Now on the Cape Wrath Trail

So, I am now away on the Cape Wrath Trail. It lasts for the week and if you fancy a wee bit of dot watching’ then you can find the link to the GPS tracker page here:

I am number 96.

21 May 2023 Scribbles UltraNormal

Yet another CWU post

One more post on Ultra Normal today:

15 May 2023 Scribbles UltraNormal

More on ultra running…

So, I have written a few more posts over at Ultra Normal.

15 May 2023 Scribbles UltraNormal

May 2023 reading list

May 23

  • Sludge by Cass R. Sunstein
  • People Hacker by Jenny Radcliffe
  • Swearing Is Good For You by Emma Byrne
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
12 May 2023 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

Another website to signpost - Ultra Normal

Ultra Normal is a new website I have created and it is all about running and ultras. I’ll also be doing some stuff on countryside matters, especially around access and Right to Roam. More on it here:

Or jump straight to it here:

8 May 2023 Scribbles UltraNormal

April 2023 reading list

April 23

Just finished 😀

  • A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton Notes
  • Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte Notes
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy Notes
  • Everest the Cruel Way by Joe Tasker
  • No Easy Way by Mick Fowler
  • The Trolley Problem by Thomas Cathcart
  • Marx: A Very Short Introduction by Peter Singer
  • Unlawful Killings by Wendy Joseph
  • Psychovertical by Andy Kirkpatrick
  • Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Sharif

And, yes, I did read War and Peace. Not all this month but I did, finally, finish it.

30 April 2023 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

Substack Notes

Substack have now released their social media feature - Notes. Seemed worth a microblog here too.

My first post on Notes. So, I shall use it to highlight an essay on harm reduction and drug consumption rooms that I wrote for the New Humanist. It is currently available on their website. (And, of course, in the usual places like WHSmith - but don’t let the bastards upsell you any chocolate 😀)

11 April 2023 microblog

Revisiting The Cruel Way

In my younger years I was a keen climber. I wouldn’t say I was obsessed with it, that’s too strong, but climbing, and especially winter climbing and mountaineering, is not the kind of activity it is easy to dabble in. It tends to be all in.

I fed my interest by reading many of the classic books of the era. One of the most satisfying aspects of climbing and mountaineering (and especially the armchair variety) is that it has a rich and varied literature. I was living in West Sussex, so not a lot of climbing to be add there, and as a teenager I spent much time trawling the shelves of Haywards Heath library and working through the hardback volumes. I loved the stories and the cast became well known to me: Bonington, Haston, Boardman, Renshaw, Tasker, Patey, Whillans, and Doug Scott to name just a few.

I think it is time to revisit some of them and Joe Tasker’s Everest the Cruel Way is an unsparing description of a winter attempt on Everest in 1980-81. I had the audiobook and it makes a good companion for longer fell runs. Yesterday, I ended up on a much longer, harder run in the pouring rain, as I felt too embarrassed to turn back while listening to the brutal conditions of climbing on Everest’s West Face in winter conditions.

11 April 2023 Scribbles

Watching football when colour blind

It was one of the best games of the season today with Liverpool hosting Arsenal. Martin Tyler on Sky Sports commented at the start of the match that Arsenal were wearing grey socks to help people who were colour blind.

Sadly, it was of very limited help and viewing was a frustrating experience.

Imagine watching a football match where the two teams wear the same colours and the only way to tell them apart is via their socks… it was verging on unwatchable for those of us who are red-green colour blind.

9 April 2023 microblog

Finishing War and Peace

I’ve not got a long history of trying to read War and Peace but I do have a recollection that I tried to read it when I was 18. I was in Nepal at the time and I am fairly certain that I dragged the full paperback copy around the Annapurna circuit, including over the 5400m Thorung La in some stormy weather. I was wearing Doc Martens and a pair of cheap sportsocks on my hands as mittens. That’s another story though.

I don’t remember getting very far into it at all.

This time, I started reading it at the beginning of 2022 and I was following The Big Read Substack. Each week, you read seven chapters or so, and the author of the Substack, Jeremy Anderberg, would provide a summary and some comment. It’s a great way to get through it, adds some useful context, and adds a lot of value to the experience.

I fell off the Substack wagon last summer when I was about two-thirds of the way through the 600,000 words or so. I binged it this Easter weekend and carved off the remaining 200,000.

