Time for Dune Part 2 Round 2, this time in IMAX

A genuinely breezy Quiptic for me this week, which doesn’t always happen

10a has proved a bit controversial in the comments (and did trip me up at first)

The Joy of Reading to a Child

At one time in the past I was browsing Reddit and stumbled on some thread where Redditors were doing what they do best, which is complaining about the existence of children. In this instance, the particular grievance was that children require reading to, and children’s books are boring, especially when you’ve read them a hundred times already. The Gruffalo was given as an exemplar of a boring children’s book.

Well, I’ve been reading to my child for months now and I’m sure I’m reaching the hundred mark with some of these books — possibly including The Gruffalo. I can safely say these Redditors were missing the point (say it ain’t so!).

I’m sure you, dear visitor, are better-adjusted than the average Redditor and don’t require convincing that reading a child a bedtime story is actually quite a nice thing to do. But let’s celebrate the joys of this simple habit regardless.

  1. It’s quality time with your child. I work too much at the moment. After work, it’s a mad rush to get everyone fed and to bed (before resuming work, natch). On the average weekday, quality time with the little one can be in short supply. But embedding bedtime stories into our routine all but guarantees my son gets my undivided attention for at least 15 minutes — and this is the last thing he experiences before settling to sleep.

  2. It’s a ritual. As Ted Gioia recently reminded me, rituals are part of the antidote to our modern culture of overwork and hyperstimulation. The importance of ritual in the Good Life goes back to Confucius. Rituals are about creating “sacred” contexts in which the ordinary habits and roles of life are put aside, and attention is devoted to observance of the ritual. The repetitive nature of a ritual is part of the point.

    The bedtime story is a ritual. The everyday distractions — for me, digital devices; for my child, toys — are put away. We adopt the roles of reader and listener, cuddler and cuddled. My child knows instinctively that something special is happening when we sit down for bedtime stories. It is our developed grown-up brains that rationalise it into something else.

  3. It’s a performance . The most effective way to prevent reading the same story over and over to your child becoming boring and stale is to think of it as a performance. Tonight you won’t just be reading The Gruffalo to your child; you’ll be giving him or her the best reading of The Gruffalo they’ve ever had. My reading of The Gruffalo kicks ass, and no, I’m not bored of it. Play with intonation. Do silly voices. Play games with the words and illustrations. Whatever it takes to delight them.

  4. Your child will surprise you. Young children change so rapidly, yet in our busy and distracted world we often miss the little things that change day-to-day. But in the quiet of the evening, during the ritual of the bedtime story, we have an opportunity to witness these little changes. If you pay attention to what they pay attention to, the illustrations they point out, the connections they make, your child can surprise you over and over again. And the more you read to them, the faster they learn. You’ll get back what you put in, if you allow your child to show you.

  5. You’ll inspire them to love books. If you make books loveable, by turning reading into a special ritual with a performance that delights them, then your child will love them. Despite all his cool toys and light up and make noises, my boy is captivated by books, and he can’t even read them yet. He picks up books of his own accord and repeats the words he can remember from each page, and searches for his favourite things in the illustrations. With any luck, this is the first step to a lifelong love of reading.

The Socialism Of William Morris

It is not this or that tangible steel and brass machine which we want to get rid of, but the great intangible machine of commercial tyranny, which oppresses the lives of all of us.

First day of the year where we get home from work/nursery and the little one can play in the garden while we get dinner on the table. Nice weather has its way of making everything less stressful

“Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them”

Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Dune – Frank Herbert

Dune Part Two 🍿 stunning. It and it’s predecessor have been the best cinema experiences I can remember in terms of raw audio/visual spectacle, surpassing even Avatar for me. Made me want to reread the novel as well

Searching for permission to blog

This post was inpired by Simone Silvestroni on “personal brands”.

I am new to the small web/IndieWeb/personal blogging scene. I tried blogging as a teenager in the early 00s, and thank god the evidence of that is lost to time. But like most people, by the late 00s and early 10s I was thoroughly drawn into Facebook’s world of interacting through pokes, Likes, and short wall posts.

