Friday 30 October 2015

Ten of the best #19

Good morning all. Time for coffee and ten of the best from my social media feeds this week. Enjoy.

1. We are going to start with something happy, because here’s a spoiler – this week was serious. This clip is about police giving away 100 dollar bills. Heartwarming stuff. Click the pic.

2. We havent done cats for a while. These cats are having a chat. So cute. 

3. Titled “Mr President”, the song is performed by Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, the son of Dali Mpofu, the Gauteng Premier candidate for the Economic Freedom Fighters . It is being watched and loved by South Africans everywhere. We all love it. I wonder why? 

4. So we think we have it bad…here’s what the U. S. of A could be in for. Soon.

5. Let’s hope that #Feesmustfall is not over yet. Students, you are the hope for our future. Here is a blog – a letter to white people and a letter to black people. It’s worth a read. 

6. We will stay serious for a while. Actually never mind serious, this is depressing. Why no one wants to invest in our backward thinking country. By Allister Sparks. 

Usually one can turn to Johnathan Jansen at times like this. Don't even bother this week. He's down too, lamenting how universities can survive without money.

7. Need to escape? Me too. Books, I tell you. Here’s another list. Of 15 books that will take you away for a while. Oh yay, more to read. 

8. Don’t fall asleep at the office. This could happen to you. 

9. Eat your hearts out Piano Guys…though I do think they could have come up with a better name than Competitive Foursome. The best thing about this is that these chicks do it in heels. I can’t even walk in heels. Respect. Also amazed that the cellist didn’t kill anyone. The girl is vicious. In a good way.

10. This last track is quite apt for this week, actually. “I’m sorry for breaking your heart” - is one of the standout lines. It’s Adele. With more music to lift the spirits. The track your teens are loving, right here. Hello.

It’s a pleasure. Have a great weekend. 

Rugby withdrawal? Here's the last SA RWC2015 anthem...

More ten of the best.

Link to last week.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Morning Bliss

It’s hard, so hard to get out of bed on a Saturday morning. It’s even harder to get dressed – because that rules out the possibility of climbing back between the cool sheets, wriggling down, closing your eyes and drifting off again. And putting running clothes on – well that’s a travesty. More than once a family member has been known to mutter at such times “Isn’t there a law against running on a Saturday morning?”

But oh my goodness, this Saturday it was worth it.

It was about 6am, and at that time of day (in Spring) in Joburg, where I live, the air worships your warm skin with its cool crisp freshness. It had rained gently the night before, and the sun was starting to twinkle through the treetops. The world felt like it was brightening from a night of gloom, the birds sang their hopes and dreams, and my aspirations of “maybe walking for half an hour” were extended to – “I think I’ll just try the 10k route.”
The start of my route
I could smell the jasmine – which is on nearly every corner, and the sodden Jacaranda flowers, which crunched and popped under my feet. And then I remembered that this is one of the reasons I do this.

I started up our steep road, panting more than usual (I am not as fit as I used to be), but somehow with all the beauty around me, it didn’t seem to matter. The roads were carpeted with purple flowers, and the flowers not fallen echoed back in the tall branches above me. The ivy on the pavement was a shade of green that was so vivid that it defies being caught on camera, and I looked ahead, the slight shimmering of light making me think of all sorts of half-remembered poems about misty, moisty mornings and the like.

It was so peaceful too. The occasional runner, one or two cyclists (who did disturb the peace – cyclists, you talk a lot, and very loudly – I suppose you can’t hear too well through those helmets you wear), and hardly any traffic. 

My route took me up and up, and then down a less shady road, and I basked in the sunshine. On this road the grass on the verges was lush and gorgeous, and  sparkling white iceberg roses in full bloom seemed to cheer me on – I could almost see them waving at me.

I ran to my local coffee spot, and was greeted by the barista, who lets me help myself to the water on offer whilst he pours the perfect brew, and checks that my order is still the same. The cheerful friendliness of the place, comfortable in its familiarity, made me smile.

And as I walked on, sipping my cappuccino, and enjoying more delights – the beautiful shades of green in the different hedges, the tall tall trees, the array of springtime in the gardens, and turning into yet another Jacaranda street, gasping aloud at the incredible delight – the same, yet different to my own road, I felt grateful. To be alive, and be able to enjoy all this sheer wonder at the start of my day and my weekend. How lucky am I? What a painting I live in. 

Appreciating the beauty of a morning is just one of the many reasons to get out of bed early and exercise outdoors. But today it was enough of a reason for me.

There isn’t a law against running on a Saturday morning. On the contrary, I think, sometimes it should be compulsory.

More Running stories.

