Tommy Caldwell Waxes Poetic on El Cap

Tommy Caldwell and Keven Jorgeson are wowing the world and the climbing community with their mind-blowing attempt to free-climb the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite. From the looks of it, Caldwell may have a book in him. Caldwell’s Instagram posts are nothing short of lyrical. Take this one, an ode to an inspiring frog:

At night on El Cap these frogs are our only companions. They emerge and effortlessly free solo around on the blank walls. This guy was 900 feet up and completely in his element. Keven and I are trying to summon our inner frog. We climb mostly at night and are doing our best to adapt to life on the wall.

I imagine a bunch of T-shirts with the slogan “Summon Your Inner Frog.” Hey, Tommy, wanna send me something for Fiction Attic?

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Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin

In the warm, practical style that her fans have come to expect, Gretchen Rubin explains why habits matter, and how to make them work for you, in her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Rubin begins by breaking people down into four groups: upholders, obligers, questioners, and rebels, providing checklists to help you decide where you fit in. She then goes on to delve into the psychology of habit formation, peppering her personal narrative and a good dose of self-help with quotations from the likes of St. Augustine and Benjamin Franklin.

Better Than Before is light but inspiring reading for anyone who wants to adopt a few new good habits, or discard some bad ones. If you’re like me, you’ll be very glad to have Rubin’s book in your hands, and equally glad that she isn’t your neighbor or sister, and that she hasn’t set her sights on your dietary habits. While the author often comes off as judgmental or meddling, her keen awareness of these traits in herself makes her more likable than you might expect.

Despite a tendency toward repetition, Rubin’s prose strikes a nice balance between engaging, informative, personal, and practical. Readers who loved to hate the author of Happier at Home–who came off as stingy with her money and her affections (she doesn’t like buying gifts and had to make an effort to kiss her husband before he left for work)–will likely find more common ground with the voice behind Better Than Before. Here, we get a glimpse of the author as committed friend, sister, and daughter, someone so passionate about exercise that she buys her sister a treadmill desk, and so intent on the benefits of de-cluttering that she spends hours cleaning out a friend’s apartment, only to realize that clutter doesn’t really bother him much. One gets the feeling that Rubin really likes to help people, and that all that busy-bodyness comes from a genuine mix of passion and compassion.

Readers who started their own happiness projects after reading The Happiness Project are likely to enjoy Rubin’s latest effort. While there is something slightly grating about the author (she hates travel and interesting food and never misses an opportunity, in any of her books, to remind readers that she once clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), there is something inspiring about her as well. Although it sounds like a line from a bad romcom, she really does make you want to be a better version of yourself. If it’s any indication of just how practical this book is, I’ve already started keeping track of three new habits, and I’ve even started researching DIY treadmill desks.

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Friday Reads – Pico Iyer on the Pleasures of Being Foreign, Ethan Siegel on Dark Matter

Soon there’ll be more foreigners on earth than there are Americans. Foreignness is a planetary condition, and even when you walk through your hometown—whether that’s New York or London or Sydney—half the people around you are speaking in languages and dealing in traditions different from your own.

Read the article at Lapham’s Quarterly

But there are still gravitationally bound systems, and they exist on small scales in great abundance, on medium scales in moderate abundance, and on relatively large scales in sparse but non-zero abundance. And it’s all part of the same cosmic story.

Ethan Siegel on dark energy, dark matter, and the fate of our expanding universe on Medium. Read the article.

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The Muse: Gray Cat on Gray Chair

Wherein Phoebe commits an admirable act of camouflage, while lounging. Truth be told, she is no muse. When she hears the laptop come on, or hears me settle into my desk chair, she quits whatever she is doing (which is to say she quits sitting around looking impervious) and stages an intervention. She likes to climb on the keyboard, as she clearly feels that she has a great deal more to contribute on any subject than I do.

Gray cat on gray chair on sunny day #cats

A photo posted by Michelle Richmond (@michellerichmondsf) on

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