In early 2016 I read Deep Work and deleted Facebook, hoping for a more focused and distraction-free life1. A brief interest in Twitter came and wentl2. I wanted some kind of presence on the Internet, but I was deeply aware of how problematic mainstream social media could be.

By 2017 I began looking into blogging as a way have my own space on the web, vaguely remembering the fun personal blogs of my youth. The trouble was, I was completely out of the loop when it came to the world of blogging. What’s the best way to get into blogging these days? How do you find blogs to follow? How do you you find readers?

I did the obvious thing. I searched for things like “getting started with personal blogging” and “how to start a personal blog”. But the articles I found were about a kind of blog I had no interest in creating. They were all about having a single topic of focus, monetization, search engine optimization, personal branding, analytics, and calls to action. This wasn’t personal blogging for its own social sake, but a completely instrumental take on the personal blog. A blog for the neoliberal subject, for whom nothing is worth doing if it is not somehow marketable.

On reflection, what I was looking for was permission to have my own daft little page on the web. None of my friends had one, and didn’t really follow anyone else’s yet. My searches for help getting started were actually off-putting. I had a little go at blogging about my mathematics studies, but without any community or any desire to “build my personal brand”, the interest faded.

The problem is that any search for blogging, personal blogging, having your own website, etc, just gives you results on how to SEO, monetize, and brand. The reason is the sites offering this advice are precisely the blogs that use SEO, monetization, and branding, shooting them to the top of any search. There doesn’t seem to be much of a way around this. Many bloggers do write posts encouraging others to get started with their own personal blogs. But by their very nature, these aren’t the posts you’ll see when you search “how to start a blog”!

It would be years before I stumbled on things like IndieWeb and the other communities that have sprung up that encourage blogging as recreation and self-expression, and even longer before I actually jumped on board with micro.blog. My RSS is now stuffed with the writings of interesting people, posting what’s on their mind with no regard to “growing their brand”. And I no longer feel like I need permission to post what I like, or particularly care how many people stop by and read. And to those so inclined, keep posting encouragement for others to start too. You never know what might cut through.

  1. I can’t say that’s going particularly well, but I don’t regret deleting Facebook. ↩︎

  2. Fighting over Brexit was what drew me in and eventually pushed me away. That place really is good at bringing out the worst in people. ↩︎

The bit they don’t tell you about growing a moustache is how risky peanut butter on toast becomes

My school did a fun thing for World Book Day where staff share a photo of their bookcases (possibly arranged deliberately for the event) and the kids have to guess whose is whose based on clues such as the books and ornaments. Many of the kids don’t have any bookshelves in the home at all. Was pretty fun to try and guess the other entrants too

Instead of focusing resources on supporting old people, we need to help the young to become the healthiest-ever old people

Article on ageing population, something our political leaders do not take seriously enough at all.

But this is the key. More old people is not a problem if they are well.

The Practicing Stoic 📚

Finished reading: The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth 📚

If I were in the business of judging books by their covers, this one would be a solid 10/10.

The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth is the best secondary introduction to the wisdom of the Roman Stoics I have yet seen, owing to the book’s unique structure. Each chapter takes on a recurring theme of Stoic wisdom, and presents a wealth of quotations from the Stoics1 (and adjacent thinkers, such as Cicero) with commentary from the author. Unlike many other secondary popular works on Stoicism, this format allows the Stoics to speak in their own words. The result is a book that is scholarly but not academic, and accessible without being a dumbed-down self-help popularisation.

Farnsworth openly admits he is not trying to give a full, rigorous account of Stoicism as philosophy per se. Rather, his goal is to provide a readable and useful collection of what the Stoics said on a range of topics such as death, desire, and adversity, while offering some of his own thoughts in each chapter on how one might learn from these teachings today. It’s clear that this is a personal interpretation of these ancient thinkers that is faithful and reverent without being dogmatic. After all, the Stoics each had their own spin on the philosophy, and so can we.

