Scribblings and Blether
These are my longer posts and photos. Visit the Microblog tab above for the shorter stuff.
Sustainable farming around Haweswater and Mardale Common
Miles King has written a review of Wild Fell by Lee Schofield on the excellent A New Nature Blog. He doesn’t post often now, apologising unnecessarily, and I’m just happy to enjoy the content he does create. It’s a bit of an old school blog - excellent writing and a place where one feels reasoned debate can be had without degenerating into a slanging match. Bookmark the blog, visit regularly, and enjoy.
The book, Wild Fell is on my to-read list but I wasn’t sure about it. The review has convinced me. I think I vaguely thought it was advocating for the status quo and I’m now not quite sure why I thought that. Kings says:
Almost everyone (dare I say even James Rebanks?) now accepts that there are too many sheep in the Lake District, and that has been the case for many decades. So it’s very inspiring to read about a large scale project where reducing the sheep numbers (and also changing the times they are out on the commons) is actually happening — and how quickly the land and its nature is responding..
I find it hard, running on the Howgills nearly every day, not to be depressed at the effects of sheep on the uplands. King has covered this a fair bit in the past and there are some links in his review. I need to read this book and Mardale Common is not too far from here for a quiet run sometime soon.
22 April 2022
Reading online essays on your e-reader
If you want to read good essay content from the internet (and there is a lot of excellent writing out there) then I recommend getting the articles off the web to read.
I find it far too easy to get distracted when I am sat at a computer or even looking at a tablet. I don’t want to do deep reading with either. The slightest lapse in concentration and the web browser is open and I’m haring down some rabbit hole.
Reading is best when I concentrate on it, get absorbed in it. I now do most of my deep reading on an e-ink reading device. One of the best ways to read essays is to convert them to a format that works for my e-reader.
There are various paid services that do this and I have tried many of them. (Instapaper and Pocket being two big players in the field.) I’ve just not quite got the habit to stick. I now use EpubPress. It is free - though it is well worth donating a few dollars to the developer if you find it helpful and can afford it.
First off you need to install the browser extension for Chrome or Firefox. You are now ready to go. What I do is line up 4 or 5 articles I want to read. I often use LongReads.com to find them.
Once I have them open in different tabs you then click on the EpubPress icon in the toolbar of the browser. Tick the boxes for the articles you want to be added to your book. If you click on the gear icon you can choose the output file to be epub or mobi. If you use a Kindle then go with Mobi - other devices then go with epub.
You can, at this stage, edit the title and the description of the ebook. Then hit ‘Download’.
Getting the newly created ebook onto your device
You will need to do some ‘sideloading’. It’s easy. There are various email based options. Amazon allows you to email files to your Kindle device. You have to authorise email addresses for this and they have help pages to get you going. EpubPress also has an email option for you to send the file direct from the browser. You will need to whitelist the EpubPress email (email@example.com) on Amazon and if you add your Kindle device email to the box offered your file can be delivered direct.
I prefer to do it manually and I sideload ebooks onto my Kobo Forma using some excellent free software called Calibre. Once you have installed Calibre (versions available for all operating systems) you can then add your newly created ebook as a file. Then just plug in your e-reader and ‘Send to Device’. Easy. I have also added the Annotations plug-in which will then detect my highlights and notes from my ebooks. The advantage of using Calibre is that you build a one-stop library of all your reading material along with your notes in one place.
22 April 2022
February and March 2022 reading list and notes
- Get Started in Stand-Up Comedy by Logan Murray
- Post-Truth by Matthew d’Ancona
I half-read several books in February and just didn’t have the focus to get them finished. I think Twitter was a major factor in this and I’ve sorted that.
Not many books are as timely as this one. Recommended.
- A Director’s Guide to the Art of Stand-Up by Chris Head
- Write It All Down by Cathy Rentzenbrink
- Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics by Adam Rutherford
- The Future of Food by Matt Reynolds
- How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division by Elif Shafak
- This Is Vegan Propaganda by Ed Winters
- Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
- Corruptible by Brian Klaas
- The Five Health Frontiers by Christopher Thomas
- Structured Chaos by Victor Saunders
- Butler to the World by Oliver Bullough
Quite a difference this month. While I’m not chasing numbers with my reading I have come back to it after a couple of months of drifting. It has confirmed to me that I just feel a lot better when I read a lot and when I read with some purpose. I like the deep explorations and it just emphasises the superficiality and toxicity of the flitting and doom scrolling that characterises web browsing and social media.
In one of the books above Rentzenbrink said Twitter made her “jealous, judgemental and jittery” and books are the antidote to that. Shafak in her short book also had a comment on reading. Funnily enough How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division was recommended to me when I told someone I was leaving Twitter. I think, though I may have it wrong, they recommended it because they thought it would encourage me to stay on Twitter but to find a path through it. In the end, it cemented my decision:
Knowledge requires reading. Books. In-depth analyses. Investigative journalism. Then there is wisdom, which connects the mind and the heart, activates emotional intelligence, expands empathy. For that we need stories and storytelling.
