Books in 2020

I’ve read 20 books so far this year. Unlike most years, it’s been a weirdly clustered bunch.

3 Harry Potter books, and counting

3 Fredrik Backman books,

2 Hemingway books,

2 John Steinbeck books,

2 John L Parker Jr books, and

3 running related books (not including the 2 John Parker books).

That’s 15 of 20 books I’ve read so far. I’m guessing it’ll be 19 of 24 before the month is over.

Also, unlike most years, my reading list this year is loaded with fiction. Usually there’s an almost even split.

A magical weekend for this muggle

I hadn’t read any Harry Potter books till last week. I’d seen all the movies, of course. A few of them more than once.

I read the first book during the week. Took me three days. I’d borrowed the book from a neighbor a while ago, and Elsa prompted me to read it.

I read the second book over Friday evening and Saturday. Got R to borrow it on her Amazon Prime account, and read it on her Kindle

I started reading the third book last night, and finished it a couple of hours ago. It wasn’t available on Prime lending, so I joined a two month trial of Kindle unlimited membership and read it on my Kindle.

I’ve just started the fourth book. Work will take over in the morning, so it may take a few days to finish.

The TV hasn’t been switched on this weekend, except for an episode of Kim’s convenience that R wanted to watch. I haven’t been out of the house for a run, walk or a ride. I did a fair bit of garden work yesterday, and cooked lunch yesterday and today. Other than that, all I’ve done this weekend is to be in Hogwarts.

It’s been a fine weekend in Hogwarts.

The day

It’s three hours past my bed time. I’m still awake.

The day started with a slow lazy morning. My head was awake but the body was tired, so I stayed in bed.

I did a good day’s work, and had the boys and R for company. I stretched often, though not enough. I drank enough water, maybe too much.

Got a call in the evening that dampened the mood a bit. Received a rejection email that dampened it a bit more.

I must stick to the rule of not checking email after 6. Any wrong messages just knock the head off. I can take the knocks in the morning when I have work to dissolve the head in. In the evening they just ruin the sleep. Then the lack of sleep ruins the work, the run, and everything else in the next day.

In the last two hours, I finished reading Hemingway’s A movable feast. Then I read his Wikipedia page. I also read Scott Fitzgerald’s Wikipedia page. I read a few articles of the Economist. And now I’m writing this (on the phone!) while eating the Coffee & Walnut cake that R baked in the evening. It’s long past midnight, so it isn’t no-carb Wednesday anymore!

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.