Monday, March 21, 2016

Get Pocket Tells Me What I Thought I Wanted to Read is one of those consolidators of web articles which occasionally alerts me to an article I've missed online. Do you too get  "suggestions" for your reading pleasure? My favorite so far has been which I would have seen if I were diligent about reading my New Yorkers, but I'm not. Thank you, Get Pocket.

Today's entries included a piece by Heidi Isern, who reeled me in with a funny article on Quartz called "Almost Everyone Who Is Single Is Single for the Same Reason." She quotes her dad at the end:

"My father once told me that the secret to his loving 40 year marriage with my mother was simple. “We just like hanging out with each other doing nothing. And trust me, as you get older you have a lot of time together doing nothing.”
Wise words from her father.

Today's gem? I got as energized over this as I did over the task site last week which I just noticed fell off my toolbar and hence out of my life.

"Tell Me What You Did Today, And I’ll Tell You Who You Are" by Benjamin Hardy on The Medium.
I am seduced by this type of article. Maybe there is just that much of my business degree left in me? One, two, three and your whole life gains clarity, perspective and satisfaction. The author is working on his doctorate in industrial psych and it's all about setting goals and sticking to them. Isn't everything? So you imagine your ideal day (so much time spent with family, exercise, prep, reading, writing, working) and then see how close you come to achieving it.

"To ensure you not only achieve your goals, but radically exceed them, put substantially more effort in than seems needed. And plan for the worst. Rather than underestimate how much time and effort something will take, overestimate those things.

We are all in complete control of how we spend our time. If we don’t believe we are, we have an external locus of control (i.e., victim-mentality) and will remain so until we claim personal responsibility.

What does your ideal day look like?

How often do you live your ideal day?

If you were to consistently live your ideal day, where would you be in one year from now? Where would you be in five years?"

So I've plotted my ideal day:

coffee & breakfast with a brief look at the papers 60min or 8%;
Write My Words on 50min or 6%;
pool or walk 120min or 16%;
lunch, 60min or 8%;
writing and submitting 100min or 13%;
reading, responding or sorting 90min or 12%;
crisis mgmt 30min or 4%;
cooking/eating dinner  90min or 12%;
tv, papers/magazines or Scrabble 150min or 20%;
walk round the block with the dog, 15min or 1%.
Total minutes: 765 or about 12 hours of the day.

To achieve this, I need to be up at 7:30 each morning. Today I got up at 8:45.

It pencils out well with a total of 765 minutes allotted in a standard 1440-minute day less eight hours of sleep minus my dedicated 765 minutes gives me a whopping 195 minutes to screw around, do housework, toilet activities, etc. and there are places like tv which can be shifted into productivity if needed.

It I consistently lived this way, in five years I'd have written a number of articles, maybe even the whole bloody memoir. I can see stealing from reading time for writing time. My writing time, including 750 words, may be a tad unrealistic since I often sit here for hours scribbling away, critiquing or doing book reviews.

Some people in this household might find this hilariously contrary to actuality, the thoughts of a fool or an optimist, but I find it comforting. One can have an agenda. One can stick with it. But most of all, it can be adjusted, expanded or altered to fit reality. Or my idea of reality. My manager friends are going to love this, and by posting, I might be forced to accountability.

 I am reminded of this classic book on time management by Alan Lakein, recommended by my favorite writing teacher, which I can always stand to reread.

