Book Diet

A few notes on my (not so) recent book diet.

The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures by Antinio Damasio. I really wanted to read that one after listening to this interview with the author, but I did not make it very far before I got bored. My bad! I might re-visit it some day. Related in the discussion of feelings is this podcast that I just listened to - quite interesting!

I must have mentioned before how much I enjoyed the 40th anniversary edition of Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, in which he reads the audio version of his current commentary, in dialogue with his former self. In the meantime I have read or listended to two more of his books: The Blind Watchmaker was good, but I liked The Extended Phenotype less, since it is written more for a more specialist audience and is very careful about details and nuances, which can make it tedious for laymen readers.

Stephen Fry has written (and recorded audio for) two books about ancient Greek mythology. Mythos covers the gods and creatures that were around before mankind came into play, and how all that came to be. The second part, Heroes, is about Hercules, Jason and their like, concluding with Theseus. Both are overall very enjoyable, not the least because of Fry's excellent reading.

I stumbled upon the semi-famous commencement speech by David Foster Wallace which is very much worth your time, if you don't know it yet. Prompted by that, I also read some of the essays in his collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, with mixed feelings. He certainly can write and has some good insight into the human condition, so I think I understand why he gathered a fan-base. But something bothered me with his writing, maybe it felt pretentious, overly showy, or I cannot quite put my finger on it. Still, the title story about his trip on a cruise ship was great fun!

Another book that I did not finish is Against Empathy by Paul Bloom. This is not because it is bad or I found it unconvincing, on the contrary! I just had heard him make the major points of the book in several podcasts (Sam Harris & Very Bad Wizards) and needed no more convincing than that to appreciate the distinction between compassion and empathy and that the side effects of the latter are too often neglected. So be sure check out the book, if that sounds wrong (or right) to you!


Shop Projects

My tool shed and workshop is rather narrow, so when I borrowed my neighbour's table saw the other day, the first thing I did was to build a cart on wheels/castors for it, to be able to rasily move it out of the way. At the same time I made my workbench mobile the same way and ensured that the height of the two matched, so that the bench can serve as an outfeed-table for long pieces from the saw.


This Video served as the main inspiration for the cart, but I simplified it even more and skipped the drawers for a plain storage shelf underneath the saw. I can recommend Steve Ramsey's Youtube channel throughout; I have watched quite a few of his videos and found them both instructive and entertaining.

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Me, getting a critical opinion on the deck rebuild.


Building A Deck

Ever since we moved into our cottage in the forest, there was a small wodden deck in front of the rock wall that limits the property. It is a sunny spot and the rock stores some warmth, so we naturally like to hang out in the garden furniture there. Unfortunately, the deck itself had rotted so much by now that one started to step through the boards.


I had put a temporary fix in place and thought I'd do the proper renovation early next year. But in a bout of restlessness I tore it all down the other week and started over from scratch. And I mean from scratch, starting by cutting some timber into beams and boards. This a manual process using the chainsaw and some improvised rigs to ensure straight cuts.

lumber making

Having good foundations is imporant, even for such simple construnctions as a 4.5x3m deck. So I put some heavy granite stones into the corners, drilled holes and glued in some hardware with anchoring adhesive. In one corner the rock wall itself stuck out underneath, so could drill straight into the rock - this thing is going nowhere!

Then I put together the frame and oiled it with a traditional mix of tar and linseed oil. In the picture you can see that I had to put in four additional trusses (the yet unpainted ones) because I originally had far too large spacing.


Even though the surface is not very large, cutting all the boards out of tree trunks and straightening the edges with a circular saw took quite a while. Once I had screwed them on, I did not have the energy to think of any advanced stair construction, so it turned out as simple as possible. Still, I am quite happy with how the whole thing turned out:


I recycled the old railing which was in ok shape, just painted it and screwed it onto some feet, so it will be easily replaced, if needed.

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Coronavirus Update

What's up, folks? I hope you so far made it safely through the pandemic and its effetcs on everything else!

After my initial spurt of interest in Feburary and March when I followed the situation closely, once everyone was taking it seriously and it became "all hands on deck", I relaxed and left it to the pros. Arm-chair opinions are usually not my thing and keeping in mind a relatively high level of uncertainty about the state of the world is something that I have become familiar with.

Just as one example, it is still open for analysis and debate, whether the Swedish way to handle COVID-19 without a strong lock-down turns out to be good or bad. There are many facets to this and things are complex enough to maintain some modesty in one's opinions and utterances.

I am among the lucky ones that have experienced very little negative impact. Working from home is something I had done weeks at a time for several years. Being isolated comes somewhat naturally to me. Plus, I made a wise decision in the spring, once it became clear that some projects were put on hiatus anyway, to take a temporary partial leave from work. Therefore I have had plenty of time this spring and summer for other things. Mostly forestry, carpentry and wood-working - more on that later! And brewing more tasty beers, of course.

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Summer Projects

One of the things I dedicated my time to during this summer of isolation was building a small wind shelter in the forest:


It is made from lumber that I cut myself out of trees that were blown down during the winter. From the same material I also built a garden shed and renovated the deck at home.

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Working from home is nothing new for me, I have been doing it some weeks at a time for several years. But now that more and more collegues do the same and use teleconferencing tools and apps, I got a small upgrade for my setup: A goose-neck tablet holder, so that it can become a dedicated second screen exclusively for telecons, freeing precious space on the main screen.

Decent video and audio quality are important for collaborating remotely, I believe. And a camera that is positioned such that you look up to it, rather than looking down into, makes a less imposing and awkward image, thereby contributing to a more pleasant atmosphere.

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