I can’t really get enough of Haidt takedowns like this one in the Guardian.

The core irony of The Coddling of the American Mind is that, by opposing identity politics, its authors try to consolidate an identity that does not have to see itself as such. Enjoying the luxury of living free from discrimination and domination, they therefore insist that the crises moving young people to action are all in their heads.

In their safe space of TED talks and thinktanks and think pieces, the genteel crusaders against “political correctness” create their own speech codes. As their constituency shrinks, their cant of progress starts to sound hysterical. The minds they coddle just may be their own.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/20/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind-review

Highlights for Pnin

by a huge, active, buoyantly thriving German Department which its Head, Dr. Hagen, smugly called (pronouncing every syllable very distinctly) “a university within a university.”
Pnin, despite his many shortcomings, had about him a disarming, old-fashioned charm which Dr. Hagen, his staunch protector, insisted before morose trustees was a delicate imported article worth paying for in domestic cash.
desuetude
lozenges
It was the world that was absent-minded and it was Pnin whose business it was to set it straight. His life was a constant war with insensate objects that fell apart, or attacked him, or refused to function, or viciously got themselves lost as soon as they entered the sphere of his existence.
shadowgraph
Therefore he preferred reading his lectures, his gaze glued to his text, in a slow, monotonous baritone that seemed to climb one of those interminable flights of stairs used by people who dread elevators.
cerebration
anent
He never attempted to sleep on his left side, even in those dismal hours of the night when the insomniac longs for a third side after trying the two he has.
Still more oppressive was his tussle with the wallpaper. He had always been able to see that in the vertical plane a combination made up of three different clusters of purple flowers and seven different oak leaves was repeated a number of times with soothing exactitude; but now he was bothered by the undismissable fact that he could not find what system of inclusion and circumscription governed the horizontal recurrence of the pattern;
The evolution of sense is, in a sense, the evolution of nonsense.
surds
amphoric
canthus
Whatever eyes Liza Pnin, now Wind, had, they seemed to reveal their essence, their precious-stone water, only when you evoked them in thought, and then a blank, blind, moist aquamarine blaze shivered and stared as if a spatter of sun and sea had got between your own eyelids.
pharmacopoeial
ovipositing
vernalization
vagitus
“Why not leave their private sorrows to people? Is sorrow not, one asks, the only thing in the world people really possess?”
jocose
Only another Russian could understand the reactionary and Sovietophile blend presented by the pseudo-colorful Komarovs, for whom an ideal Russia consisted of the Red Army, an anointed monarch, collective farms, anthroposophy, the Russian Church and the Hydro-Electric Dam.
Kopffüsslers
cupule
distemper
slattern
“Pity Vladimir Vladimirovich is not here,” remarked Chateau. “He would have told us all about these enchanting insects.”
Literary departments still labored under the impression that Stendhal, Galsworthy, Dreiser, and Mann were great writers.
This did not prevent him from traveling tremendous distances to attend Modern Language conventions, at which he would flaunt his ineptitude as if it were some majestic whim, and parry with great thrusts of healthy lodge humor any attempt to inveigle him into the subtleties of the parley-voo.
poetasters
adumbrations
connubial
calvity
one of those informal gatherings where old-fashioned terrorists, heroic nuns, gifted hedonists, liberals, adventurous young poets, elderly novelists and artists, publishers and publicists, free-minded philosophers and scholars would represent a kind of special knighthood

