Sunday, June 26, 2016

This month I have mostly been watching and reading this... from vegetables to netflix.

If you live in the UK right now, you probably want to put your foot through the gogglebox as the media goes into hyperdrive panic and you realise its all "talk talk talk talk until you lose your patience"*.

So rather than worrying if your passport will still work in 2 years, why not edify and enlighten yourself with my top picks of health and fitness news stories, and non fitness books and youtube videos over the last few weeks. Plus my top Netflix pick.

First up

Vegetables on the rise.

The BBC and several other media outlets report a rise in vegetable consumption in the UK of 4% in the last 5 years.

See the BBC video at this link:

At last a positive news story, the British public aren't all eating deep fried mars bars, with a Glasgow salad, and diabetes in a can. All the more surprising since vegetables have no advertising budget or celebrity sponsorship, people aren't all mindless consumers.

Yes, a few people spiralising courgettes on the internet has probably helped.

This has lead one supermarket to trial 'vegetable butchers'. Someone who will show you how to chop a carrot. Fair enough, someone might need help with that.

A vegetable ready to be butchered or wrangled or chopped.

What I can't grasp is why would you call them 'vegetable butchers'. Vegetables are the last thing you would associate with butchery. This makes as much sense as calling them 'vegetable bakers' or 'vegetable fishmongers'.

Why not call them 'vegetable chefs' or even cooler 'vegetable wranglers'?

New fitness trends: rucking with a rucksack.

Those kids you see lost in your local forest with massive rucksacks on, they may not be the annual Duke Of Edinburgh intake, they may actually be 'rucking'.

In case you can't guess, this involves going for a walk with a rucksack. I'm guessing the term comes  from the American military, as they call backpacks rucksacks, whereas in the UK the military call rucksacks Bergen's.

I can't find the original post I read about this, but a quick google search and it turns out this is more popular than I knew.

Of course, going for a walk is always a good thing. And as Stuart McGill,  professor of spine biomechanics, has shown, walking with a backpack can even be good for people with lower back pain. He even gets a mention in this Mens Health article on rucking:

What always makes me laugh is  when something that is completely non specialist and simple gets packaged into a new product. With advice on things like how to pack your rucksack, just in case you've never been on holiday and don't know how to pack a bag. Add in the military element, and bingo, you've got a hardcore fitness product.

I spent a large proportion of my youth wandering around the Brecon Beacons, Dartmoor and Scotland with a 'backpack' on, little did I know I was actually rucking.

In fact, every commuter and tourist in London is inadvertently 'rucking'. Whats more, most tourists have their rucksack on the wrong way, with it in front for security reasons. Hence, they are making rucking even harder. I call it 'Urban Rucking' (patent pending, copyright) unless someone else got there first.

My book recommendation of the month is: Deep Work by Cal Newport

I saw this in a bookshop and bought it on spec without reading any reviews. I really enjoyed it, Newport has an engaging, easy to digest writing style, I read it in a couple of days.

The basic premise is that to do deep, important work, you need to shut off distractions and focus.

This is increasingly difficult in the connected, social media, internet world. Don't confuse 'busyness' with productivity. As anyone who works in a modern office knows, people are busy all the time sending emails, but they generally aren't being very productive or doing anything of much importance.

The great artists, writers, scientists and thinkers find time to do deep work and avoid distraction by becoming hard to find at certain times.

And Newport should know, he is a MIT post doc professor in computer science who has written several books and publishes several papers every year. All while never working past 5.30pm at night.

You need a plan, a daily/ weekly ritual, you need to monitor your deep work hours and as Newport says

"Focus on a small number of wildly important goals."

One thing he recommends doing is quitting social media for 30 days. I am currently on day 26 of doing this (which is probably why I am writing this, rather than posting video clips on facebook). And so far, I would say it has made me more productive. I will write more about this in part 2 of my post on how to form habits).

In this article Cal Newport summarises how he manages his time.

Reading this book led me to find Brian Johnsons youtube channel, he actually does a really good job of summarising the ideas in Cal Newports book (see video below).

He has some really good summary videos of various books and ideas, in what he calls 'philosophers notes'. I have been watching quite a few of these (probably due to quitting social media!).

My favourite youtube channel is: The School of Life

Yes, you could watch some Vloggers trying to sell you their latest product placement, or showing you how to cook microwave rice. OR you could fire up the digital zoetrope that is youtube and watch this channel instead.

Don't have time to read 1000 pages of War and Peace. No problem, the school of life summarise Leo Tolstoys life and philosophy for you, and how it is applicable today.

They also cover Proust, Emerson, Dostoyevsky, Dickens.

(Talk about deep work, these guys in the past all managed to write paradigm shifting epic books, sometimes in between being imprisoned and sent to labour camps, and I struggle to write 1000 word blog once every month).

Some of the other videos I like are Who Am I, Wabi Sabi, What Nice Men Don't Say to Nice Women.

This channel is a mix of philosophy, life advice, education and commentary on modern day life.

Netflix top pick: Love

I watched this the first time it came out, and liked it so much I just watched it again over the last couple of weeks. Currently only one season is available.

See the trailer below. It is actually better than the trailer would suggest. Its funny, touching, shows how relationships really are, how they pan out, and how people interact with each other. It also has a cool soundtrack.

Careful when you go on Netflix, don't click on the erotic film of the same name by mistake like I did!

Here are three of the tunes from the sound track.
Elvis Costello
And a Pete Townsend song I've never heard before.

Well that's a wrap. Have a good week. I'm off to change my pounds into euros ready for a holiday (if only I had done it last week) and prepare to end up paying the equivalent of £8 for a cafe au lait in France.

*Springsteen reference for the day.

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