Monday, January 30, 2017

Regarding Trump's recent immigrant fiasco

'I hope this hits close enough to home so as to awaken you from your contented slumber' says Joshua Brown in his latest article on the Reformed Broker blog. It sure did for me. Brown highlights the long history of ugly, explicit racist sentiment that has been pervasive across the continent over the years. It's pretty cold stuff. Have a read.

Before we get self-righteous about the horribleness that we are seeing across the pond, we should remember that Europe has it's own version of this woeful history. I remember growing up in the 1980s when we wouldn't go a certain park because it was where skinheads hung out, and if you crossed their path you might get you head 'bashed in'. I remember when children openly told hateful racist jokes in the playground. I remember when nationalists and skinheads marched down the streets, and when we sealed up our letter box in fear of petrol bombs being posted. I remember walking home from school one day when I saw I really brutal fight taking place - it was a racist attack I was told to move on out of there as quickly as possible.

I am a definitely an optimist when I look at the trends of violence and the onward and upward march of human freedoms in general, but this episode serves as a reminder that one mustn't get complacent, because as much as we don't want to admit it, horrible live underneath the thin veneer of everyday civility, monsters with an an ancestory that stretches all the way back into past centuries.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Some quotes from Goodreads part 2 of 2

On fear

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune

Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
― Zig Ziglar

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
― Confucius, Confucius: The Analects

The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
― Pablo Picasso

“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt, The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt

“I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die.”
― Isaac Asimov

“Don't wish it were easier. Wish you were better.”
― Jim Rohn

“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

“So many books, so little time.”
― Frank Zappa

“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
― Mark Twain

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
― Allen Saunders

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
― William Shakespeare, As You Like It

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”
― Dr. Seuss

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
― Mark Twain

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Some quotes from Goodreads part 1 of 2

Goodreads is a great site for book review and quotes. Here are some of my favourite quotes, culled from the site:

On death

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

― Jorge Luis Borges

“I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens.”
― Woody Allen

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

“My dear,
Find what you love and let it kill you.
Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness.
Let it kill you and let it devour your remains.
For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.
~ Falsely yours”
― Charles Bukowski

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

― Mark Twain

On productivity

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done.”
― Bruce Lee

“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

“Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law”
― Douglas R. Hofstadter

“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.”
― Francine Jay, Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify

“Consider everything an experiment.”
― Corita Kent

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The Sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus”
― Alexander Graham Bell

“You don't actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it "done.”

“A system is only as effective as your level of commitment to it.” 
― Audrey Moralez

On self-development

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”
― John Locke

“Knowing too much of your future is never a good thing.”
― Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
― Daniel J. Boorstin

“It takes a very long time to become young.”
― Pablo Picasso

“May you live every day of your life.”
― Jonathan Swift

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
― May Sarton

“Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.”
― Albert Camus

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”
― Plato

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”
― Maurice Switzer

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
― Aristotle

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
" Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, 'Wait and Hope.”
― Alexandre Dumas

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Starsky's big brother, Rocky

This relaxed dude was once an edgy stray who was wary of strangers and loved a spot of scratching and biting. They say a tiger doesn't change his stripes but Rocky is a completely different cat these days. For posterity (he's up for adoption), here's an audio file of Rocky purring away like a monster. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Book: Education of Wondering Man by Louis L'Amour

After posting 'Some quotes about reading', where I noted some choice quotes from the famous author of Western novels, Louis L'Amour, I figured would go ahead and give 'Education of a Wondering Man' a try. It is an excellent autobiography that focuses on the author's 'yondering' years, when Louis took on all variety of occupations and travelled the world over, all the while managing to read finding pockets of time to read an infinite number of books. His experiences and learnings over these years served as the foundation for his future career as a writer.

Here's a little background of the author, taken from the "About" section:
"Spurred by an eager curiosity and desire to broaden his horizons, Mr. L'Amour left home at the age of fifteen and enjoyed a wide variety of jobs, including seaman, lumberjack, elephant handler, skinner of dead cattle, miner, and as an officer in the transportation corps during World War II. During his "yondering" days, he also circled the world on a freighter, sailed a dhow on the Red Sea, was shipwrecked in the West Indies and stranded in the Mojave desert. He won fifty-one of fifty-nine fights as a professional boxer and worked as a journalist and lecturer. He was a voracious reader and a collector of rare books. His personal library contained 17,000 volumes."
Impressive chap, eh.