Highlights for Street of Thieves

I choked and turned tail, fled once again, fled faced with myself; I left at a run; there are things that can’t be fixed. Actually, nothing can be fixed.
Men are dogs who rub against each other in solitude
Sometimes we sense the situation is escaping us, that things are getting out of hand; we become afraid and instead of calmly looking, trying to understand, we react like a dog caught in barbed wire, thrashing about madly until it slices open its throat.
All I want is to be free to travel, to earn money, to walk around quietly with my girlfriend, to fuck if I want to, to pray if I want to, to sin if I want to, and to read detective novels if I feel like it without anyone finding anything to object to aside from God Himself.
You say, oh, seventeen, that’s not so much, tell me about a thousand, two thousand, three thousand stiffs, but seventeen, seventeen isn’t anything extraordinary, and yet, and yet, it’s an enormous quantity of vanished life, dead meat, it’s cumbersome, in memory as well as in the cold-storage room, it’s seventeen faces and over a ton of flesh and bone, tens of thousands of hours of existence, billions of memories gone, hundreds of people touched by mourning, between Tangier and Mombasa.
and I said to myself that tourism was a curse, like gasoline, a trap, which brought false wealth, corruption and violence;
I have made use of the world. Life consumes everything—

Highlights for The Sacred Book of the Werewolf

But other foxes say that in that brief second the man realizes that physical life is a stupid and shameful mistake. And the first thing he tries to do is to thank the fox who has opened his eyes. And after that he corrects the error of his own existence.
But this boom doesn’t have much to do with the economy. It’s just that the money from all over Russia flows into Moscow and moistens life here a bit before it departs for off-shore hyperspace.
‘All those French parrots who invented discourse were high on amphetamines all the time. In the evening they take barbiturates to get to sleep, and they start off the morning with amphetamines so they can generate as much discourse as possible before they start taking barbiturates to get back to sleep again. That’s all there is to discourse. Didn’t you know that?’
The greatest of books have few readers, because reading them requires an effort. But it’s precisely that effort that gives rise to the aesthetic effect. Literary junk-food will never give you anything of the kind.
Until I learned from my own experience what love is, I thought of it as a specific kind of pleasure that tailless monkeys can derive from being together, in addition to sex.
Chekhov was right: a woman’s soul is essentially an empty vessel that is filled by the sorrows and joys of her beloved.
Two lonely hearts met among the pale blossoms of the Moscow spring. One told the other she was older than the city around, the other confessed that he had claws on his dick.
They always see me as their last chance. Grown men, and they don’t understand that they themselves are their last chance. But then, they aren’t even aware what kind of chance it is.

Changing my media diet

I’ve changed my monthly contribution from the Guardian to the Taz.

The Guardian is a bit weird and was not doing that much for me anymore. It’s not clear what they’re about and I’m mostly disappointed in their roster of writers.

Taz, I only read occasionally but they’re local (with an office that is practically next to my house) and they’re a lot more left-wing than the Guardian is.

I haven’t found many good alternative newspapers other than the FT which is ridiculously expensive.

Highlights for Red Moon

Analogies always deceive more than they reveal; I am no fan of analogies, I do not use them. Even metaphor, that mental operation we use with almost every word we speak, is slippery and deceptive. I always speak as plainly as I can.
“Oh, nothing. I wish I knew what was going on.” She shook her head, stared at the wall. “It’s China,” she said. “Give up on that.”
He watched his mom fondly. How many times he had heard this story. Even inside the device, the weight of the world was still crushing him.
Bikes with trailers still doddering along right in the middle of the crazy mash of vehicles. Amazing to see such foolhardy recklessness. No doubt whole lifetimes had been spent in that danger. No different from a sailor going out to sea. Dangerous, yes, but not automatically fatal. A mode of being. Suddenly he saw they were all like those bicyclists, all the time. Someday every one of them would get run over.
And maybe it didn’t differ that much; prospectors were after money, which made them close students of the moon’s information; scientists were after the moon’s information, which if found would turn into a good living for them. So money and information were fungible and kept turning into each other. But in the end it was being on the hunt that mattered.

