Summer 2019 Reading List

I read more books during the summer months than at any other time of year. The warm weather allows me to get outside, find a bench in a nice park somewhere and read for hours at a time. Here is a list of books that I have read this summer. I enjoyed them all.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

What a gift Cervantes left us all some 400 years ago! This is a book that will stay with the reader long after having turned the final page. Book II in particular, is filled with nuggets of wisdom, from both Don Quixote himself and even from the simple-minded Sancho.

After some 800 pages, both characters become somewhat like extended family to the reader, who recalls their stories and positive disposition with fondness. There’s a reason this book has been translated and re-printed for four centuries.

I finished the book weeks ago, yet I still find myself thinking about it. I’ve watched multiple educational YouTube videos that analyze the book in detail. There is a whole community of people around the world who obsess over the novel. You can buy t-shirts, attend speeches and view art that has been inspired by the book in cities across the globe.

It amazes me that Cervantes, a man who spent years in prison and also as a captive slave, was able to pen such an inspired work. The noble Don and his faithful squire, Sancho, still manage to entertain, centuries after they were first introduced to the world.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

This novel follows the war-torn lives of three Sarajevo citizens during the siege of the early 1990s. I visited Bosnia and Sarajevo in 2017 which helped bring the read to life. Steven Galloway goes out of his way to describe the neighbourhoods, landmarks and market squares of Sarajevo, which I had walked through a couple of years ago. Thankfully, I explored the city well after the conflict came to an end.

The book does a good job of describing the nightmare of being a civilian trapped in a siege zone. Something as simple as accessing potable water becomes a potentially deadly task. Electricity is often unavailable. You can’t flee a city, because every exit point is guarded or mined. Everybody ages horribly. The only people who get ahead in this situation are the organized criminals. Everyone else is stuck in a deadly trap, watching their city , life and friends get shredded.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

A quick read in which Steven Pressfield argues that “Resistance” is our greatest enemy. Whether it’s self-doubt, procrastination, fear of failure or even fear of success, everything that stops us from achieving something great is due to the great force of resistance.

The book is mostly intended for those who work in creative endeavours, but its message can also be applied to entrepreneurs or even career types.

Goodbye Things, The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki

A Japanese man’s take on minimalism. What makes this book work is that the author writes with sincerity about his pretentious and insecure mindset before embracing minimalism. For example, he talks about how he liked to prominently display stacks of books in his apartment, half of which he hadn’t even read, to appear more sophisticated when guests would visit. This provides an element of humour to a mostly practical read.

If you feel overwhelmed by clutter in your life, be it in your home or even at your desk, this book may prove to be helpful.

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle

John Bogle makes an overwhelming argument that low cost index funds are the best investment option for everyday people. Chapter after chapter, he explains, with statistics and historical evidence, why other popular investment avenues, such as mutual funds, very often amount to minimal gains or a loss to the main street inventor. He also hails what he calls “the magic of compound interest” while decrying the “the tyranny of compounding interest costs.”

While the book provides sound advice, it also offers up a word of caution in Chapter Nine, titled “When The Good Times No Longer Roll.” Unlike the boomers, who enjoyed investment return rates of 11.4% (!) from 1974 onwards, he forecasts that we millennials are likely to experience subdued returns, which he guesstimates to be somewhere between 6-7% in the coming decade.

The book was released in 2017. Bogle passed away at the beginning of this year. May he rest in peace.

Worry-free Money : The Guilt-free Approach to Managing Your Money and Your life by Shannon Lee Simmons

This book is written by a Canadian Certified Financial Planner who is a regular contributor for major media outlets such as the CBC and the Globe and Mail. Worry Free Money helps readers to cultivate a positive mindset with how they spend their money.

Shannon Lee Simmons’ offers up some creative systems to grade and classify your spending habits. She works with her clients to make subtle changes to their spending habits, rather than making radical changes that will be unrealistic or impossible to follow in the long term.

The Cubs Way by Tom Verducci

When I read this book, the Cubs were firmly ensconced in a playoff position and Joe Maddon was still their manager. Things change fast in the world of pro sports…

This book documents everything that went into ending the Chicago Cubs 108 year championship drought. While this is a baseball book, it will be of interest to any fan of professional sports.

Author Tom Verducci spends much of the book detailing how Theo Epstein and Maddon approach their respective roles. Those two men in particular, provide a great deal of insight on how to be effective leaders. They were very candid about how they went about creating a championship calibre organization.

