Review: Why We Swim

Why We Swim
Why We Swim by Bon­nie Tsui
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

At the time of Lord Byron’s Helle­spont swim, he had pub­lished some poet­ry but had not yet estab­lished him­self as one of the great Roman­tic poets. His suc­cess­ful cross­ing, though, got his muse talk­ing, and he pro­duced “Writ­ten after Swim­ming from Ses­tos to Aby­dos,” a satir­ic poem in homage to the swim and to the Greek myth of Hero and Lean­der. Lean­der, a young man from Aby­dos, falls in love with Hero, a priest­ess of Aphrodite who lives in a tow­er in Ses­tos. Every night, Lean­der swims the four miles of the Helle­spont to vis­it Hero, guid­ed by her lamp. One night the lamp blows out, and he drowns, over­come by the waves and cur­rents. She throws her­self from her tow­er to join him in death.

Byron, how­ev­er, escaped with a bout of fever and chills, but for all his jaun­ty tone, he felt that swim­ming coaxed him out of melan­choly, opened up his cre­ative stores, and gave him access to his best self. In truth, the Helle­spont became a touch­stone for him and the stre­nous swim was what loosed his imag­i­na­tion. In time, “Byron­ic” would be a label for our most pas­sion­ate seek­ers, swim­mers, and artists. Byron came to rep­re­sent a “con­cen­trat­ed mind,” as well as “high spir­its, wit, day­light good sense, and a pas­sion for truth—in short a unique dis­charge of intel­lec­tu­al vital­i­ty.” — Bon­nie Tsui

This well-trav­elled sto­ry men­tions the myr­i­ad moti­va­tions peo­ple have to jump in the water. Togeth­er these tales make a good case for swim­ming in the open water and why, see quote above, it makes for a more reward­ing dive. Rang­ing from the Ice­landic hero, Guðlau­gur Friðþórs­son to the Greek Hero, and from the Japan­ese Samu­rais to the Oceans Sev­en Swim­mers. Each bring their own inspir­ing aspect to the table and the total sum makes swim­ming out­doors an admirable and worth­while endeav­our. The key is to not be afraid of the water’s depths, its dark­ness and its poten­tial to draw you down. Ulti­mate­ly, you’ll arise from the water anew; that’s what John would do with you.

I give “Why We Swim” four miles stars.

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Review: Dit was mijn laat­ste marathon .…., toch?

Dit was mijn laatste marathon ....., toch?
Dit was mijn laat­ste marathon .…., toch? by Ger­ard Legerstee
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

As allud­ed to in my pre­vi­ous review, I fig­ured out a way to copy my notes of the book to my com­put­er. Which will make the process of writ­ing reviews of ebooks a lit­tle eas­i­er in the long run. Talk­ing about long runs, this book was a great sum­ma­ry of the jour­ney into run­ning not all that dis­sim­i­lar to mine. Let me list some of the things in the book that I liked; First, there was the term ‘wild run­ner’, used for a run­ning not affil­i­at­ed with any ath­let­ics club, which amused me quite a lot. Sec­ond­ly, the fact that you can run with any weath­er, except when the road is cov­ered in black ice. Which is very true, because I have ran in all weath­er times and the most dan­ger­ous one was while it was slip­pery as hell. Let me add though that run­ning in the mid­dle of a field with thun­der­ing clouds above is some­thing that also needs to be avoid­ed. Third­ly, the les­son that if your per­sist long enough, even­tu­al­ly you’ll gain the strength and the skill that is required. Fourth­ly, that noth­ing is as frus­trat­ing as see­ing some­one run while you are injured your­self, that is a weird kind of jeal­ousy, that makes me feel super sor­ry for the peo­ple that are per­ma­nent­ly dis­abled. Last­ly, the fact that you need to warm up cold water in your mouth to pre­vent diges­tive issues. I do know that cold wind can play a role in how the bow­els feel, but I nev­er made the con­nec­tion with tem­per­a­ture of the water I con­sume. Luck­i­ly, my run­ning back­pack has a water blad­der that warms up through the heat of my back, so even to the water in the drink­ing tube might cool down out in the cold, it will always be fol­lowed by warmer water. In the end, the book describes the life of an aver­age run­ner and is there­fore maybe more relat­able than the sto­ries of the accom­plished run­ners. The fact the book was writ­ten in Dutch, the exam­ples used were rather famil­iar so that must have helped as well. All in all, an enjoy­able quick read!