Highlights for Tribal Leadership

First, they spent most of their efforts building strong relationships between Griffin’s tribal members—its employees, volunteers, and patients. Second, instead of telling people what to do, they engineered experiences (such as the retreats) in which staff members would look at the same issues they were dealing with, so that strategy became everyone’s problem. Third, they got out of the way and let people contribute in their own way to the emerging tribal goals.
Without the leaders building the tribe, a culture of mediocrity will prevail. Without an inspired tribe, leaders are impotent.
The entire tribe shifts from resisting leadership to seeking it out.
Organizational learning becomes effortless, with the tribe actively teaching its members the latest thinking and practices.
Life sucks, so there’s no point to values, vision, or morality. In fact, these seem like con games designed to make us miss the obvious truth of life, which is that it isn’t fair, it’s a vile place, and we all die. Sure, life would be better if everyone followed the game, but at its core, life sucks, so it’s both better and easier to give in to the reality of the situation.
One of the pitfalls we caution company leaders to avoid is to identify values and then make decisions based on expediency, as if the values didn’t exist. Such behavior depresses a culture, often all the way down to Stage Two, and creates a perception that values are created for the employees while executives are above the law.
The single most important takeaway from Stage Four is that Tribal Leaders follow the core values of the tribe no matter what the cost.
A noble cause is a pronouncement of a future state that a tribe will bring about through its coordinated action. It is bigger than what one person can do alone, no matter how many people are offering technical support; it requires people’s best efforts and passions. It should arouse so much excitement in a tribe that even if people fail, the noble cause was worth the effort.
If you have a similar group, then ask people to write down their version of the noble cause—a statement that expresses their highest aspirations for the tribe.
As we watched Tribal Leaders do their work, we noted that they tended to ask, “What’s working well?” “What’s not working?” “What can we do to make the things that aren’t working, work?” and “Is there anything else?”
When you use triads to solve problems, remind people of shared values.
Some people resist building triads because they think they’ll lose control. Their thought is that this technique may encourage people to undercut them. However, the opposite is true. The rule of reciprocity implies, “Whatever you give out, you’ll get back.”
Effective triading requires a word that we heard people use again and again to describe real Tribal Leaders: “authenticity.”
We’re often asked by people at Stage Two how they can triad with people who won’t even return their calls. The answer is that they first have to go through Stage Three and become great at something,
There’s no shortcut for knowing who is in your tribe, what’s important to them, and what they’re doing.
The objective is for the tribe (not just the leader) to set outcomes so compelling that people will want to form and maintain a Stage Four culture to accomplish them.
It’s not that competitors don’t exist; it’s that they don’t matter.

Reading 2018

I grabbed the code I had lying around for last year and without too much trouble ran the same analysis for the books. The graph is not that dramatic this time though for some reason I did not read much during summer.

Pages read per month in 2018

Page-wise this year with 13398 pages was a bit weaker than last year (15049 pages).

By some miracle, I managed to post my top ten recommendations to twitter on the 31st.

Now as to the categories in which I read books and what I thought stood out.

Leadership

Not as many books as last year, but some very good ones and an area where I will read more. Rumelt has written one of the best books on strategy I’ve seen. Marquet’s highly recommended book I think will bear fruit on future re-reading. Scott’s book contains a fairly complete operating system for a modern tech company.

The cracking books are ok and did helped me crack a PM interview but still had nothing to do with the job I started working at last month.

  • Good Strategy / Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt
  • Turn the Ship Around, David Marquet
  • Radical Candor, Kim Malone Scott
  • Cracking the Tech Career
  • The First 90 Days
  • Cracking the PM Interview

Diversity (non-white/non-male): 3/6

I don’t have an Engineering category this year (I abandoned The Rust Book and consulted but did not finish the App Architecture book). I am reading topical things for my new job so this year will be better.

Non-Fiction

I’m pleasantly surprised how much I’ve managed to read. Mishra’s book is one of the few really mainstream non-white perspectives on a very important part of our history and I keep enjoying seeing him take names in the LRB and the Guardian. Bluets is a beautiful introspective trip just like The Argonauts was. Sandifer is a critical tour de force of with an ideology and temperament I don’t see anywhere else. I’ve always been fond of Machiavelli but with Erica Benner’s rehabilitation of him I don’t have to be embarrassed about that anymore. Runciman’s book about the alternatives to democracy is like a protracted and focused episode of the podcast.

