Category: Books

The Dazzling Effect of Books

Let’s have a book quiz, shall we? The only thing better than reading books is talking about books. Books = Life as everybody knows. 

The Big Book Quiz Part 1

  • Do you prefer reading old-fashioned books or e-books? 

Tough question. A few years ago, I would have answered “real books”, but I admit that I prefer e-books nowadays. Why? For several reasons: 

a) They’re cheaper. Swedish e-books are, in general, more expensive than paper books (and Swedish publishers are complaining e-books don’t sell!), but I buy them through the US Kindle store; thank God for deals of the day! I buy so many books that I can’t afford to buy hardcovers at full price. 

The only exception is the annual book sale, a big thing in Sweden. All bookstores (including online) would offer discounted books, starting the last Tuesday in February (prettily timed to around the 25th when the monthly salaries are paid out in Sweden) and until the beginning of March. Heaven for book lovers. Then I would load my book bag with hard-covers.


Books on bookshelves. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

b) They don’t take up any room. I have a library room, and it’s crammed with books, obviously. There are books in every room of the house, except the guest toilet. That last bastion will fall, too, eventually. If you have as many books as I have (we’re talking several thousand), you appreciate anything not requiring more storage space.


c) They’re portable. Nowadays, this is not an issue anymore, since we’re not traveling anywhere because of the pandemic. 

But back in the golden days, pre-Covid-19, when the only travel annoyance was the safety checks or flight delays, I would always bring at least a couple of books with me. 

In fact, one of my fears was that I would run out of reading material during the trip. I would read while waiting at the gate, during boarding, during the flight, and at the hotel before going to bed. You cannot imagine how many books I would need for a longer trip! Some people are terrified of flying. Me? Running out of reading material.

To say nothing about the weight or bringing the “wrong” book, you know, when you feel like reading a science-fiction novel, and all you have is a biography.

Enter e-books. Suddenly, I didn’t have to worry about luggage weight, running out of books to read, or bringing the wrong books. 


d) They’re not set in stone; or paper, rather. I love being able to customize the page color, font type, and size. I wear glasses, and I appreciate everything that helps my eyes, like larger fonts.


To cut a long story short, e-books are practical for several reasons. But I do miss being able to argue with the writer on the margins (I know you can add comments in e-books, but it’s just not the same), leafing through the pages to see what my old me commented on, or that unmistakable smell of a freshly bought book. Oh well, February 25th is almost here.

Books on bookshelves. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
  • Paperback or hard-cover?

Another tough question. A few years ago, it would have been hard-covers; they feel luxurious, like books should. But nowadays, I’m more for convenience (age may have something to do with it). Paperbacks are smaller, take up less room, and are more pleasant to hold when reading.

  • Genre or Nobel Prize winner?

Both. A good book is a good book, period. There’s this misconception that genre books are somehow the lesser literature. I don’t buy that. Good quality genre books are good books; forget the “genre.” Publishers and booksellers invented genres to help them sell books.

  • Do you finish reading a bad book or do you abandon it?

I struggled with this my whole life; I couldn’t NOT finish a book, no matter how bad or boring it was. I would feel guilty because that poor author had worked so hard to write a book, and I, the reader, simply discarded that effort. I felt the author’s eyes drilling on my back, truly I did. 

I’m happy to report that I realized eventually that I couldn’t continue that way. You know, so many books, so little time … Nowadays, I curate my reading carefully; it’s not often I have to abandon reading a book. But if I have to do it, I’m quick and remorseless about it.

  • Do you read translations or original language?

An easy one. Original for the languages I speak (Romanian, Swedish, English, French), translation for the rest. I don’t count German here, although I’ve taken it for eight years at school and can manage some light reading. 


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Ray Bradbury’s Writing Advice For Writers To Be

In one of his lectures collected in the slim volume titled “Ray Bradbury: On Writing,” Bradbury talks about young people dreaming of writing a novel. His advice? Start small. Don’t start with a novel, which will take a long time to write, only to find out at the end it wasn’t good enough.

On Writing

Practice your skills, learn how to write by writing short stories. Write one short story a week. You’ll have the satisfaction of completing something in a relatively short period of time, and you’ll learn a lot. You’ll learn to compact things; to look for ideas; to see a metaphor, and how to write it. At the end of the year, there should be at least one good story. And you’re learning the craft.

Write What You Want to Read

Write what you want to read. Write about what you love, what you hate; write about what you fear; write with joy and abandon. Writing should be fun, not a chore.

Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun at it. (…) I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy my joy.

Close up of book shelves, two of them dedicated to writing. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

On Reading

As a writer, you should write a lot, and read a lot, too. The library is your school of writing, as it was his. Ray Bradbury never went to college; he couldn’t afford it. But he went to the library several times a week and, in his words, “graduated from the library”.

I want you to live the fever pitch. I want you to go to the library. The great thing about libraries is surprise, isn’t it? To pull books off the shelf and not know what they are (…).

What Should You Read?

Read and learn from the best. Every night, before going to bed, read one short story, one poem, one essay from various fields. Do this for a thousand nights, and you’ll have a solid education.

Ray Bradbury’s Recommended Reading

Short Stories

Short Stories

  • Roald Dahl
  • Guy De Maupassant
  • John Cheever
  • Richard Matheson
  • John Collier
  • Edith Wharton
  • Katherine Anne Porter
  • Eudora Welty
  • Washington Irving
  • Melville
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essays

Poems

  • Aldous Huxley
  • Loren Eiseley
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • G. K. Chesterton

Go back and read the classics.

  • Shakespeare
  • Alexander Pope
  • Robert Frost

My Reading Education

I grew up in a home where there weren’t many books, but the ones we had were all classics. There was a book series collecting the classic works of both Romanian and foreign authors of all time. That was a gold mine for a child with an inquisitive mind, thirsting for knowledge, curious about everything. My parents didn’t forbid me to read any books; thankfully, they didn’t practice age-appropriate reading.

So I grew up reading Jules Verne, Daniel Defoe, and Mark Twain’s children’s books. In fact, my sister read them to me before I could read them myself. You could say I was primed for reading (thank you, sis!).

But I also read Balzac, Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, W. M. Thackeray, Emily Brontë, and Charlotte Brontë. I probably read Anna Karenina, Vanity Fair, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre a dozen times before I went to university.

Book Cover of Anton Chekhov Stories. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
My edition of Chekhov’s Stories.

At the university, we were required to read the classics. I was one of the few students who actually read the whole list.

They’re classic for a reason: they’re well written and show us the universal in people, humanity, our world. They endured hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Which best-sellers of today would still be best-sellers in fifty years?

Long story short, reading classic works is a good, free education. I would add Anton Chekhov, Sake, and Katherine Mansfield to Bradbury’s list of short stories.


I leave you with the best quote from this lecture (The Hygiene of Writing).

Don’t live on your god damned computers and the internet and all that crap. Go to the library.


To read more writing advice posts, click here.



A Highly Personal List Of Best Dystopian Novels

An abandoned car under a tarpaulin in the woods, an illustration for dystopian novels. Black and white photo by Mihaela Limberea.

It’s no secret I love a good dystopian novel, and if it’s science-fiction, even better. It seems that I’m not alone: almost all of these novels have been turned into movies or TV series. Although, after living through 2020, I’m not sure how popular dystopian books or movies would be. But who knows? Maybe we’ll still watch them and find solace in their misery; our world is still better. (Is it? Here you have some food for thought to last you a while).

Ranting done, here’s my highly personal list of best dystopian novels.


I’ve been a longtime fan of Stephen KIng’s novels (and his On Writing is my writing bible). I like all his books, but some I love a bit more, and The Stand remains my favorite; the best Sci-Fi/Horror and the ultimate Stephen King book. It’s huge (around 1.400 pages, and I love to lose myself in long books) and spellbinding, sucking you in and never letting go. If you haven’t read it, I envy you that first reading.

I’m looking forward to watching the new series, although the reviews have been lukewarm. It seems Stephen Kind doesn’t have any luck with the film adaptation of his novels. The Shining is the exception that proves the rule. Cell was…decent, but that’s about it; unfortunately, because King’s novels are made to be brought to the screen. Bonus: Stephen King ranks the best and the worst adaptations of his books.

Station Eleven is a deeply melancholy haunting book, a page-turner and a poem at once, set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse. Think Cormac McCarthy meets Joan Didion. 

Twenty years after a flu pandemic that wiped out most of humanity, a small group of actors and musicians – The Traveling Symphony – travel in a caravan to various communities to play music and perform Shakespeare plays in a post-apocalyptic world. “Because survival is insufficient.” says on the side of their caravan—storytelling as a means of spiritual survival, hope, and connection.

