As an experiment in living and in an effort to protect my sleep I have set my router to disable internet access from all my devices between 2:00am and 7:00am seven days a week.

Especially when I am feeling down and wishing I could avoid things, there is a temptation to just keep clicking through YouTube videos, Wikipedia articles, or news stories.

Contrary to the pervasive idea that being well-informed is all about being apprised of the latest information, there is good reason to think that the newer information is the more likely it is to the incorrect, incomplete, or useless. Over time, we filter information by quality, put things together, and benefit from additional context. That makes the news from a weekly or monthly magazine more likely to be informative than the news from the current Google News page or a social media feed, and it means reading a book which society has determined to be important almost certainly carries more lifetime value than reading the same number of words from breaking news stories.

There are other self-harming loops I have been working to disrupt in myself and better understand in other people. Despite a lot of anguish and turmoil, the overall experience of the last couple of months suggests that improvement is possible.

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Myshka, my father, and I just spent three days at my aunt and uncle’s cabin near Parry Sound.

Highlights: walking on the icy lake, attempted kite flying, oatmeal, roughhousing in deep snow.

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Dog feet

2018-01-01

in Photo of the day

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During my Christmas visit to Ottawa, I visited the National Gallery with Myshka’s mother and sister.

It was a rapid tour where I focused on statuary. The concrete aggregate work by Ugo Rondione (“We run through a desert on burning feet. All of us are glowing. Our faces look twisted.”) near the group entrance reminds me a bit of one of Bathsheba’s commissions. The dépanneur installation was odd, though it’s easy to read it as about surveillance as the convex mirrors and digital cameras reflect back the visitors exploring it. It also seemed notable to me that so much of the purpose of the shop was dedicated to alcohol (the European painting area has a most unflattering portrayal of drunken excess).

It’s neat to see statues made with such a variety of materials, from marble to plastic patio chairs to some kind of simulated camel hide.

The gallery has an unusually permissive photography policy, with everything in the permanent collection available to be freely photographed. The one time I got shut down was trying to photograph a Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux marble from a private collection, where the guard tried to stop me from even photographing the ‘no photography’ sign.

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I’m surprised I have never mentioned Dan Carlin’s historical podcasts here yet. I got a lot out of “Blueprint for Armageddon“, his six-part history of WWI (source of this account). Listening to his thoroughly-researched and passionately-delivered work has led me back to a number of books by serious historians as well as primary accounts. Those include G. J. Meyer’s A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 which I have gone through more than once as an audiobook and Ryan Cornelius’ The Last Battle about the fall of Berlin in 1945.

On the Greyhound trips to Ottawa and back, Myshka and I listened to three of the four episodes in “Ghosts of the Ostfront” — a macabre but instructive account of the Nazi-Soviet war from 1941 to 1945.

There are lots of reasons to be interested in the eastern front in WWII, but the familial connections were at the forefront of my mind. The series does a good job of explaining the situation faced by those in countries between the two great powers during the war, including all those who became double victims oppressed by both the Soviet and Nazi autocracies.

Carlin and his research and production team have lots of other great stuff, from a free discussion with favourite historian and thinker James Burke to his detailed history of the life of Genghis Khan to the unbelievable story of the Anabaptist takeover of Munster in 1534. His preference for the bloody ought to be noted, but to me his work doesn’t seem to revel in violence for its own sake but more to try to discern the broad lessons of history.

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Daisy

2017-12-28

in Photo of the day

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