The week that was (Oct 28th 2013)

This past week I 

  • am still reading “Hitler’ by Ian Kershaw. At 1,000 odd pages, it’s taking me a while. But hurrah: except for 1 night when I was really too knackered to do anything, I have read every single night. It reminds me how reading preserves my sanity, gives me new perspectives and joy. Though I have to say, hardly a sentence goes by in the Hitler biography that my heart doesn’t cry, there isn’t a lot of joy in there. But it’s important to read and know about. 
  • gave directions to 2 people. Think the wind and rain is hampering people asking for directions. 
  • loved reading ‘Happy Birthday Brainpickings: 7 lessons from 7 years’. My favorite quote:

Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”

  • have been amazed, embarassed and agitated about the whole Zwarte Piet kerfuffle in NL. Here’s the best roundup post I’ve read about it, written, quite tellingly, by an expat. 
  • have been looking to see what newsletters/blogs/twitter accounts there are to keep up to speed with the NL startup scene. Not a great deal, sadly. StartupJuncture is the best so far, and StartupDigest also has an Amsterdam weekly digest. And rumours are that The Fetch will launch an A’dam edition soon. 
  • saw this wonderful set of 9 values that the folks at Buffer app have on their website. Lovely stuff, here they are:
  1. Always Choose Positivity and Happiness

  2. Default to Transparency

  3. Have a Focus on Self Improvement

  4. Be a “no-ego” Doer

  5. Listen First, Then Listen More

  6. Have a Bias Towards Clarity

  7. Make Time to Reflect

  8. Live Smarter, Not Harder

  9. Show Gratitude

The week that was

This week I …

- continued reading ‘Hitler’. I feel bad reading this biography with a toddler in the house. I know, that’s weird. It’s not that he can read. And one day, he will find out about WWII and Hitler and the atrocities that happened. I just want to protect him from any evil of any kind. But I know that one day he will find out. So I keep reading. And it’s fascinating and harrowing. And I still miss the footnotes (see last week’s entry). 

- gave 3 people directions. I hope they all got to where they wanted to go. 

- found Remodelista, a beautifully designed online magazine/blog ‘for considered living’. Lots of ‘I want that one day’ bookmarking going on. And great recommendations, amongst others in London one of my fave bookstores Luytens & Rubinstein and the Fernandez & Wells cafe in Somerset House. 

- am sad that Mitsukoshi Department store on Lower Regent Street in London is closing. Apparently the Japan Centre next door is moving too as the Crown estate is fixing up the building (though I can’t now find a link to confirm this).

- Koya bar has opened next to Koya. Can’t wait to go check it out (especially after reading this review). 

- and a last Japanese related item: very happy that Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Olympics! 

This week I …

… listened to the excellent podcast from BBC Radio 4, presented by Michael Portillo, called ‘1913, the year before the war’. Great insight into what life was like in 1913 in Britain, looking at politics, labour relations, suffragettes, culture etc. Can highly recommend (and yes, BBC, there is a Zune button on your website!)

… finished reading ‘Scottish Samurai: the life of Thomas Blake Glover‘ by Alexander McKay. I was inspired to read this after seeing a BBC documentary (I think it was a BBC documentary though I can’t find a link anywhere) about the man, and the book is fascinating. It shows the life of a Scottish trader in newly opened to foreigners Japan in the late 19th century. Amazing stuff (though the book itself is good, it isn’t great). 

… bought bread at Aux Pains de Papy, newly opened on Gray’s Inn Road. Absolutely fabulous bread and pastries. 

… started experimenting with If This Then That. Too soon too tell, but the geek in me is excited. Background reading on the company in Fast Company

… put this on my to-do-in-Paris list: Anne from Pretavoyager mentioned a lovely looking boutique called L’Illustre

… was reminded of this interesting article on Chinese tourgroups in Europe that I read a couple years ago in the New Yorker (on a plane to China ironically enough). Can highly recommend it for an insight into how Chinese groups travel around Europe. 

… am starting to read Ian Kershaw’s biography of Hitler. (as an aside: I opted to buy the 1-volume paperback, which is the abridged version without footnotes. @#$$@#. I didn’t know this when I bought it, that is, I was in a rush and didn’t pay attention. And now I miss the footnotes and the social background that are omitted from this edition. That’ll teach me). 

