Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Build A Bookshelf

I'm going to have to get rid of our Ikea bookshelves soon.  They are simply not practical for a family that has to move every 2-3 years.  So then, the question is this: where do you find bookshelves that are 1., portable, and that 2., can hold a LOT of books -- I'm talking hundreds of books.  So after a short search online, I've found some plans for a bookshelf from a website called "instructables." The site has a great post which lists the cost and necessary supplies in order to make some sturdy, portable bookshelves.  And bonus: the design can be modified so you can make them smaller or to fit.  Finally, they are inexpensive.  The authors total cost looks like this:

Lumber $39.62
Hardware $18.24
Total: $57.86

Not bad.  Check it out HERE.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Writer's Desk

I'm fascinated with writer's desks, their writing instruments, and the space that writers inhabit. While the space, or the type of pen, or the desk doesn't create the work, these things help the writer channel their creative self. About a writer's space, Stephen King said it well, "Wherever you write is supposed to be a little bit of a refuge, a place where you can get away from the world. The more closed in you are, the more you're forced back on your own imagination."  I believe that.  And looking at these pictures and others like them are exciting, if only to imagine these great writers sitting there, quietly composing works that will be read, enjoyed, and loved by thousands of people throughout the world.

Here are a few pictures of famous writer's desks I've discovered recently at the interesting blog "The Writing Nut."

Leo Tolstoy's Desk via The Writing Nut

Charles Dickens' Desk via The Writing Nut

Mark Twain's Desk via The Writing Nut

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Interesting Anecdotes

Admiral Horatio Nelson
Recently I was browsing the aisles at my favorite used bookstore; I had a few books in hand and was ready to purchase my finds -- which I now can't recall what they were this specific day -- when I looked over the counter at a large stack of reference books.  Dictionaries, thesauruses, books of quotes, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.  And somewhere in that stack I spied The Little, Brown Book Of Anecdotes.  I grabbed it and added it to the pile.  I'm glad I did.  The book is anything but "little" -- it is chock full of great anecdotes -- paragraphs upon paragraphs of anecdotes.  My recent favorite is this one, about Admiral Nelson:

"When he tried to obtain compensation for his lost eye, Nelson was told that no money could be paid without a surgeon's certificate.  Annoyed by this petty bureaucracy, since his wounds were well known, Nelson nevertheless obtained the necessary documentation.  As a precaution, he asked the surgeon to make out second certificate attesting to the obvious loss of his arm.  He presented the eye certificate to the clerk, who paid out the appropriate sum, commenting on the smallness of the amount. "Oh, this is only for an eye," said Nelson. "In a few days I'll come back for an arm, and probably, in a little longer, for a leg."  Later that week he returned to the office and solemnly handed over the second certificate."

It's a great book.  You can find a copy HERE. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Some Things Never Change

I recently read the following in General Eisenhower's memoirs, at ease: Stories I tell to friends...

"The War Department moves in mysterious ways its blunders to perform  -- this sentiment expresses my mood in the fall of 1924.  Why, three months ahead of schedule , I was moved thousands of miles from Panama to the Chesapeake Bay to join three other officers in a football coaching assignment is still a cosmic top-secret to me. Then or now, one guess would be as good as another.

The whole thing may have started in a heavy think session of staff officers asa an attempt to (what is now called) "improve the image" of the Army.  On the other hand, it may have come about because some bright young junior officer , relaxing with his seniors after a golf game, remarked for lack of anything more constructive to say, "Wouldn't it be dandy to get an Army team together that they could play an undefeated, untied season and smear the Marines?"

"Such a casual question, if dimly comprehended by a senior officer who nods his head in silent acquiescence as the easiest way of being good company, can result in an amazing amount of activity."

How true this is...still.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Link of the Week

British Ministry of Defense reading list...certainly worth a look.  You'll find it HERE.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rules to Live and Work By

Former SECDEF, Donald Rumsfeld, has recently released his new book, Rumsfeld's Rules.  I bought a copy and am half-way through reading it.  Unfortunately, many people will dismiss him out of hand immediately because of his political affiliation or his handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from 2001-2006.  He is a polarizing figure.  But from what I've read so far, his list of "rules" is bounded in common sense; and while nothing new (Peter Drucker, Dale Carnegie et others have said similar things) the anecdotes he attaches to his rules and his plain spoken language is refreshing.  

I thought it was interesting that he used a stand-up desk, though.  It seems like it is a more productive method, and probably healthier way of getting a lot of paperwork done throughout out the day.  