I read the Penguin translation by Anthony Briggs. This came out in 2005 and is incredibly accessible. (My original trip to Nepal was in 1991 so it sure as hell wasn’t that one I dragged around the Himalaya.) The chapters of War and Peace are short and the sheer readability of Briggs’ translation should banish any concern you’ll be wading through turgid prose. There are, handily, about 360 chapters in the book so set yourself the entirely manageable target of one a day and you’ll get there.

8 April 2023 Scribbles

Guardian article: Sainsbury’s shoppers criticise vile’ mince vac-packs aimed at reducing plastic

I’m not very militant about this stuff but it’s difficult to ignore the state of wilful ignorance that many folk would prefer to stay in. It’s almost like people don’t like to be reminded they are eating actual body parts isn’t it?

6 April 2023 microblog

Smart notes vs second brain

I read Building a Second Brain as I stumbled on it before doing a session on PKMs - personal knowledge management systems - for the BJGP Research Conference. It starts off encouragingly but quickly descends into absurdist levels of detail and convoluted systems. I do think there are important reasons to develop one’s own PKM but one of the whole points of PKMs is that they have to work for you. It’s the P’ bit…

Forte has some good ideas but they quickly run out and the need to sell a whole system has trumped everything. My advice is to stick with Sönke Ahrens’ How To Take Smart Notes.

5 April 2023 microblog

My second read of A Little History of Philosophy (well, listen, as it is an audiobook) by Nigel Warburton and it was a fine companion for a long drive to the south of England. Recommended.

4 April 2023 microblog

March 2023 reading list

March 23

Don’t jump to conclusions. Crawl to them, on your hands and knees, slowing checking every step of the way.”

  • The Blazing World by Jonathan Healey
  • Long Story Short by Margot Leitman
  • This Mortal Coil by Andrew Doig
  • The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre
  • How to Think Like a Philosopher by Julian Baggini
  • Unnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd
  • What Does It All Mean by Thomas Nagel
  • Philosophy: The Basics by Nigel Warburton
  • Justice by Michael J. Sandel

My recommendation of the month is Baggini’s How to Think Like a Philosopher. I’m reading several general philosophy primers and this is the new one from a quite remarkably prolific author.

31 March 2023 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

Unnatural causes, natural reactions

Now finished Unnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd. Some mixed feelings about this one. It is, as you would expect, an engrossing tour of forensic pathology, but looming over the whole thing is Richard Shepherd. Or, more specifically, his mental health. This is flagged early in the book, pops up regularly on the way through, and his eventual diagnosis with PTSD is given some brief coverage at the end. It’s so blatantly obvious through the book it was starting to get uncomfortable and it was almost with some relief that it came out.

I did note that Shepherd has an interesting relationship with truths and facts — reporting the truth’ was, at one point in his career, pivotal to his professional approach and one had the slight sense this was anchoring him throughout the stresses and strains of subverting all emotions in the most challenging of circumstances. However, he later becomes ambivalent about this and he often seems contradictory. Overall, it was hard not to read this book and not think about all the doctors and the culture of medicine where emotional detachment is a prized commodity that is valorised. And it slowly eats out people from the inside.

17 March 2023 microblog

February 2023 reading list

February 23

  • The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
  • Eat the Buddha by Barbara Demick
  • The Life Inside by Andy West
  • Getting Better by Michael Rosen
  • Hidden Mountains by Michael Wejchert
  • Zen and the Art of Dealing with Difficult People by Mark Westmoquette
  • When the Dust Settles by Lucy Easthope
  • Why Vegan? by Peter Singer
  • If You Should Fail by Joe Moran

Some excellent books here and a good month. It’s difficult to pick one but I did think that Joe Moran’s book was a delight and one I will make a note and read again.

28 February 2023 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

January 2023 reading list

January 23

  • A World Without Email by Cal Newport
  • The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
  • Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
  • Mythos by Stephen Fry
  • Essentialism by Greg Mckeown
  • The Hunt for the Silver Killer by David Collins
  • The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax by Christopher Devlin
  • Evil Beyond Belief by Wensley Clarkson
  • Jonathon Fairfax Must Be Destroyed by Christopher Devlin
  • The Pursuit of Coconuts by Christopher Devlin
  • Liberalism and Its Discontents by Francis Fukuyama

Book of the month is not easy to pick out. Not many of these really rang with me but I did enjoy a venture back into some gentle comedic crime fiction with the Fairfax novels. Perhaps Fukuyama was the book I am most likely to read again. (And Newport’s A World Without Email was already a second read and I got a lot more out of it this time. It hit the spot and I’m making some changes to how I work as a result.)

