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

Me, here, now.

Finished Todo.txt for Android

I’m at the end of 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 will now be moved to the backlog for the next phase, whenever that happens.

Next few weeks may see small updates to the Chrome extensions—bug fixes and minor tweaks based on user feedback over the last month and a half.

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!

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.

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—creating physical things with our own hands.

Running

I’ve been running well. I really like my current running form, and the times have been reflecting the improvement. I ran my Park Run PB a couple of weeks ago at Woking—22:42. I have been off running so far this week due to an ankle injury picked up on Saturday (thankfully, after I’d completed my 14 mile run). Looking forward to testing the ankle again with a short run later today.

Reading

I’m loving reading ‘Turn the ship around’ by David Marquet. It’s one of those books that is best read in small bits, munched over for a while, then continued. The last book in this category was Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking fast and slow’. They’ll both stay in my forever library, with frequent references to notes and books.

I’m also reading Messy by Tim Harford. This is my active reading book, and will probably be finished tomorrow. It’s an interesting journey of rediscovery. I used to be atypical messy—thriving only in mess and chaos. Working independently forced me to learn discipline and to streamline my life processes. Now I am rediscovering the value of messiness. It’s a brilliant brain tickler for me—harmonising my tidy, streamlined life with a bit of messiness to add some anti-fragility.

The third book I’m currently reading is Sanjaya Baru’s ‘The accidental prime minister’. It’s hard reading, specially because I like the subject. The author covers too much of himself relative to the subject (the prime minister). It also, like bits of ‘Up in the air’, way too frequently delves into explanations and bureaucratic minutae. R tells me it gets better later, so I’m ploughing on.

Continue reading Me, here, now.

In praise of a paper receipt

Surrey library receipt

It is so well contained – shows all the information that is important, and none that isn’t.

There’s a short header with logo, timestamp and my member id.

Then, right up front in the first box, it shows the book that I just borrowed, when it’s due for return, and any associated fees.

In the next box it lists the books I already have out on loan, with due dates for each1.

In the final box it shows any fees that I have outstanding. In this case it is £1.50 for two books that I had reserved (75p each).

Then there’s a concise footer reminding members that books may also be renewed/reserved online2 (how I do it), and over telephone (for digitally disinclined).

That’s all. Simple and sufficient.

Continue reading In praise of a paper receipt

Successful tweak – meditation before sleeping

For the last 10 days, I have meditated in bed before sleeping.

I updated my pre-sleep routine. It now starts with meditating for 10 minutes – usually Daily Calm, though yesterday I tried and liked a quiet meditation. Then I massage my feet, ankles and achilles with a massage ball before wearing sleeping socks (keeping feet warm). Finally, I read a book till the eyes shut off – usually 5-15 minutes.

I have been really enjoying this routine. The meditation calms me down drastically. The massage helps the feet stay fitter while I am increasing running mileage (or at least I think it helps). Then I read something – an easy book1 or a few paragraphs of Meditations (Marcus Aurelius).

I have been having really good sleep – drifting into it peacefully, and waking calm. The anxieties from rest of the day have mostly kept at bay. I’m lovin’ it.

Continue reading Successful tweak – meditation before sleeping

“Live the life you’ve imagined.”

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”

― Henry David Thoreau

I’ve come across this quote twice in the left 24 hours, in two unrelated places. First, as a chapter cover in the book I finished last night. Then, just now, at the head of a blog post by someone I barely know.

It got me thinking with the first hit. Now, with the double appearance, it seems like a message from the great void.

Time to heed it?

Continue reading “Live the life you’ve imagined.”

Be a pal, not a dick.

I don’t need sympathy or special consideration because, ultimately, who cares? You hate me, and I hate me, too. We are on the same team. I guess what I’m saying is that maybe we could all just mind our own fucking business for once, and that when you can actually see a person’s scars, maybe be a pal and don’t pick at them.

Samantha Irby, in ‘We are never meeting in real life’

Getting stronger…

It didn’t rain today. Mostly. There were passing showers throughout the day, but nothing stuck around long enough.

Spoke to Ma. It was a long chat, and a generally happy one. It was nice to hear her sound cheerful, after 5+ years of sleep deprivation & tiredness, and a few weeks of crying, loss and loneliness.

We went for a run. I ran 7K on the road – to the cathedral and back up – and then took the boys for a lap on the ridge (~3K). It was better than yesterday’s run – legs felt better, faster. Felt a tiny bit stronger.

Continue reading Getting stronger…

Today…

I decided that I like Lexi Grey more than Meredith Grey. I like Lexi. I tolerate Meredith. I hate Alex Karev.

To complete my day’s floor goal, I walked up the steps to the unused first floor a few times after dinner.

I think the boy is bored of hugging me. 20+hours a day may be too much even for him.

I missed home. I missed childhood.

I hated myself for not having any friends.

I reminisced about a day in London, when we walked about on the South Bank, having a drink at a pub, standing out by the river. Back in the happy days.

I had a dream about a girl I went with on a date many years ago. I started reading her blog again recently but the boy is about her new life. The dream was about the time we knew each other, and this common friend we met through.

I watched 8 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

I didn’t run. I didn’t meditate.

I finished the book. I started another one. This one’s depressing. But it has promise of a better ending. It has a dog.

It’s now been 5 days since I had any non-transactional human interaction. It’s also 5 days since my last workout. It’s 5 days since we had a day without persistent rain and grey skies. And maybe 4 days since I wasn’t terribly lonely and depressed. It’s also 4 days since I had any coffee, Coke zero, peanut butter, or milk chocolate.

I couldn’t break my frozen chapatti into half. It broke into 3. I had to eat the whole chapatti. At least it made a good pie chart.

I just learnt that there’s no spinning class on Monday, nor any yoga class on Tuesday. Easter weekend. There go my one good IRL human interaction opportunities for next week.

Tomorrow is our – me and the boy – last day by ourselves. Tomorrow evening, Dudley arrives for a fortnight’s stay with us. Then a few days later, R returns. Hope the scotch, Grey’s anatomy, and my books last till then.