Highlights for Dead Souls

The newcomer was somehow never at a loss and showed himself to be an experienced man of the world. Whatever the conversation, he always knew how to keep up his end: if the talk was of horse breeding, he spoke about horse breeding; if they were speaking of fine dogs, here, too, he made very sensible observations; if the discussion touched upon an investigation conducted by the treasury—he showed that he was not uninformed about legal wiles; if there were some argument about the game of billiards—in the game of billiards, too, he would not go amiss; if they spoke of virtue, on virtue, too, he reasoned very well, tears even came to his eyes; if on the distilling of spirits, then on the distilling of spirits he also knew his stuff; if on customs supervisors and officials, of them, too, he could judge as if he himself had been both an official and a supervisor.
Although, of course, they are not such notable characters, and are what is known as secondary or even tertiary, although the main lines and springs of the poem do not rest on them, and perhaps only occasionally touch and graze them lightly—still, the author is extremely fond of being circumstantial in all things, and in this respect, despite his being a Russian man, he wishes to be as precise as a German.
And in boarding schools, as we know, three main subjects constitute the foundation of human virtue: the French language, indispensable for a happy family life; the pianoforte, to afford a husband agreeable moments; and, finally, the managerial part proper: the crocheting of purses and other surprises.
But Selifan simply could not recall whether he had passed two or three turns. Thinking back and recalling the road somewhat, he realized that there had been many turns, all of which he had skipped. Since a Russian man in a critical moment finds what to do without going into further reasonings, he shouted, after turning right at the next crossroads: “Hup, my honored friends!” and started off at a gallop, thinking little of where the road he had taken would lead him.
A Russian driver has good instinct in place of eyes; as a result, he sometimes goes pumping along at full speed, eyes shut, and always gets somewhere or other.
He is among us everywhere, and is perhaps only wearing a different caftan; but people are light-mindedly unperceptive, and a man in a different caftan seems to them a different man.
Everything is desolate, and the stilled surface of the unresponding element is all the more terrible and deserted after that.
To such worthlessness, pettiness, vileness a man can descend! So changed he can become! Does this resemble the truth? Everything resembles the truth, everything can happen to a man. The now ardent youth would jump back in horror if he were shown his own portrait in old age. So take with you on your way, as you pass from youth’s tender years into stern, hardening manhood, take with you every humane impulse, do not leave them by the wayside, you will not pick them up later! Terrible, dreadful old age looms ahead, and nothing does it give back again!
And so your little shop fell into neglect, and you took to drinking and lying about in the streets, saying all the while: ‘No, it’s a bad world! There’s no life for a Russian man, the Germans keep getting in the way.’
Our ranks and estates are so irritated these days that they take personally whatever appears in printed books: such, evidently, is the mood in the air. It is enough simply to say that there is a stupid man in a certain town, and it already becomes personal; suddenly a gentleman of respectable appearance pops up and shouts: “But I, too, am a man, which means that I, too, am stupid”—in short, he instantly grasps the situation.
a new governor-general had been appointed to the province—an event known to put officials into a state of alarm: there would be reshuffling, reprimanding, lambasting, and all the official belly-wash to which a superior treats his subordinates.
During that time he had the pleasure of experiencing those agreeable moments, familiar to every traveler, when the trunk is all packed and only strings, scraps of paper, and various litter are strewn about the room, when a man belongs neither to the road nor to sitting in place,
but he came out just as the saying goes: ‘Not like mother, not like father, but like Roger the lodger.’
If you please your superior, then even if you don’t succeed in your studies and God has given you no talent, you will still do well and get ahead of everybody.
Don’t keep company with your schoolmates, they won’t teach you any good; but if you do, then keep company with the richer ones, on the chance that they may be useful to you. Do not regale or treat anyone, but rather behave in such a way that they treat you, and above all keep and save your kopeck: it is the most reliable thing in the world. A comrade or companion will cheat you and be the first to betray you in trouble; but a kopeck will never betray you, whatever trouble you get into. You can do everything and break through everything with a kopeck.
without gaining favor beforehand, as we all know, even the simplest document or certificate cannot be obtained; a bottle of Madeira must at least be poured down every gullet
But there are passions that it is not for man to choose. They are born with him at the moment of his birth into this world, and he is not granted the power to refuse them. They are guided by a higher destiny, and they have in them something eternally calling, never ceasing throughout one’s life.