I don’t have a Fiction category or Sapiens would be there instead of here.

  • From the Ruins of Empire, Pankaj Mishra
  • Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari
  • Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton
  • A Contest of Ideas, Nelson Lichtenstein
  • Bluets, Maggie Nelson
  • Neoreaction a Basilisk, Elizabeth Sandifer
  • No Name in the Street, James Baldwin
  • Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker
  • Be Like the Fox, Erica Benner
  • The Chapo Guide to Revolution
  • The Hall of Uselessness, Simon Leys
  • Surveillance Valley, Yasha Levine
  • How Democracy Ends, David Runciman

Diversity (non-white/non-male): 5/13

Genre Fiction

I have been very light on genre fiction and I’m not sure whether SF will continue to be a thing I read much of in the future. The genre is bigger than ever but there is so little serious stuff coming out.

I am glad to have re-read Le Guin this year. Majestic.

  • Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor
  • Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan
  • The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
  • The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin
  • The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin
  • Broken Angels, Richard Morgan
  • Woken Furies, Richard Morgan
  • The Planet on the Table, Kim Stanley Robinson
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin

Diversity (non-white/non-male): 5/9

Literature

I find it easier to read non-fiction because I can’t parallelize literature very well and whenever I read a dud (here’s looking at you Elif) they block the queue for everything else. Makumbi’s Ugandan family saga has opened up my perspective on the country like a good local novel can do. Hamid’s rumination on refugees is short and sharp like a blade. Shanbhag’s book is a quick family tale of rags to riches where everything becomes entangled.

  • Terug naar Oegstgeest, Jan Wolkers
  • Kintu, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
  • Dorsvloer vol confetti, Franca Treur
  • Voyage to the End of the Night, Louis-Ferdinand Céline
  • Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
  • Ghachar Ghochar, Vivek Shanbhag
  • The Idiot, Elif Batuman

Diversity (non-white/non-male): 5/7

Kids

I read so many (34!) kids books this year and this number will probably only increase since we have only just started visiting the library. We live close to the Amerika Gedenkbibilothek which has a fairly sized kids department.

Franchises that did well with us this year were Kikker and the newly discovered Pip & Posy. We finished the seasonal Wimmelbücher (of which Fall was the highlight and Winter a disappointment). Let’s see whether these see renewed play next year.

The kids books do inflate my reading number a lot but that is not taking into account that I have had to read most of these books dozens of times. So there’s that.

  • So Müde und Hellwach
  • Welcher Po passt auf dieses Klo?
  • Mama kwijt
  • De dieren van Fiep
  • Kikker en Eend
  • Kikker is jarig, Max Velthuijs
  • Was willst du Baby?
  • Piep piep met Fiep
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear
  • So leicht so schwer
  • Der kleine Hase
  • Das kleine Lamm
  • Badetag für Hasekind
  • Sommer-Wimmelbuch
  • Frühlings-Wimmelbuch
  • Kaatje zegt nee
  • Pip en Posy en het nieuwe vriendje, Axel Scheffler
  • Das kleine Schwein
  • The Pony Twins
  • Sommer
  • Het vrolijke voorleesboek van Kikker
  • Winter-Wimmelbuch
  • Beestje, kom je op mijn feestje?
  • Hörst du die klassische Musik?
  • Het carnaval der dieren
  • Ssst! De tijger slaapt
  • Ik zou wel een kindje lusten
  • No Bad Kids
  • Oh Crap! Potty Training
  • Ein kleines Krokodil mit ziemlich viel Gefühl
  • Pip en Posy en de kerstboom
  • Herbst-Wimmelbuch, Rotraut Susanne Berner
  • Aki und Kon, der Fuchs
  • Die Wildnis ist unser Zuhause

Spirituality

Two solid books on this slow but steady path.