A mini-series based on the book is in production. In an eerie coincidence, it began filming in Chicago in mid-January, the same week the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S.

  • Cormac McCarthy, The Road.  A deeply unsettling, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son’s fight to survive, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a simple and short melancholic book, with a raw emotional pull that offers nothing to comfort.

A father and his son walk alone in a post-apocalyptic, devastated America, where nothing moves but the gray ashes of the snow and the unforgivingly cold wind. Sustained only by their unconditional love, they move slowly and cautiously towards the coast, a beacon of hope in a land that lost all hope.

Starring Viggo Mortensen in one of his best roles, the 2009 movie is an excellent adaptation; visually compelling, grim and desolate and terrible as you’d expect from the book. Depressing too, I won’t lie; The Road is not one of those end-of-the-world movies with lucky escapes, unlikely action scenes, and a happy end.

  • Marlen Haushofer, The Wall, written in a stream of conscious style that never becomes monotonous, is a haunting survival story, disturbing and beautiful, by the Austrian author Marlen Haushofer (1920 – 1970).

The book is a journal kept by a never-named narrator, a middle-aged woman, the only survivor of an unknown event that killed everyone and sealed her off by a transparent and impenetrable wall somewhere in the Austrian Alps.

It’s a reflective book, going very slowly, and if you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-filled end-of-the-world novel, this is not it. It’s more like The Road, terrible things happening in an unforgiving world, narrated in a slow and desolate way, to become unsettling and heart-breaking stories.

There’s an Austrian movie based on the book, Die Wand (2012), but it’s not largely available outside Austria and Germany. It’s on Amazon Prime in some locations; sadly, not in Sweden. Here’s the trailer. And an interview with the director, Julian Pölsler, talking about the book and challenges in making the movie.

The hero, Robert Neville, seems to be the only human left in the world, the rest being killed or turned into vampires. He spends his nights barricaded indoors, praying for dawn; and his days, killing as many vampires as he can while they’re sleeping.

Matheson combines science-fiction and horror (including vampires, decades before vampires became fashionable) into a fundamental piece about humanity; about loneliness, survival, and prejudice in a plague devastated world.

The movie is fine but has little to do with the book. It’s good to know if you’ve seen the movie and want to read the book.

I don’t want to spoil your discovery of this gem of a book. Suffice to say that there’s indeed a dog (in danger), a loving human desperate to save the said dog, all in the background of a post-apocalyptic world.

It’s a young-adult book, but don’t let that fool you. It’s a thrilling and heartwarming book, and I didn’t want it to end. And when it did, I hoped Fletcher would come back to this world and give us more.


To read more posts about books, click here.

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The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

Welcome to this special, end-of-the-year edition of The Zone! Banksys perfect illustration of 2020, various ways to exorcise 2020, books of the year picked by Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, and others, the lost day of Kiribati, and more. Happy New Year!

I think we all agree that the most merciful thing you could say about 2020 is that it is over. There were glimpses of light and moments of joy, of course, and those we should cherish. Here’s the last list of the year. Have a wonderful weekend, stay safe, and be kind to one another. I’ll be back next year!

  • How to exorcise 2020. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking about exorcism these days. I’m tempted to use the Colombian tradition of burning the “old year” (año viejo). It seems fitting, somehow.
  • The most striking images of 2020, selected by BBC Culture. It’s fascinating how one year can be gone so quickly and so slowly at the same time. We happened to be in Australia during the devastating bush fires, and we believed that would be our most dramatic memories of the year. All that seems to be so far away now; bush fires merely an inconvenience.
  • 1,273 People Share Their Best Life Lessons from 2020. From Mark Manson’s excellent newsletter Mindf*ck Monday. He asked his subscribers: “What have been your biggest lessons from 2020?” And 1.273 people answered. It’s fascinating reading. I found that the best blogs and newsletters (and Manson has both) have great readers, and very often, their comments are as interesting as the article.
  • Austin Kleon and Seth Godin‘s end of the year book lists. These men are responsible for many of my book purchases. It’s a good thing. Austin Kleon has a great newsletter, too, by the way.
  • The Smithsonian Magazine‘s editors picked 25 favorite articles from the year we’d rather forget.

My Zone

Most Popular Posts in 2020


A Quote I’m Pondering

Yes, I’ve always been a dreamer, and yes, I have always tried. And dreams are special things. But dreams are of no value if they’re not equipped with wings and feet and hands and all that. If you’re going to make a dream come true, you’ve got to work with it. You can’t just sit around. That’s a wish. That’s not a dream.

