This video about storytelling will change your life

I have followed Andy Goodman’s work (he teaches storytelling to nonprofit organizations), and have learned so much about how to be effective at my own work.

It is nearly an hour long, and who has an hour? You do, if you know what is good for you.

But, I know you’re busy, so, if nothing else, watch at 10:30 minutes for 7 minutes. It will be the best 7 minutes.

Then, since you’ll be hooked by then, watch the whole thing. You won’t regret it.

No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.

Daniel Kahneman, in Thinking, Fast and Slow

CMIO’s take? Storytelling by masters like this change lives. He did mine.

The Boys in the Boat (book review)

From the Everett Herald

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics https://www.amazon.com/dp/0143125478/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_M81Q4K17N2RTE3JE8RYA

OMG. 6 out of 5 stars. This was intended as a fun summer read. But also, it has catapulted me into the Great Depression, WW2, Leni Riefenstahl and groundbreaking cinematography, the rise of Nazi Germany, collegiate regattas, and the elusive and ephemeral ‘swing’ of rowing. I listened to the audio book. I usually listen at 1.25x or 1.5 or sometimes even 2x: the narrative is usually more important than the writing.

But this. The story, even though the end is known, is riveting. The story of Joe Rantz is the heart and soul of the tale. The author weaves so many threads into a tapestry that envelops and then propels you forward, like the coiled might of 8 undergraduate underdogs, their brilliant coxswain and a cedar-hulled shell, coming from behind as 70,000 voices yell ‘Deutschland! Deutschland!’ to the German boat several lengths in the lead.

This, I listened to at 1.0 and savored every moment.

Go ahead, read the other reviews, but don’t tarry: the Boys in the Boat await you. I am jealous that you will experience this for the first time.

Here’s an 11 minute retrospective, including the granddaughter of Joe Rantz.

Dark Rounds – Faith Fitzgerald MD

Dr. Faith Fitzgerald, Master of the American College of Physicians, and one of my mentors

https://www-acpjournals-org.proxy.hsl.ucdenver.edu/doi/pdf/10.7326%2F0003-4819-138-9-200305060-00015

I came across this article again, written by one of my mentors, Dr. Faith Fitzgerald in 2003. I was always astonished that her discussions, and her talks, even at Morning Report, that off-the-cuff discussion of cases the morning after a busy overnight on-call, seemed to come out of her mouth, like fully formed medical textbook chapters.

As interns and residents, we were riveted, and also despaired that we would ever achieve that level of knowledge and mastery of medicine.

In fact, this worked directly against me, when, in my naiveté, I suggested that she use Pubmed, or the online search tool (in 1989!) to find relevant medical articles. As she would regularly devour volumes of medical literature, she could easily cite more relevant articles, and faster, than I could type in MeSH search terms. And, she never agreed that the introduction of electronic health records was a positive influence on healthcare in this country.

Nevertheless, I always looked up to her thoughtfulness, to her skill as a master clinician, and her writings. If you’re inclined, use “scholar.google.com” (to find research articles) and search for “Faith Fitzgerald” and “annals” and you’ll get numerous personal viewpoint articles she wrote for the Annals of Internal Medicine. They’re one page and beautifully written anecdotes.

“Dark Rounds” was a particular favorite (link above), about how a frustrated attending physician, in the too-busy environment of hospitals, teaching rounds, rush-to-discharge to shorten “length of stay” found a way to connect with her patients.

CMIO’s take? Master physicians like Dr. Fitzgerald are rare and precious. How do we grow more like her?

Biochemistry of Condensates: hidden mechanisms of how life works

What are Condensates, and how do they enable the machinery of life inside cells?

https://www.wired.com/story/a-newfound-source-of-cellular-order-in-the-chemistry-of-life/

Click the link and read about Condensates. Since middle school, when I first learned about cells, and then later learned about nucleic acids and “self-assembly”, it has always puzzled me how everything gets to where it needs to go, at the speed that life happens.

In the context of SARS-CoV2 (the virus causing Covid-19), how does the mRNA that is injected into the cell by the virus find the ribosomes that encode the Spike protein and assemble daughter viruses? How does the ribosome find all the amino acids among the millions of molecules to assemble the right proteins? How do the assembled proteins move to the right spots on the cell membrane?

I can imagine a lonely ribosome with an attached mRNA just WAITING for the right amino acid to come along to assemble the next link in the protein chain. How does it happen so fast?

If movement in a cell is dependent on just Brownian motion (random vibrations), it seems like it ought to take a LONG time (minutes? hours? days?) but it takes seconds.

Now it seems like Condensates are how this works.

CMIO’s take? Every time we think we know something about microbiology and that we know how deep the rabbit hole goes, the rabbit hole always goes deeper, my friends. What are YOU reading to expand your horizons?

Kevin Kelly: 68 bits of advice (Technecium)

From amazon.com and Kevin Kelly

https://kk.org/thetechnium/68-bits-of-unsolicited-advice/

Kevin Kelly: co-author of the defunct but world-changing Whole World Catalog, publisher of Cool Tools, author of What Technology Wants, and generally smart guy, is 68 (or was when he posted this). Brilliant observations. This is me Plus-one-ing his post. Some teasers:

  • Learn how to learn from those you disagree with, or even offend you. See if you can find the truth in what they believe.
  • Being enthusiastic is worth 25 IQ points.
  • Always demand a deadline. A deadline weeds out the extraneous and the ordinary. It prevents you from trying to make it perfect, so you have to make it different. Different is better.

