Ok. To begin with, a confession. Come closer. Real talk right now. Let’s get personal. I’ve developed a bit of a thing. It’s not a weird thing. Lots of people do it. Chill.
You see, I’ve picked up a bit of a thing for leather. Yes, traditional leather. Animal hide stuff. The look of it. The sound of it. Not the touch or the feel — we’ll get to that in a second — but just the vibe of it. Fetish is a strong word. But perhaps not too strong of a word.
But nono — don’t misunderstand me. Not like that. I don’t wear it or buy it or pay other people to wear it while swearing at and spitting on me. If that’s your jam - hey no judgment here - but that’s not what I mean.
I like watching leatherworkers make stuff on YouTube.
It’s addictive! It’s **so** relaxing. They measure up their designs and cut it all out. They prune the edges and bang on brass tools with big and heavy and yet surprisingly soft mallets. And the stiching! Oh my god, the stitching. They prick holes in the leather and then hand-stitch strong thread along the borders. Crisp even stitching contrasting against the soft and rich and warm leather. Goodness me. It’s enough just thinking about it.
Try it out. Wait till the kids are in bed, and grab yourself a whisky or a wine and lay back in your lounge chair and watch this craftsman work.
More Facemasks, Less Friends
I have been toying around with writing a post on some of the things I’ve learnt while putting out this newsletter, and in particular how Five Links has rubbed my nose in ‘Weak Tie Theory’.
While reading about Weak Ties I stumbled upon this article, which talks about how the pandemic and working from home has attacked the weak nodes in our network that we took for granted. I’m a big fan of working-from-home, but I do agree that there are downsides to not having a communal place to work from. This downside looks particularly relevant to me. I thought it was a fascinating read.
In the weeks following, I thought frequently of other people I had missed without fully realizing it. Pretty good friends with whom I had mostly done things that were no longer possible, such as trying new restaurants together. Co-workers I didn’t know well but chatted with in the communal kitchen. Workers at the local coffee or sandwich shops who could no longer dawdle to chat. The depth and intensity of these relationships varied greatly, but these people were all, in some capacity, my friends, and there was also no substitute for them during the pandemic. Tools like Zoom and FaceTime, useful for maintaining closer relationships, couldn’t re-create the ease of social serendipity, or bring back the activities that bound us together.
The psychological effects of losing all but our closest ties can be profound. Peripheral connections tether us to the world at large; without them, people sink into the compounding sameness of closed networks. Regular interaction with people outside our inner circle “just makes us feel more like part of a community, or part of something bigger,” Gillian Sandstrom, a social psychologist at the University of Essex, told me. People on the peripheries of our lives introduce us to new ideas, new information, new opportunities, and other new people. If variety is the spice of life, these relationships are the conduit for it.
What’s the DEAL with Hard Work?!
Another long read - I loved this interview between Tim Ferris and Jerry Seinfeld. I find Ferris a bit hit or miss. Some of his stuff is insightful and game-changing and some of the other stuff misses the mark for me. But I loved the way he dug into Seinfeld’s writing process and really emphasised how Seinfeld’s success doesn’t happen by accident.
Perhaps something for you to add to your ‘read it later’ app and pick through when you have the time.
So I have two phases. There is the free-play creative phase. Then there is the polish and construction phase of, and I love to spend inordinate really, I mean, it’s not wasteful to me, because that’s just what I like to do, amounts of time refining and perfecting every single word of it until it has this pleasing flow to my ear. Then it becomes something that I can’t wait to say. And then we go from there to the stage with it. From the stage, the audience will then — I imagine, it’s a very scientific thing to me. It’s like, “Okay, here’s my experiment,” and you run the experiment. Then the audience just dumps a bunch of data on you, of, “This is good, this is okay, this is very good, this is terrible.” That goes into my brain from performing it on stage. Then it’s back through the rewrite process and then new ideas will come.
The Problem with Big Numbers
Something much shorter, check out this excellent way of demonstrating the difference between a millionaire and a billionaire. I know we instinctively appreciate that a million is a lot, and a billion is even more of a lot, but I don’t think many of us appreciate just **how** much more a billion is.
Then - when you apply that new awareness to some of the millionaires and billionaires in the world — well, it’s going to require forgoing a lot of avocado toasts for me to catch up.
A Paralegal’s Nightmare
In what will be news to almost nobody currently subscribed to Five Links, I can confirm that a lot of what high-priced lawyers do day-to-day is take documents they may have seen or worked on in the past and change them ever so slightly to make them applicable to existing circumstances. I remember being a young lawyer and being told on my first day, ‘Remember to change the names and submit your timesheet, and you too could make it in this industry’. Not really, but totes could have happened.
So it’s with at least a little bit of glee that I saw the trade agreement intended to govern trade relations between the UK and the EU in a post-Brexit World — a somewhat important document that will affect many lives, you might say — received the same treatment. It looks like the team that put together the agreement recycled parts of other much older text and this slipped through to the final version. How do we know? Because the agreements refer to software and standards popular in the 90s but no longer in use today.
Makes me feel much, much better about my own drafting skills.
Online commenters gleefully shared the observation that page 921 of the painfully birthed trade agreement refers to Netscape Communicator – released in June 1997 – and Mozilla Mail as being “modern e-mail software packages”.
A section on encryption technology also gave rise to suspicions that officials simply pasted large chunks of text from previous documents into the deal, which has been lauded by its backers as the beginning of a new chapter in relationship between the UK and the EU.
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