I suspect that many managerial types in professional sports across America have pored over this book and taken notes.

Sugar Nation: The Hidden Truth Behind America’s Deadliest Habit and the Simple Way to Beat It by Jeff O’Connell

A thin and healthy man faces his prediabetic diagnosis head on. Rather than accepting the standard treatment of disruptive drugs offered up by doctors, the author looked to find solutions by altering his diet.

With a low carb, low sugar, high protein diet, O’Connell was able to stop the onset of diabetes in its tracks, despite its prominence in his family history.

I found many of the diet tips offered in this book to be very beneficial. A few tweaks to my diet resulted in a loss of winter weight I had been negligent in working off.

This book also provides additional motivation for pursuing a healthier diet by laying out exactly what happens to those who suffer from type 2 diabetes. Blindness, amputations and massive heart attacks are what awaits many of us if we don’t fix our diets while we can.

 

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

A broad overview on the mindset of mankind. The author explores what he believes to be the causes of “Status Anxiety” and the variety of philosophical solutions that have emerged over millennia, which humans have attempted to use to cope with the anxiety they feel.

Over the past century, the idea of meritocracy has been widely accepted across the Western world. While the opportunities life affords us are beyond anything our ancestors could ever imagine, we now struggle with a new form of anxiety that emerges when we feel that we haven’t been successful enough, especially when we compare ourselves to our peers and neighbours.

Art, Politics, Misanthropy, Stoicism, Christianity and even Bohemia have all attempted to wrestle with this form of anxiety, which shows no signs of slowing down in our consumer-driven world.

 

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

A collection of essays and speeches, grounded in Christian thought, that C.S. Lewis prepared during and shortly after World War Two. There are nine addresses in total. The ones I liked most where “On Forgiveness” and “Learning in War-Time.”  The book is a short read. You can either power through it all in a few hours or read one essay at a time at the end of your day.

This is the second Lewis book I have read. The first was his celebrated Mere Christianity, which I first read about five years ago. His essays, including The Weight of Glory, are available in audio format on YouTube.

Advertisements

Springtime at Irishtown Nature Park in Moncton

Irishtown Nature Park is one of the largest nature parks in Canada.

It’s home to over 2,200 acres of forest and a large lake. There are trails that criss-cross the park. Some are paved, while others are made for hikes that wind through the forest.

There are five hiking trails in total. My favourite was the John Howard trail, which weaves through forests and along the lakeshore for over 2 kilometers.

Some of the forested areas feature trees that have grown to be quite tall. I often had to remind myself to stop and look up, to appreciate just how high the trees went up.

You can also look down, where you’ll find lots of fresh growth at this time of year.

 

As you can see, there are lots of trails to explore.

If you’re passing through the Moncton region, a visit to Irishtown Nature Park is a great way to spend your afternoon.

Glasgow, Scotland: My Favourite Photos

In March 2018, I spent a week visiting Glasgow, Scotland. This was my first visit to Scotland. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

What surprised me the most was how similar the architecture in Glasgow is to what is found in some of Canada’s older cities that I have visited. There are great similarities in architecture of Glasgow with cites like Kingston, Brockville, Saint John and even Montreal.

This young lad on Buchanan street does not care for tourists.
A girl passes by the entrance to St. Enoch Subway Station.
The Penny Lane Barber Shop on North Woodside Road.
Café Nero at St. Enoch Subway Station
The Portland Street Suspension Bridge.
An alleyway in Hyndland.

 

Visiting Morocco: Photos from Agadir and Marrakesh

In December of 2017, I was able to book a flight from Berlin, Germany to Agadir Morocco. The total cost of the flight was $44. I knew nothing about Agadir and only a bit about Morocco, but it was a deal that I just couldn’t pass up.

Agadir is a port city that is also a popular resort destination. In 1960, an earthquake flattened the entire city. This means that there are no ancient sites to be seen here. Everything is modern and concrete.

Agadir by day.
Agadir by Night.
The Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber of Commerce.
A stop sign in Agadir.
The beach at Agadir with The Casbah in back. It reads: “”Fear God and honour the King.”
A major mosque in Agadir.

After almost a week in Agadir, I traveled by bus to Marrakesh, one of the most exotic places I have ever visited.

At the heart of Marrakesh is Jemaa el-Fnaa place. A hub of activity, filled with shops, cafés and snake charmers.