L'Amour also had an astounding memory, which made his voracious reading all the more valuable and enriching. In contrast, I read far fewer books, and can recall fewer still. In fact, on a handful of occasions, I have found myself a quarter the way through a book only to realise it's a road I've been down before!

L'Amour's genuine interest in the world around him, and his love of the writing process (a large part of which is background research), comes through strongly and by the end of the book I truly felt that here was a man who had found his calling, stuck to it and revelled in it. Take this quote for example:

"Often, ambitious young men or women write, wanting to work for me or assist me in my research. What they do not understand is that it is a labour of love, and I would relinquish no part of it at any price. I do not need help. I need time.'

At the end of the book, Louis also provides a list of books and plays read from 1930 to 1935 (and 1937). The tally is testament to the author's appetite for the written word:

1930 - 115
1931 - 120
1932 - 120
1933 - 105
1934 - 114
1935 - 73
1936  - 84

The lists include many books worth looking into, and I'm sure many will be added to my reading list.
I'll post my favourite quotes in separate entry because there's quite a few to jot down.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Book: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

There is too much to write about 'The Master and Margrita', a Russian classic by Mikhail Bulgakov. As I don't know where to start and wouldn't know where to finish, I'll collect together my thoughts and researches in another post. For the time being, reader, know that The Master and Margarita occupies the very top bracket, sitting alongside the likes of Don Quixote and The Princess Bride. It is exquisite and will surely be read again. More will follow.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Books: A few quotes on reading

I found these quotes on Farnham Street Blog:

Often I hear people say they do not have the time to read. That’s absolute nonsense. In one year during which I kept that kind of record, I read twenty-five books while waiting for people. In offices, applying for jobs, waiting to see a dentist, waiting in a restaurant for friends, many such places. I read on buses, trains and planes. If one really wants to learn, one has to decide what is important. Spending an evening on the town? Attending a ball game? Or learning something that can be with you your life long? Louis L'Amour
It is often said that one has but one life to live, but that is nonsense. For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time. - Louis L'Amour

It is the same in literature as in life. Wherever one goes one immediately comes upon the incorrigible mob of humanity. It exists everywhere in legions; crowding, soiling everything, like flies in summer. Hence the numberless bad books, those rank weeds of literature which extract nourishment from the corn and choke it. - Schopenhauer

They monopolise the time, money, and attention which really belong to good books and their noble aims; they are written merely with a view to making money or procuring places. They are not only useless, but they do positive harm. Nine-tenths of the whole of our present literature aims solely at taking a few shillings out of the public’s pocket... - Schopenhauer

It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time to read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the acquisition of their contents. To desire that a man should retain everything he has ever read, is the same as wishing him to retain in his stomach all that he has ever eaten. He has been bodily nourished on what he has eaten, and mentally on what he has read, and through them become what he is. - Schopenhauer

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Book: The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman

I know, I know, I keep breaking my vow not to read 'improving', life-hacky books like these. My excuse this time around is that the book cost me a mere £1 from the charity shop. Also, Richard Wiseman is a pretty cool cat and he writes well. Check out his Youtube channel here. Despite the cheesy cover of this book, The Luck turned out to be very insightful.

Notes from the book

Throw a lucky man in the sea and he will come up with a fish in his mouth - Arab proverb

Some of the biggest fools I know are the wealthiest. As a matter of fact, I believe that success is 95 percent luck and 5 percent ability. Take my own case. I know that there are any number of men in my employ who could run my business just as well as I can. They didn’t get the breaks — that’s the only difference between them and me. - Julius Rosenwald, past president of Sears, Roebuck and Company

Luck exerts a dramatic influence over our lives. A few seconds of bad luck can unravel years of striving, whilst a moment of good luck can lead to success and happiness.

Luck example: Maureen Wilcox bought lottery for the Rhode Island and Massachusetts lotteries. She got the winning numbers for both tickets but on they were on the wrong tickets.

