Jackie and I went to Barnes & Noble for the first time since the start of the pandemic. I bought a copy of each of the science fiction and fantasy magazines they carry, with an eye toward re-subscribing to any that seem good.
The new book How to Distill: A Complete Guide from Still Design and Fermentation through Distilling and Aging Spirits may be of particular interest to the fans of my old @wisebread article How to Make Moonshine.
Very occasionally I wish I were the sort of person who kept lists.
It’s most common that I regret not being a list-keeper when someone asks for book recommendations, especially when they want something in a particular scope—the 10 best books I read this year, or three books that I’ve given as gifts.
I’m always daunted by a request like that, because I have no idea what books I read this year.
Some of my tools—in particular, Amazon and my Kindle—do some amount of list-keeping for me. The public library could, but by default it doesn’t. (For very legitimate historical reasons, librarians worry about their patrons’ privacy, and since they don’t need to keep track of what books you’ve checked out once you’ve returned them, they default to forgetting about them.)
I played around with using a little toy tool called IndieBookClub, which posts the books you enter to your site, but it didn’t do most of the things you’d actually want such a tool to do (associate the books you’re meaning to read, books you’re reading, books you’ve read, and your thoughts about them), so I didn’t find it very useful.
Some people really enjoy the process of keeping lists, but that’s not me. Basically, I don’t want to keep lists, I sometimes want to have kept lists. I sometimes regret not having a list of something, but not in a way that makes me think I should start keeping such a list.
I do track some things—money, exercise, sleep—when experience has shown me that doing so is of great value, but in most areas of life I don’t keep track of anything at all.
Just today—after a year of having this post hanging around in my drafts folder—I saw plans for folks working on IndieWeb stuff to talk about how to do personal libraries in a way that would produce decentralized Goodreads-like functionality. That would really appeal to me.
In the meantime maybe I’ll look around at some list-keeping tools (or maybe start using a few pages in my bullet journal to keep track of books and other things worth tracking).
I’ll keep you posted. Maybe next year will be the year I keep a list of one more thing!
After seeming to have disappeared last week somewhere in Kansas City, my copy of Steven’s book unexpectedly arrived today!
The preview is full of all the wonderful stuff that I’ve always loved about Neal Stephenson’s writing—characters that are weirdly oddball yet completely relatable, and the sort of details that speak to both keen insight and deep obsession. Just in the first few pages we learn more than a little about how royalty think, how to fly a jet, the ecology of feral hogs, and the madness that comes from the death of a young child. And I think the very next bit is going to be about the martial arts of northern India.
I have already pre-ordered it, and can’t imagine any Neal Stephenson fan who starts reading the preview doing anything else.
I saw The Secret to Superhuman Strength on the shelf at Amherst Books, and didn’t buy it because I was on the road and didn’t want to have to lug a hardback around for the rest of the trip. But now I just might have to.
“I live in a house of literary fitness freaks, and even for people who are supposedly good with words and who exercise all the time, Bechdel’s book contained real revelations.”
Using the current book’s cover as lock screen on my Kindle doesn’t seem to be an option on my old, old kindle. Maybe just on new ones?
I’ve long struggled to program my training, a task that is difficult because I want to get better at everything. I want to be stronger and faster. I want to have more endurance for running and more endurance for walking (which turn out not to carry over perfectly from one to the other). I want to maintain and deepen my taiji practice and my parkour practice. I want to learn rock climbing and fencing.
This isn’t a new problem for me. As just one example, back in 2013 I was considering programming training not organized by the week but perhaps in 9-day training cycles.
There are at least two problems that I’m trying to address. One is just fitting in training for each capability I want to get better at. The other is how to not break down under that training load (which involves at least fitting in enough recovery time, but other stuff as well).
During the pandemic I’ve done okay, by focusing on exercise. Although I tweak things pretty often, very roughly I’ve organized each week to include:
- 3 strength training workouts
- 2 runs (a “long” run and a “fast” run)
- 1 HIIT workout
- 2 rest days
That looks pretty good until you do the math and see that it only works for 8-day weeks.
Besides that, note that this excludes my taiji practice (which amounted to more than 5 hours a week back in pre-pandemic days, because besides teaching I was engaging in my own practice). It also excludes my long, slow warmups (which I’ve started calling my “morning exercises,” since I do them pretty much every morning before proceeding with my “workout” for the day).
The way I’ve been making it sort-of work is by doubling up how I think about some of the workouts. A “fast” run with sprint intervals is a HIIT workout, and a HIIT workout with kettlebell swings is a strength-training session.
Still, there’s no hope to make something like this work if I want to add in parkour, rock climbing, and fencing. Likewise, I know from experience that I need a full day to recover from a very long (14-mile or longer) walk, so doing one of those requires devoting two days out of the week to just one training session.
So, I’m left in a quandary. How can I get better at all the things I already do and add in some additional activities as well? (Just before the pandemic I’d started taking an aikido class; I’m sure I’d enjoy finding a local group that plays Ultimate Frisbee….)
Happily for me, Adam Sinicki (aka The Bioneer) has written a book that addresses exactly this issue. The book is Functional Training and Beyond: Building the Ultimate Superfunctional Body and Mind. It starts out talking about “functional training,” and about the history of “getting in shape” i.e. “physical culture.” Then it runs though all the most common training modalities (bodybuilding, powerlifting, kettlebells, crossfit, etc.), before proceeding to talk specifically about how to take the best from each one, and then how to program it all into a workout plan.
His thinking on programming is pretty straightforward: You don’t just add everything together. Rather, you look through all the exercises you might do and pick the ones with the most cross-over benefit relevant to your goals, and then build an exercise program out of those (and you sequence them correctly to maximize your gains in terms of strength, mobility, flexibility, skills acquisition, speed, power, hypertrophy, etc.).
I’m going to spend some time (and some blog posts here) thinking over just how I want to do that.
Recommended reading: The Baron of Magister Valley by Steven Brust 📚
I read The Count of Monte Cristo twice, the second time in an unabridged edition that suffered mightily from the author’s insistence that revenge required that the villains must be raised up to their highest height before being cast down, but also that those who had helped the hero must be cast down into the depths of despair before they could be rescued.
Brust’s novel avoids that flaw while providing a fabulous revenge story that links marvelously well into the Dragaera and the Vlad Taltos novels.