Saturday, 23 June 2018

Ten of the Best #122

Sorry this is later than usual. I've had such a lovely time, going through all the stuff you shared. It took me ever so long - there was so much to read and watch. But you, you'll whizz through, because the best of it is right here. Click the pictures for the articles, and what you've already seen, you just keep on scrolling through.

Seth Myers takes us through Trump's repeal of the immigration laws. And the rally. Honestly, the stuff Trump said at the rally was jaw-dropping. Watch it. And the "ad" at the end - Don't bother to vote. 

The longer it lasts, the more I think they're just messing with us. They must be. Melania and That Jacket.

You need an antidote to all that? Maybe that's why I enjoyed Samuel Warde's summary of the British rants. Click the Time cover for the article.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Barking up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

Disclaimer: I did not choose this book because of the title. In fact, I was glad it was on my Kindle so that I could read anonymously.

Having adjusted my expectations down as a result, and mentally preparing for lots of "self-help" sensible advice, but thinking it may be diverting, I was pleasantly surprised at how many little pieces of advice resonated, and I found myself talking about it, and remembering quite a bit of what I'd read.

It helped that there were lots of entertaining stories - those used to more scientific studies and theoretical explanations will be frustrated at this, but I enjoy using stories to illustrate my points, and there was plenty of material here.

Some specific quotes that were particularly true in my reality were:

"To add insult to injury, it’s not just that jerks do well; being the downtrodden nice guy can kill you. Being powerless at the office—having little control or discretion over your work—is a bigger risk factor for coronary artery disease than obesity or high blood pressure. Feel underpaid? That increases risk for a heart attack too. Meanwhile, ass kissing results in a reduction of workplace stress, improving happiness as well as physical health.

Are you a nice guy or gal who is having trouble processing all this bad news? Maybe that’s because not having a high status position at the office contributes to a reduction in executive function. Want that in English? Feeling powerless actually makes you dumber."

Those of you who know me well, try not to fall off your chairs at that quote...I know, right?

And how about this one?

The lesson from cases of people both keeping and losing their jobs is that as long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you."

Ok, I'll stop now.

For those of you who want to know more about what the book is about, it starts with what factors are good indicators of 'success' in life; does being a nice guy/gal work better than being a jerk? why your environment (and trust) matters so much, and then goes into the hard work vs talent debate. It also touches on what success means for you - what's on your resumé vs what's in your eulogy helps with that, and segues into gamification and when to quit.

It's very readable, and quick, chock full of motivation, and it appealed to me. The only problem is that title, and the word science in the subtitle.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780062416049

You may also enjoy Seeing What Others Don't by Gary Klein.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Dictator by Robert Harris

Intrigue, murder, assassination and the collapse of a Republic. Pompey, Cicero and Caesar - their stances on the current events, their personal lives, their failings, their triumphs are brought to life in Dictator, the story of Julius Caesar and part three of the life of Cicero, told through the eyes of Cicero's trusty servant, Tiro. An accomplished scribe, personal secretary and speechwriter, Tiro also invented shorthand - which he uses to his advantage in one memorable scene, where, hidden from view, he transcribes a whole meeting, word for word. Stenographers, eat your hearts out.

This was a time of significant historical happenings, and I love the way Robert Harris brings them to life - the voices, the shouts ring in my ears, and I can feel the dust on my feet as I walk the paths behind these powerful men. But this quote from the blurb is equally true:

"Yet the question [Dictator] asks is a timeless one: how is political freedom to be safeguarded against the triple threat of unscrupulous personal ambition, of an electoral system dominated by vested financial interests, and of the corrupting impact of waging ceaseless foreign wars? And in the very human figure of Cicero--brilliant, flawed, frequently fearful, and yet ultimately brave--Harris gives us a hero for both his own time, and for ours."

Oh, for an eloquent hero, like Cicero, in today's times. How refreshing would it be?

I loved this historical fiction - it almost reads like a thriller, and the immersion into the Roman culture of the day is fascinating and uplifting. 

5 stars

ISBN: 9780307957948

You may also enjoy Imperium, the first in this Cicero series. Or An Officer and a Spy by the same author.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Sources of Power by Gary Klein

I've been fascinated by books on decision-making since I read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. I loved his questioning of whether snap decisions are better ones than well-thought out, over-analysed justified-to-the-end-of-time ones. Gary Klein unpacks this further in Seeing What Others Don't: The remarkable ways we gain Insights.

In that book, he refers quite a bit to this one - especially the stories about decisions made in times of stress - like with firefighters, nurses and those life and death situations, where the importance of good decision making is amplified. What value does intuition have? How do we use it? Should we?