Chichikov just smiled, jouncing slightly on his leather cushion, for he loved fast driving. And what Russian does not love fast driving? How can his soul, which yearns to get into a whirl, to carouse, to say sometimes: “Devil take it all!”—how can his soul not love it? Not love it when something ecstatically wondrous is felt in it?
He began to find myriads of faults in him, and came to hate him for having such a sugary expression when talking to a superior, and straightaway becoming all vinegar when addressing a subordinate.
Where is he who, in the native tongue of our Russian soul, could speak to us this all-powerful word: forward? who, knowing all the forces and qualities, and all the depths of our nature, could, by one magic gesture, point the Russian man towards a lofty life? With what words, with what love the grateful Russian man would repay him! But century follows century, half a million loafers, sluggards, and sloths lie in deep slumber, and rarely is a man born in Russia who is capable of uttering it, this all-powerful word.
Our Pavel Ivanovich showed an extraordinary flexibility in adapting to everything. He approved of the philosophical unhurriedness of his host, saying that it promised a hundred-year life. About solitude he expressed himself rather felicitously—namely, that it nursed great thoughts in a man. Having looked at the library and spoken with great praise of books in general, he observed that they save a man from idleness. In short, he let fall few words, but significant.
“Ah!” the colonel said with a smile, “there’s the benefit of paperwork! It will indeed take longer, but nothing will escape: every little detail will be in view.”
The commission for divers petitions existed only on a signboard. Its chairman, a former valet, had been transferred to the newly formed village construction committee. He had been replaced by the clerk Timoshka, who had been dispatched on an investigation—to sort things out between the drunken steward and the village headman, a crook and a cheat. No official anywhere.
“Now, what could be clearer? You have peasants, so you should foster them in their peasant way of life. What is this way of life? What is the peasant’s occupation? Ploughing? Then see to it that he’s a good ploughman. Clear? No, clever fellows turn up who say: ‘He should be taken out of this condition. The life he leads is too crude and simple: he must be made acquainted with the objects of luxury.’ They themselves, owing to this luxury, have become rags instead of people, and got infested with devil knows what diseases,
I say to the muzhik: ‘Whoever you work for, whether me, or yourself, or a neighbor, just work. If you’re active, I’ll be your first helper. You have no livestock, here’s a horse for you, here’s a cow, here’s a cart … Whatever you need, I’m ready to supply you with, only work. It kills me if your management is not well set up, and I see disorder and poverty there. I won’t suffer idleness. I am set over you so that you should work.’
“He who was born with thousands, who was brought up on thousands, will acquire no more: he already has his whims and whatnot! One ought to begin from the beginning, not from the middle. From below, one ought to begin from below. Only then do you get to know well the people and life amidst which you’ll have to make shift afterwards. Once you’ve suffered this or that on your own hide, and have learned that every kopeck is nailed down with a three-kopeck nail, and have gone through every torment, then you’ll grow so wise and well schooled that you won’t blunder or go amiss in any undertaking.
I often think, in fact: ‘Now, why is so much intelligence given to one head? Now, if only one little drop of it could get into my foolish pate, if only so that I could keep my house! I don’t know how to do anything, I can’t do anything!’ Ah, Pavel Ivanovich, take it into your care! Most of all I pity the poor muzhiks. I feel that I was never able to be …* what do you want me to do, I can’t be exacting and strict. And how could I get them accustomed to order if I myself am disorderly! I’d set them free right now, but the Russian man is somehow so arranged, he somehow can’t do without being prodded … He’ll just fall asleep, he’ll just get moldy.
We were educated, and how do we live? I went to the university and listened to lectures in all fields, yet not only did I not learn the art and order of living, but it seems I learned best the art of spending more money on various new refinements and comforts, and became better acquainted with the objects for which one needs money.
“One needs a supply of reasonableness,” said Chichikov, “one must consult one’s reasonableness every moment, conduct a friendly conversation with it.”
He still did not know that in Russia, in Moscow and other cities, there are such wizards to be found, whose life is an inexplicable riddle. He seems to have spent everything, is up to his ears in debt, has no resources anywhere, and the dinner that is being given promises to be the last; and the diners think that by the next day the host will be dragged off to prison. Ten years pass after that—the wizard is still holding out in the world, is up to his ears in debt more than ever, and still gives a dinner in the same way, and everybody thinks it will be the last, and everybody is sure that the next day the host will be dragged off to prison.

