Scribblings and Blether

These are my longer posts and photos. Visit the Microblog tab above for the shorter stuff.



Windswept and Interesting by Billy Connolly

I’ve good memories of Billy Connolly. I can recall watching his Audience with…’ programme in the 1980s with my family and us all laughing uncontrollably. Yet I’ve mixed feelings about this book. I’ve never read any of Billy’s books but, even for me, there was barely an anecdote/joke in here I haven’t heard before at some time. I have to admit that some of it is getting a bit tired.

He asserts he is not a violent man but he fully admits that he is free with his fists and has a casual approach to violence. He tells several tales along those lines. Yet, there is a disconnect between his attitude and the reality. Violence is OK when he does it as he is one of the good guys and he tells it as part of a funny story. All those who he lamps deserve it and he offers sage advice on how to best use violence. On those occasions he imbues it with a cartoonish quality, all the better to minimise the bleak ugly reality of violence. Of course, Connolly had a traumatic upbringing and he endured some horrendous abuse but, sadly, he revels in violence he has meted out, quite unapologetically, despite the awful toll it took on him.

…sadly, he revels in violence he has meted out, quite unapologetically, despite the awful toll it took on him.

There are other small paradoxes and if Connolly has more profound reflections on his own personality and behaviours he doesn’t reveal them here. It all feels a little superficial and, occasionally, one feels his ego just running away a little with the stories. Undoubtedly, he has a considerable amount of which to be deeply proud and he is one hell of a character.

Like just about everyone, I like him and I’m charmed by him. His tales are all told with enormous charisma and his trademark humour but I found it hard to ignore the underlying tensions.

8 July 2022

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.

Using EpubPress

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 () 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

Feb 22

  • 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.

March 22

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.

Essay reading

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 Scribbles Monthly Reading List
BobandBert wall quote 30 January 2022