zen in the art of archery

is an excellent book by Eugen Herrigel (isbn 978-0-14-019074-8). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
He who has a hundred miles to walk should reckon ninety as half the journey.
I have also tried to keep my language as simple as possible. Not only because Zen teaches and advocates the greatest economy of expression, but because I have found that what I cannot say quite simply and without recourse to mystic jargon has not become sufficiently clear and concrete even to myself.
No reasonable person would expect a Zen adept to do more than hint at the experiences which have liberated and changed him, or to attempt to describe the unimaginable and ineffable 'Truth' by which he know lives.
I hit upon the thought that there must be a trick somewhere which the Master for some reason would not divulge, and I staked my ambition on its discovery.
In spite of its being divided into parts the entire process seemed like a living thing wholly contained in itself and not even remotely comparable to a gymnastic exercise, to which bits can be added to taken away without its meaning and character being thereby destroyed.
I once remarked that I was conscientiously making an effort to keep relaxed, he replied: 'That's just the trouble, you make an effort to think about it. Concentrate entirely on your breathing, as if you had nothing else to do.
A great Master, he replied, must also be a great teacher.
You had to suffer shipwreck though your own efforts before you were ready to seize the lifebelt he threw you.
Do you know why you cannot wait for the shot and why you get out of breath before it has come? The right shot at the right moment does not come because you do not let go of yourself. You do not wait for fulfilment, but brace yourself for failure.
Right presence of mind. This means that the mind or spirit is present everywhere, because it is nowhere attached to any particular place.
It is all so simple. You can learn from an ordinary bamboo leaf what ought to happen. It bends lower and lower under the weight of snow. Suddenly the snow slips to the ground without the leaf having stirred. Stay like that at the point of highest tension until the shot falls from you. So, indeed, it is: when the tension is fulfilled, the shot must fall, it must fall from the archer like snow from a bamboo leaf, before he even thinks it.
If I tried to give you a clue at the cost of your own experience, I should be the worst of teachers and show deserve to be sacked! So let's stop talking about it and go on practising.
Don't ask, practice!

c++ development slide deck

Here's the slide deck for a presentation I recently did for a large gathering of C++ developers.

systems thinking slide deck





Here are the slides for the talk on Systems Thinking that Niklas Bjornerstedt and I did in the Scotsman pub in Oslo yesterday. The point about "Your wife is very beautiful" is that it is very easy to read that in a static sense. To get a sense of reading it in a more dynamic (relative) sense, imagine if someone replies "compared to who?!"

The books mentioned in the talk are:
The Law of Unintended Consequences slide has three images for these three stories:

dojo = way place

Tore Martin Hagen and some of his colleagues did their first team Cyber-Dojo recently. One team member, Manabu Mochida, is from Japan and he wrote a nice explanation of the term Dojo on the white board. Love it. Thanks Manubu.

the principles and practice of fly and bait casting

Is an excellent book by Reginald D. Hughes (published 1924). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
The great majority of fishermen are ignorant of the actual principles which underlie their every act, whether right or wrong.
One certain index of efficiency is the absence of effort. Style is synonymous with efficiency, and style and effort do not go together.
Double-handed fly casting may especially be recommended as almost, if not quite, the most beneficial form of exercise one can take. It calls for the use of every muscle in the body. It exercises without exhausting.
Excessive effort is not only uncalled for, but if practised defeats itself.
Brute force alone will never put one in the front rank.
A tight grip means tense muscles and joints throughout the body. It kills all attempts to cast smoothly and easily. It imparts, through a vibrating rod tip, waves and irregularities to the line, and is very tiring even to an onlooker.
Remember that the rod should be practically noiseless. Any distinct "whoosh" is a sign of a faulty casting, and shows that the cast is made with the entire rod instead of with the top.
Hold or grip of the rod - there should be none. The rod merely rests in the right hand, while the left hand lightly encircles the butt end. Any tendency to a tight grip must be resolutely suppressed.
Both hands must do an equal share of the work.
Our desire is to cast the fly across and downstream at an angle of about 45 degrees. So we stand, as regards our feet, facing this direction, and, without moving them, rotate the body until we face downstream, rod low and pointing in the direction of the fly.
In learning these casts try to avoid too much concentration, as the great secret is to let the whole body be free and swing easily and comfortably, letting the rod do it, and it will do it if the timing is right.
If the line is allowed to slacken in the least, even momentarily, the pull on it is lost.

the importance of living

Is an excellent book by Lin Yutang, isbn 978-0688163525. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
In the West, the insane are so many that they are put in an asylum, in China the insane are so unusual that we worship them.
I consider the education of our senses and our emotions rather more important than the education of our ideas.
Only he who handles his ideas lightly is master of his ideas, and only he is master of his ideas is not enslaved by them.
A great man is he who has not lost the heart of a child.
Passion holds up the bottom of the world, while genius paints its roof.
The courage to be one's own natural self is quite a rare thing.
An Old Man was living with his Son at an abandoned fort on the top of a hill, and one day he lost a horse. The neighbours came to express their sympathy for his misfortune, and the Old Man asked, "How do you know this is bad luck?" A few days afterwards, his horse returned with a number of wild horses, and his neighbours came again to congratulate him on this stroke of fortune, and the Old Man replied, "How do you know this is good luck?" With so many horses around, his son began to take to riding, and one day he broke his leg. Again the neighbours came round to express their sympathy, and the Old Man replied, "How do you know this is bad luck?" The next year, there was a war, and because the Old Man's son was crippled, he did not have to go to the front.
The trouble with Americans is that when a thing is nearly right, they want to make it still better, while for a Chinese, nearly right is good enough.
When the chains of a bicycle are kept too tight, they are not conducive to the easiest running, and so with the human mind.
Tea in invented for quiet company as wine is invented for a noisy party.
Luxury and expensiveness are the things most to be avoided in architecture.
Taste then is closely associated with courage.
We must give up the idea that a man's knowledge can be tested or measured in any form whatsoever.
Only fresh fish may be cooked in its own juice; stale fish must be flavoured with anchovy sauce and pepper and mustard - the more the better.
The thing called beauty in literature and beauty in things depends so much on change and movement and is based on life. What lives always has change and movement, and what has change and movement naturally has beauty.

zen bow, zen arrow

Is an excellent book by John Stevens, isbn 978-1-59030-442-6. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
He never missed a day of teaching, regardless of the weather, and would often sit for hours in the dojo watching and instructing, even if it was freezing outside.
Gratitude will make you brave.
Learn from a teacher everything he or she has, all the way - that is the real secret of training that will give you great results.
Self-reflection encourages great bravery. Rationalization is your greatest enemy.
Fostering the spirit is painful, hard work; shoot each shot as if your life depended on it.
The essence of Buddhism is not meditation or liberation from samsara. It is kenso, "seeing into your nature."
Do your best at each and every thing. That is the key to success. Learn one thing well and you will learn how to understand ten thousand things.
The two greatest virtues: self-control and returning kindness.
Human beings always cling to things. Practice begins when you stop clinging.
One day of effort is one day of bliss; One day of sloth is a hundred years of regret.