Daniel Kahneman, in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow asks this in a different (and more eloquent) way:

“If subjective confidence is not to be trusted, how can we evaluate the probable validity of an intuitive judgment? When do judgments reflect true expertise? When do they display an illusion of validity? The answer comes from the two basic conditions for acquiring a skill: an environment that is sufficiently regular to be predictable an opportunity to learn these regularities through prolonged practice When both these conditions are satisfied, intuitions are likely to be skilled. Chess is an extreme example of a regular environment, but bridge and poker also provide robust statistical regularities that can support skill. Physicians, nurses, athletes, and firefighters also face complex but fundamentally orderly situations. The accurate intuitions that Gary Klein has described are due to highly valid cues that the expert ... has learned to use, even if [he] has not learned to name them."

Again, rather than relying on statistical methods and studies, Gary Klein evaluates stories, through interviews about what people were thinking, and how. And the results are fascinating.

 "We have found that people draw on a large set of abilities that are sources of power. The conventional sources of power include deductive logical thinking, analysis of probabilities, and statistical methods. Yet the sources of power that are needed in natural settings are usually not analytical at all - the power of intuition, mental simulation, metaphor, and storytelling. The power of intuition enables us to size up a situation quickly. The power of mental simulation lets us imagine how a course of action might be carried out. The power of metaphor lets us draw on our experience by suggesting parallels between the current situation and something else we have come across. The power of storytelling helps us consolidated our experiences to make them available in the future, either to ourselves or to others. These areas have not been well studied by decision researchers."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - the stories, the analysis, the conclusions, the insights. It may feel like common sense, but like salt, you only miss a dose of common sense when it's not in the food you're eating.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780262534291

Monday, 18 June 2018

This is Me


Why do I do this every Monday?

What? The writing? The running? The music? Well all of it, actually.

This morning, I looked for an old Monday Motivation to post. I'm not feeling particularly inspired, you see. As I was going through material, wondering what would resonate, I realised that the one thing I do love about this is the freshness, the newness, the doing it in real time that I really enjoy. That way it inspires me as well as (hopefully) you.

There are so many reasons. I love words. I love to use them to encourage us to be better at us. I love to find the right words for things and I love the power that they wield when used well.

I believe in exercise. I believe in the power of moving to change the way our brains fire, and to keep us young and strong and fit and fabulous.

And lastly I'm passionate about music. All music. And if you read my first post in this vein, you'll realise it was only with the music that these posts ever came together. It took the music. And it still does. Every Monday, to get going, I need a soundtrack.

So, my favourite songs from one of my favourite musicals is perfect for today. This is me. Let it inspire you this morning.

But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Isn't that fabulous? And if you're a Showman fan, like me, you have to watch this clip of the same song, where Keala Settle comes out from behind her microphone, It's goosebumps stuff.

Happy Monday everyone.Here's to an awesome week.
Last Monday's Motivation - Give up - never?

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Ten of the Best #121

Happy Weekend everyone. You can stop scrolling through your timelines now, wondering when you're going to find something to look at or read. It's all right here - the very best posts from my social media - from this week. The ones I didn't have time to read until the weekend, but I'm catching upon now. Here they are, just for you. I know it's later than usual, but it's still the weekend here.

Wilmien Rossouw writes beautifully about the Aurora Borealis. Pack your bags, people.

Silence Is Not Spiritual: The Evangelical #MeToo Movement from The NewYorker.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Imperium by Robert Harris

I've read this series in the completely wrong order, starting with Book 3, (Dictator), reading half of it, picking up Imperium, finishing it, and then back to Dictator. I still haven't read Conspirata (Book 2), but I plan to.

In Imperium Tiro's voice tells the story of his master, Cicero. Tiro is Cicero's slave, but, as the inventor of shorthand, and an author in his own right (he wrote a biography of his master that was lost in the Dark Ages), he is almost as famous as Cicero himself. And he can tell a story.

I loved all the wordiness of this book. I listened on Audible, and that added to the pomp and drama and grandstanding that I imagine there was around all Cicero's famous speeches, rants and  politicking. Here're a few excerpts.

“You can always spot a fool, for he is the man who will tell you he knows who is going to win an election. But an election is a living thing -- you might almost say, the most vigorously alive thing there is -- with thousands upon thousands of brains and limbs and eyes and thoughts and desires, and it will wriggle and turn and run off in directions no one ever predicted, sometimes just for the joy of proving the wiseacres wrong.” 

“History has always fascinated me. As Cicero himself once wrote: ‘To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?’ I quickly forgot the cold and could have spent all day happily unwinding that roll, poring over the events of more than sixty years before.”

“Sometimes," he said, summing up the discussion with an aphorism I have never forgotten, "if you find yourself stuck in politics, the thing to do is start a fight--start a fight, even if you do not know how you are going to win it, because it is only when a fight is on, and everything is in motion, that you can hope to see your way through.”

And for those of you who think that politics is boring...

