This is a summary of the books I’ve been reading, as well as a selection of articles and web pages that I’ve found interesting or useful this month.

Books

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

This book is about taking a more purposeful approach to our use of digital devices and services.

Turns out some of my existing habits, like not having social media on my phone and using Do Not Disturb mode by default, were already quite Digital Minimalist in their approach. This book helped me finesse some of the things I was already doing, but also added many of other habits and practices to try, as well as wrapping up the whole concept into a philosophy that I can point others towards.

There are loads of great ideas in this book and I’m already planning a second read in the near future to help me properly digest the book’s key points. I think this is essential reading for anyone who checks their smartphone more than they’d like to.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

I started reading this on the train to Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fascinating insight into how forests work, how trees communicate and many other wonderful tree facts. It’s written in a very approachable way, and makes the whole subject seem infinitely interesting. Looking forward to finishing this one.

Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

I re-read both of these this month. Both are excellent and inspiring books that I highly recommend any vaguely creative people reading. They’re quite small, you can read them both in a few hours, but they’re jam-packed with advice on finding inspiration, sharing the work you create, and sustaining creativity. These two books are actually part of a trilogy, the third book of which is called “Keep Going”. I haven’t got a copy of that yet but it’s on my wishlist. Austin’s blog is a fantastic source of inspiring art and writing, he really practices what he preaches.

MPs call for pavement parking ban across England

As someone with a young child this issue is especially relevant. I find myself having to take the pushchair or young child into the road to avoid vehicles blocking the pavement far too often.

Pavements are for people, roads are for cars, let’s make that the law.

Quantity Always Trumps Quality (2008)

  1. Create things.
  2. Learn from your mistakes.
  3. Repeat.

If by Rudyard Kipling (1910)

Saw a beautiful print of this poem on the wall of a toilet last week and decided to look it up. It’s a lovely description of Victorian-era stoicism, done in classic Kipling style.

Chutneys For Relishing (1996)

Came across this while writing yesterday’s post about chutney. I didn’t realise that what I consider “traditional” chutney was actually a relatively recent invention trying to mimic the fresh chutneys in India.

Those who ate [chutney] back in Britain soon became addicted. There being no mangoes, tamarind or limes, English cooks did their best with apples, onions and vinegar, adding dried fruit such as sultanas, raisins and dates, and even marrow (spiked with ginger powder) to mimic ginger preserves.

Eight tips for burning wood

We’ve recently had a wood-burner installed, so I’ve been re-kindling my interest in fires.

Programming

Finally a couple of programming and software related links.

A Codebase is an Organism (2014)

She knows she can’t be too permissive; coddled code won’t learn its boundaries. But she also can’t be too tyrannical. Code needs some freedom to grow at the optimal rate.

In this way, building software isn’t at all like assembling a car. In terms of managing growth, it’s more like raising a child or tending a garden.

Be wary of functions which take several parameters of the same type

Argues that functions which take two arguments can be confusing, because it’s easy to get the values backwards. The example the author gives is a CopyFile(to, from string) function, which could accidentally be called with the arguments reversed. This is also an issue with command line utilities, I’m always getting the arguments to ln the wrong way round.