Dolly Parton, in an interview in Bust magazine


From My Photo Archives

Red and blue reflections on ice. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

The red walls of the Lidingö Boat Yard reflected on the ice.


Winter collage by Mihaela Limberea

I wish you a very, very Happy New Year! May 2021 bring you and yours much joy and happiness!



The Best Books I Read in 2020

My book shelf, including the best books of 2020. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

Cicero

I’m grateful for having both, and the time and peace of mind to enjoy them. I read two or three books a week, and I read every day. I cannot image a life without books. Here are a few that stayed with me a little longer this year, in no particular order.

Best Fiction Books

  • Stephen King & Joe Hill, In the Tall Grass. This is a novella collaboration between Stephen King and Joe Hill, a short horror masterpiece. Trivia: Joe Hill is King’s son. Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha (herself a novelist), were inspired by the Swedish trade unionist Joe Hill (formerly Joel Hägglund) and named their son Joseph Hillston. When the son grew up to be a writer, he chose Joe Hill as his pseudonym.
  • Marlen Haushofer, The Wall is a haunting survival story, disturbing and beautiful, by the Austrian author Marlen Haushofer (1920 – 1970). If you love animals, you will love this book. And maybe shed a tear or two. I listened to the book first, narrated by Kathe Mazur, and I cannot recommend the audio edition enough. Mazur’s soft and calm voice deepens and enhances the text.
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mexican Gothic. An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . . “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico. I read this in one day.
  • Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow.  An old-fashioned novel (in the best sense of the term) about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. The best kind of escapism, the perfect book to curl up with and forget the world outside.

Best Non-Fiction Books

  • Sönke Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes. I know I’ve just said the list has no particular order; however, I did want to put this book first. It changed my life, as dramatically as it sounds. I was looking for a better way of organizing reading notes before kicking off the research on my non-fiction book and found this book. It describes an excellent note-taking system, indeed, but its’ great benefit lies in helping you focus on thinking, understanding, and developing new ideas in writing. It sounded like it would be too good to be true, but I was intrigued enough to give it a try, and I was hooked once I did. The method was developed for academic writing, and the book is heavy on theory and light on the application. If you can stand it and give it a try, you’ll be hooked too. This site, entirely dedicated to it, is a good complement to the book. It provides more concrete examples and practical applications.
  • James Clear, Atomic Habits. Accomplish more by focusing on less.  Actionable and practical strategies to build positive habits by focusing on small improvements that would build up over time.
  • Adam Savage, Every Tool’s a Hammer. Adam Savage shares his golden rules of creativity, from finding inspiration to following through and successfully turning your idea into reality. 

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The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

Another way of measuring performance, the best Christmas album, crown shyness, herding cats, and more in The Zone No. 10.

Christmas tree decorations. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Martin Place Christmas Tree, Sydney 2019. A world ago.
  • Ear Candy: the best Christmas album of all time is Frank Sinatra‘s The Christmas Album, without any doubt. I listen to it on repeat from the first advent to Christmas. A new favorite this year is Ingrid Michaelson‘s Songs for the Season. It sounds like a classic album from the 1940s, maybe the soundtrack to an old black and white Hollywood Christmas movie – but it’s from 2018. The album, inspired by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, has a nostalgic touch that is wonderful!
  • While we’re still on the subject of 2020: bad sex award canceled as public exposed to ‘too many bad things in 2020.’ 
Tree crowns showing the crown shyness phenomenon. Photo by Dag Peak.
Dag Peak, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Still on the subject of trees: have you heard about crown shyness? It’s a phenomenon observed in some tree species, in which the crowns of fully stocked trees don’t touch each other, forming a canopy with channel-like gaps. Their version of “social distancing?”
  • Tsunami from Heaven: an amazing rainstorm time-lapse captured by photographer Peter Maier in Austria.
  • Tuesday was the Cat Herders Day! The whole of 2020 has felt like an enormous exercise in herding cats.

My Zone

A Quote I’m Pondering

As I see it, not everyone who publishes a book is an author. They’re just someone who has published a book. The best way to become an author is to write more books, just as a true entrepreneur starts more than one business. The best way to become a true comedian, filmmaker, designer, or entrepreneur is to never stop, to keep going. They hustle, they keep creating. Very few of us can afford to abandon our gift after our first attempt, convinced that our legacy is secured. Nor should we. We should prove to the world and to ourselves that we do it again…and again.