There's a lot of good stuff in there.  More to follow in an upcoming post.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Written Word

Source: Via FuckYeah! Manuscripts
I recently found this fantastic site, interestingly (?) titled, "Fuck Yeah Manuscripts!", that hosts a great/eclectic collection of written manuscripts. Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the right...more great manuscripts HERE.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

If You Don't Have Time

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

-- Stephen King

Friday, May 10, 2013

Darwin's Daily Writing Ritual

A great excerpt about Charles Darwin's daily writing ritual from the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey:

"The first, and best, of his work periods began at 8:00 a.m., after Darwin had taken a short walk and had a solitary breakfast. Following ninety minutes of focused work in his study—disrupted only by occasional trips to the snuff jar that he kept on a table in the hallway—Darwin met his wife, Emma, in the drawing room to receive the day’s post. He read his letters, then lay on the sofa to hear Emma read the family letters aloud. When the letters were done, Emma would continue reading aloud, switching to whatever novel she and her husband were currently working their way through.

At 10:30 Darwin returned to his study and did more work until noon or a quarter after. He considered this the end of his workday, and would often remark in a satisfied voice, “I’ve done a good day’s work.”

Darwin made a point of replying to every letter he received, even Cthose from obvious fools or cranks. If he failed to reply to a single letter, it weighed on his conscience and could even keep him up at night. The letter writing took him until about 3:00 in the afternoon, after which he went upstairs to his bedroom to rest, lying on the sofa with a cigarette while Emma continued to read from the novel-in-progress.....At 5:30, a half-hour of idleness in the drawing room preceded another period of rest and novel reading, and another cigarette, upstairs. Then he joined the family for dinner, although he did not join them in eating the meal; instead, he would have tea with an egg or a small piece of meat....

After two games of backgammon, he would read a scientific book and, just before bed, lie on the sofa and listen to Emma play the piano. He left the drawing room at about 10:00 and was in bed within a half-hour, although he generally had trouble getting to sleep and would often lie awake for hours, his mind working at some problem that he had failed to solve during the day."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reading Leads To...

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.

- Henry David Thoureau

Monday, May 6, 2013

Rules To Remember

I pulled Colin Powell's autobiography, My American Journey, off the shelf the other day.  It has been a few years since I've read it.  I didn't reread it this time, but something had reminded me of one of my favorites parts of his book, namely, his 13 rules of leadership. I decided to find them and reread them.  The ones I have been reminded of at work these past few years are #3 and #8.  I laughed thinking about how old the book is now.  It isn't ancient, no, not by any means.  But now that I think about it, some of the junior officers in the military were 6 or 7 years old when General Powell was still in uniform.  I first read his book in my early twenties; my parents had a copy sitting on the shelf that stayed put for many, many years.  I devoured the book.  And I would say hands down that General Powell's biography is the best military biography in the past 20 years.  For the uninitiated, below are his 13 rules of leadership to live by:

Rule 1: It Ain’t as Bad as You Think! It Will Look Better in the Morning

Rule 2: Get Mad Then Get Over It.

Rule 3: Avoid Having Your Ego so Close to your Position that When Your Position Falls, Your Ego Goes With It.

Rule 4: It Can be Done.

Rule 5: Be Careful Whom You Choose.

Rule 6: Don’t Let Adverse Facts Stand in the Way of a Good Decision.

Rule 7: You Can’t Make Someone Else’s Decisions. You Shouldn’t Let Someone Else Make Yours

Rule 8: Check Small Things.

Rule 9: Share Credit.

Rule 10: Remain calm. Be kind.

Rule 11: Have a Vision. Be Demanding.

Rule 12: Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.

Rule 13: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Link of the Week

Brain Pickings is a great blog. Run by Maria Popova, who writes for the Wired UK and The Atlantic, it is an eclectic mix of stories and links about creativity, writing, and well, just a lot of great stuff. Here is an excerpt from the "about" page: 

'' Brain Pickings — which remains ad-free and supported by readers — is your cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful.''

Start with this great post, titled, "Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers."  You'll find it HERE.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Do You Write?

Being a father is hard work. And it means less reading. At my current rate of reading, with interruptions, I won't finish a book for a few months. So what do I do? I still read, but I'm picking up and flipping through essays, short stories, speeches, and letters. I also recently bought a book on anecdotes. If I can finish it within thirty-minutes then strap me in, hand it over, I'll read it. If not... I'll have to pass and put it on the "to read" list. So in that vein, I've recently pulled some books of essays off my shelf that I read years ago, but due to my current reading time restrictions, decided they deserved another go. One of these was the excellent Turkish writer and Noble Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, and his book of essays, Other Colours

The last essay in the book, titled, "My Father's Suitcase," is actually his Nobel acceptance speech that he gave back in 2006. There is a beautiful paragraph in the speech -- although the entire thing is excellent -- that is worth repeating over and over again:

"Let me change the mood with a few sweet words that will, I hope, serve as well as that music. As you know, the question we writers are asked most often, the favourite question, is; why do you write? I write because I have an innate need to write! I write because I can't do normal work like other people. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at all of you, angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can only partake in real life by changing it. I write because I want others, all of us, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you, so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life's beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but – just as in a dream – I can't quite get there. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy.''

So...why do you write?