Eugene Fedorenko is Designing, Writing, Reading, and Traveling

Reading (never enough)

Current books: The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by  Julie Zhuo The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. Europe: A History by Norman Davies

See posts only about books, articles, or websites.

Why Doctors Hate Their Computers

By Atul Gawande

Important reading for anyone designing software.

On burnout:

Burnout seemed to vary by specialty. Surgical professions such as neurosurgery had especially poor ratings of work-life balance and yet lower than average levels of burnout. Emergency physicians, on the other hand, had a better than average work-life balance but the highest burnout scores. The inconsistencies began to make sense when a team at the Mayo Clinic discovered that one of the strongest predictors of burnout was how much time an individual spent tied up doing computer documentation. Surgeons spend relatively little of their day in front of a computer. Emergency physicians spend a lot of it that way. As digitization spreads, nurses and other health-care professionals are feeling similar effects from being screen-bound.

On the inability of a system to cope with surprises:

Last fall, the night before daylight-saving time ended, an all-user e-mail alert went out. The system did not have a way to record information when the hour from 1 a.m. to 1:59 a.m. repeated in the night. This was, for the system, a surprise event. The only solution was to shut down the lab systems during the repeated hour. Data from integrated biomedical devices (such as monitoring equipment for patients’ vital signs) would be unavailable and would have to be recorded by hand. Fetal monitors in the obstetrics unit would have to be manually switched off and on at the top of the repeated hour.


By John Kay

This is an old essay, but the concept is timeless. Quick summary:

Strange as it may seem, overcoming geographic obstacles, winning decisive battles or meeting global business targets are the type of goals often best achieved when pursued indirectly. This is the idea of Obliquity. Oblique approaches are most effective in difficult terrain, or where outcomes depend on interactions with other people.

Bored Russians Posted Silly Art Parodies. The World Has Joined In.

By Anton Troianovski

Isolated from the physical world, people sheltering in place under coronavirus lockdowns are seeking new depths of connection online. Many have a lot of time on their hands, or children to entertain. And amid the bleakness of the pandemic, some report a surge in creativity.
Perhaps this helps explain why a nearly month-old Facebook group where people post their lo-fi recreations of famous paintings now has more than 540,000 members. It was started in Moscow by a project manager at a tech company and its predominant language is Russian, but more than one-third of its members live outside Russia.

What a fun project! Love the outpouring creativity of all the recreations, and it's impressive how fast that community grew.

America Is Overrun With Bathrooms

By Derek Thompson

In the mid-19th century, American sanitarians came to believe that disease stemmed from “sewer gas” emitted by toilets, which encouraged home builders to cram tub, sink, and toilet into one well-ventilated room with exposed pipes, in order to limit the spread of disease. While the sewer-gas theory would be overturned by the science of contagion, the three-fixture bathroom remained a staple of the modern American home. (Elsewhere around the world, the toilet is far more commonly found in its own chamber, separate from the bath.)

That doesn’t sound like the most plausible explanation for the 3-in-1 trend, but I clearly remember how everyone combined toilets and bathrooms into single rooms in the nineties in Ukraine.

On bathroom remodels:

According to Zillow research shared with The Atlantic, a simple bathroom remodel—such as replacing the toilet, adding a double sink, or tiling the floor—carries the best bang-for-buck of any home renovation. At $1.71 in additional home value for every $1 spent, it’s three times as cost-effective as a kitchen renovation.

As always, Hacker News has an interesting discussion.

Small b blogging

By Tom Critchlow

This post rings very true and describes what I am trying to do with this personal site.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.
And remember that you are your own audience! Small b blogging is writing things that you link back to and reference time and time again. Ideas that can evolve and grow as your thinking and audience grows.

Mr. Chemex: The Eccentric Inventor Who Reimagined the Perfect Cup of Coffee

By Hunter Oatman-Stanford

I picked up Chemex a few weeks ago as my wife got into pour-over coffee and now I am making it for the two of us every day. Loved this story on it's inventor:

The man behind Chemex’s functional-chic was Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, a scientist with a larger-than-life personality and a strong perfectionist streak. During his lifetime, Schlumbohm patented more than 300 different devices; at least 20 of these “Beautilities,” as Schlumbohm called them, eventually made it into the New York Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection—everything from an electric fan to a cocktail shaker.

On the inventor’s schedule:

Brean also highlighted Schlumbohm’s unconventional schedule, which the inventor insisted helped to fuel his creativity. On a typical weekday, Schlumbohm woke up late, worked on a few new ideas in the kitchen of his stylish penthouse, dropped by the small Chemex factory during the late afternoon (to check on his mail and eight female employees), and ended the evening hopping from restaurant to bar to restaurant again, where many of his best ideas originated. Schlumbohm liked to live large, cruising around Manhattan in a personalized Cadillac featuring a golden hood ornament shaped like a Chemex.

Denmark wants to break up ethnic enclaves. What is wrong with them?

By The Economist

An interesting look at immigration and the role of ethnic enclaves. Seems like there is no one right way and different groups of immigrants benefit from different environments.