Ryan Holiday

From My Photo Archives

Close up of red amaryllis flowers with a decorated Christmas tree and fairy lights in the background. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Red Amaryllis

NB: There won’t be a Zone post next week as it’s Christmas Eve. You shouldn’t be surfing the web then, even for such great content as this. Take care, be safe, and don’t forget to laugh!

The Zone will be back on December 31st with a special year-end edition.


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To read more The Zone posts, click here.



The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

The Map of Doom (say what?), Cal Newport on technology improving productivity, The Queen’s Gambit, and more in The Zone No. 9.

  • The Map of Doom: A 20 minutes summary of all the threats to mankind, ranked. All right, apparently still on annus horibilis. Let’s move on to less gloomy subjects, shall we?
Harry Potter inspired ASMR – Hogwarts Library
A picture of Hippocampal mouse neuron juxtaposed to a picture of a  Cosmic web to show similarities in structure.
One of these pictures is the brain, the other the universe. Which is which?
  • The Tom & Jerry movie is coming to theaters 2021. Yay! I grew up with Tom & Jerry cartoons, so I’m looking forward to it; the trailer looks promising.
A picture of the NK department store in Stockholm, Sweden with a huge Christmas tree hanging from the ceiling. The scene depicts a book signing by author Maria Varga Llosa in 2010, the year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Mario Vargas Llosa signing books at NK in 2010.
  • First Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded to Red Cross founder Jean Henri Dunant and peace activist Frederic Passy on December 10th, 1901. I would look forward to the Nobel Prize ceremonies (literature only, to be honest) and the usual book signing by the Nobel literature laureate in the NK department store every year. Alas, not this year. Everything is digital. Fingers crossed for next year. Hope dies last as they say.

A Quote I’m Pondering

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. Every great idea I’ve ever had grew out of work itself. 

 Chuck Close

From My Photo Archives

Close up of white Christmas roses or Helleborus in full bloom. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Helleborus in full bloom. I know it’s called a Christmas rose, but it usually blooms in March here. Normally we would have a lot of snow between November and February hence the March blooming. But not this year. It seems everything is different this year.

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To read more The Zone posts, click here.



The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

Best books of the year, productivity hacks, Earth’s new mini-moon, cute squirrels, and more in this week’s installment of The Zone.

  • I’m sure Merriam-Webster’s word of the year wouldn’t make any best of-lists. Based on a statistical analysis of the words people searched for in their online dictionary and a significant year-over-year increase in traffic, the word of the year is (suspenseful pause)… pandemic! Says Merriam-Webster: “Sometimes a single word defines an era, and it’s fitting that in this exceptional—and exceptionally difficult—year, a single word came immediately to the fore as we examined the data that determines what our Word of the Year will be.“ With Coronavirus in the first place, quarantine in fifth place, and asymptomatic on the eighth, 2020 has been the pandemic year, indeed.
  • For those times when you feel like you live in a catastrophe movie: watch this video in which a former NASA engineer builts an epic obstacle course for squirrels. It’s about 20 minutes long but well worth the time, trust me! It takes a whole new meaning since we started feeding the birds in our backyard. But we ended up with a different solution (scroll down, please).
  • The 10-3-2-1-0 Formula to Get More Done.
    • 10 hours before bed – No more caffeine.
    • 3 hours before bed – No more food or alcohol.
    • 2 hours before bed – No more work.
    • 1 hour before bed – No more screen time (turn off all phones, TVs, and computers).
    • 0 – The number of times you will hit the snooze button in the morning.
  • Did you know that Earth picks up a new temporary moon now and then? They’re usually pretty small – we’re talking about a few meters in diameter – and can hang around for a few years before they drift away. They contain the oldest material in the solar system. They haven’t been studied much as they are hard to detect. A new one has been recently discovered and baptized 2020CD3 (CD3 for short).
  • Speaking of moons: NASA’s 4K visualization showing the Moon’s phase and libration at hourly intervals throughout 2021 is awesome. This one is viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, and there’s one for the Southern Hemisphere too. NASA creates these simulations of the moon phases every year, with no practical purpose in mind. They are very instructive, though, as so much as NASA does. Universe Today has a good article about the nitty-gritty details if you’re into astronomy like me. I, of course, have an iPhone app to check moon phases (free). There are plenty of them in the app store; I used this one for years and I’m pretty happy with it so I never looked for others.
Starfish cling to rocks as the tide comes in off the coast of Greymouth, New Zealand. Photo by Stanley Loong
  • Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George H. W. Bush declared the Cold War over on December 3rd, 1989. Living in Romania at the time, I remember thinking bitterly than nobody told Ceaușescu. But three weeks later, he was dead.
  • Tomorrow is Friday and cookie day, yay! I know what I’m going to do. If you thought baking cookies, you’re wrong. Eating them is more like it.