  • The Parent’s Tao te Ching
  • Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Previously in 2017 & 2016

Highlights for Shambhala

We hope only that we have not obstructed or weakened the power of these teachings. May they help to liberate all beings from the warring evils of the setting sun.
Shambhala vision teaches that, in the face of the world’s great problems, we can be heroic and kind at the same time.
What is lacking is a sense of humor. Humor here does not mean telling jokes or being comical or criticizing others and laughing at them. A genuine sense of humor is having a light touch: not beating reality into the ground but appreciating reality with a light touch.
The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything. We can never say that we are simply falling to pieces or that anyone else is, and we can never say that about the world either.
The point of warriorship is to work personally with our situation now, as it is.
We should feel that it is wonderful to be in this world.
So through the practice of sitting still and following your breath as it goes out and dissolves, you are connecting with your heart. By simply letting yourself be, as you are, you develop genuine sympathy towards yourself.
Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.
Everything is compartmentalized, so you can never experience things completely. We are not talking purely about food; we are talking about everything that goes on in the setting-sun world: packaged food, packaged vacations, package deals of all kinds. There is no room to experience doubtlessness in that world; there is no room to be gentle; there is no room to experience reality fully and properly.
In fact, tenderness and sadness, as well as gentleness, actually produce a sense of interest. You are so vulnerable that you cannot help being touched by your world.
A warrior doesn’t need color television or video games. A warrior doesn’t need to read comic books to entertain himself or to be cheerful.
For the true warrior, there is no warfare. This is the idea of being all-victorious. When you are all-victorious, there is nothing to conquer, no fundamental problem or obstacle to overcome.
But if you look back and trace back through your life—who you are, what you are, and why you are in this world—if you look through that step-bystep, you won’t find any fundamental problems.
In meditation, when your thoughts go up, you don’t go up, and you don’t go down when your thoughts go down; you just watch as thoughts go up and thoughts go down. Whether your thoughts are good or bad, exciting or boring, blissful or miserable, you let them be. You don’t accept some and reject others. You have a sense of greater space that encompasses any thought that may arise.
Although the warrior’s life is dedicated to helping others, he realizes that he will never be able to completely share his experience with others. The fullness of his experience is his own, and he must live with his own truth. Yet he is more and more in love with the world. That combination of love affair and loneliness is what enables the warrior to constantly reach out to help others.
Why are you always joyful? Because you have witnessed your basic goodness, because you have nothing to hang on to, and because you have experienced the sense of renunciation that we discussed earlier. Therefore, your mind and body are continually synchronized and always joyful.
If you tell the truth to others, then they can also be open with you—maybe not immediately, but you are giving them the opportunity to express themselves honestly as well. When you do not say what you feel, you generate confusion for yourself and confusion for others.
It is like falling in love. When you are in love, being with your lover is both delightful and very painful. You feel both joy and sorrow. That is not a problem; in fact, it is wonderful. It is the ideal human emotion.
The most practical and immediate way to begin sharing with others and working for their benefit is to work with your own domestic situation and to expand from there. So an important step in becoming a warrior is to become a family person, someone who respects his or her everyday domestic life and is committed to uplifting that situation.
When we draw down the power and depth of vastness into a single perception, then we are discovering and invoking magic. By magic we do not mean unnatural power over the phenomenal world, but rather the discovery of innate or primordial wisdom in the world as it is.
However, for the warrior, gentleness is not just politeness. Gentleness is consideration: showing concern for others, all the time. A Shambhala gentlewoman or gentleman is a decent person, a genuine person. He or she is very gentle to himself and to others. The purpose of any protocol, or manners, or discipline that we are taught is to have concern for others.
When the environment is stuffy and full of arrogant, self-styled men and women, the dralas are repelled. But then, what happens if a warrior, someone who embodies nonaggression, freedom from arrogance, and humbleness, walks into that room? When such a person enters an intense situation full of arrogance and pollution, quite possibly the occupants of the room begin to feel funny. They feel that they can’t have any fun and games anymore, because someone who won’t collaborate in their deception has walked in.
