I went to pick up a book from the library…

Books from the library

I ended up getting five. I would’ve brought more, but I’d gone late and the library was closing.

I’d reserved Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci, so got that.
I’d been looking for a few Hemingway books. I didn’t find anything from top of the list, but did find these two, so got them.
Brad Stone’s Everything Store has been on my radar for a while. When I saw it on a shelf, I picked that up.
And close to it was Seth’s little book. So got that too.

I didn’t get to visit the Sports or the Scifi sections before they announced the library was closing.

Aside: I like how the three small books on the right are, together, about as big as the fourth book. And the four books on the right are again, together, about as big as the one on the left. Fibonacci-esque.

On giving a fuck

I did a taster read of Mark Manson’s book on not giving a fuck. In the first chapter he goes on about how people give too many fucks and become overwhelmed and unhappy, or give no fucks and become uncaring assholes.

I thought about it on Chewie’s morning walk.

Sure there are people who fall in one of those two catagories—too many fucks given and not enough fucks given. But I don’t think most people fall in either of these. Most people give just the right the amount of fucks that they can afford/handle.

The problem isn’t with how many fucks we give, but what do we give a fuck about.

Often the choice is between giving a fuck about things/people that are

  • important but hard to satisfy, and
  • easy to satisfy but peripheral

In such a choice, easy wins most times. And that’s what causes the unhappiness.

As an individual choice, giving a fuck for something easy results in an easy win, and provides a nice emotional boost. But when the life becomes full of too many easy wins, and none of the important ones, that’s when the trouble starts. That’s when the heart starts hating even the wins. That’s what leads to the unhappiness.

[ Perhaps the book will move on to this distinction. After all I’ve just rushed through the first chapter for now :) ]

Continue reading On giving a fuck

Duolingo + Range—Learning with interleaving

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Interleaving—6 active skills + random test button

David Epstein’s book Range educated me on the value of interleaving and spacing for better learning. (Chapter: Learning fast and slow)

One of the places I immediately applied it is in my daily Spanish lessons on Duolingo.

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Block learning—completing one skill from start to finish before proceeding to the next.

Previously I used to start with one skill in Duolingo, say present perfect, and then complete it from start to finish. I only moved to the next skill once the previous skill was golden, or on the rare occasion when I gave up on it for being too hard.

The screen looked like the one on the left: all golds above the current skill.

Now I have six skills in progress at the same time. Every day I complete just one test from at least three of them. The next day I start with the other three. If I want to practice more, I use the dumbbell button in the bottom right—it tests me randomly from any of the dozens of skills I have already completed.

This mixing provides me with a bit of range. Each test daily is from a different skill; any skill reappears only after 48 hours; forcing me to remember, forcing more mistakes, and, hopefully, resulting in better learning.

Continue reading Duolingo + Range—Learning with interleaving

Running + dogs = el mejor

…I took the leash off, and we ran.
We ran next to each other. A mini stampede. We were completely in sync, and not thinking about much but the present moment. We ran as fast as we could as the trees whooshed by. Gizelle came up to my hips, but she never tried to jump in front of me or nip at my feet like a lot of dogs would. Her jowls flapped in the wind and her long pink tongue flailed happily out of her mouth as she ran next to me. Like a protector. Like a friend.

—Lauren Fern Watt, in Gizelle’s bucket list

Haul from the library

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Went to return two books, and maybe borrow one. Ended up bringing seven of them home :)

The one I went to get: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

The two that were in my read some time list:

  • The Art of failing by Anthony McGowan and
  • Mr. Iyer goes to war by Ryan Lobo (finished)

The four that I picked up from browsing around the sections:

  • Gizelle’s bucket list by Lauren Fern Watt
    – A dog story, my weakness
  • Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou
    – Saw her name, picked it up
  • Can’t Swim, Can’t Ride, Can’t Run by Andy Holgate
    – I’d come across this book often in Amazon recommendations, never enticed enough to buy.
  • Running up that hill by Vassos Alexander
    – Running & hills, two of my many other weaknesses :)

Continue reading Haul from the library

Late night + name confusion = a very different book

I read Jon Krakauer‘s ‘Into thin air‘ earlier this year. It’s about an Everest expedition gone wrong. I’d seen the movie based on it years ago so knew the story line. I still enjoyed the book. Mark of a well written book.

Late one night last week, I was looking for another book to start. I spotted Jack Kerouac‘s ‘On the road‘ on the book shelves.

