Snapshot: May 12, 2019


The Great Wall, on a trip to China with friends, 2014


The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.
— Logan Pearsall Smith, writer


  • I love books about colour — the fascinating emotional, social, cultural, aesthetic, creative and psychological aspects of colour. Most recently, I’ve been looking more deeply into the history of colour. The book, “The Secret Lives of Colour” by Kassia St. Clair shares unusual stories about the history and uses of 75 hues chosen by the author. Tales include how the colour cobalt blue helped discover Vermeer forgeries, and that the kohl black powder that lined the eyes of wealthy ancient Egyptians contained chemicals to ward off eye infections.

  • The Jan-Feb 2019 issue of Dwell Magazine (that I’ve only just got around to reading) has a feature on chefs and their home kitchens. I am most inspired by Samin Nosrat’s simple kitchen in her Berkley, California rental apartment where she’s lived for 10 years. The chef, of “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” book and Netflix series fame, credits the constraints of her rather cramped cooking setup to helping her empathize with her home cooking fans when creating recipes. She says, “The constraints of a tiny apartment kitchen are a great challenge: if I can figure out how to do stuff in here, then I can explain it to people.” (Her space also reminds me of a cute kitchen I had in a Montreal rental apartment on Sherbrooke Street in the 1990s.)

Seeing & Listening

  • Scott Galloway, acerbic entrepreneur, marketing professor and author, has turned his “happiness algorithms” into a book: “The Algebra of Happiness.” Kara Swisher interviewed Scott, (also her sometime Pivot podcast co-host), on Recode Decode about the happiness formulas he has devised. I like his formula for things not being as good or as bad as we initially perceive.

  • If you’re looking to add a new podcast or two about design, software development, startups or productivity to your listening roster … here is a podcast collection you may want to browse through.

  • The New York Times “The Daily” two-part podcast on the state of surveillance technology and policies in China is excellent. Some takeaways … it seems to have exponentially increased since I was there in 2014; the facial recognition is being used for racial profiling and incarceration; and the technology has been sold to other countries. Link to: Part 1, Link to: Part 2.

  • Why Deutsch Bank lent Donald Trump billions of dollars, using some very questionable banking procedures, when no one else would, from NPR’s Fresh Air podcast. Talk of a potential trail demonstrating that Trump has committed bank fraud and that Deutsch Bank has Trump’s tax returns.



  • The George Clooney rule. I came up with this adage in response to hearing friends and colleagues who seemed to feel they were being overpaid for a job that had become “too easy.” They felt guilty. They were talking about seeking work that was more “challenging,” sometimes willing to take a pay cut.

    I asked them, “Do you know who George Clooney is?” Most knew of the American actor. I then asked them if they thought George Clooney earned less or more for the film Ocean’s Thirteen (made in 2007), than he did for the initial Ocean’s Eleven movie (made in 2001)? Their answer is usually something like, “He likely made more for Ocean’s Thirteen than Eleven.” Right.

    Even though it may be “easier” for an actor to provide his/her acting services in films as the years go on — the value they bring with their growing talent, expertise and impact on the box office earnings usually makes their increased earnings logical. While Clooney is known for taking lower salary up front for many of his blockbuster movies, he earns more on the backend from the film’s overall earnings — taking home as much as $15 million for a film. This also allows him to create smaller films with lower budgets and earnings.

    This George Clooney example, highlights importance of two things:
    1) Your salary should be tied to the value your talents bring to the business, not how hard you have to work to meet your work goals. It likely feels easier because you’re gaining mastery level skills and honing your talent.
    2) If you’re bored at your current job or feel you’re not delivering the value they expect — those are challenging issues. Determining if you can find more interesting learning opportunities at work or outside your job (like George Clooney pursuing a variety film styles and earning opportunities in his work) can resolve boredom. But feeling overpaid because you’re not delivering commensurate value can be stressful and should be examined.

    Here’s a Vanity Fair article on how Hollywood salaries work, including inherent sexism in wages. And a Wharton University article about pay gaps and arbitrary salary levels.

Question of the Week

“How well do you read other people’s emotions?”Try this Emotional Intelligence Quiz from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley. (Surprisingly … I got 17/20 correct!)