CMIO’s take? Happy new year. Go read it, link above.

Book Review: The Map that Changed the World

My favorite getaway: renting a place, bringing a bunch of books (or better yet, discovering new books in the rental home), cooking in the Instant Pot, hiking, and playing the ukulele. I have apparently infected at least one offspring with similar interest in reading.

This week’s book? A story about a man living in England in the 1800’s, who ultimately is credited with what is modern day geology.

What’s cool, is the book cover actually unfolds into a large reproduction of the original map.

William Smith’s life is entirely relatable. He learns math and measurement, and has a keen eye for observation. As a young man, he helps develop a coal mine, and notices that the layers of earth, hundreds and thousands of feet down, seem to have a recurring pattern. Furthermore, as he gains experience digging canals, he sees the same patterns laid out across the region of Bath, where he is employed. Over a number of years, he is employed to dig canals, drain swamps, marshes, farms, all the while collecting rocks, fossils and developing his theory of Stratification (a term he coins).

I note that I am entirely a geologic novice, and Permian and Cenozoic terms come and go without lodging in my brain. However, Smith catalogues and builds ideas, and eventually a map of Bath. He links various strata with geologic eras, with aspirations of mapping all of England.

The trouble is, he’s a working man, traveling and helping companies and individuals. Furthermore, he (imprudently) maintains two offices and a home, that he cannot afford. His marriage to a mentally ill woman does not help, and his ideas lay dormant and unpublished for far too long. He DOES publish a fabulous map, sells 400 copies at “7 guineas each”, a disappointing non-recognition of his thousands of miles of travel and careful analysis.

This map is a massive work: it lays out across England, the layers of rock, coal, sandstone, chalk, etc, and the sequence of layers hidden below. In future years, it will end up launching the coal industry, farming, minerology, and influencing Charles Darwin.

In his adult years, he is fraudulently scooped, with others publishing his work as their own. He is denied admittance to the Royal Geological Society, snubbed because he is an orphan, and not born to high society.

With accumulating debt from his properties and failed business, he ends up going to debtor’s prison, losing everything, and then starting over, nearly penniless, living in rentals and traveling to do survey work.

Based on some chance meetings, he ends up getting recognition for his original solo research and work, FIFTY years later, and is finally recognized and rewarded, in his old age, as the Father of Modern Geology.

I can’t help but think that, so much of our lives are happenstance:

  • Whom you meet and connect with
  • How random chance connects you with a job you flourish in, or fail miserably at
  • What the local culture (class-based snobbery, or open-minded scientific inquiry) encourages or prohibits
  • How you develop useful skills, and work hard
  • How you see that others may not; what do you do with that knowledge
  • How you personally persist past obstacles, or succumb to pressures

CMIO’s take? This could have been a story of any scientist, any informaticist, any CMIO. This could have been MY story. And that’s what the best books are about.

Laocoön, The Aeneid and Captain Picard

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laoco%C3%B6n_and_His_Sons

My high-school aged son is avidly devouring classic literature, and the echoes of those epic struggles from my own education, float back to me. On our winter break one evening, he had left the Norton Anthology of Western Literature out on the coffee table. Soon I was in the midst of battle at Troy, at Carthage, in Rome.

Aeneas of Troy, in the classic by Virgil, faces a long journey with many trials. Even in 20 BC, storytellers mastered Story. Sometimes the smallest moments are the best parts of a story:

  • Laocoön runs out from the city to warn his fellow citizens of Troy, that the large wooden horse left behind by hastily departed Greeks, was a trick: ‘beware of Greeks, even bearing gifts.’ To punish him, the gods send a pair of serpents to devour his sons and then kill him. The image above of Laocoön dying defending his sons is such a moment. The city elders, seeing him killed by the gods, are then convinced that he is wrong, and bring the Trojan Horse inside the gates. Of course, you know the rest: the city of Troy falls that night as hidden Greek solders pour out, open the gates and ransack the city.
  • Aeneas initially resolves to stay and defend his city to the death. His touching moment with his father and their resolve to stay together and flee is a pivotal moment of change for both of them.
  • Aeneas meets Dido, queen of Carthage, in his storm-tossed journey, and falls madly in love. Soon after, the gods send him a message that he and his lineage are to become the founders of Rome. He leaves immediately. Dido kills herself in despair.
  • With supernatural help, Aeneas journeys to the underworld to see the future: that his descendants establish Rome and create the Roman Empire.

These moments, to which I’ve summarized so prosaically, are told in verse and with rich detail and sensory imagery.

Interestingly, the Norton Anthology also included the ancient translation of Gilgamesh, perhaps the oldest recorded epic story. Being a science fiction geek, perhaps I should not have been surprised that my first exposure to this classic, written in antiquity, circa 1700 BC, first reached my ears via Captain Picard, on the all-time most popular episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation TV show called Darmok (no, not the new, apparently amazing show, that is behind the CBS paywall). Careful, don’t read the links unless you have time; you won’t come out for awhile.

CMIO’s take? Great storytelling captivating, and timeless. Smart people lived thousands of years ago. Sometimes Captain Picard teaches you ancient literature.