So, that’s what I am doing. I am reading - but I am also seeking out longer essays and analyses where I can as well.
I also read a couple of times, in some detail, a long essay:
- Augmenting long-term memory by Michael Nielsen
This online essay is well worth your time. I did what I now usually do with longform essays and I converted it to an epub file for my own personal consumption. I read it twice and got some detailed notes. Basically, it outlines a process for using Anki to understand and learn from your reading. It is excellent and I have since started using Anki, albeit in a limited way, to enhance my reading.
21 April 2022
Monthly Reading List
January 2022 Reading List
- The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina
- The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
- This is Vegan Propaganda by Ed Winters
Yes, I know…
29 January 2022
Monthly Reading List
- The Social Conquest of Earth by EO Wilson
- Human Compatible by Stuart Russell
- Calypso by David Sedaris
- The Photography Storytelling Workshop by Finn Beales
On giving up on books
Another post on the theme of reading a little less…
Just when is it reasonable to give up on a book? This used to be something I almost never did, at least not deliberately, and I would somehow persuade myself I would come back to them. Naturally, there were books that I put down and not picked up again but I always held out that I would return. Nope. Now I’m older I have come to terms with the fact I won’t finish them and I am more than willing to give up on books.
Sometimes they are just not for me. No hard feelings.
I don’t have a rule on the point at which I give up as I try to take into account the context. I think it is different between fiction and non-fiction for sure. It certainly varies between genres. And I have to take into account my own state of mind. Am I tired or distracted? I can have periods of days/weeks like that but usually I can identify a style/genre that will get me through those days. Maybe I’m in need of something light-hearted and funny and that book on disaster capitalism isn’t going to work. But I’ll try to go back to a book if I think that might be the case.
There are more fabulous books than it is possible to read in a lifetime and my willingness to persist is inversely proportional to my increasing age.
I’ve got more brutal about giving up on books that get stuff wrong. I was reading Alan Rusbridger’s book News: And How to Use It and found a Latin phrase that helps describe how this feels. It’s a legal phrase: falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. Untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. I suspect this might be more to do with witness testimony but it is just as applicable to the presentation of facts. It is all about trust, as Rusbridger frequently points out. If you have specialist knowledge in an area and you realise the author is getting it wrong, it becomes much harder to maintain the willingness to accept what the author is saying on other areas.
The most egregious example was a book I was reading about drugs written by an American author. At one point, quite early, the book stated that fentanyl was also believed to be involved in the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury in the UK. It might have been, for about five minutes, and it was very apparent, very quickly, it was something very different. If you don’t know you can Google it. Which is all the author had to do. You will quickly learn just how shockingly, teeth-itchingly, wrong this is. In a heartbeat, my trust in the other facts in the book collapsed. I went on for a while but I realised that it had destroyed the book for me. There was simply no point in continuing.
“In 2018, a former colonel in the Russian army named Sergei Skripal was poisoned in Salisbury, England, along with his daughter. The poison was reportedly fentanyl. Skripal had been convicted in Russia of spying for Britain years earlier but was sent to the United Kingdom as part of a “spy swap,” an exchange for sleeper agents in the United States. Both he and his daughter survived. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov denied Russian involvement.”
The incident with Skripal happened on 04 March 2018. On 12 March the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, gave a statement in the Commons that it was a chemical weapons attack using a Russian-produced nerve agent, novichok. The book was published in the UK in September 2019. It is spectacularly wrong and the fact-checking has utterly failed. For me, that book is unreadable.
8 January 2022
More numbers — this time on exercise
So, my post two days ago was about being wary of chasing numbers. How better to follow up than to chase some more numbers? This time some overall stats on my exercise from 2020 to 2021. Firstly, my numbers from 2020 in summary:
Then the numbers from 2021:
A very satisfactory improvement. It’s all a bit skewed due to the pandemic as working from home has made it, paradoxically for me, easier to get exercise. A rare privilege for which I am very grateful. And — touch wood, fingers crossed — I have managed to avoid any significant injury but circumstances may make it harder to be so consistent with my running in 2022.
Almost all my exercise is running but I simply couldn’t manage the volume if I was out slapping feet on tarmac. It’s all on varied terrain, mostly up the fells and on hilly trails as the elevation data show, and on trails and that seems to make a huge difference to my overall tolerance. I suspect it is also much better for my mental state and it is easier to go out and simply enjoy the experience when I am a bit fatigued. It has become almost comedic, when I have been away in a city, how I end up pinging a calf muscle when I go for even a moderate 10k on the roads. And, I have avoided any sort of racing at all. My long post about the Ring of Steall fell race in 2017 should answer any questions on why I don’t go for races.
My main aim for 2022 is to get myself a regular bodyweight exercise habit. I am just aiming at the minimum to maintain strength and some flexibility and offset the drop off from ageing. I’ve no ambitions beyond that. I am very aware that some kind of strength training is probably the single best way to reduce the risk of injury. Want to check the evidence? This systematic review and meta-analysis showed a dose-response relationship between strength training and its preventive effect on injuries.
7 January 2022