July, July

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The Books of July:

  • Home Game.  I love Michael Lewis’ books, and this one was cheap on Kindle.  It is a bunch of essays he wrote on fatherhood – and man, it sounds terrible.  I read it just before Alice’s brothers visited with their wives and small children, and in looking at the children, and then the parents, it was…terrifying.  First, these little creatures just dominate everything in your life, and are helpless, and cry at 5 a.m. and force you to just deal with them.  Then, intelligent, intellectual adults suddenly find it perfectly acceptable to make gibberish noises to communicate with small animals who don’t really understand what you’re saying anyway, and to be happy about it?  Back to the book: it’s hilarious.  
  • The Road.  Continuing the fatherhood theme.  The copy I have challenges people to put it down, and that was about what I experienced; I think it took me under 24 hours to get through.  A masterpiece, although I’m not sure I could read another of his books anytime soon.  
  • Sex At Dawn.  This was recommended by my friend Sunny, who is one of the smartest, wisest people I’ve ever met.  I made it through solely based on his glowing recommendation.  I thought it was absolutely horrible.  Summary: people like sex, and other than the fact that it is so common in human society, we don’t have any evidence that monogamy is natural.  There, I saved you seven hours.  
  • Total RecallI spent the majority of my reading time this month on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography, which was surprisingly engaging, well-written, and occasionally honest.  It was fascinating to hear about his business ventures, his career, and the directions he has taken through life, but based on the omissions – a few of which, like the child he fathered with his housekeeper, he has to end up admitting later in the book, a few chapters after he promises California’s voters that he isn’t a philandering pig – one has to face the fact that autobiographies are inherently fictitious, because we only hear what the writer wants us to hear, and we all have very selective memories, and attribute things like success not to luck or chance but to our own skills, abilities, and virtues.  I enjoyed it, but it was a good reminder that everybody lies.  Including superheroes.  
  • The Hard Thing about Hard Things.  Another book someone recommended highly; I’d been looking forward to reading it.  It doesn’t apply to me much just yet, but it was good to read it and think about what I may end up needing to deal with in the future, if I’m lucky skillful, able, and virtuous.  

And that brings me to an even fifty books read this year.  I’m still trying to focus on quality, and utility; I don’t think I’ll hit 100 for the year, but I’m comfortable as long as I get quality thoughts into my brain.

Again, Alice’s brothers and their families visited this month.  It was amazing to realize that we’ve moved from a one-bedroom place barely big enough for the two of us to a four-bed place that can comfortably house eight people and two dogs (and maybe even more, if we got the sofa bed out).  It was also a good test of our hosting; August is going to pick up, what with the festival.

Then Carl and Gene visited.  They were recording in Abbey Road Studios again, and came up before heading back to America.  On their last night in town, we climbed Calton Hill and met a family from Illinois, visiting for a day.  They were talking about where they’d been and what they’d seen, and we traded some stories.  I’m always a bit hesitant to engage other Americans, for some reason – it’s as if I can feel special so long as I’m here, surrounded by Scots, but when I hear an American accent, or see a logo of a real American university (as opposed to the fake ones that pop up in European fashion shops), that illusion of specialness, of uniqueness, is shattered, and so my mouth clamps shut and I scurry away.  Sometimes, if people seem to be lost, I’ll reach out – actually, that happens almost daily – but much of the time I find myself trying to avoid fraternising with my compatriots and sticking to the people of this adopted land.

The Illinois family was a bit of a middle ground.  Gene thought the daughter was cute, so Carl talked to the father and I tried to talk to the mother.  They were normal Americans – careers in business development for an insurance company, and a housewife, two children, a suburb of Chicago, community events, annual vacations.  When they asked us what we did, I felt just like Jake Barnes when he and Bill were on the train in The Sun Also Rises, talking to the family who was visiting France, the two parents and a little boy who loved swimming.  I don’t have a life they could really identify with.  It was a bit embarrassing to say I lived around the corner with my English wife; I wanted to come up with a story that felt less indulgent, like I was a race car driver on a European tour, or an American Football quarterback on an off-season trip to my homeland, or a lawyer from Cleveland just taking a week to see Scotland.  But I was half a flask of Lagavulin in, and I could only come up with the truth.

