My daily learnings in January 2017

This blog’s regular reader may recall the post Reflective mood for 2017. Under its heading “Learn something new everyday”, I discussed my desire to… eh, learn something new…eh, every day. (“Nunca te acostaras sin saber una cosa nueva” in Spanish means “never go to bed without learning one new thing”).

Hence, throughout January, I scribbled down thoughts and learnings in a notebook at the end of each day. Not always spectacular or revolutionary of course. Some were trivial, some mundane, some waffle, some plain old lists.

Stocktake time! Perhaps with some self-indulgence, here are my daily learnings for January 2017… (my apologies for the lengthy post):

Candles used in Melbourne’s coptic churches
  • Jan 1st – Good Mrs and I stumbled onto an Egyptian Elder in Fitzroy. He singlehandedly makes 50,000 taper candles annually for all of Melbourne’s 40 Coptic Christian churches. Fascinating 15 minutes conversation after which we received a handful of his candles.
  • Jan 2nd – The correct name for Big Ben Tower in London is Elizabeth Tower
  • Jan 3rd – I saw the movie Trumbo, based on the real life screen writer, novelist and communist Dalton Trumbo, active in America during the 1950s McCarthy era. Trumbo wrote the screenplays to “A Roman Holiday” and “Brave One”. Both under pseudonyms since he was blacklisted in Hollywood for being a communist. Both movies received Oscars for best screenplays. Trumbo spent jail time for his communist beliefs, but was later recognised for his contributions.
  • Jan 4th – Mount Everest is named after George Everest, a British Surveyor in India. Earlier, the English called it “Peak XV”. Everest had no connection with the mountain. In fact, he never saw it in his lifetime. It was posthumously named after him. Interestingly, George Everest pronounced his surname “Eve-rest” with 2 syllables. Mount Everest is one of few Asian mountains with an English name.
  • Jan 5th – Apparently, more cows than bulls kill people. I suppose any mother in the Animal Kingdom can be protective and aggressive should she or her offsprings feel threatened.
  • Jan 6thHeathrow Airport – is apparently located where it is because it was halfway between the home of the decision maker at the time and London Town. The reference is Bill Bryson, but I can’t find further details online. I leave it here anyway. Should have scribbled down more…
  • Jan 7th – A funny story from an ex-copper. Discussing swooping by magpies, the ex-copper mentioned a fellow cop who once was swooped twice in succession. First on one side of his head, and while turning around, another peck on the opposite side of the head. That copper filled in an “injury in duty” form and then asked for sick leave for the remaining day. Not a great move in an environment like the police force and the poor guy became the butt of jokes among the other coppers for some time.
Source of learnings for 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th and 14th Jan.
  • Jan 8thU.K.’s A roads. A1-A6 divert clockwise out of London like a “badly sliced pizza”. A1 goes north from London to Edinburgh. A2 to its east and so on. B1x and C1xx roads are between A1 and A2. Of course, being Britain, there are plenty of exceptions.
  • Jan 10thCambridge, U.K. – 90 people studying and working there have won the Nobel Price. No other smaller patch of earth has produced more revolutionary thinking than central Cambridge. A few names… Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, J.M. Keynes. Around 30 of them operated in one single building, the Cavendish Laboratory.
  • Jan 11th – Watched the movie “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” where they drank Olympia Beer from Washington state. In 2013, Olympia Beer offered $1,000,000 reward for the proof of Bigfoot’s existence. A 24 oz can was introduced at the same time, nicknamed “The Bigfoot”. Interestingly, Jeff Bridges outperformed Clint Eastwood in the movie and was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor.
  • Jan 12th – Book reference: “The concise 33 strategies of war” by Robert Greene. I learnt that:
    • Warfare can be divided into:
      1. Self directed warfare
      2. Organised (team) warfare
      3. Defensive warfare
      4. Offensive warfare
      5. Unconventional (dirty) warfare
    • In “1. Self directed warfare” – A true strategist must:
      1. Become aware of weakness and illness that can take hold of mind
      2. Declare war on yourself to move forward
      3. Wage ruthless and continued battle on enemies within
    • Greene discusses “Death ground strategy“. Expression attributed to Chinese Strategist Sun-Tzu > 2000 years ago. Defined as “a place where an army is cornered without escape route” => the army fights with double or triple the spirit because death is the only other possibility

Not sure what to make of this, but an interesting read nevertheless.