“Politics? Boring? Politics is history on the wing! What other sphere of human activity calls forth all that is most noble in men's souls, and all that is most base? Or has such excitement? Or more vividly exposes our strengths and weaknesses? Boring? You might as well say that life itself is boring!” 

And if you think you can deliver a speech?

“No one can really claim to know politics properly until he has stayed up all night writing a speech for delivery the following day. While the world sleeps, the orator paces by lamplight, wondering what madness ever brought him to this occupation in the first place. Arguments are prepared and discarded. The exhausted mind ceases to have any coherent grip upon the purpose of the enterprise, so that often--usually an hour or two after midnight--there comes a point where failing to turn up, feigning illness, and hiding at home seem the only realistic options. And then, somehow, just as panic and humiliation beckon, the parts cohere, and there it is: a speech. A second-rate orator now retires gratefully to bed. A Cicero stays up and commits it to memory.” 

I loved this book - the eloquence, the high drama, the stakes - someone's life, or a whole bunch of lives, mostly. I found myself immersed in the Forum, on the slopes of the Palatine, and walking along the Tiber with them. It's inspired me - maybe I need to find a tome of Cicero's writings and wade through it? Or is that too much like hard work? This wasn't. 

5 stars

ISBN: 9780743266031

More by this author - An Officer and a Spy and Conclave. Or why not try The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney or Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn?

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond

You know those nights at book club? Just before the school holidays, and it's your turn, because you're going to the sea on your annual holiday, and you need a comforting stack of books. In case of rain, of course.

If you're anything like me, the books are read long before there's a sniff of cloud in the sky, and if you're my daughter, you've read them all in the car on the long trip down.

Well, this one appealed for so many reasons. I could picture it in my little hands in so many places - on the sand, in the lounger, next to the kettle while I made tea, and late at night, snuggled up, everyone else asleep and me reading.

I loved the story of Evie Flynn, the black sheep of her family, who inherits Aunt Jo's coffee shop near the beach. I loved that she wouldn't sell it, and untrained as she was, wanted to keep it. I loved the slightly delinquent strangers she took in to help her, the slower and simpler, yet somehow more connected and meaningful life she made for herself. The walks, the swims, the ice creams - I could feel the breeze in my hair and taste the flavours.

This is not a book for a reading critic, or a jaded cynic. But it's the PERFECT book to fall in love with and escape for a few hours into. Especially at the beach.

I relished every moment. Pure pleasure.

4 stars


You may also enjoy Elin Hildebrand's Here's to Us.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Father by Anton Svensson

A Swedish crime-thriller. Inspired by a true story. With another book on the way. How does it get better than this? Read the book. It does.

I'm going to quote the blurb a bit to tell the story.

"The Father is inspired by the extraordinary true story of three brothers who committed ten audacious bank robberies in Sweden over the course of just two years.

None had committed a crime before. All were under 24 years old. All of them would be changed forever as individuals and as a family."

The Father, Leo, Felix and Vincent are the main characters with detective John Broncks trying to thwart their evil plans - and there are many. Detective Broncks comes from a similar background, where domestic violence leads to devastation. 

And there's the catch, if you're into psychological thrillers, this gives so much insight not only into the "how" (which I think is largely fictional), but also the "why".

The other great thing about this book, is how the crimes were selected and edited and possibly dramatised for the fictional part. Truth is often stranger than fiction, but it's also longer and more boring to wade through, unless it's well told. This is.

At the end I discovered that Anton Svensson is a pseudonym for Anders Roslund (an investigative journalist) and Stefan Thunberg (a screenwriter). Stefan is also the fourth brother of the Military League - the name that the Swedish newspapers gave the criminal gang - i.e. another brother. Oh wow.

For those used to the violence and crime in this kind of book, you'll love it. But it is a dark and twisted tale, and it is portrayed in fairly graphic terms.

Loved it. Will be looking out for The Sons - part two of this story.


You may also enjoy The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter or Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton. Or what about Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham?

More books.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Give up? Never

Morning all. It's time to get out of the warmest of warm beds, get that cat off your cosy feet and put on the most insulated layers of clothes. We're going running. 
Why? Well because it's Monday. The best day of the week to exercise. The first, the new, the early. And if we don't start today, we may not do it this week.

Do we have to? You'd better believe it. We can't give up now. We've started this with great intentions and we're doing it today.
Just one more lie in? No - just one more run. Tomorrow will be easier if we go today. And so will today. You'll sort your life out as you go, and save the world, our planet and solve all your family problems. Running's like that - it makes you feel you can solve anything.
No more questions, except what we're listening to as we go.
And what is our song today? Well that's easy, I chose it first. It's Shawn Mendes, In My Blood.
For those of us who never give up. Because we just can't.

Help me, it's like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up
No medicine is strong enough
Someone help me
I'm crawling in my skin
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can't
It isn't in my blood
Happy running, walking or whatever you're doing today.