The book name seemed similar to Jon’s ‘Into thin air‘ and ‘Into the wild‘.
Author name sounded similar too—Jack Ker… vs Jon Kr…
The introduction on back cover sounded interesting, though a bit unlike the outdoorsy vibe of Jon’s other books.

I took a chance—took it upstairs and started reading.

It was different.

I was about 70 pages into the book before I decided to double check and realised my mistake. This was a story about young men in the 50s discovering booze, drugs, music, themselves, women, and America. Far from the gen-x characters in Jon’s books.

Not a book I would’ve picked up knowingly. But a book I’m enjoying nonetheless.

Me, here, now.

Gardening

After neglecting the garden for 5+ years, I finally started getting my hands dirty this year. It’s been a surprising delight. The flowers are blooming. No plants have died yet. And the weeds are more under control than any time last year. All this for a couple of weekends’ work, and 5-10 mins every morning or evening. My highlight achievement must be saving a few plants from near death—the purple petunias, the value pack bogonias and the medium-sized marigold—and seeing them flourish.

I am really enjoying the work in the garden—probably too much according to R. There must be some truth in what Cal Newport said—the joy of creating physical things with our own hands.

Running

I’ve been running well. I like my current running form, and the times have been reflecting the improvement. I ran my Park Run PB earlier at Woking—22:42. I ran the London marathon earlier in just under 4 hours—3:58:44. This is the first year where I have run at least 100 km every month. It’s also the first year when I’ve run at least once every week. I plan to keep the momentum going through rest of the year.

Reading

Reading has been a continuing theme from last few years. I haven’t read as many fiction books this year as non-fiction. Just haven’t found too many of ones I really want to read. Amitava Ghosh released his new book, Gun Island, so I polished that off in less than a day. But nothing much else.

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction though. Quite a few are based around self-improvement and productivity— Make time, GTD for teens, Digital minimalism, Messy, Range, Sprint, Turn the ship around

I’ve read some books from the running, swimming, cycling, hiking world, but again not as many as I would’ve liked. Goater’s Art of running faster gave some good tips, and Scott Jurek’s North was full of inspiration.

I’ve started listing the books, and notes from some of them on this site.

Head & heart

Parents were planning to visit UK this year. They’ve cancelled. I’m sad.

I stopped meditating regularly months ago. I still meditate occasionally, but without the app there isn’t much to guide me through session after session. Most of the time it is just noticing a breath (tip from Make Time).

The year, mentally, has been a roller coaster. I haven’t really touched the depths of depression like I did around October last year, but I haven’t had many periods of consistent happiness either. I have a feeling it’s all very fragile. Or is it brittle?

Finished Todo.txt for Android

I’m ending the second phase of active development for Todo.txt for Android. All core functionality works sufficiently well for my own use. Dark mode is half baked, so have moved it to the backlog for the next phase, whenever that happens.

Not doing much active development on extensions at the moment.

Next up

Next up is starting a new project, or finding a new role. Either way, it’ll be a time of flux and vulnerability. Tread kindly, por favor!

Continue reading Me, here, now.

RSS & site updates

New combined RSS feed

Added new combined RSS feed comprising posts from all the blogs hosted on this domain. The combined feed is available here: Adi's combined feed.

The combined feed includes:

  • Speak Easy—feed
  • Converge—site, feed
  • Middlering—site, feed
  • Paws N Pedals (never updated)—site, feed
  • Photos (new)—site, feed
  • The winter blog (rarely updated dev notes blog)—site, feed
  • Use my marker (highlights from Instapaper and kindle)—site, feed
  • App Updates (update notes for my apps and extensions)—site, feed

Photos & Books pages

The new photos blog, and the experimental books page are now linked from the home page.

A good structure for non-fiction writing

I read a fair number of books every year. Based on the stuff I’ve read last couple of years, I have observed a winning method of structuring concepts in non-fiction books. The easiest to consume non-fiction books appear to use this familiar structure to present the chapters/concepts:

  1. Start with an anecdote, or a story. The story displays, or better, ends with the concept the chapter intends to impress.
  2. Follow up with an explanation of the concept—its definition, origins, benefits, why-it-works, side-effects, etc.
  3. Reinforce with references to research, or interviews with researchers who have studied the characteristic in depth.
  4. Finish with a few more short anecdotes. Even better if these are follow-up stories to the ones in the first section, and/or lead to the concept in the following chapter.

Continue reading A good structure for non-fiction writing