Luck example: Donald Smith won the Wisconsin State Lottery three times (the chances of winning even once is over one in a million)

Luck example: Fleming discovers penicillin by chance. A piece of mould fell into an uncovered petri dish, killing the bacteria he was studying. He went on to identify the substance and discovered antibiotics.

Luck example: Mel Gibson is attacked on the street the night before his audition for Mad Max. He turns up looking battered and tired and is immediately offered the part.

A thought while reading: Significant random events early in a person's life can be a big shaper of their outlook and of their future.

Each one of us could tell stories of how crucial, unplanned events have had a major career impact and how untold thousands of minor unplanned events have had at least a small impact. Influential unplanned events are not uncommon; they are everyday occurrences. ...Serendipity is ubiquitous. (me - it's always there, in the possibility spectrum, life is a series of lucky and unlucky breaks. The dice is always being rolled).

To many, this (the roll of luck in our lives) is terrifying. Most people like to think that they are in control of their future. ...this feeling of control is an illusion. Luck makes a mockery of even our best intentions. It has the power to change everything...Any time, any place and without warning.

Lucky people..happened to live lives that were peppered with chance encounters.

Being lucky and unlucky is not related to intelligence.

Do lucky and unlucky people approach life in the same way? Lucky people's expectation of winning the lottery was much higher than unlucky people, according to Wiseman's study. '"When it comes to random events like the lottery, such expectations count for little. Someone with a high expectation of winning will do as well as someone with a low expectation. However, life is not a lottery. Often, our expectations make a difference. They make a difference to whether we try something, how hard we persist in the face of failure, how we interact with others and how others interact with us."

PRINCIPLE ONE - Maximise your Opportunities - Lucky people create, notice and act upon the chance opportunities in their life.'If you don't enter (the competition), you've no chance of winning'.

1. Lucky people build and maintain a strong network: Robert really enjoys meeting people and spending time with them, and the more people he meets, the greater his chances of coming into contact with someone who can have a beneficial effect on his life. ... Perhaps not surprisingly, far more extraverts than introverts are 'social magnets'. ...They are easy to get to know and most people like them.  ...This creates a massive 'network of luck' and a huge potential for chance opportunities.

Same opportunities, different lives.

The lucky people smiled twice as much...and engaged in far more eye contact. ...Lucky people tend to engage in three times as much 'open' body language as unlucky people.

Luck is believing you're lucky - Tennessee Williams

Strategies - Initiate conversations with people who look friendly and approachable. Be authentic and natural. Asking for something (e.g. time, where they bought some clothing, etc? as ice breakers). Don't be afraid of rejection. There are lots of people out there. Play the contact game.

2. Lucky people have a relaxed attitude towards life. Quite often, we are simply unaware of the opportunities that surround us because we are too focused looking for something else.  Lucky people not trying too hard, end up being able to see more.

Lucky people have lower neuroticism scores than unlucky people.

Strategies: meditation, try looking at the world through the eyes of a child - without expectations and prejudice. Have fun.

3. Lucky people are open to new experiences in their lives.
Strategies - shop in different places, choose a colour and speak to people wearing that colour (a game for yourself at social occasions), roll a dice to choose an option of a list.

Nobody gets justice. People get good or bad luck - Orson Welles

PRINCIPLE TWO - Listen to Your Lucky Hunches

We are conscious of only a tiny fragment of the factor that influence the way we think, decide and behave. Instead, we are often driven by our unconscious. (e.g. judging people).

Strategies: Boost intuition by: meditation, returning to the problem later, clearing the mind, finding a quiet place.

PRINCIPLE THREE - Expect Good Fortune

Lucky people expect the sun will always shine on them, while unlucky people expect storm clouds to gather in their personal and professional lives.

Lucky people see any bad luck in their lives as being very short lived. doing so, they are able to maintain their expectations of a bright and happy future.

..the unlucky expectations held by unlucky people resulted in them being especially ineffectual at getting what they wanted from life. (e.g. I know I will never find a job and so never really try to get one anymore.) Expectations are transformed into realities.