Such a bold policy suggests that the evidence for ghettos being bad is overwhelming. In fact, it is mixed. In the 1920s, at the end of a wave of immigration to America, sociologists at the University of Chicago argued that ethnic enclaves facilitated assimilation. Immigrants first settled in big cities, drawing on the knowledge and contacts of their former compatriots. Over generations, they adapted culturally and climbed the economic ladder, mixing with the native population.
Later, economists weighed in. In a paper in 1997, “Are Ghettos Good or Bad?”, David Cutler and Edward Glaeser, both at Harvard, noted that theoretical arguments could point either way. On the one hand, ethnic enclaves limit their residents’ exposure to economic opportunities and cultural knowledge outside their own ethnicities. On the other, they give new immigrants access to information and connections acquired by earlier arrivals, and may provide them with role models.

Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep” Is Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors

By Alexey Guzey

Matthew Walker’s book was one of my favorites this year, so it's painful to read this meticulous fact-checking and see how many errors there are. Honestly, I’m still not sure what to make out of it. Walker has a highly successful 20-year career in a field that is impossible to ignore, but this article highlights an alarming number of problems with his book.

The Paradox of Going Outside

By James Somers

Good essay on why we need to go outside, even if it can be unpleasant sometimes.

On appreciation of nature:

Muir was not just born mindful of nature, he was fastidious throughout his life in the study of botany, geology, theology, biology, ecology, in the languages of man and God that make the whole world pulse with meaning. My mistake in Glacier was not in failing to appreciate the high flowers, the playful lives of the squirrels; it was in thinking that such an appreciation would come naturally.

On going into the wild:

In a culture pervaded by artifice, by self-awareness and advertising, the grand gesture away from it all—“Fuck it, I’m going into the wild”—is just another trope. We’ve seen that movie. In fact it was called Into the Wild and for the parties involved it was sort of a pathetic catastrophe.
This is the bind I’m in: I feel small in urban life—“tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized,” as Muir put it. I want to get away for a bit. I’m inspired by Thoreau and company to get really away. But in the very breath of my demand for the “authentic” wild, the un-guided tour, I’m cringing at how flaccid and disgracefully naive I probably sound—how much like one of Krakauer’s goons, the kind of person who will either gentrify the woods or get myself killed in them. This reaching toward the outdoors, far from clearing my head, confounds it further. This deep-seeming thing I crave may well not exist. Or worse, it does—and I’m too bound up by ego to seize it.

Masha Gessen on the Ins and Outs of Russia

Interview with Masha Gessen, Russian-American author, journalist, and The New Yorker staff writer.

On Russian Americans supporting Putin:

I think that among Russian émigrés, it’s actually a very specific thing, which is that there have been distinct waves of Russian immigration.

My parents and I came here in 1981 as part of the Jewish immigration. We were fleeing the Soviet Union. My parents made the decision to step into the abyss. They knew nothing about the West or what was going to happen to them here. They thought they would never be able to see their friends and relatives in the Soviet Union. They made this decision to get out of the Soviet Union because it was so important for them to leave the Soviet Union.

People who came here — who were much more numerous — who came here starting in about 1990 and basically through that decade, who I think are the people you’re referring to — they were fleeing the collapse of the empire. They were not running away from the Soviet Union. They were not leaving Russia. They were leaving that sense of extreme instability and uncertainty that was created by the end of the Soviet Union.

So to them, there’s no contradiction between liking Putin, who came in and said, “I’m going to take you back to that imagined stability and predictability of the Soviet Union” — there’s no contradiction between that and what they felt when they were leaving. So I think it’s perfectly logical that they support him.

On fall of GDP per capita in Russia and totalitarianism:

Poverty and scarcity are actually very good for totalitarian societies. They maintain that sense of mobilization that’s essential for totalitarian societies.

This is actually not my idea, but I think it has a lot of merit, this idea that the mass protests in Russia that we saw in 2011, 2012 were partly a function of prosperity. People lived well enough that they had the luxury of demanding good governance. When you’re constantly worried about your survival, you do not actually engage proactively in politics.

On a stereotyped strong Russian women:

Where does that come from? I think that comes from life. Look, part of the Soviet experiment was this very strange gender-equality ideology. Strange because it was an enforced ideology. It was top-down. Women were almost equally represented in the workforce to men.

But of course, at home, they also did all the housework. Housework in the Soviet Union was not doing housework in the United States. It was washing clothes by hand, often in a communal bathroom or a communal bathhouse. It was cooking in a communal kitchen. It was getting food products in conditions of extreme shortages.

It was like this constant battle for survival and for the survival of one’s family. I think that that made women strong, productive, and created a kind of matriarchal family that wouldn’t exist if women weren’t also breadwinners on par with men.

On smiling in Russia:

I think that there’s a kind of grumpy and dark culture in Russia. Russians certainly have a lot of discernment in the fine shades of misery. If you ask a Russian how they are, they will not cheerfully respond by saying they’re great. If they’re miserable, they might actually share that with you in some detail.

There’s no shame in being miserable in Russia. There’s, in fact, a lot of validation. Read a Russian novel. You’ll find it all in there. We really are connoisseurs of depression.