On the last Friday of the month, Alice surprised me by bringing me to see Sir Ranulph Fiennes speak at Usher Hall. I’d never heard of him before, but he’s apparently a bit of a legend here in Britain – known, at least in this country, as the greatest living explorer. He spoke for almost two hours on his adventures on seven continents and two poles; it was incredible to see him, see his fingers that he cut off himself because of frostbite, and hear his stories.

He had an incredible wit, as well, although it was marred at times by a sharp, blatant bigotry against…well, virtually everyone that wasn’t white, male and English. He’s a big UKIP supporter and Brexit fan, so perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise, but his jokes at the expense of others – particularly the Norwegians, the French, and women – cast an uncomfortable pall over the evening for much of the audience. It was a shame, really, as so much of his talk was otherwise fascinating, engaging, and inspiring.

The next day, we flew to Bristol, then drove deep into Somerset. We passed through farmland, and visited an incredible cider farm, and had tea and chocolate cake and played with pottery and felt.  Fiennes’ talk, and his chauvinism, were still on my mind as we flew, and then we broke through the clouds towards the airport.  As much as I thought that his bigotry was unnecessary, I thought: wow, his pride in country is absolutely justified. This is really a beautiful, extraordinary island; loving it could be no vice.

And while it seems to be struggling a bit with the modern world, like many countries, I suspect that it is actually doing better than most, because it has such a deep connection to its own history.  At one point, we were looking over the fields below the Mendip hills, and I thought: five hundred years ago, and even a hundred years ago, the highlight of the year would have been the annual trip across the valley to a market town, to sell produce and cattle and horses, to drink potent foreign brews, and to flirt with people you’d never seen before and perhaps find a match, for the night or for life.  And the local power brokers, with direction from the King or Queen, would have had the burden of deciding lives: judgment of crimes, divvying up proceeds from sales, collecting taxes, allocating land.  And even if telephone wires are strung across the fields, and we’re on the verge of getting driverless cars to zip us around, the landscape here is still ordered by those ancient traditions; land is still bordered by walls and shrubs older than any generation alive today, cows still bred from elderly lines, and trees that were planted as windbreaks for hovels now protect newly built mansions of Londoners who only come down for the weekend to enjoy the country life.

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The absolute highlight of the trip was visiting a cider farm. There were two barrels of sweet cider and two barrels of dry; the sweet barrels tasted different from each other.  When we asked the owner, Roger Wilkins, he said that they didn’t use any artificial yeast – they just let the cider ferment with the yeast on the skins, so no two barrels would ever be the same.  It was extraordinary to think that cider had been made in this way for a thousand years, and we were participating in that tradition.

We ended up spending the last day in Wells.  It was stunning, but I couldn’t wait to get back to Edinburgh.  We have been here a year this month.  Last year, were were fresh off of our six-month tour around the world.  I was just starting CodeClan, learning Ruby.  We were renting a tiny flat and didn’t know anyone in the city; we were trying to learn the geography, trying to get used to cooking in our new place, waiting for a shipment of our basic living necessities to arrive by Seven Seas.  I didn’t even know where North was, or how to buy a train ticket, and I wasn’t sure what I was doing with my life.

I’m still not sure, really.  But a year on, we have so much to be grateful for.

Question

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Monk, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

  • How can I be excellent at this?
  • What details do I really need to pay attention to, or improve?
  • What else can I do to improve this?

I was reading Tony Robbins this morning, then went in an Hermes shop at lunch; the two, combined, made me think of these questions on the walk back.  I don’t live my life actively searching for excellence; if it happens, great, but I don’t ask myself how I can improve nearly enough, much less excel.  That is frustrating to me – I feel as if I’ve wasted time.  “What do I need to do to excel beyond my wildest imaginations of my capabilities?” isn’t the question; it’s simply searching for excellence, not tomorrow, not even today, but right now, in this moment.

June: a bit of darkness but far more light

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And then it was July.  I can hardly remember June; life has been fast, and hectic, and stressful, but the days are long and the skies are blue.