Monday 26 October 2015

Misbehaving by Richard Thaler

Misbehaving is Richard Thaler’s take on the world of Behavioural Economics. This field is fascinating, not least of all because it explains some anomalies in the financial world (which should be true if all assumptions were held, and all humans acted rationally). We all know that the basic premise isn’t true, but it is interesting to work out why. Being a self-confessed lazy person, Richard summarises all the main theories that have been prevalent in this field – from the “endowment effect”, “loss aversion”, “framing” to “anchoring”, “quasi-hyperbolic discounting” and “mental accounting”. Being one who doesn’t study this full-time, but only occasionally enough to need a refresher, I found his examples memorable, well-told, easy to follow and therefore helpful in my understanding and recall of the “theories”.

I listened to the Audible version of this book, and found myself laughing aloud, and enjoying every minute. It doesn’t labour the points, keeps it simple and relatable and uses the conflict between the traditional economists and the misbehaving world, explained by psychology, to keep us entertained.

It is an accessible and enlightening quick read.

4 out of 5 stars

ISBN: 9780393080940

All my reviews.

Friday 23 October 2015

Ten of the Best #18

Some weeks are so dull. Social media is quiet, and all you see are older clips and articles regurgitated. It’s not entertaining, and you’d be better off working, or reading a book. Other weeks, there is not much happening, but there is enough going on on our feeds that we can be diverted from the boredom. This week was abuzz – there was so much going on, and so much commentary about it all. Every conversation that struck up was alive with passion and interesting anecdotes. Here’s the best of the conversations from Twitter, Facebook and the like. Enjoy.

1. Let’s start with the rugby. I have no hope. I am proudly South African. I love the Bokke. There is just no way that the magic of the 1995 final, with the Jumbo Jet, the new united Rainbow Nation and Mandela magic will be matched by Zuma, #Feesmustfall and a wet Twickenham. I just can’t see it happening. So, by the time the game starts, I will have the green and gold on, and I will cheer wildly, but I kind of know that those mighty All Blacks are the wise bet. So – in honour of the boys coming this far, let’s have a last moment. 1995. The magic and the triumph. Think that’s as good as it gets this weekend.

2.    But it’s ok, they’re back with more. Those hilarious parenting comics that just get it right.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Kate Morton is one of my favourite authors. When I picked up The Forgotten Garden (her first), I was hooked, and I didn’t stop reading until I was done with all her books. Books that restored my soul and love for a good story, and took me away for a while.

Her latest didn’t disappoint. At 595 pages, it is a gorgeous indulgence and a great way to spend a weekend.

The Lake House is a rambling story, set in the 1930s and the 2003s. Sadie, a Detective Constable, is staying in Cornwall with her grandfather, Bertie. She is recovering from a disaster at work, and part of her wants to hide, and the other to reclaim her job. She discovers an unsolved mystery that took place in the nearby Lake House. A little boy disappeared. Alice (AC Edevane, famous author) was there, but she is now 86, and what happened still haunts her.

Of course, the beautiful countryside and gorgeous old house take centre-stage. The imagery is outstanding. Spend a day or two in this whimsical landscape. Lie in the lush grass, feel the bees buzzing past and smell the mud that the dogs run in, as the dragonflies dart over the lilies on the lake. You won’t want to return to whatever your real life is.

Kate's website claims she “continues to write the sorts of books she can disappear inside”. She also says that she loved reading Enid Blyton as a child. Maybe that is why I like her so much. The Lake House is an engrossing read.

5 stars

Like this? You may also like The Girls by Lisa Jewell

ISBN: 9781439152805

My other reviews.

Friday 16 October 2015

Ten of the best #17

Well, happy weekend everyone. And here is your social media fix - all the best stuff, together in one place. Just click the pictures for the links, and use your browser's back button to come back for more.

1.    It is Rugby World Cup Quarter Final weekend. Yay. I always enjoy the quarter finals of any sport the most – there is such good competition, and enough (4 matches) to watch. You can get your fix of good sport. It’s downhill from here, people. So in honour of the eight teams that made it through, you all need to watch…the haka from 1973. How strange is that?

2.    I know I am a bit late with this post, but it is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. President Obama on the mass shooting. The man talks such sense, and I was mesmerized. If you don’t want to watch the clip, just read the speech on this link.

Taking Stock

This is a milestone. The 100th post on my blog. So it seems appropriate that I should take stock and look at what has happened, wonder if it will show the way forward, and make some decisions about the future. Isn’t that what one does on the hundredth post? 

Since I am a numbers girl and love all things statistical, I have been looking forward to this post for a while. (I've literally been counting the last few on my fingers.) And I had to check the stats. Before I share them with you, it’s time here for a few shameful confessions…I have spreadsheets for most aspects of my life. There is one for running and walking distances I clock up; one for the books I read; one for the weekly dinners that get cooked in my house (that have shopping lists that can be automatically populated with the ingredients from the menu plans – I am quite proud of that one); one for the dismally performing investments we have; one for my blood pressure readings, one for my points earned on my medical aid scheme and finally, one with the blog posts that I have written, categorized by date and what kind of post they were. 

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the sad state of affairs that is my life. 

Wednesday 14 October 2015

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

This is a book that is great to read in October – the accident season. For Cara and her sister, Alice, step-brother Sam and friend Bea, October must be endured as the month where the danger of accidents lurks behind every strange face, sharp object, passing car and even in each home.