  • Jan 13thHuman’s 7 basic primal movement patterns (possibly 2 more; balance and throwing):
    1. Push
    2. Pull
    3. Twist
    4. Gait (crawl, walk, run)
    5. Bend
    6. Squat
    7. Lunge
  • Jan 14th – The world’s oldest public city park – Birkenhead Park in Birkenhead outside of Liverpool, U.K. The park opened 1847. An American, Frederick Law Olmsted visited and was so impressed that he became a landscape architect after returning to the U.S. Olmsted designed Central Park in Manhattan, Prospect Park in Brooklyn and many more American public parks. His design was considered the template for public parks.
  • Jan 15thPatella i.e. kneecap / kneepad – A thick circular-triangular bone which articulates with the thigh bone. Covers and protects the surface of the knee joint. Above is the quadriceps tendon and below is the patellar tendon i.e. ligaments.
  • Jan 16th – Attended a YHA Bushwalking Club information meeting (my first face-to-face experience with that club). Presentation to newcomers describing how the club operates including relationship with broader YHA.
  • Jan 17th – Book reference: “48 laws of power” by Robert Greene. He outlines these laws as follows (a loooooong list…):
    1. Never outshine your master
    2. Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies
    3. Conceal your intentions
    4. Always say less than necessary
    5. So much depends on reputation – guard it with your life
    6. Court attention at all cost
    7. Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit
    8. Make other people come to you, use bait if necessary
    9. Win through your actions, never through argument
    10. Infection: avoid the unhappy and unlucky
    11. Learn to keep people dependant on you
    12. Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim
    13. When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude
    14. Pose as a friend, work as a spy
    15. Crush your enemy totally
    16. Use absence to increase respect and honor
    17. Keep others in suspended terror, cultivate an air of unpredictability
    18. Do not build fortresses to protect yourself – isolation is dangerous
    19. Know who you are dealing with – do not offend the wrong person
    20. Do not commit to anyone
    21. Play a sucker to catch a sucker – seem dumber than your mark
    22. Use the surrender tactic – transform weakness into power
    23. Concentrate your forces
    24. Play the perfect courtier
    25. Re-create yourself
    26. Keep your hands clean
    27. Play on people’s need to believe to create a cult like following
    28. Enter action with boldness
    29. Plan all the way to the end
    30. Make your accomplishments seem effortless
    31. Control the options: Get others to play with the cards you deal
    32. Play to people’s fantasies
    33. Discover each man’s thumbscrew (weakness)
    34. Be royal in your fashion: Act like a king to be treated like one
    35. Master the art of timing
    36. Disdain things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best revenge
    37. Create compelling spectacles
    38. Think as you like, but behave like others
    39. Stir up waters to catch fish
    40. Despise the free lunch
    41. Avoid stepping on a great man’s shoes
    42. Strike the shepherd, the sheep will scatter
    43. Work on the hearts and minds of others
    44. Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect (mock and humiliate them)
    45. Preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once
    46. Never appear too perfect
    47. Do not go past the mark you aimed for – in victory, learn when to stop
    48. Assume formlessness

No, I won’t remember all those laws either, but a good checklist. Seems like the “Leader of the Free World” applies many of these laws. Maybe he read the book…

  • Jan 18thStoic philosophy (Stoicism)
    • Founded in Athens 300BC – Greek “stoa” means porch – Zeno of Citium first taught students on a porch
    • 3 critical Stoic disciplines:
      1. Perception – how we see / perceive the world => mental clarity
      2. Action – decisions / actions we take and to what end => effective
      3. Will – how we deal with things we cannot change => attain clear and convincing judgement and come to a true understanding of our place in the world
  • Jan 19th – Visited Werribee Gorge State Park first time – Didn’t hike. Rugged with gorges (obviously) and 2 picnic areas. Werribee River passes through. Plenty of kangaroos and wallabies. Will return for hiking.
  • Jan 20thKangaroo attacking humans – Avoidance and what to do if attacked:
    • Avoid by keeping a safe distance. Never give them. Watch for signs of aggression, such as standing on their toes, scratching their stomach, growling
    • Crouch down low and back away, get a bush or a tree between you and the kangaroo. It will not chase you far. Get away from it as fast as you can (opposite approach to a bear encounter)
    • If a kangaroo attacks, never stand tall and face the animal because it may be interpreted as a challenge to fight.
    • If knocked to the ground, attempt to grab hold of the kangaroo’s front paws, kick it if possible, try to deter it
  • Jan 21thHiking Kinglake National Park with YHA Bushwalking Club. New park, new organisation, new people. Fun!!
  • Jan 22thMore on Stoics philosophy – Seek clarity between what you can control and what you can’t:
    • We control: opinion, choice, desire, aversion. Everything of our own doing. These are free, unhindered, unobstructed
    • We don’t control: our body, race, family, reputation, position, property. Everything not of our own doing.
    • You have one thing to manage: your choices, your will, your mind. So mind it!
  • Jan 23th – Saw the movie “Paterson” – Story about a bus driver named Paterson living in Paterson, New Jersey.
    • Simple people finding pleasure and beauty in everyday things and events
    • Paterson writes poetry in his spare time and his girlfriend is a home based designer and wannabe country and western musician
    • A non-action movie where things progress slowly
    • I found “Paterson” enjoyable and moving. Made you think about the characters long after the movie ended.
  • Jan 24th – Yet more learning from yet another book, “Ego is the enemy” by Ryan Holiday (yep, I like his writing) – He divides ego into 3 components:
    • Aspire – being humble – suppress ego early before bad habits take hold
    • Success – being gracious – replace ego with humility and discipline
    • Failure – resilient – cultivate strength and fortitude
  • Jan 25th – “Road-testing” of a new concept Japanese restaurant called “Pepper Lunch” (Elizabeth Street, Melbourne). Process:
    1. Order pepper-rice with something. I chose seafood.
    2. The dish arrives sizzling. You find a piece of garlic butter underneath the corn
    3. Mix all ingredients together, add any sauces or spices, eat! Delicious!!
Pepper-lunch
  • Jan 27th – As today was one week after the horrible incident in Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne, I researched anxiety. Can divide into 3 areas:
    1. Your business – anything you can affect
    2. Other people’s business – not your concern (although with children, it would be)
    3. “God’s” business – helpful not to waste emotional energy on as you cannot impact