31 January 2023 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

December 2022 reading list

December 22

  • Billy No-Mates by Max Dickins
  • The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  • The Making of the Modern Middle East by Jeremy Bowen
  • Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco
  • The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull
  • Complicit by Max Bazerman
  • The Moth and the Mountain by Ed Caesar
  • The Vegan Beef” Guide by Lyanna K. Peterson

Somewhat electic mix this month — an excellent graphic non-fiction book by Sacco is well worth the time. I read Down and Out in serial form via the Orwell Foundation Substack. Complicit was a well-timed book for me given my work situation and Billy No-Mates was more thorough and comprehensive than I expected. It just pips the others to my book of the month recommendation.

24 December 2022 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

Some winter photos

The temperatures have dropped and the morning fell run has been sub-zero but with the most stunning light to enjoy. Every day has been a treat. The photos below were all taken with an iPhone 11 Pro (and no filters). Indeed, the only editing at all was when I cropped the photo of the horses to a square format. That’s it!

The viewing dial on the top of Winder at sunrise.

Winter light as the horses enjoy some hay.

My favourite of the week. I used portrait mode on the iPhone and it gives an otherworldliness to the trig point with its coating of rime ice.

9 December 2022 Scribbles

I’ve moved almost all of my microblogging to Mastodon so follow and connect there. 😃 #microblog

28 November 2022 microblog

November 2022 reading list

November 22

  • The Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland
  • The Last Colony by Philippe Sands
  • A Man With One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell
  • Mission Economy by Mariana Mazzucato
  • The Great Mental Models: Vol 1 by Shane Parrish
  • Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
  • The Restless Republic by Anna Keay
  • Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning
  • Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens

Recommended book this month: hard not to go with The Escape Artist by Freedland. It’s a bestseller for a reason.

26 November 2022 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

Migrating to Mastodon

I’m now on Mastodon. And, do you know, I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is, of course, micro-blogging and social media, but there are slight differences that make a huge difference to one’s wellbeing when using it. Part of that may just be the reduced traffic but I think the underlying structure gives me cause for optimism that it won’t descend into the hellsite that is now Twitter.

Get yourself signed up to a server and follow me there:

26 November 2022 Scribbles

I’m now on Mastodon. Get yourself signed up to a server and follow me there: #microblog

17 November 2022 microblog

October 2022 reading list and notes

Recommended book of the month

October 22

  • Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing by Peter Robison
  • To Live by Élisabeth Revol
  • Chums: How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the UK by Simon Kuper
  • Breaking the Social Media Prism by Chris Bail
  • The Life of an MP by Jess Phillips
  • The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation by Michael Matthews
  • PhD by Published Work by Susan Smith
  • Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre

I’ve already commented on Chums below so won’t add more. I happened upon Flying Blind as it was longlisted for the 2022 FT Business Book of the Year. Quite Ugly One Morning was the first Brookmyre book and I had a hankering for a bit of darkly humorous crime.

29 October 2022 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

Exposing the chumocracy

I enjoyed Chums by Simon Kuper and it is certainly a book for modern political times. (Though it would be relevant at any point in recent years/decades.) The Matthew Parris quote on the cover sums it up nicely:

A searing onslaught o§n the smirking Oxford intimation that politics is all just a game. It isn’t. It matters.”

It is a brutal takedown and a damning indictment. Kuper doesn’t generally offer much hope of future change - he seems resigned, though not hopelessly, to the likelihood that the status quo will be maintained.

It’s easy to read this as a takedown of Johnson, Cameron, Gove et al. And, Kuper certainly manages to eviscerate them. It’s not pretty. More importantly, Kuper’s book is just one aspect of a wider discussion around inequalities. It is eye-opening when you breakdown the impact of Oxford and just how much it has facilitated a ruling class to grasp the reins of power. Kuper’s thesis here is that it is profound. Perhaps that won’t be maintained and this is a blip but Kuper’s book presents evidence that it is simply the way things have been done for a century at least. It is the norm.

…Kuper’s book is just one aspect of a wider discussion around inequalities.

And, although there is not much space devoted to it, a sliver of optimism is offered at the end that it could be done very differently at institutions like Oxford. (I say like Oxford” but really Oxford is almost in a class of its own here.) It is certainly done differently at universities in other European countries. They could move to postgraduate courses only and concentrate on research and other teaching initiatives, moving away from undergraduate courses. It wouldn’t break the stranglehold of the independent sector and the domination of just a few schools on admissions but it might help.

6 October 2022 Scribbles