The world is very interesting wherever you go, wherever you look.
Habitual patterns allow you to look no further than three steps ahead of you. You are always looking at the ground, and you never look up at the bright blue sky or the mountain peaks.
So you can’t be a warrior in the office and a tudro at home.
The former Secretary General of the United Nations, U Thant of Burma
You are not being blind to the setting-sun or degraded aspects of existence. In fact, you see them very precisely, because you are so alert. But you also see that every aspect of life has the potential of being upgraded, that there is the potential for sacredness in every situation. So you begin to view the universe as a sacred world.
Then there is the man principle, which is connected with simplicity, or living in harmony with heaven and earth. When human beings combine the freedom of heaven with the practicality of earth, they can live in a good human society with one another.
The challenge of warriorship is to live fully in the world as it is and to find within this world, with all its paradoxes, the essence of nowness. If we open our eyes, if we open our minds, if we open our hearts, we will find that this world is a magical place. It is not magical because it tricks us or changes unexpectedly into something else, but it is magical because it can be so vividly, so brilliantly.
We cannot change the way the world is, but by opening ourselves to the world as it is, we may find that gentleness, decency, and bravery are available—not only to us, but to all human beings.
That is the basic wisdom of Shambhala: that in this world, as it is, we can find a good and meaningful human life that will also serve others.
But if you do not start at home, then you have no hope of helping the world. So the first step in learning how to rule is learning to rule your household, your immediate world. There is no doubt that, if you do so, then the next step will come naturally. If you fail to do so, then your contribution to this world will be further chaos.
Raising windhorse is a way to cast out depression and doubt on the spot. It is not a form of exorcism but a cheering-up process. That is to say, raising windhorse invokes and actualizes the living aspect of fearlessness and bravery. It is a magical practice for transcending doubt and hesitation in order to invoke tremendous wakefulness in your state of mind.
The four dignities are meek, perky, outrageous, and inscrutable.
Just as the snow lion enjoys the refreshing air, the warrior of perky is constantly disciplined and continuously enjoys discipline. For him, discipline is not a demand but a pleasure.
Modesty here means feeling true and genuine. Therefore the warrior feels self-contained, with no need for external reference points to confirm him.
For the warrior of meek, confidence is a natural state of awareness and mindfulness in the way he conducts his affairs.
Rather, vastness comes from seeing the greatness of your own spot, your own particular place.
Like the tiger in the jungle, you are both relaxed and energized. You are constantly inquisitive but your awareness is also disciplined, so you accomplish every activity without difficulty, and you inspire those around you to do the same.
The first one is experiencing an uplifted and joyful mind. In this case, uplifted mind means a continual state of delight that is not caused by anything.
This warrior is always aware and never confused as to what to accept and what to reject.
The warrior of perky is never caught in the trap of doubt and is always joyful and artful.
Outrageousness is based on the achievement of fearlessness, which means going completely beyond fear. In order to overcome fear, it is also necessary to overcome hope. When you hope for something in your life, if it doesn’t happen, you are disappointed or upset. If it does happen, then you become elated and excited. You are constantly riding a roller coaster up and down.
The analogy for this is a good, self-existing sword—desire to sharpen it will make it dull. If you try to apply a competitive or comparative logic to the experience of vast mind, by trying to measure how much space you have fathomed, how much is left to fathom, or how much someone else has fathomed, you are just dulling your sword. It is futile and counterproductive. In contrast to that approach, outrageousness is accomplishment without a sense of accomplisher, without reference point.
Inscrutability is also the state of settling down in your confidence—remaining solid and relaxed at once. You are open and fearless, free from longing and doubt, but at the same time, you are very interested in the movements of the world.
The main point is being somewhat noncommittal, but at the same time seeing a project through to its end.
There is a need for discipline, and that discipline comes from realizing that such a world as this was created for you, that people expended energy to bring you up, that in your weak moments you were helped, and that, when you were ready for inspiration, you were inspired. So the discipline of genuinely working for others comes from appreciating hierarchy.