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New Town, Edinburgh

The books this month:

  • How to Make Sourdough.  This book reminded me of my friend Caesar.  He was a golf pro in London, and people always came to the course shop and bought drivers for, like, £400.  He would try to dissuade them by telling them that they could hit the ball better by spending £50 on a golf lesson to correct their swing; the driver might make a tiny difference, but it was their technique that was defective, and if they corrected their technique, they could pick up a £5 driver at a charity shop and still hit better than if they had a £500 driver and a crappy swing.  How it relates: I am now making the best bread I’ve ever made.  I’m using the same ingredients, but the results are better than I have ever seen.  The lesson: technique matters.
  • Notes from a Friend. Not nearly as long as his other books, but a nice reminder of his life lessons.
  • Exactly what to sayThis was a good book for short takeaways; I’ve already used it in several situations where persuasion seemed to hinge on a single phrase.
  • The Running RevolutionI am running an off-road half marathon in a few weeks, then another in Copenhagen in September, and then a marathon in October, and I wanted to get my technique tight.  Man, the first week, my calves were TIGHT.  But it seems to be paying off – I’ve never run so fast, so comfortably, for so long.  Fingers crossed and knock on wood that I don’t injure myself.
  • The Undoing Project.  A beautiful, complicated story about a beautiful, complicated friendship.  The end made me shiver.  I tried reading Thinking Fast and Slow after this, but I just couldn’t get into it; I’ll try again, but for now, I can recommend this as one of the five best books I’ve read all year.
  • Friday Night Lights.  I felt odd picking this up, as I didn’t care much for Texas, nor do I like American football, especially after reading Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent piece on how it’s probably worse than dog fighting.  Then something clicked; the glorious descriptions of Texan autumn nights, the stretches of prairie and oil fields and moths dancing in the floodlights, the passion of people that don’t have much else to be passionate about – it’s all here, and it made me really think about America in a different way, because America really is a magical country; it enjoys a mystique around the world that I’ve always found hard to see because I’ve always been so close to it, it’s the core of my experience of government and citizenship, and suddenly I found myself feeling both intensely patriotic but also a far, far distance from what it is to be American, because I don’t know what it’s like to live in America right now, and feel as if I don’t know what America is anymore.  In the middle of reading it, I hosted a brunch for three families, all of whom had small children, and when the kids were playing on the ground and running around my living room, I was suddenly gripped by this sense that we’re all on a continuum – that there are untold generations who have gone before us and felt the same as us, and we’re at this truly unique period in time because it’s NOW, and through children, we stretch into the future, but we’re not the end; we’re just a point on a line stretching backwards and forwards and our moment in time is completely unexceptional.  What was so passionately important for the kids in this book – high school football games in a small city in Texas in the late 1980s – is remarkable simply because with distance, it is entirely unremarkable, yet their experience is our experience, is everyone’s experience.  So I closed this book feeling more American and more insignificant than I’ve ever felt before, which was great.
  • King of the World.  Friday Night Lights made me see history books in a completely different way.  Before, it was difficult to read them and identify with the people in them; I just found it difficult to imagine the situations that were described simply because most history books present facts with little attention to the humanizing details.  Either Remnick is an exceptional writer or my imagination is improving (or both); this was a truly great book about a truly impressive athlete.
  • The Great Gatsby.  I read this every June/July, when the weather is hot and it’s easier to imagine a summer outside of New York City.  Everyone knows the last line – “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”  But every time I read it, there are a dozen lines, a hundred, that make me think it’s just a long, glorious poem, and when I get to this section I pause and, if I’m alone, read it out loud; otherwise I mutter it under my breath, as I did on the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh, fighting back the tears:

One of my most vivid memories is of coming back West from prep school and later from college at Christmas time. Those who went farther than Chicago would gather in the old dim Union Station at six o’clock of a December evening, with a few Chicago friends, already caught up into their own holiday gayeties, to bid them a hasty good-by. I remember the fur coats of the girls returning from Miss This-or-that’s and the chatter of frozen breath and the hands waving overhead as we caught sight of old acquaintances, and the matchings of invitations: “Are you going to the Ordways’? the Herseys’? the Schultzes’?” and the long green tickets clasped tight in our gloved hands. And last the murky yellow cars of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad looking cheerful as Christmas itself on the tracks beside the gate.

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

That’s my Middle West — not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with the feel of those long winters, a little complacent from growing up in the Carraway house in a city where dwellings are still called through decades by a family’s name. I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all — Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.

At the Amish grocer, Winter, 2013

  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.  Work has been a bit stressful recently; reading this every morning before meditating has improved my life dramatically.  I’m calmer, happier, and feel far better about everything in my life.  Just buy it.