Unsure how this helps, but provides some clarity.

  • Jan 28th – About learning and always “being a student” – I read about Kirk Hammett, a then 21 years old guitar player who was offered the lead guitarist role for Metallica in 1982. The metal band was then on the verge of becoming big. You may expect that Hammett thought that he had “made it” and could now rest easy. Instead, Hammett realised that he was still learning so hired an instructor, the famous Joe Satriani. Satriani assessed that Hammett knew plenty about playing guitar, but not how to play in an environment where he learned all the names and how to connect everything together. Hammett and Satriani met weekly for 2 years while Hammett studied and practiced hard. Result: Hammett became one of all time great metal guitarists, voted number 15 of 100 in one book. Hammett still plays with Metallica today. A great example of constant improvement while striving for excellence. Studying and learning is lifelong.
  • Jan 29th“Stringist” – According to Jim Courier, commentating Australian Open in tennis, a “Stringist” is the person who strings / restrings tennis racquets for tennis players. I could not find the word “Stringist” online so perhaps a there and then invention by Jim. Nevertheless, fun “learning”.
  • Jan 30thMoonlight – I saw the movie Moonlight. Based on the book “In moonlight black boys turn blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney. In the movie, one of the main characters mimic an old lady: “running around, catching a lot of light”, “In moonlight black boys turn blue”, “you’re blue”, “that’s what I’m gonna call you – Blue”. Whether black skin “turns” blue under moonlight, I don’t know. I need to ask someone… Excellent movie. Timeless, coming-on-age drama. Set in Liberty City, Miami, Florida, where I mistakingly drove into one night in 1984, a few days after riots there. Nothing happened, but I sure was nervous…
  • Jan 31th – “20 Things that Will Matter a Lot Less to You in 20 Years” – Reading this post today which resonated well with me. I have followed “Marc and Angel” for some time as they provide plenty of wisdom and insight. This post began: “Here are some things we tend to expend lots of mental and physical energy on when we’re younger, that we eventually realize matter a lot less than we originally thought…”. Those 20 things are according to Marc and Angel:
    1. The inevitable frustrations of an average day
    2. The little failures you often feel self-conscious about
    3. How “perfect” everything could be, or should be
    4. Having complete confidence before taking the first step
    5. The intricacies of what’s in it for you
    6. Being an online-only activist for good causes
    7. The pressures of making a big difference all at once
    8. The temptation of quick fixes
    9. Having a calendar jam-packed with exciting, elaborate plans
    10. Being in constant control of everything
    11. Blaming others
    12. Winning everyone’s approval
    13. The idea of saving certain (overly dramatic) people from themselves
    14. The selfish and disparaging things others say and do
    15. Winning arguments
    16. Judging others for their shortcomings
    17. Society’s obsession with outer beauty
    18. Fancy and expensive physical possessions
    19. All the shallow relationships that just make you feel more popular
    20. Distant future possibilities

That’s it! One month of learnings. Small and… smaller…?

I will continue to note my daily learnings throughout February. Perhaps writing another post in a month’s time. Or… all too much???

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