Highlights for Crucial Conversations

As it turns out, you don’t have to choose between being honest and being effective. You don’t have to choose between candor and your career. People who routinely hold crucial conversations and hold them well are able to express controversial and even risky opinions in a way that gets heard. Their bosses, peers, and direct reports listen without becoming defensive or angry.
When two or more of us enter crucial conversations, by definition we don’t share the same pool. Our opinions differ. I believe one thing; you another. I have one history; you another.
when people feel comfortable speaking up and meaning does flow freely, the shared pool can dramatically increase a group’s ability to make better decisions.
People who believe they need to start with themselves do just that. As they work on themselves, they also become the most skilled at dialogue. So here’s the irony. It’s the most talented, not the least talented, who are continually trying to improve their dialogue skills. As is often the case, the rich get richer.
Put succinctly, when you name the game, you can stop playing it.
Asking questions about what we really want serves two important purposes. First, it reminds us of our goal. Second, it juices up our brain in a way that helps us keep focused.
Third, present your brain with a more complex problem. Finally, combine the two into an and question that forces you to search for more creative and productive options than silence and violence.
On the other hand, if you make it safe enough, you can talk about almost anything and people will listen.
When you don’t feel safe, even well-intended comments are suspect.
if you don’t feel safe, you can’t take any feedback.
So instead of taking their attack as a sign that safety is at risk, you take it at its face—as an attack. “I’m under attack!” you think. Then the dumb part of your brain kicks in and you respond in kind. Or maybe you try to escape.
Silence consists of any act to purposefully withhold information from the pool of meaning. It’s almost always done as a means of avoiding potential problems, and it always restricts the flow of meaning.
Violence consists of any verbal strategy that attempts to convince, control, or compel others to your point of view. It violates safety by trying to force meaning into the pool.
The best don’t play games. Period. They know that in order to solve their problem, they’ll need to talk about their problem—with no pretending, sugarcoating, or faking. So they do something completely different. They step out of the content of the conversation, make it safe, and then step back in. Once safety is restored, they can talk about nearly anything.
Mutual Purpose means that others perceive that you’re working toward a common outcome in the conversation, that you care about their goals, interests, and values. And vice versa. You believe they care about yours.
Before you begin, examine your motives. Ask yourself the Start with Heart questions:  •    What do I want for me?  •    What do I want for others?  •    What do I want for the relationship?
Mutual Respect is the continuance condition of dialogue. As people perceive that others don’t respect them, the conversation immediately becomes unsafe and dialogue comes to a screeching halt.
Ask the following question to determine when Mutual Respect is at risk:  •    Do others believe I respect them?
We Start with Heart by committing to stay in the conversation until we invent a solution that serves a purpose we both share.
We also have to be willing to verbalize this commitment even when our partner seems committed to winning. We act on faith that our partner is stuck in silence or violence because he or she feels unsafe.
Just after we observe what others do and just before we feel some emotion about it, we tell ourselves a story. We add meaning to the action we observed. We make a guess at the motive driving the behavior. Why were they doing that? We also add judgment—is that good or bad? And then, based on these thoughts or stories, our body responds with an emotion.
People who excel at dialogue are able to influence their emotions during crucial conversations. They recognize that while it’s true that at first we are in control of the stories we tell—after all, we do make them up of our own accord—once they’re told, the stories control us.
Question your feelings and stories. Once you’ve identified what you’re feeling, you have to stop and ask, given the circumstances, is it the right feeling?
Don’t confuse stories with facts. Sometimes you fail to question your stories because you see them as immutable facts.
Either our stories are completely accurate and propel us in healthy directions, or they’re quite inaccurate but justify our current behavior—making us feel good about ourselves and calling for no need to change.
These five tools can be easily remembered with the acronym STATE. It stands for:  •    Share your facts  •    Tell your story  •    Ask for others’ paths  •    Talk tentatively  •    Encourage testing
To make matters worse, this strategy creates still another self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re so anxious to blurt out our unflattering conclusions that we say things in extremely ineffective ways. Then, when we get bad results (and we are going to get bad results), we tell ourselves that we just can’t share risky views without creating problems. So the next time we’ve got something sticky to say, we’re even more reluctant to say it. We hold it inside where the story builds up steam, and when we do eventually share our horrific story, we do so with a vengeance. The cycle starts all over again.
One of the ironies of dialogue is that, when talking with those holding opposing opinions, the more convinced and forceful you act, the more resistant others become. Speaking in absolute and overstated terms does not increase your influence, it decreases it. The converse is also true—the more tentatively you speak, the more open people become to your opinions.
You should never pretend to be less confident than you are. But likewise, you should not pretend to be more confident than your limited capacity allows. Our observations could be faulty. Our stories—well, they’re only educated guesses.
By tentatively sharing a story rather than attacking, name-calling, and threatening, the worried spouse averted a huge battle, and the couple’s relationship was strengthened at a time when it could easily have been damaged.
You simply have to win. There’s too much at risk and only you have the right ideas. Left to their own devices, others will mess things up. So when you care a great deal and are sure of your views, you don’t merely speak—you try to force your opinions into the pool of meaning. You know, drown people in the truth. Quite naturally, others resist. You in turn push even harder.
Open yourself up to the belief that others might have something to say, and better still, they might even hold a piece of the puzzle—and then ask them for their views.
By holding people accountable, not only do you increase their motivation and ability to deliver on promises, but you create a culture of integrity.
If others don’t want to talk about tough issues, it’s because they believe that it won’t do any good. Either they aren’t good at dialogue, or you aren’t, or you both aren’t—or so they think.
Every time you become aggressive or insulting, you give your spouse additional evidence that crucial conversations do nothing but cause harm.
Make it perfectly clear that once you’ve given an assignment, there are only two acceptable paths. Employees need to complete the assignment as planned, or if they run into a problem, they need to immediately inform you. No surprises. Similarly, if they decide that another job needs to be done instead, they call you. No surprises.
That is, people who improve their dialogue skills continually ask themselves whether they’re in or out of dialogue.
The other person has the ability to choose how to respond to your efforts. These skills are not techniques for controlling others; they are not tools for manipulating behavior or eliminating others’ agency. These skills have limits and do not guarantee that other people will behave in exactly the way you desire.
If yse these skills exactly the way we tell you to and the other person doesn’t want to dialogue, you won’t get to dialogue. However, if you persist over time, refusing to take offense, making your motive genuine, showing respect, and constantly searching for Mutual Purpose, then the other person will almost always join you in dialogue.

