Discover more from the bookmark
🧚🏻♀️ April; unread books, new gadgets, travel, and death.
I’m off on my travels in a fortnight. Six weeks hopping between Canada, Portugal, the UK, back to Portugal, and then back to the UK again. I cannot wait. It’s a mixture of fun, friends, family, and food for the brain. I’ll also be working from Lisbon for a couple of weeks, so will be trying out a few coworking spaces, getting into ‘workation’ mode, and trying to sneak at least one pastel de nata into my dairy hating tummy.
(The next newsletter will likely feature a big list of travel hacks, recommendations, and gadgets I’m trying on this trip. Watch this space!).
Following on from last month’s newsletter about changes and resetting, I recently watched an incredible talk by Alua Arthur from this year’s main TED conference.
Alua is a Death Doula, who helps people prepare for end of life. There were so many lessons from her experiences, this is absolutely a video that requires multiple watches. One thing that really stuck with me was her own vision that after she draws her very last breath, her gathered loved ones will burst into applause. Applause for a life fully lived.
Alua also shares that it’s the little things her clients talk most about. For women, dessert is a big theme. Upon receiving a terminal diagnosis, many women realise that their days and therefore desserts are numbered. And yet, it’s often these things they have denied themselves for a lifetime, in the (often futile) pursuit of being ‘more x’ or ‘less y’. She shared the example of a client, whose tastebuds had been ravaged by chemo, could only have a tiny smear of a passionfruit dessert placed on her lips to enjoy. As Alua put it, we’re all definitely going to die, so we might as well enjoy cake whilst we can.
Of course, dessert is both literal and metaphorical.
Alua’s TED video isn’t available on the site yet, I watched it through a TEDx early access screening event. I’ll keep my eye out for it though and share it when it’s available. In the meantime, this conversation between Alua, Glennon Doyle, and Abby Wambach is wonderful and captures so much of Alua’s humour, humanity, and wisdom.
There’s always a reason not to do something, but maybe that’s what makes it more of a story in future. Lessons like this are an important reminder of what makes life matter. I’ve been itching to get back to Japan pretty much as soon as I departed after my first trip a few years ago. So last week, I booked a few days there for my birthday later this year (thanks in part to my stack of soon-to-expire 2020 flight credits I’m still working through).
The it list
Here’s a few other things I’ve been obsessing over, enjoying, or doing recently…
Podcast - Have a Nice Future : Wired’s Have a Nice Future podcast is back after a two year hiatus. There’s a leaning towards tech, as you’d expect from Wired, but I found the episode with the Mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, very insightful, along with the episode about the rise of Buy Now Pay Later schemes, which asked some good questions about the ethics of BNPL versus credit cards, and when does the subscription for everything era go too far. (That episode is called A Mortgage For Your Sandwich). Spotify | Apple
Podcast - Schmeitgeist: This was my favourite podcast of 2022, so I’m delighted it’s back for another season of weird culture trends. So far Ange has talked about Gen Z reclaiming the term ‘bimbo’, and how a Catholicism aesthetic is suddenly hot for young people. Spotify | Apple
Podcast - Noah Kagen Presents ft Kevin Kelly: I find Kevin Kelly ticks the nice balance of being interesting, measured, and lacking the hyperbole or too much of the weirdness of a lot of other tech OGs. This interview is loosely about his latest book, but covers all sorts of topics from tech, travel, how being a genius often means you are a horrible person, what led to starting Wired magazine, regrets, and how much is too much money. Spotify | Apple
Video - I finally got around to watching Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin’s AI Dilemma talk from last month. Even as an optimist, I went away feeling a bit bleak. They talk about the mind-bending level of potential harms that this technology can create, create quickly, and create at scale. It goes far beyond the ‘job stealing’ conversation that’s dominating the mainstream media headlines. (Watch it here)
News - Semafor: Semafor is a news outlet co-founded by ex-BuzzFeed news editor Ben Smith. It’s a new take on news media, and they’ve made some interesting decisions on story format and putting journalists more personally at the centre - like TV news does. They’re also focusing their distribution strategy on email newsletters, and revenue strategy on a mixture of ad revenue, and events. Ben Smith spoke to Nilay Patel about these unconventional decisions on this recent episode of Decoder. (Spotify | Apple)
Netflix - How to Get Rich with Ramit Sethi: is worth watching to potentially trigger a different conversation about money with your friends and family. Some of the production is a bit odd, but the concept of the show is great as Ramit helps a selection of people get their finances back in order. I really appreciate that they haven’t tried to over-cook or force any out of proportion drama, unlike a lot of similar style American shows.