And that brings me to 45 books for the year.  Not bad.

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And now, Edinburgh is gearing up for party season; our first guest of summer came to stay.  I met Jon in 1997, when he was about to graduate from college and I was just starting.  We served on Student Senate together, knew dozens of people in common, and then I stayed in sporadic contact with him for twenty years or so.  At the same time, he has always been a special person, and a wonderful one, and it was so exciting to be able to welcome him to Scotland.  His visit became two very late evenings of incredible conversation; he studied philosophy, loves David Hume, taught piano for years to pay his way in Los Angeles, and is just breaking out as a big time screenwriter on huge projects.  But more than that, he possesses that magic glow of someone who is comfortable with being uncomfortable, and is confident in himself despite being perhaps too aware of faults he perceives in himself.  I hope that makes sense – I mean it as an exceptional compliment.  He is one of the most wonderful people I have ever known, and it was incredible to be able to spend time with him again.  His legacy: he doesn’t drink.  He said he likes alcohol, but he just doesn’t drink it; no terrible experiences, no history of alcoholism.  It was a choice – informed by, variously, health books, friends, and Ben Franklin.

So I decided to also not drink much anymore, too.  I want to reclaim my evenings, my weekends, my life – not that I feel I had lost them, but I simply wasn’t as effective when drinking as I could have been.  Talking with Jon about deep issues – news, philosophy, ideas, our lives – made me realize that alcohol just dulls me, for the most part, and I can be more interesting and more interested without it.  So thank you, Jon, for sharing your beauty and friendship with us.

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Finally, I’ve decided to avoid being in photographs for a year.  I want to experience things, not take selfies of myself experiencing them.  It is a bit awkward – try telling your inlaws that you don’t want to be in their photos – but it has also focused me more in my attention, my mindfulness.

So come to think of it, June 2018 was a pretty good month after all.

The Haar of May

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First: we went to see the Royal Ballet do a warmup.  I have been impressed by them in the past, but this…this was something else.  I’m going to start taking lessons.  They were absolutely incredible.  I’m starting ballet lessons next week (not a joke).

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We were walking through Edinburgh very early on a Sunday morning because Alice was running a marathon; crossing North Bridge, she said, “Oh, there’s a haar!”  Fog – thick, churning fog – was racing from the sea to the west through the valley toward the castle; at times we couldn’t see the buildings around us, and then it would lift quickly and become almost sunny before closing in again.

And that is, I suppose, a bit like life right now.  My company has been going through – well, interesting times.  Like many tech companies we’re going through fundraising rounds and working to get investment and show the viability of our products, and I’ve been promoted to be a Product Owner after four months on the job; I could see it as a battlefield promotion, but the team I’m working with gave me a round of applause and said I was doing great, so I’m thankful and I’ll take it.  Some of the senior leadership is leaving, too, and there’s great uncertainty surrounding everything we’re doing.

And isn’t that life in a startup?  Isn’t this what I wanted – to be working with a team, with an uncertain future, and opportunities every single day to learn massive amounts?  When I think back on my jobs before, or I hear from my friends from Codeclan, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude.  I get to work with some really top-notch programmers in an exciting environment; I get to help them communicate and understand the business; I get to help the businesspeople understand programming; and I get paid.  Glasgow is a great place to work, and the commute is amazing if, for no other reasons, the scenery is stunning and I get to read for an hour or two every day.

My future is uncertain now, but really, it is ALWAYS uncertain; maybe thinking that the future is like a haar is actually the only reasonable approach, the only reasonable metaphor.  Sometimes we can see more clearly than others, but sometimes we just have to walk where we think we should be going and course-correct when the fog clears.

Post-marathon, we went to St. Andrews, and stayed in the Old Course hotel.  We got massages, and time in the spa, and incredible food at the restaurant with the best mushrooms I’ve ever tasted, and champagne, and wine, and a massive breakfast, and we got to watch golf.

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And golfers – they’ll play through anything, even a haar.

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When I was learning how to play golf, my coach sat me down to explain the rules.  But they weren’t rules of the game; they were mental guides for how to approach the game in the first place.

