, particularly if it was a skill he himself had not mastered.

- Musashi

I was speaking with my favorite tea guy in all of Taiwan a few weeks back, and he talked about how much skill is involved in firing a little tea bowl. If you use a wood burning kiln and fire it by hand, apparently it takes more than three days for the firing. Not even including making the bowl from the clay and fashioning it into the shape you want.

You still need to gather all the wood, ensure it is dry and cut to length, spend time placing lengths of wood properly so that the fire doesn’t burn too hot and melt the clay, or not hot enough. You have to maintain a reasonably consistent temperature in the kiln by opening and closing vents at the right time, by adding wood at the right points while keeping in mind that the temperature dips after you throw a log on the fire, and then increases rapidly, keeping the weather in mind the entire time.

That’s probably more than enough to get the picture.

I had no clue that hand firing a tea bowl was so complicated before. My favorite tea guy said he spent three full years studying to acquire the necessary skills, and explained the process to me for about 40 minutes. He was barely scratching the surface.

What a crazy skill to have. One of these days I’m going to head out and see what the process is like in person.

Quick site update:

Trying to get the site into shape so that it’s easier to navigate, and more usable. As such I’ve thrown up a Start Here page for anyone new to the site that groups old posts into broad categories. I’ve also put up a Self Tracking page which will auto-update with every entry just to see if I like it.

Question of the Day:

What are you grateful for?

Today I’m grateful for the expat community in Taipei. Everyone I’ve bumped into here is very cool and willing to talk to people they haven’t met before. You could probably find something similar in any country, but I feel like the expat community here is particularly open minded and down to earth.

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Interesting Reading

Posted on 26 January 2012 by Austin Yoder

Was going through a few papers today, and wanted to share with everyone out there. Well written and thought provoking.

Migrant Worker’s Rights in Qatar Leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Qatar can expect exponential growth in the migrant population during the run-up to the World Cup when infrastructure investments are expected to top $100 billion. Some estimates suggest up to one million additional workers will be needed to build the 12 stadiums, 70,000 new hotel roomsand a network of road and rail links planned for the footballextravaganza.
The Qatari government has announced plans to improveconditions for the migrant workers expected to flock in for the 2022 construction boom, including model housing com-plexes and tighter laws to prevent abuse. However, pressure will be on the world football body FIFA and the Western companies lining up for lucrative World Cup contracts toensure that workers are provided with decent working, wage and housing conditions.

Link. Hat tip to Aakash for the recommendation.

The Effect of Decreasing Electronic Storage Costs on Government Surveillance in Non/Authoritarian Countries

Within the next few years an important threshold will be crossed: For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders – every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner. Governments with a history of using all of the tools at their disposal to track and monitor their citizens will undoubtedly make full use of this capability once it becomes available.


Parasitic Flies Turning Honey Bees into Zombie Bees (Colony Collapse Disorder)

The science in the following article is definitely over my head, but Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, is one of the most important problems in modern agriculture out there. Did you know that 1/3 of the average American diet is composed of foods that couldn’t be produced without bee pollination? Seems like this goes a long way towards explaining the mysterious disappearance of bees, and subsequent failure of their hives.

In this paper, we show that A. borealis has a profound effect on parasitized honey bees, leading them to abandon their hives at night. We use an Arthropod Pathogen Microarray (APM) to detect pathogens that have been implicated in CCD that are associated with adult flies and larvae and to detect the presence of phorids in commercial hives in South Dakota and California’s Central Valley. Understanding causes of the hive abandonment behavior we document could explain symptoms associated with CCD. Further, knowledge of this parasite could help prevent its spread into regions of the world where naïve hosts may be easily susceptible to attack.

Link. Also – this seems reminiscent of zombie ants.


Question of the Day

Reading anything cool lately? I always love getting reading recommendations, so please feel free to leave some in the comments section if you’ve got ‘em.

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