How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Slightly Foxed what pleasure I get when this charming British quarterly with paintings on the cover arrives by mail, bearing its discoveries from writers describing treasures from the past. The latest volume brings Autonauts of the Cosmoroute (1983) by Julio Cortazar and his wife, Carol Dunlop, about a month-long journey they made in a red Volkswagen camper, named Fafner after Wagner's dragon, from Paris to Marseilles on the autoroute, stopping twice a day "at every one of the route's 65 motels, cafeteria. lay-bys and picnic areas" without leaving the highway. Sarah Bakewell (How to Live: A Life of Montaigne and At the Existentialist Cafe) calls the book "one of the most adventurous and wide-ranging travel books ever written." Next, a treatise on wilderness manuals from Gaylen O'Hanlon while Robert McFarlane (Landmarks) writes about Lexicographer-Poet James Stout Angus's A Glossary of the Shetland Dialect (1914) and the poetry within, i.e. "ABER, adj., sharp, acute, as an edge tool; clear, well-defined, as a cloudless sky; eater, as a hungry fish at a bait; secure, as a knot on a line, ardent, severe; v. to sharpen as a knife; to stir up and make bright, as a fire." More amazing entries cited on the sea (ADNASJUR, BAA, UTSHOT), and on flora and fauna (BARK-LEAF, 'the blade and blossom of tormentil' and SWABBI MAA, 'the great black-back gull.' Margaret Drabble extols the contradictory and moving life of James Joyce as illuminated by Richard Ellmann in the biography of 1980. And so many favorites written about with charm and panache: Evan Connell's Mrs. Bridge, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, Alison Lurie's Real People, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, and authors Brian Moore, J. G. Farrell, Penelope Fitzgerald with titles we may have missed. Not that title choices are a problem for me, "so many books, so little time," but what fun to read these contributors who have a light touch and deep appreciation of good tales, for instance one note on a writer says: "retiring from 36 years as a Fleet Street sub-editor, Patrick Welland invested in a huge chair in which to drink red wine and read books." I've done the same.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

The Sound of Things FallingThe Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 The story is set in Bogotá, Colombia and the reader learns that much of the city is recovering from severe PTSD. Citizens who lived through the Eighties in the time of Pablo Escobar have symptoms not unlike war veterans, having spent a decade living in fear, not going out to public places, restaurants, cafes, etc. and never knowing when a family member or friend would go missing. The narrator grew up in the era and suffers irrational fears and despair after he is wounded while walking with his friend Roberto who is shot and killed, leaving him obsessed with trying to understand the death from the man's surviving daughter. The book becomes a mystery tale and spurs the reader on to discover what happened. The writing is beautiful in translation. Kudos to Anne McLean - I want to read more of her translations and am looking at The Anatomy of a Moment: Thirty-Five Minutes in History and Imagination. One memorable setting of the ruined and abandoned animal park/zoo owned by the drug lord is so real you can hear the squeak of a broken sign hanging by one hinge in the oppressive ever-present heat. The pace is almost dreamy for the first section of the story but picks up rapidly moving forward to other events, further puzzles.
A favorite quotation from the book:
"There is just one direct route beween La Dorada and Bogotá...You turn south and take the straight road that runs by the river that takes you to Honda, the port where travelers used to arrive when no planes flew over the Andes. From London, from New York, from Havana, Colón or Barranquilla, they would arrive by sea at the mouth of the Magdalena and change ship there...long days of sailing upriver on tired steamships...From Honda, each traveler would get to Bogotá however he could, by mule or by train or in a private one has able to explain convincingly, beyond banal historical causes, why a country should choose as its capital its most remote and hidden city. It's not our fault that we Bogotanos are stuffy and cold and distant, because that's what our city is like, and you can't blame us for greeting strangers warily, for we're not used to them."

View all my reviews

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a FistYour Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As powerful as its advance reviews, I revved through this book like a racing bike barely pausing to enjoy the fine writing, biting description, well-wrought main characters (three activists, three cops and a WTO delegate from Sri Lanka) caught up in downtown Seattle for the 1999 demonstrations. From time to time, I'd stop to take issue with some small geographic detail about my home town (a city by the Sound, not the sea as the author writes) but mostly I just barreled through the story, remembering the smell of tear gas as I drove back up to Capitol Hill that fateful day. I particularly enjoyed the passages with the delegate, concerned about his agenda and not grasping the enormity of the protest as he tries to make his way to the convention center. The police were harsh characters but their overreaction is well drawn in keeping with actuality. My sympathies were naturally with the protesters and how ill-prepared any were for the extent of violence encountered. The author's economic background slipped in nicely to explain issues without dampening a beautifully written story.