One of the points in this list by Paul Osman that I recently stumbled on is that things like “staging” are indeed mostly useless however much people want to keep using them.

https://paulosman.me/2019/12/30/production-oriented-development.html

I’m glad that this takedown of Clean Code by Dan Abramov got so much traction. I have no problem with clean code (lowercase), but inevitably the process of getting there and the things people do as a consequence make the entire endeavor an anti-pattern.

“Obsessing with “clean code” and removing duplication is a phase many of us go through. When we don’t feel confident in our code, it is tempting to attach our sense of self-worth and professional pride to something that can be measured. A set of strict lint rules, a naming schema, a file structure, a lack of duplication.”

As always, people get too attached to the parts that are the most obvious and the least important.

https://overreacted.io/goodbye-clean-code/

“The privilege I have – how? No, genuinely, how?”

Well, I say, in terms of wealth, class, education – that kind of privilege, in knowing how to decode the rules in certain spaces. As a caveat, I add that both of us have privilege, and it’s not a criticism; I was simply curious to know what she thought. Things take an awkward turn.

“Well no, because, no… ” There is a very long and tense pause, before she insists that, actually, there is little difference between her experience and that of her co-star John Boyega, who grew up in south London to British Nigerian immigrant parents. “John grew up on a council estate in Peckham and I think me and him are similar enough that… no… Also, I went to a boarding school for performing arts, which was different.”

Daisy Ridley has no idea that she is privileged.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/dec/07/daisy-ridley-jj-abrams-star-wars-a-religion