This is most evident in the final chapter, in which Farnsworth responds to the common criticisms of the Stoics. On the perceived heartlessness of the Stoics, Farnsworth offers an idiosyncratic but quite instructive analogy as to the kind of emotional character the student is Stoicism is aiming toward — essentially, that of the kindly old person. Their hotheadedness, greed, and anxieties have been softened through experience, allowing a gentle compassion to shine through without interference from emotional reactivity. In Farnsworth’s view, Stoic wisdom and practice accelerate the student toward something like this ideal.

I would recommand this book to anyone interested in Stoicism. There’s no substitute for the primary texts, but if you’ve read Marcus’s Meditations and Epictetus’s Handbook, this book is a wonderful thematic tour of the rest of the Stoic canon.

  1. By “the Stoics”, I mean the three Roman Stoic writers — Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius — whose works have survived. Virtually nothing has survived from the earlier Greek school. ↩︎


IDF uses prisoner to deliver message to Nasser hospital threatening to blow it up, then murders him. Evidence of IDF snipers firing on hospital staff and patients inside the hospital. This is one of the last (barely) functioning hospitals in Gaza

All but 3 on the Guardian’s puzzle, not bad for a Friday.


Despite these words, nobody should be under any illusions. The atrocities committed in Rafah already and those to follow, both there and across the wider Gaza Strip, would not be possible without the unconditional support these leaders and parties have provided to Israel, and are still providing, even as the language changes

Finished reading: The Shortest History of Israel and Palestine 📚

Finished reading: The Shortest History of Israel and Palestine by Michael Scott-Baumann 📚

After the events of October 7th, I decided it was time to fix my ignorance of the basic history of the conflict between Israel and Palestine by picking up the Shortest History of Israel and Palestine. It is not the first time I’ve tried to understand this situation, but I bounced off other, denser books I tried. The Shortest History is clear and accessible. It focuses on key events and outcomes, not on details like blow-by-blow accounts of battles.

Here is how it has left me feeling.

I do not see how any impartial judge could look at the foundation of Israel and not regard it as a crime. The UN Partition Plan of 1947 was a crime, and the ensuing 1947 and 1948 conflicts that established Israel’s statehood was a catastrophic crime that created 700,000 Arab refugees. Virtually all Gazans are descendents of those refugees.

Since the foundation of Israel, the Palestinian Arabs have been a people without rights. Since 1967, they have been a people without rights living under the occupation of a hostile colonial power, in Gaza and the West Bank. That power has continued to illegally appropriate land, and harass and humiliate the Palestinian population ever since.

These are the base facts of the situation. There have been atrocities on both sides. Palestinian resistance has often been violent. Israel’s land grabs and responses to violence have also been violent (and much more powerfully so). But these atrocities have not altered the base facts: a people without rights living under the occupation of a hostile colonial power.

Israel’s human rights abuses are aided and abetted by the United States and its allies, including the UK. US and British politicians have given their full support for Israel’s campaign since October 7th, despite clear evidence of crimes on a massive scale. Biden and some others may have begun to voice euphemistic misgivings about the mass slaughter currently occurring in Gaza. But this is much too little, too late. The scale and brutality of Israel’s response was predicted by many of us from the start; the willingness of our politicians to turn a blind eye for this long lays bare a damning lack of concern for Arab lives, not to mention international law and human rights.

And now we must wait in horror as Israel begins it’s assault on Rafah, and wonder if any Western leader will finally take action.

I do not just wish for peace, I wish for justice. The return of land seized since 1967, and reparations for all the infrastructure and homes destroyed, and lives lost, during this brutal 45-year occupation.

The only hope for any of this is massive international pressure, including material pressure through sanctions, and particularly from the US and its allies. I do not hold my breath.

It’s pancake day here in Britain. Certainly seems to be a hit with the little man

And yes, that was an implicit announcement. Baby #2 on the way!

The best outcome for the first baby scan is proof of existence and uniqueness

The gap between your kid being born and your kid being able to watch Star Wars with you is too long