Lucky people expect their interactions with others to be lucky and successful (me - the payoffs are not linear but chaotic - enjoy the process)

Lucky and unlucky people seem to be living in different worlds.

- Affirm your luck (e.g. say out loud 'I am a lucky person and today is going to be another lucky day')
- Think about all your goals in all aspects of your life: next month (short), 6 months (medium), and 1 year (long-term). Take it one step at a time. These are your expectations for the future. > Attempt to achieve your goals even if your chances of success seem slim and persevere in the face of failure.
- For motivation: do a cost (actions required, time) benefits analysis and keep adding to the list as you go. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
- Me: think of it as a game.
- Me: think of the CBA from the perspective of the process, not just the outcome.

PRINCIPLE FOUR- Turn Your Bad Luck into Good Luck

See the positive side of bad luck. Soften the blows by considering that it could have been worse, can learn from it, taking the long view, necessity is the mother of invention, etc.

Create a phoenix from the ashes (turned down for a job, well there may be a better one around the corner).

Approach the bad luck with a positive mindset - learn from it, take constructive steps to prevent more bad luck in the future. 

My acronym: ELBO

Expectations - expect good fortune
Listen - to hunches
Bad luck - turn to good
Opportunities - maxmise

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Book: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass

This book of colourful nonsenses and creative wordplay was another Christmas holiday treat to myself. It is an enjoyable light read to close what has been a nonsense year. As with most Wordsworth Classics, the presentation of the text is excellent and includes the original illustrations.

For the first time to my knowledge, the Introduction actually recommended reading the book first, so as not to learn of the surprises ahead of time. Why all introductions don't do this, I'll never understand.

"...because the pleasures of reading are inseparable from the surprises, secrets and revelations that all narratives contain, we strongly advise you to enjoy the book before returning to the Introduction"

The author of the Introduction also rails against the academisaiton of literature, a particularly valid grudge when it comes to classic children's tales.

He also observes how Lewis Carrol upbringing may have been filled with the type of nonsensical comedy that Carrol employed to full effect in his stories. Here is Lewis Caroll's father writing back to his eight-year old son, who asked him to bring back a screwdriver:

    . . I will not forget your commission. As soon as I get to Leeds I shall scream out in the middle of the street, Ironmongers—Ironmongers — Six hundred men will rush out of their shops in a moment — fly, fly, in all directions — ring the bells, call the constables — set the town on fire. I will have a file and a screw-driver, and a ring, and if they are not brought directly, in forty seconds I will leave nothing but one small cat alive in the whole town of Leeds, and I shall only leave that, because I am afraid I shall not have time to kill it.
    Then what a bawling and a tearing of hair there will be I Pigs and babies, camels and butterflies, rolling in the gutter together — old women rushing up the chimneys and cows after them — ducks hiding themselves in coffee cups, and fat geese trying to squeeze themselves into pencil cases — at last the Mayor of Leeds will be found in a soup plate covered up with custard and stuck full of almonds to make him look like a sponge cake that he may escape the dreadful destruction of the Town . . .

Alice in Wonderland ****
Through the Looking Glass ***1/2

From the book:

(as Alice is shrinking) And she tried to fancy what the flame of a candle is like after is is blown out...

'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid sir,' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself.'

'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here.'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to', said the Cat.
'I don't much care where -' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.' said the Cat.
'- so long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.
'Oh you're sure to do that ,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.

“Crawling at your feet,' said the Gnat (Alice drew her feet back in some alarm), `you may observe a Bread-and-Butterfly. Its wings are thin slices of Bread-and-butter, its body is a crust, and its head is a lump of sugar.'
And what does it live on?'
Weak tea with cream in it.'
A new difficulty came into Alice's head. `Supposing it couldn't find any?' she suggested.
Then it would die, of course.'
But that must happen very often,' Alice remarked thoughtfully.
It always happens,' said the Gnat.”

Off with their heads.

It's all her/his fancy that ....

'There's nothing like eating hay when you're faint', he remarked to her, as he munched away.
'I should think throwing cold water over you would be better,' Alice suggested...
'I didn't say there was nothing better,' the King replied. 'I said there was nothing like it.' Which Alice did not venture to deny.

Everybody has won and all must have prizes.