Audible’s assault on leisure time


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“My writing time needs to surround itself with empty stretches,” the poet Maxine Kumin once wrote in an essay about how caring for her horses made her work possible, providing “the mindless suspension of doing simple, repetitive tasks—mucking out, refilling water buckets, raking sawdust—that allows those free-associative leaps out of which a poem may occasionally come.” The “empty stretches” are enforced by busyness but uncompressed by the pursuit of efficiency; farm work has “no beginning and no apparent end,” and within it the poet’s “contentment in isolation” can expand. I don’t have a barn full of horses, but I’m attempting to take more dog-walks in silence. Instead of doing chores, I’ve been listening to audiobooks while lying in bed—which takes far longer than silent reading, especially when my thoughts wander and I have to rewind. Right now, that torpor is what I like most. I think it’s good for me to waste some time.

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Nora Caplan-Bricker — The Baffler

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‘Why Do I Always Have a Crush on Someone?’


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I can’t remember the last time I truly didn’t have a crush on someone. Looking back on my adolescence, I was always fixated on some boy or girl who more often than not didn’t return my feelings. I can only think of two distinct phases in my life where I didn’t “like” anyone in that way — between fifth and sixth grade, where I have memories of intense creativity, and right before I met my ex, where I was so fed up with dating that I “gave up.” Online dating makes it easy to always HAVE someone around in some capacity — and if I have chemistry with someone, I tend to obsess over them. These crushes get so all-consuming I’ve even considered attending a sex- and love-addicts anonymous meetings. If nothing else, I feel like I’m constantly pining over someone from my past. I look at all the goals I have for myself and think about all the things I could accomplish if I just had a little more negative space in my mind and heart.

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Heather Havrilesky — The Cut

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What is life?


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Remarkably, What Is Life? appeared at the height of World War Two. Schrödinger had fled his native Austria to escape the Nazis and, after a brief sojourn in Oxford, settled in Dublin at the invitation of the prime minister, Éamon de Valera, accompanied by both his wife and mistress. Ireland was a neutral country, so Schrödinger felt free to pursue his academic work, unlike many of his scientific colleagues who assisted the Allies’ war effort. Schrödinger was best known as one of the founders of quantum mechanics, the most successful scientific theory ever. It explained at a stroke the properties of atoms, molecules, subatomic particles, nuclear reactions and the stability of stars. In practical terms, quantum mechanics has given us the laser, the transistor and the superconductor. For de Valera, Schrödinger was quite a catch.

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Paul Davies — The Monthly

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On observing one’s past


An apt one today to observe my past.

Let me share a memory with you. It’s a childhood memory, about an event from when I was around 13 or 14 years old. My father and I are playing soccer together. He is the goalkeeper, standing between the posts, I am the striker, taking shots from outside the box. My dad has been encouraging me to shoot with my weaker left foot, to develop the skills that come more easily on my more natural right side. He throws the ball to me, I control it on my chest, let it drop, and hit a sweetly-timed volley with the outside of my left foot. The ball arcs perfectly towards the goal. My dad moves across to save, although I’m not sure he has it covered, and then the ball thunders off the crossbar. Even though I didn’t score, I have an intense feeling of satisfaction, of executing a near perfect left foot volley, the quality of which I have struggled to reproduce in the intervening years. This memory has a rich phenomenology: it involves visual and motor imagery as well as emotion. Yet there’s an important feature of this memory, which is perhaps not apparent in the way I describe it. As this dynamic and evocative memory unfolds, I see not only my father, the ball, and the goal, but myself too. I see myself in the remembered scene, from the outside, as if someone had filmed us playing together and I am watching the old footage.

Such memories are called “observer memories.”

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Christopher McCarroll — OUPblog

What can we learn from people who succeed later in life?


Late bloomers.

The key to long-term success from a creator’s perspective is straightforward: let the qualities that give you your Q-factor do their job by giving them a chance to deliver success over and over. In other words, successful people engage in project after project after project. They don’t just count their winnings; they buy more lottery tickets. They keep producing. Take writer J.K. Rowling, who followed Harry Potter by creating a successful mystery series (under the name Robert Galbraith). Each time she publishes a new book, her new fans go back and read the older volumes as well. Each new book, then, breathes life into her career, keeping her whole body of work present and relevant.

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Albert-Laszlo Barabasi — TED

How to Stop Saying Sorry When Things Aren’t Your Fault


So I did what I thought was right: I said sorry. I’d say sorry when we had to walk too far to carry our groceries home, even though it wasn’t my fault we couldn’t yet afford a car. I’d say sorry for the bad days at work where they were forced to repeat their perfect English in Australian twangs so their colleagues could grant them some level of acceptance. I’d say sorry when they couldn’t resolve arguments they had because my mother felt they were repeating old patterns in a new country, where she was the one looking after the children as my father threw himself into his job. I’d also say sorry at school. I’d apologize to my teacher when I already knew the answers to the basic mathematical lessons he taught since I covered the same lessons in India. I’d say sorry to classmates because I couldn’t yet understand the slang they uncompromisingly spoke to me.

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Kamna Muddagouni — Catapult

I’m on Death Row for Punching a Man


Once I got to death row, I thought I’d get executed right away, or at least within months. But then the years started passing. My mind cleared. People said, “You shouldn’t be here forever for a fist fight.” I started reading. I read that the law requires you get an “impartial tribunal” that “preserves both the appearance and reality of fairness.” I read that some courts have ruled that two guys who start a deadly fight are equally guilty, so then why did Schoolboy get manslaughter? I was meeting guys on death row with two or three bodies in their past.

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J.T. KIRKSEY as told to MAURICE CHAMMAH — The Marshall Project