Cafés at Jemaa el-Fnaa place
A man leaves Jemaa el-Fnaa place with dinner.
Koutoubia Mosque

Marrakesh is also famous for its souks, a maze of narrow streets and alleyways, filled with shops.

Inside the souks.
A colourful doorway inside the souks.
Entering the souk.
Olive stand
Another gate to the souk.
Artwork on sale.
Souvenirs.
More souvenirs.
At times the souk can become quite crowded.

 

 

Shoppers go about their business.
Marrakesh City Hall

 

A word on safety. The locals I spoke to told me that foreigners are not in danger. The King of Morocco has made ambitious targets to grow the country’s tourism industry. As a result, the police take any kind of crime against tourists very seriously. I walked around residential neighbourhoods, very late at night, in both Agadir and Marrakesh and nobody even approached me or hassled me. I never felt that I was in any kind of danger.

2017 Canadian Tulip Festival Photos

I’m volunteering the 2017 Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa. This year’s festival runs from May 12 – 22, 2017.

I’ll share some of my favourite photos here.

Taken by the Rideau Canal behind Lansdowne Park
This statue celebrates the Olympic Torch’s journey across Canada in anticipation of the 1988 Calgary games.
Support for the local hockey team
Tulips across the country
Inside Aberdeen Pavilion
Visitors to Aberdeen pavillion are invited to sign one of these large tulips
A close up of the Red Tulips
A bed of white tulips.
Red tulip in sunlight.
Families at Lansdowne Park.
The Aberdeen Pavilion – South Entrance

Brockville, Ontario: A Great Day Trip Destination

Brockville, Ontario is fast becoming one of my favourite day trip locations.

Located about an hour’s drive south of Ottawa, the “City of the 1000 Islands” lies on the Northern shore of the Saint Lawrence River, opposite Upstate New York.

A revitalized historic downtown district anchors the city’s tourist industry. There are locally-owned shops, pubs and eateries lining King Street, the downtown core’s main thoroughfare.

Tait’s Fresh Start

This past weekend I stopped in at Tait’s Fresh Start for coffee and a snack. The atmosphere inside the store is friendly and there is open WiFi.

Blockhouse Island, the city’s most southern point, is a popular spot year-round. It’s a great place to watch the big boats pass by along the shipping lanes of the Saint Lawrence river. The marina is home to tall ships, a major tourist attraction.

Consider visiting Brockville’s historic downtown if you are looking to explore a new city in Eastern Ontario. I plan to make a few more visits through the warm summer months. The city has planned many events to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.

Resources

Quick Design Tip: Create Better Presentations by Using Canva and Unsplash

This article was first published on my LinkedIn profile. 

Improve the quality of your PowerPoint presentations by using Canva templates and enhancing them with images from Unsplash.com.

Canva’s Presentations library offers many free templates that you can use to build your presentation. They’re great to use because they combine good design with vibrant images.

Finding good images that relate to your presentation can sometimes be a challenge. A lot of stock photography is pretty bland.

That’s where Unsplash comes in.

Unsplash provides free, high-resolution images that you can use for whatever you like.

The website is searchable and categorizes images into different collections. This allows you to track down images related to the theme of your presentation.

Download your favourite images from Unsplash and then upload them into your Canva workspace. The drag and drop nature of Canva makes it easy to insert your images.

This method is faster and easier to use than traditional PowerPoint software. The finished product is also much more pleasing to the eye.

Make your next business presentation stand out by combining these two resources.

Berlin in Winter

I was able to spend a few days of layover time in Berlin Germany during late January and early February. The weather was cold and snowy, but I still was able to capture some good shots during my short time in the city.

Alexanderplatz and the famous TV Tower on a foggy morning.
The East Side Gallery.
Tram stop at Frankfurter Tor
Witternbergplatz U-bahnhof
Panorama of Gendarmenmarkt
St. Mary’s Church / St. Marienkirche
Tempelhof U-bahn
Train arriving at Nollendorfplatz
Potsdamer Platz by night.
A rainy night at Brandenburger Gate

November 2016 Supermoon in Ottawa-Gatineau

Two photos from the November 2016 Supermoon. The first photo was taken from Ottawa, near Beechwood Cemetery. The second in Gatineau at the Quai des artistes.

supermoon_gatineau_novembre_2016_quai_des_artistes

%d bloggers like this: