Take nothing for granted. Don’t waste a moment feeling like you don’t have enough or comparing yourself to other people. Avoid the temptation to conflate your self-worth with your net-worth or your identity with your place in society. Because all of this is temporary. All of this is dependent on Fortune.

from The Daily Stoic email list.

I’m doing an anti-pattern on privacy for the this month, going full Google with email and browser. People who go to ProtonMail for privacy make me giggle given that over 1 billion people a month are using Gmail. Unless you’re just emailing other people using ProtonMail your email is being “scanned” by Google. Silly people.

Mission to Paris (Night Soldiers, #12) – a review 📚

I’m posting some old reviews I put up on Goodreads years ago. I wanted to have them on my own blog.

This was my first Alan Furst novel. I tried reading one before (Night Soldiers) and only was able to make it through a portion because it was, well, boring and not my thing. I kept reading good reviews of his novels though and decided to give the latest in the “Night Soldiers” series a go.

Good choice. Furst is a fantastic writer and one of the few (Stephen King and J. K. Rowling do the same) that I’ve read that writes in a such a way you get a clear vision in your mind of what he is writing about. You can actually see the scenes he’s painting with words.

Set on the eve of the start of World War II the book follows an actor, Frederic Stahl, on a trip to France to make a film for Paramount. One of the things that struck me about this novel is how great Furst is at generating emotion. The book is very good at giving a sense of foreboding over the coming war and fall of France. You get a very palpable sense of the storm that is coming to Europe. I always had a sense of unease while reading as if I was living in that time and experiencing things with Stahl.

Furst is also very good at dialog. It feels very authentic and real. I also found it interesting the heavy use of italics to help impart certain meaning and emotion to the words. I have not seen this used quite as heavily by other authors but it really gives a wonderful sense of the sub context going on under what is being said.

And the guy just has a way of turning a phrase. Here is an example:

They lay together on a deck chair, she in formal gown, he in tuxedo, the warmth of her body welcome on the chilly night, the soft weight of her breast, resting gently against him, a promise that wouldn’t be kept but a sweet promise just the same.

The one thing I didn’t like was the overuse of sexual situations in the story. I’m no prude but the guy goes a bit overboard with the descriptions. If I wanted a romance novel I’d read one. This stuff doesn’t belong in a period spy novel. I felt the same way about the “Foundation” series by Isaac Asimov. The first novels, written in the 1950’s, were pure hard sci-fi. The later novels had far too much sex and it just didn’t fit.

Mission to Paris was a good read. Enjoyable characters and fantastic writing. What isn’t there to like?

Interesting take in The Atlantic (“Stop Trusting Viral Videos“) about the events involving the Black Hebrew Israelites, teenagers from the Catholic school in Kentucky, and Nathan Phillips in Washington DC this past weekend. It is interesting how video can influence what we think about a situation and almost makes the facts irrelevant as people jump to conclusions about what they’ve seen.

What to do with social media?

So I’ve been thinking a lot as of late about what to do with what remains of my social media accounts. I dropped Facebook a long time ago. I was using it very infrequently already but more of the people I cared about keeping in contact with on that platform slowly started dropping off, tired of the low signal-to-noise ratio. The fact that I was unhappy with their business practices made the decision that much easier but now I’m wondering, what about Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit?

Twitter can be a real cesspool to be sure but it can very useful. The way I use it now is probably 95% as a news source and I tweet occasionally. I also use, and completely adore, Instagram. I post much more there and it’s a fabulous platform to follow the food websites and publications I love. Also found my favorite pair of boots there (Jack Boot in green). But as we all know Instagram is owned by Facebook and that gives me pause these days. Reddit? Well, Reddit provides almost zero value and I’ve already deleted my account twice there. But I keep getting pulled back there to argue over stupid stuff.

I’ve been asking myself lately just how much value are these apps adding to my life? The pull to them during any moment of boredom is very strong. It was strong enough that I took Twitter off my phone. Instagram is useless without the app installed. Reddit I can say with certainty that I’ve answered the question of usefulness multiple times. So where does that leave this conversation?

My Twitter account is almost 11 years old. I’ve tried deleting it multiple times only to come back before it was truly deleted. Funny how they make that work isn’t it? Are you really sure? Hey, we’ll hold the account for 30 days just in case you change your mind! They make it far too easy. 30 days is a long time and my (lack of) willpower and fear of losing my Twitter name and early join date has always brought me back. I’ve made some really juicy rationalizations in why I should keep Twitter but I also keep coming back to the question: should I keep Twitter?

Instagram is a much harder question to answer and I’m pretty sure at this point, Facebook ownership or not, that I’m keeping Instagram. So far from a privacy angle I just don’t see the same problems for Instagram that Facebook is having. There is no doubt that they track what I look at there but I don’t think there are the same privacy implications there as with Facebook. Ultimately I find it very useful and I don’t find that I keep asking myself if I should delete it.

Reddit? I don’t think there is any question on that one: forgetit.

The Daily Stoic

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do for several years now is study Stoicism, but not Stoicism in the sense that most people seem to know:

To the average person, this vibrant, action-oriented, and paradigm-shifting way of living has become shorthand for emotionlessness.

but Stoicism in the sense of the way the authors of The Daily Stoic see it:

… a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life…

In fact if you look up the word “stoic” in the dictionary you see something like this:

of or relating to the school of philosophy founded by Zeno, who taught that people should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity.

Doesn’t sound very exciting does it? Who wants to be an unfeeling doormat? But as with many things the devil is in the details. The school might have been founded by Zeno but what we think of as Stoicism today was the philosophy followed by Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca. Their version of Stoicism is far from that terrible definition quoted above. It’s the Stoicism that attracted me and made me want to finally take up the study in this new year.

I’ve bought the main recommendations anyone gets when they first start studying the Stoics but wanted to start with something a bit simpler which brought me to The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. Each day is a small bit of reading covering one small piece of the teachings and philosophy. It’s a perfect way to get my feet wet and several of the days have been very enlightening so far. I’m really enjoying it.

Looking forward to reading more and I’ll share more here during the year as I progress through the various works. It’s been fun so far creating image-based posts on Instagram with snippets of what I’m reading and I’ll definitely post here soon with what I’m learning!