Despite the danger, the fear, which is highlighted by Cara’s mother’s attempts to keep them safe, these young and broken souls fight bravely for their world and the right to live free in it.

A beautiful read. Haunting and evocative, eerie and mysterious, you are drawn in to so many images and imaginings, your head is whirling with the vivid shadows and the chilling realities. At first, it proved a little too much for me in a busy month, with not much time to read, and I struggled to get into it. The distinction between real and imagined is (intentionally) not always clear either, which, once you get used to just adds to the charm of the book. I am so glad I kept going.

The characters dance through the pages while the extravagant prose paints wild streaks across the landscape. I couldn’t stop singing their song - “So let’s raise our glasses to the accident season, To the river beneath us where we sink our souls, To the bruises and secrets, to the ghosts in the ceiling, One more drink for the watery road.”

You won’t enjoy this if your reading pleasure depends on factual accuracy, details being correct, and mysteries being solved. If however, you are prepared to balance the mystical with the earthly, you will join the chant and love the song. As for me, I think I may sing it every October.

This is a 5 star read for me.

ISBN: 9780552571302

Monday 12 October 2015

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

This book that popped up everywhere, tempting me to read it. So one day, I just bought it. I kind of had to.

Here is (some of) the publisher’s blurb which explains why: 

“Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret,…”

A great premise.

But as the plot unfolds, it doesn’t do the premise justice. It is just not good enough to live up to the suspenseful start.

Not that it is not good at all. It is definitely gripping. The way in which it is told draws you in and makes you want more. However, the writing is not brilliant and the characters were not all that likeable. Twists and turns are fun, and lead the reader in the wrong direction, which is fine (I usually enjoy that) but if you go back and check afterwards the whole thing kind of falls over a bit.

And then a week or so later, you find yourself saying – Disclaimer, yes that was ok, what was it about again? A bit like a tame roller coaster ride, that whilst in the moment was enjoyable, but not breathtaking. And, thinking about it afterwards, you don’t really have much to say.

2 stars

ISBN: 9780857522818

All my reviews.

Book Club recommendations

Friday 9 October 2015

Ten of the Best #16

How has your week been? Busy? Mine too. And I’ve had no time for much other than work and my usual commitments. So – here is the weekend, and time to catch up on all those lovely clips and articles you didn’t have time for. They are all right here. Click the pictures to follow the links and use your back button to return for more.
1.    So before Trevor Noah lost the plot earlier this week he weighed in on Trump and Zuma and other African leaders. The comparison he draws is hysterical. Warning – at 7 or so minutes, this clip is a little longer than usual.

2.    You may have guessed from previous ten of the best posts, that if you ask me “Dogs or cats?” my answer is … - well that would be saying. But if you need a clue, this 5 minute clip nearly made me change my answer.

3.    The science of happiness, from the Business Day.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

It is always a good idea to have some time to pause and think before writing a review. In an ideal world, I would write down all my original thoughts about the book, without giving a rating. I would then leave it for a few days, and come back to the thoughts, edit and tidy up what I’d said, add a few things and decide on a rating, after mulling over it for a while.

It almost never works like that.

One thing I try not to do is read any reviews before I post my own. In this case, I broke that very important rule.

All I knew about I am Pilgrim before I started it was:

1. My hairstylist recommended it, saying it was hectic.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

2 out of 5 stars

This book looked so very promising. The second novel by the author, I have wanted to read it because it keeps popping up on the shelves of people who like reading the same things I do.

The story sounds good. Heidi, who has had trouble having children, sees Willow and her baby at a train station, and she wants to help. After a few encounters with the two of them, she takes them in to her home, which causes no small amount of angst from her teenage daughter and husband. Rightly so.

The three narrators – Heidi, her husband, Chris, and Willow tell the story. I listened to the Audible version, and I thoroughly enjoyed the narration. The readers were different for each character, and all good. The story, plot and conclusion, not so much.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Ten of the best #15

This is my roundup of what happened on my social media feeds this week. Click the pictures to follow the links, and use your back button to come back for more (if you want to).

Welcome, and I hope you find something you enjoy.

1.            Where were you when Facebook crashed? “Which time?” I hear you ask. Oh dear. Who cares anyway? I seemed to have missed it completely. Clearly I am not on social media as much as my husband thinks I am.

Here are the reactions on Twitter (mostly) to when FB went down. Quite amusing. 

2.            Trevor Noah started hosting The Daily Show after John Stewart retired. Don’t you hate it when you follow a link and the note on the clip says ‘Sorry but this is not available in your region’? Drives me flipping ballistic. In this day and age, really? Why? Don’t tell me it’s not available, I will jolly well find it. It will just take me longer than if the original link was available. So really all you’re doing is wasting my time. It’s even worse when the clip is a Trevor Noah one. I mean, come on, he’s still ours, right?

Well you can all relax, I found the one that is available in our region.