Gadget - Loop earplugs: The Instagram ads got me hard on these, and I’ve now tried them out at three different live music events. As a non-standard ear-haver, I was amazed they actually fit fairly comfortably and stay in. I love that my ears are less buzzy after a loud gig and that they’re much nicer (and better for the planet) than the gross foam earplugs. The one thing I don’t like is that the noise filtering means I can more easily hear the people who turn up to a gig and then STAND AND HAVE A CHAT during the show. The earplugs do not plug my white hot rage.
Music: I went to see Alt J perform two outstanding shows last week, including their 10(+1) year anniversary tour of their debut album An Awesome Wave, which is one of my London soundtrack albums from 2012.
Tech - Llama Life: Ok, it’s basically a to do list with a timer, which you can absolutely just DIY. However, I’m a sucker for fun UI and I’m really enjoying having my colourful little tasks all stacked up in the little side browser, and seeing the clock count down as I work through each one. Especially useful when you’re struggling with focus and keep falling into pits of distraction. Get organised
What have you been up to? What are you reading? Hit reply or add a comment to this post and let me know.
Waving whilst squeezing my suitcase shut,
PS. To borrow from Austin Kleon, this newsletter and the podcast are 'free but not cheap'. You can support their ongoing creation and keep me in books by buying me a coffee (thanks to Pete and Pablo who both bought me some tea last month!) as a 'thank you', recommending it to a friend, or leaving a podcast rating on Apple or Spotify. Thanks!
What I read last month
Each month I share what I’ve been reading and a full review on the podcast. Here’s the short version.
In April I only ended up finishing two books, and I ‘parked’ two other books.
📚 Books I finished 📚
Before and Laughter by Jimmy Carr (audiobook) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Surprisingly profound memoir and life lessons from Jimmy. Obviously many of those lessons are delivered with his trademark cutting wit. It’ll make you think and make you laugh.
How to Work with (Almost) Anyone by Michael Bungay Stanier ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Another excellently practical book from MBS full of conversation starters and questions for improving your working relationships. The questions and frameworks are great, of course, but I think the most useful and important part of this book is the very idea that we absolutely can and *should* have these conversations with the people we work with.
(PS. The book is out on 27 June, this would be a great gift to new managers, someone starting a new job, a friend who’s having a bit of a tricky time with a colleague, or even your whole team. Pre-order and find out more about the myriad of pre-order bonuses.)
📚 Books I didn’t finish 📚
The Persuaders by Anand Giridharadas (TBC)
The Persuaders is all about people doing work to bridge gaps between different groups, and what we can learn about how to better discuss and disagree. There’s some powerful examples of people doing vital work organising around race, social justice, and reproductive rights, and who have done their own work in meeting people where they are in order to have more of an impact. Anand’s writing is very thorough and well thought through, so this is a book I will come back to, but needed more attention than I had in April.
Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock (DNF)
The overall message in the book is quite interesting; large groups of fairly-well-informed regular people tend to outperform the forecasts of specialists who have access to more detailed or sensitive information. However, that point was made over and over again (often with the same examples). After reading about 50%, of the book I superforecasted that I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of it, and retired the book to the DNF pile. This book has thousands of frothing reviews on Amazon, so either I’m missing something / all the good stuff is in the last half of the book / Phil has a lot of mates who owed him favours.
ICYMI, recently on the podcast…
Other places I’ve popped up…
Podcast - My Millennial Career: Sparking curiosity, learning, and growth