  • Think Positively, approach positively.  Never be flustered.  Whenever you line up to hit, don’t assume it’s going to be crappy – approach with the belief that you’re good, and you can hit.  
  • At first, just try to hit.  Beginners have trouble hitting the ball, period, much less hitting a straight shot every time.  As you get better, you can work on the nuances, but at first, just try to hit.
  • Not every hit is going to be good.  Don’t let it get you down. Just move on to the next shot.  Self-explanatory.  
  • Always remember that you’re trying to get to the hole.  Everything is in service of getting to the hole.  That’s your only goal; it is what everything else is in service to.  Ignore all distractions, because when you’re playing, they don’t matter.  
  • The only hole that matters is the one you’re on; the only stroke that matters is the one you can take.  Don’t worry about the last one, and don’t think about the next one.  You’re only concern is the hole you’re playing.
  • From the tee, you’re trying to get to the green; from the green, you’re trying to get closer to the hole; from two feet out, sink the ball.  Hole-in-ones are nice, but rare, and great players don’t count on them.  They love the process, and that there’s a predictable way to get a good score.  
  • The people that are best are those who take the least time – they don’t think, they just swing.  Don’t pause, don’t overthink – just approach, get in position, and strike.  If you sit back and think, analyze, debate in your mind, you’ll find that your mind will screw you up.  Analyze a bit, but when it comes time to swing, pick a club and just go.
  • Always take the hazard out of play.  There are always going to be things that COULD get in the way – traps, rough, your own head, other players.  Do what you can to minimize any potential impact these things can have on your success.
  • Golf clubs are tools, and you’ll eventually have one or two clubs that you find yourself using all the time, ones that you are comfortable with and can hit well.  Sometimes, you just get really good with one tool, and you find yourself going to that tool for all sorts of uses.  If that’s what you end up liking and getting good with, don’t worry if it’s unconventional. Similarly, use the other clubs if you want, but don’t feel like you have to use all the clubs in your bag if you, like me, can do pretty much any job with an 8-iron.

I have to remember that, and also remember that there are lessons that I can learn every day – really really amazing lessons that will hold me in good stead, if only I pay attention to what life’s trying to teach me.

And the books of May:

  • Superhuman by Habit.  An AirBNB guest I had years ago recommended this to me; it is by one of the guys who was in The Game.  I remembered my guest, and then these recommendations, after reading The Game last month; thanks John!  It was worth the few pounds, as it brought up a lot of really great points about habits and conscious habit formation.  I found myself thinking, on every page, about what sorts of things I wanted to do with my time, and which habits I want to form.  Among other things, I was inspired by Alice and am going to run another marathon this year – perhaps the Dramathon.  
  • The wind through the keyhole.  This was the last of the Dark Tower books that I hadn’t read, and I found it…meh.  Not as polished as the others.  Still, a very enjoyable read – it’s just that King has my expectations so high, and this was merely very, very good.

  • 13 days.  An extraordinary account of the Cuban Missile Crisis by one of the key players.  Time and time again, while reading this, I had to think about the current leadership in America, and wonder how we’d dropped so far.  Of the men who were in the Executive Committee, he wrote: “They were men of the highest intelligence, industrious, courageous, and dedicated to their country’s well-being.  It is no reflection on them that none was consistent in his opinion from the very beginning to the very end.  That kind of open, unfettered mind was essential.”  Can we say the same about the Republicans in Washington?

Of the President, his brother, Kennedy wrote: “Again and again he emphasized that we must understand the implications of every step.  What response could we anticipate>  What were the implications for us?  He stressed again our responsibility to consider the effect our actions would have on others…The politicians and officials sit home pontificating about great principles and issues, make the decisions, and dine with their wives and families, while the brave and the young die…He wanted to make sure that he had done everything in his power, everything conceivable, to prevent such a catastrophe.  Every opportunity was to be given to the Russians to find a peaceful settlement which would not diminish their national security or be a public humiliation.”

Can we say the same about Trump?

