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

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

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 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

  • 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 Monthly Reading List

January 2023 reading list

  • 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 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

September 2022 reading list and notes

Recommended: an eye-opening vision of the future of humanity

September 22

  • Nomad Century by Gaia Vince
  • What We Owe The Future by William Macaskill
  • Don’t Put Yourself on Toast by Freddy Taylor
  • Comedy, Comedy, Comedy, Drama by Bob Odenkirk
  • Mud, Rock, Blazes by Heather Anderson
  • The Art of Rest by Claudia Hammond
  • High Risk by Brian Hall

Nomad Century is the book that I keep recommending to people. On that basis alone it has to be flagged here. It might not be racist to be against immigration but it is certainly economically illiterate. She sets out that case convincingly. The book goes much further though and the vision Vince offers here is of a very different world, one where humanity finds itself pushed up into the higher latitudes by global warming. It is remarkable, almost fantastical, but it could very well be the best future on offer.

5 October 2022 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

August 2022 reading list and notes

Recommended: still not persuaded about the climate emergency? Really?

August 22

  • Against Borders by Gracie Mae Bradley
  • Hothouse Earth by Bill McGuire
  • Uncommon Wealth: Britain and the Aftermath of Empire by Kojo Koram
  • The Meaning of Human Existence by EO Wilson
  • The Dirty South by John Connolly
  • How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb
  • Just Ignore Him by Alan Davies
  • The Nameless Ones by John Connolly
  • Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • An Unsung Hero by Michael Smith

Phew, what to choose for August? I probably have to recommend Hothouse Earth as it is a very powerful compact book. I also read, unusually, a couple of fiction books and John Connolly is my go-to author when I want a dose of high quality crime fiction.

I also have to mention the books by the two actor-comedians in this list - Robert Webb and Alan Davies. Both are very moving and Davies’ account, in particular, is deeply affecting given a keen insight into the experience of sexual abuse. Webb leavens his challenges with humour to a far greater degree in his book. Both are recommended.

4 October 2022 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

July 2022 reading list and notes

Recommended: being anti-capitalist’ can be a lot of different things…

July 22

  • The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan
  • Windswept & Interesting by Billy Connolly
  • Good Pop, Bad Pop by Jarvis Cocker
  • C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too by John Diamond
  • Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
  • Improvise! by Max Dickins
  • How Words Get Good by Rebecca Lee
  • How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century by Erik Olin Wright

I read the late Erik Olin Wright’s book last year and so this was second time around. Well worth it too. The best book in July for sure.

3 October 2022 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

June 2022 reading list and notes

Recommended: should be read by anyone with any involvement, however peripheral, in child protection cases.

June 22

  • Unfree Speech by Joshua Wong
  • Behind Closed Doors by Polly Curtis
  • Classic Scrapes by James Acaster
  • The Trespasser’s Companion by Nick Hayes
  • My Fourth Time, We Drowned by Sally Hayden
  • Sidesplitter by Phil Wang
  • Do Not Disturb by Michela Wrong
  • Internet for the People by Ben Tarnoff
  • The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight

Some absolute corkers this month. Perhaps, interestingly, the bestseller The Premonitions Bureau might be my least favourite. It’s decent but the others are tremendous.

2 October 2022 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

April and May 2022 reading list and notes

Recommended: a remarkable exposé of the situation in Xinjiang.

It’s never good to apologise on blogs so I won’t go there — but it has been a while since I posted. A flurry of reading lists is coming up as I get back up to date.

April 22

  • The Perfect Police State by Geoffrey Cain
  • Very Bad People by Patrick Alley
  • From Marathon to Ultra by Jonathan Cairns
  • Stranger Faces by Namwali Serpell
  • Finding Ultra by Rich Roll
  • The Lost Art of Running by Shane Benzie
  • Failure is an Option by Matt Whyman
  • Training Essentials for Ultramarathons by Jason Koop
  • Ultra Success by Anthony Rogan

No prices for guessing my interest this month. No less than 7 books about running and ultras… The other two by Cain and Alley are also highly recommended.

May 22

  • In It For The Long Run by Damian Hall
  • Otherlands by Thomas Halliday
  • Mental Training for Ultrarunning by Addie. J. Bracy
  • Still Not Bionic: Adventures in Unremarkable Ultrarunning by Ira Rainey
  • The Rise of the Ultrarunners by Adharanand Finn
  • Endure by Alex Hutchinson
  • Why You Should Be a Trade Unionist by Len McCluskey
1 October 2022 Scribbles Monthly Reading List

George Town, Malaysia. The child on the back makes me think of the Kuleshov effect - how we interpret that facial expression is completely dependent on the context. I’m inclined to think it is happy-terror but in a different context it could be very different.

15 August 2022 microblog

I love a good book list. (Now through 7 out of 10 of the 2022 Orwell Prize list.) I didn’t know the FT had a book prize. Here are 15 books worth a look. I’ve read Butler to the World by Oliver Bullough and have Nomad Century on pre-order - it is out in the UK on the 25th August. So, a few to go at here…

15 August 2022 microblog

Finished the Editor’s Briefing for the August issue of the BJGP that goes to print this week. The issue is themed on cancer and I had cause to go back and read the late John Diamond’s C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too. It was first published in 1998 and I don’t think it is over-egging it to call it a classic.

15 July 2022 microblog

My Fourth Time, We Drowned by Sally Hayden has won the Orwell Political Writing Book Prize. And that is because it is superb. Harrowing, yes. Essential, absolutely. In a miserable sordid political climate where second rate ideologues can pursue policies as grim as the UKs Rwanda migrant relocation plan this is a book that reminds us of the importance of committed journalism.

14 July 2022 microblog