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Review: Drink meer koffie

Drink meer koffie
Drink meer koffie by Bertil Mark­lund
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

The title of the book was what trig­gered my curios­i­ty and as the title of the Eng­lish trans­la­tion, it is clear that this book had a good mar­ket­ing team. The book was­n’t bad, the infor­ma­tion about the title’s top­ic was very kept to a min­i­mum. Some blog posts have writ­ten a more con­cise and exten­sive overview on the top­ic. How­ev­er, a lit­tle rep­e­ti­tion nev­er hurts and there were a lot of things I had changed over last two years that made me feel good about my choic­es and the path I am on. Fur­ther­more, the biggest les­son for me was that being opti­mistic has a sig­nif­i­cant impact on one’s life expectan­cy — extend it up to sev­en years — com­pared to more pes­simistic peo­ple. Being aware that cor­re­la­tion is not cau­sa­tion, there is still a lot of mer­it to this obser­va­tion and some­thing I would want to work on the com­ing years if not decades. As a side­note, this was the first book in which I exten­sive­ly used the note-tak­ing fea­ture on my e‑reader to help me improve my vocab­u­lary and high­light the sen­tences that res­onate with me and that I would like to use in the sum­ma­ry. How­ev­er, I find that many of these are in Dutch and not all of them would work well after trans­la­tion. So for now, I’ll leave it at this and in the future I hope to extend this review with those lessons, after I fig­ure out how to export them to a more man­age­able for­mat instead of hav­ing to type it word for word. Even though the lat­ter seems bet­ter for reten­tion of the infor­ma­tion, I think I would be less like­ly to do it for most of the books I read.

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Review: Goed volk

Goed volk
Goed volk by Teun van de Keuken
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Know­ing more about a per­son­’s upbring­ing helps you bet­ter under­stand their per­son­al­i­ties and traits. As an avid watch­er of the pro­grams that the author presents on Dutch tele­vi­sion; ‘Keur­ings­di­enst van Waarde’ and ‘De mon­i­tor’, I would like to know more about the pre­sen­ter’s per­son­al views. in the for­mer pro­gram the goal is most­ly to dis­cov­er the truth behind all the promis­es that the food pack­ages make, while in the lat­ter, a more broad­er and ide­al­is­tic goal is pur­sued, with the help of the sto­ries from every­day peo­ple that write in. All in all, I was sur­prised at how well it was writ­ten, from a lin­guis­tic per­spec­tive, which makes sense know­ing that he read a lot when he grew up, you pick up on a thing or two while you do so, I like to believe. The main top­ic of the book was the rela­tion­ship with his ambi­tious and artis­tic father, which dif­fers huge­ly from my own upbring­ing, as are the time and place of course. I found it to be a worth­while read, with plen­ty of fun­ny and rec­og­niz­able exam­ples. The only thing that was miss­ing for me, was a bridge between his ear­ly past at pri­ma­ry school and how this affect­ed his bond with his dad. For exam­ple, when he became a father him­self and how this might have changed his rela­tion­ship with his own dad. I doubt there will be a sequel.

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Review: De nieuwe warming-up

De nieuwe warming-up
De nieuwe warm­ing-up by Tjitte Kam­min­ga
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

The main sell­ing-point of this book is the idea that (sta­t­ic) stretch­ing is worth­less as a warm-up for your run. Bet­ter would be to dynam­i­cal­ly stretch, as many oth­er sources online rec­om­mend, but what was new to me was the fact that it focused on joint exten­sions. Basi­cal­ly, mov­ing through the whole range of joint move­ments that will be used in the exer­cise there­after, and that sim­ply start­ing from walk­ing, to brisk-walk­ing, a slow tred and jog to prop­er run­ning. That this build-up can real­ly help prepar­ing the mus­cles and ten­dons for the motions to come. Since I could pick up this book for a cheap price, I won­der if there’s any­thing wrong with its advice, but to me the evi­dence seems to hold up.

The oth­er part of the book talks about the phys­i­ol­o­gy of the human mus­cu­loskele­tal sys­tem and what goes wrong when you are injured. The impor­tance of scar tis­sue is dis­cussed, and when you take com­plete rest, the scar tis­sue grows in ran­dom direc­tions and when you move with­in your lim­its, that you can force this tis­sue to grow in the cor­rect direc­tion, which will help increase the chances of a full recov­ery. So that is def­i­nite­ly some­thing to keep in mind for the future, and seems to hold true for the two times I have been injured myself, first ful­ly rest­ing, sec­ond­ly rest­ing while mov­ing. Note: The sec­ond injury was a lit­tle less severe, so that might skew the data.