A Quote I’m Pondering

Heaven and hell are not separate places but are already here among us on earth. What separates and protects us from hell is a surface layer that could be called civilization. A surface layer that we have realized this year is much more fragile than we thought. Dystopias are alarm clocks. *

 Jan Gradvall, Swedish journalist in Dagens Industry Weekend magazine

From My Photo Archives

Close up of a red squirrel. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
We gave up protecting the bird feeders and set up a squirrel feed station instead. Now there’s peace in the backyard.

* Here’s the original quote in Swedish:

Himlen och helvetet är inga separata platser utan finns redan här bland oss på jorden. Vad som skiljer och skyddar oss från helvetet är ett ytlager som man skulle kunna kalla civilisation. Ett ytlager som vi detta år har insett är mycket bräckligare än vad vi trott. Dystopierna är väckarklockor.


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The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

Amazon’s Best Books list, the darkest human-made substance in the world, the Simon & Schuster sale, a German shepherd howling with wolves, and more. The Zone no. 7 is here.


November means that “Best Of” lists are released. Amazon’s Best Books of 2020 list is a good place to start looking for Christmas gifts. I sent Santa the list below; I hope he’ll find my chimney.

Close up of an Eel Larva, a photo by Galice Hoarau.
Galice Hoarau | Eel Larva. Close-up Photographer of the Year
Overall winner & Animals winner
  • Vantablack, the darkest human-made substance in the world, absorbs 99.96% of the visible light. A coating of carbon nanotubes, it’s so black that the human eye can’t quite make sense of what it is seeing.

A Quote I’m Pondering

What will your life have been, in the end, but the sum total of everything you spent it focusing on?

Oliver Burkeman (b.1975)

I’m finding myself more and more distracted these days. No wonder, considering what 2020 brought us. Still, life has to go on and attention to be re-gained. I’m soldiering on.

From My Photo Archives

A woman in red bathing suit swims in a swimming pool at the Bondi Icebergs club in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Swimming at Bondi Icebergs Club. December 2019, Sydney, Australia. A world ago as it seems.

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An End-Of-The-World Book At Night

Welcome to Las Vegas Nevada-sign at night. Photo by Guido Coppa on Unsplash used to illustrate an end-of-the-world mood.
Photo by Guido Coppa on Unsplash

Vegas always carried with it an eat-drink-and-be-merry-for-tomorrow-we-may-die energy: a city perched on the cusp of a never-ending yet never-quite-happening end. It was a city permanently stuck in the predawn hour before the hangover truly hit. Right there at the Rubicon, still having fun and about to start puking, on the line between everything is amazing and the End Times are here.

Chuck Wendig, Wanderers

I’m reading Wanderers, by accident, really. I mean, I wasn’t looking for an end-of-the-world-book about a pandemic wiping out humanity (and 775 pages long at that) while we’re surfing Wave 2 of the real thing. Things happen, though, you know. Let’s call it the butterfly effect of reading.

Wendig is no Stephen King (The Stand is still the measure for end-of-the-world books), but it’s an OK read if you’re willing to put up with all the preaching. I’m researching my first non-fiction book * and I needed an easy read at the end of the day.

I usually read for pleasure somewhere between 7 pm and 10 pm (I only watch TV Fridays and Saturdays, it’s the only way to get anything done and have time to read). After reading non-fiction books and taking notes all day, I’m in the mood for some easy stuff in the evenings.

Speaking of notes-taking: this Zettelkasten method for taking notes changed my life. I’m so happy that I found it exactly when I was about to start my research. Well, I was actually looking for a better method, but this is revolutionary indeed. I’ll post a review once I’ve used it for a while. I have many books to read as part of my research, so it’ll be perfect to use Zettelkasten and see what it does for me. Hint: Zettelkasten means paper slip in German.

* I don’t want to talk about it yet, sorry! I’m still afraid I’ll jinx it.


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