This week I …

Popped into the National Portrait Gallery this weekend and was bowled over by these portraits by Susan Aldworth

With my newfound interest in stitching, I loved this idea featured on PSFK: a stitched restaurant

The Stylist has a set of interesting city guides featured on their website. 

And on the topic of cities, they continue to fascinate me, and I am promising myself to deep dive into this piece on William “Holly” White’s The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

Loneliness kills (great article with loads of links to original research). 

Swissmiss highlighted Like Knows Like, a set of short documentaries about what inspires people working in the creative industries, must dive into these too. 

Went to Balthazar London and had waffles for breakfast. Really like the room, staff were friendly and helpful, can’t complain about anything. And yet I wasn’t bowled over. I still prefer The Delaunay for breakfast. 

Books read: 1. John Lanchester’s ‘What we talk about when we talk about the Tube’, part of the Penguin series about London tube and underground lines. Transport nerd in me loved it, full of stats and nerdy facts. 

Amount of directions given to people in the street last week: 6. An all-time high even for me. 

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” (Julia Child) 

Exhibition: Richard Rogers ‘Inside Out’ at the RA

Oh, how I love living in London, this city has really stolen my heart. And one of the best things are the wonderful museums. I stole a couple of hours this morning to head over to the Royal Academy to see the newly opened exhibition about Richard Rogers’ work (spurred on even more by this review by Ben Terrett)

I don’t know much about architecture, but everyone knows at least a couple of Rogers’ buildings: the Lloyds building in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Milennium Dome (or whatever it’s called now that someone is sponsoring it). I loved how the curators have set up a peak behind the curtain, with sketch- and notebooks, his manifesto and thinking behind his work, and of course the obligatory architectural models of buildings built and not built, but also books that influenced Rogers. 

And I think that living according to this ancient Athenian motto ‘I shall leave this City not less but more beautiful than I found it’ is a pretty darn good way of going through life. 

I really liked it and if architecture and cities are your cup of tea, then I can highly recommend going. 


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[photo taken by @richardmcvetis] So, in the spirit of learning new things, and inspired by my mum who’s an awesome seamstress and maker of beautiful things, I decided to learn a craft. And for some reason I can’t remember now, … Continue reading

A quick lunch visit to Dr Johnson’s House

A quick set of photos of today’s lunch visit to Dr Johnson’s House (on my “1001 things to do before I die list” for a long time now). Loved it, lovely atmosphere and I’m happy I made the pilgrimage. 

imageApproaching Dr Johnson’s House on Gough Square

imageFirst floor drawing room

imageThe reconstructed garrett, bombed in WWII, where Johnson wrote his Dictionary

imageThe Dictionary entry for ‘dictionary’

Learning: you’re never really done

A long time ago, one of my bosses called me into this office and said ‘so I looked at your CV again. You have 3 degrees and are working on a 4th? That means you’re insecure. Dismissed.’ (well, something close like that). 

I didn’t know what to think about his comments at the time, shrugged them off and went on with my life. But they have come back to me time and time again since. And I completely disagree. 

For me, taking a degree is scratching an itch and following my interest in a subject. I’m an English undergrad because I was mesmerised by London and the English books in my secondary school library. I’m a bookhistorian because most everything about books brings me bliss and joy. I’m an MBA because I wanted to challenge myself to find out more about business and management. I’m a designer (of sorts) because I wanted to figure out how the design process works so I’d be able to understand it and make the designs I was involved in better. 

Lately, I’ve been trying out some MOOC’s on Coursera, Udacity and my current favourite: a mapmaking class on Skillshare (who doesn’t love a good map!) and I love how all of these tickle my brain. 

Doing a degree, following an online course or reading a good book are expressions of curiosity. Of a willingness to try and potentially fail. Or putting your brain to work in a way that is unfamiliar and exciting and scary. Build new neural connections, keep your brain healthy, figuring out more about yourself as you learn about a topic. And that, that is not insecurity. It’s curiosity. 


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explore-blog: 10 Rules for Students and Teachers (and Life) by John Cage and Sister Corita Kent


The West Wing breaks down what’s wrong with maps and why the Gals-Peters Projection is more accurate and less politically biased than the Mercator map we’ve been using for centuries.

Complement with maps as power and propaganda100 diagrams that changed the world, and some intentionally distorted maps that make political points.

(? Buzzfeed)

Watched for my Mapmaking class over at Skillshare and it rocks! The video and the class. This reminds me: must watch the whole of West Wing one day; must dive into the books I have about mapmaking more.