Of the lessons learned in the confrontation:

  1. The President and his advisers had to work secretly, quietly, privately;
  2. The President needed to have the advice of more than one person, more than one department, and more than one point of view.  “Opinion, even fact itself, can best be judged by conflict, by debate.  There is an important element missing when there is unanimity of viewpoint.”
  3. Power distorts the people around the President; “His office creates such respect and awe that it has almost a cowering effect on men.”
  4. “It is also important that differing departments of government be represented” in international relations; one department isn’t enough to handle the complexity of the world and America’s important role in that world.  At the same time, “it is essential for a President to have personal access to those within the department who have expertise and knowledge.  He can in this way have available unfiltered information to as great a degree as is practical and possible.”
  5. The President needs to go to “considerable lengths to ensure that he (is) not insulated from individuals or points of view because of rank or position.”
  6. “(President Kennedy) wanted to hear presented and challenged all the possible consequences of a particular course of action.”  This was particularly difficult with the military men, who seemed to just assume conflict was good and conflict with the Russians was even better.
  7. Finally, “It also showed how important it was to be respected around the world, how vital it was to have allies and friends…We cannot be an island even if we wished; nor can we successfully separate ourselves from the rest of the world…”
  8. “We could have other missile crises in the future – different kinds, no doubt, and under different circumstances.  But if we are to be successful then, if we are going to preserve our own national security, we will need friends, we will need supporters, we will need countries that believe and respect us and will follow our leadership.”

Oh, America.  How far the mighty fall.

  • Superhuman Social Skills.  Not as good as Superhuman by Habit, but again, worth the money just for the ideas.
  • The Lean Startup.  I know it was just last month that I said I didn’t get it.  Then I got to move into product ownership, and I watched a video of the author at Google talking about his theory, and suddenly it clicked.  This is an incredible book, and as soon as I got past the first few chapters and started learning about how to run a startup, it struck me as revolutionary.  Just…wow.
  • The Sun Also Rises.  I realized that I’ve read this every year, at least once, since 2003, in either April or May, because I think it is just the perfect book to kick off summer.  Every time I read it, I find out something new; for example, I didn’t realize that Jake smoked cigarettes until this year.  Taleb wrote, “A good book gets better on the second reading. A great book on the third. Any book not worth rereading isn’t worth reading.”
  • The Strategist.

    A great read about the role of leadership in an organization, and how that can be critical to the success of every level of work.  Even if you’re not at the top of an organizational chart, I suspect that this can have massive implications in making the workplace a better environment, and that taking on the role of strategist can help you rise to the top.  (I’ll try to test it out and report back.)

  • Conspiracy.

    It reads like Zweig; a great, meandering tale, full of drama and money and sex and head-slapping moments of stupidity.  At the same time, it feels a bit adolescent, a bit unpolished – as if this is an early work by someone who will end up being one of the great writers of our age, but it won’t be his best work.  In twenty years, he’ll have twenty more books under his belt and one will have won some grand prizes.  High five to Peter Thiel.

Thanks for everything, Spring – you were great, as always.  Now for the summer, and for plenty more swings at the ball.

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Not the cruellest month at all

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Edinburgh, Scotland

This month in books:

  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I read it years ago, and wanted to re-read it and implement it again now that we’ve moved in.  Very useful.

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  • Read This if you Want to Take Great Photographs of Places.  My brother-in-law Henry is learning about photography, so when I visited him in London, I read this to learn more about place photography.  It wasn’t as good as the other books, but it wasn’t terrible, either; I’m sure I got some good ideas out of it (like many of these photos).

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  • The Game.  Another book that I’ve read before; I got a copy from a charity shop for my workmate, Colin, and flipped it open to read a paragraph.  Ten pages later, I realized I wanted to read it again; what an incredible story, and a fun way to spend a few hours.
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Richmond Riverfront, Surrey, England

  • What every BODY is Saying.  This has been on my reading list for a while, but only recently did it drop in price dramatically on Kindle.  Well worth the time – whether you use it to read other peoples’ body language or to adjust your own for your own purposes.

 

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Decorated ceremonial shield, France, 16th Century; British Museum

  • Lullaby.  I found this in a charity shop, too; it was on my radar, but not my reading list.  I bought it on a Saturday afternoon, and was almost done on Sunday evening.  The second best book I’ve read this year after The Lover by Marguerite Duras; there is, apparently, something about French women’s writing that I can’t get enough of.  Absolutely remarkable.

The days are getting long here; the sun rises before we do, and sets around nine now.  The fields are green; little lambs are bounding around their parents, flowers are coming out, trees are budding.  Spring is always my favourite month of the year, and while it’s still cold here, it is absolutely stunning.

I also had the realization today: I get an unbelievable amount of enjoyment out of reading and cooking.  Those two things – if 80% of enjoyment comes from 20% of activities, those are definitely in my 20%.  So now, the requirement is to increase the amount of time I spend doing both.