The last les­son I learned was about the syn­ovia, the flu­id inside the joints and how it feeds the car­ti­lage of the joints. And with inac­tiv­i­ty, this flu­id does­n’t move and the car­ti­lage dete­ri­o­rates. Con­trary, to com­mon believe, it is this mov­ing of the joints that helps it keep in good shape and there is no wear and tear of joints, only this type of rust­ing, so to speak!

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Review: Ser­i­al: Sea­son Two

Serial: Season Two
Ser­i­al: Sea­son Two by Sarah Koenig
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Sto­ries like these make me appre­ci­ate inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism and the thor­ough fact-check­ing that is required to deliv­er an objec­tive­ly as pos­si­ble look at the sto­ry at hand. I found the lat­ter episodes a bit lack­ing, as it did­n’t dis­cuss the moral quib­bles and the impact of long-term con­fine­ment. I would have like to know more how dif­fi­cult Bowe found it to read­just after get­ting back into soci­ety. Prob­a­bly there was not much footage, but that would have been more fas­ci­nat­ing to me than the polit­i­cal out­fall that ensued. Over­all, this was worth my time and I appre­ci­at­ed get­ting such an inti­mate glimpse in the mind of a per­son that strug­gled with these moral conundrums. 

As with S‑town, the ques­tion is whether this qual­i­fies as an audio­book, but for me this audio nar­ra­tive does. Per­son­al­ly, I want to keep track on the sto­ries and ideas that I expose myself to, so this for me falls in that category.

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Review: How I Became Stupid

How I Became Stupid
How I Became Stu­pid by Mar­tin Page
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

This nov­el was rec­om­mend­ed me by some­one from the book­club after read­ing Flow­ers for Alger­non. It promised a sim­i­lar explo­ration of the effects of intel­li­gence on the social life of the pro­tag­o­nist. The first half of the book was real­ly great and was five-star mate­r­i­al. There was lots of unique, absur­dists ideas that were great to explore. The pac­ing was quick and I could relate to the main char­ac­ter in var­i­ous ways. How­ev­er, half-way into the book, when the down­fall start­ed to hap­pen, I thought the book was going a bit to quick. Even though I dis­liked the course the book took, I think with some extra pages they could be explained bet­ter and it might have made more sense. Now it did­n’t do so much, and that is a pity, because I felt like this could be one of my all-time favourite books.

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Review: Flow­ers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon
Flow­ers for Alger­non by Daniel Keyes
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Flow­ers for Alger­non is the first book that I have read for a book club, and what a great book to start this tra­di­tion with. As this is a book of fic­tion, which I usu­al­ly don’t read, I found this book to be real­ly res­onat­ing with me in mul­ti­ple lev­els and I am impressed by the author’s abil­i­ty to por­tray the tran­si­tion so vivid­ly. Hats off to the nar­ra­tor for mak­ing the changes in char­ac­ter even more pro­nounced! In the end, this books shows once more than being all-round­ed and bal­anced is the thing that will get you along the fur­thest. Ini­tial­ly, I got to know about the book through the episode ‘Flow­ers for Char­lie’, from the It’s Always Sun­ny in Philadel­phia TV-show, which is one of my favourites.

The audio­book ver­sion was bet­ter I believe, but you can’t go wrong with either of the two.

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Review: De Bul­let Jour­nal methode

De Bullet Journal methode
De Bul­let Jour­nal meth­ode by Ryder Car­roll
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

After know­ing of its exis­tence for a cou­ple of years, I knew I would have to read a book to get invest­ed in the way of life that is bul­letjour­nal­ing. I do think it fits my needs and I had to be in the right place to be tuned to hear its mes­sage. There are some good exer­cis­es men­tioned in the book. Per­son­al­ly, I did­n’t like part IV as much (nor the back­cov­er of the book), but over­all a great syn­the­sis on cur­rent pro­duc­tive jour­nal­ing. Def­i­nite­ly going to try it this spring and see how it evolves through­out the year! This com­ing March, I start incor­po­rat­ing this into my life and fine tune it, until I am ready to go full-time.

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Review: Gulp: Adven­tures on the Ali­men­ta­ry Canal

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
Gulp: Adven­tures on the Ali­men­ta­ry Canal by Mary Roach
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

The book start­ed off the real­ly strong, but I found that halfway it lost some steam. Still plen­ty of good triv­ia and taboo top­ics about the human body that are wor­thy of fur­ther pur­suit. This was my first book of the author and I look for­ward to read­ing the oth­ers! I mean, the con­cept is great, it just depends on the sto­ries that have hap­pened in the past and how they unfold­ed, that deter­mine if the book is inter­est­ing. This book shines at the moment the book touch­es on top­ics peo­ple are not like­ly to dis­cuss in their day-to-day life due to shame and fear. 

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