This is the archive for Life.
- Big Wins: Audiobooks
This is the first post of a series that will focus on improvements I’ve made in my life that have led to advances in my productivity, effectiveness, or general well-being. I call these things big wins.
Back in high school, I remember a few people recommended that I listen to audiobooks. I tried, but never got into it on a regular basis. Audiobooks were something that my family listened to in the car on long road trips, but nothing more.
That changed last summer. A post by Sebastian Marshall pushed me over the tipping point, but recommendations from multiple friends led me that far. I must have read the post at the right time. At first, I tried finding free audiobooks, but most were classic novels with low quality narrators. I listened to a few, but only on long drives. I couldn’t seem to get into them otherwise. On my quest for contemporary non-fiction books, I signed up for an Audible account. They seemed to have the best selection and had a deal going on for new subscribers.
That was June 2011. Since then, I’ve purchased about 30 audiobooks and so far I’ve listened to more than 20 of them. Most of them were non-fiction (on a wide variety of subjects), though a few were fiction. I’ve learned quite a bit and I have made many changes to the way I live my life due to what I read (er.. listened to..) in the audiobooks.
I do not use audiobooks as a replacement for reading. I still read physical books that I have to hold in my hands, as well as digital books on my Kindle and iPad. (I am currently reading Brothers Karamazov, Deleting the State, and It Starts With Food the old-fashioned way. I can read multiple books concurrently as long as they aren’t the same genre.) I use audiobooks for when I would otherwise have dead time, such as walking to work, cooking, washing the dishes, or generally doing menial tasks that do not require my full attention. Without changing my schedule, I consumed an extra 20+ books in the past year. I’ve learned a little bit about neuroscience, exercise, diet, philosophy, economics, the founding of Google, the lives of people who have accomplished great things, self-discipline, productivity, travel, and more. I’ve also listened to some excellent literature and bought a physical copy of a few of the titles so I can spend some more time with them.
The majority of the books I listen to are informational books. This isn’t a coincidence: I can listen to informational books in 20 minute chunks without getting lost since most of the information does not rely heavily on what came immediately before it. I save the philosophical books and novels for long drives, plane rides, etc.
This year, I am on track to listen to 50+ audiobooks, again without changing my schedule. I am not pushing off tasks or projects to listen to audio, nor am I cutting into my regular reading time. I am simply being more diligent about listening to audio while I am doing menial tasks. For the past 3 weeks, I’ve gone through a book and a half a week.
A few times a year, Audible runs a $4.95 sale. For a few days they list 200+ titles, mostly popular titles that people actually want to listen to, at $4.95 each. At that price, you can grab 5 great books for $25, which is an insanely good price, considering that the books usually go for between $13-$25 a piece. Each time this sale comes around, I stock up on great titles.
Another way I can listen to so many books is that I play them at 1.5x speed. I think most of the narrators are fairly slow compared to how my friends speak, so listening to the books at 1.5x sounds fine to me. This allows me to listen to an hour of recorded audio in 40 minutes.
A note on podcasts: I haven’t explored them. I know there are many excellent ones that my friends listen to, but audiobooks have been more than adequate for me this past year. I will look into podcasts again soon. I am sure there are a few that I would enjoy listening to each week.
My number one complaint with listening to audiobooks is that my headphones are always tangled. I am currently looking into bluetooth headphones to solve this problem. I think not having to deal with wires will be a significant improvement. (Have any recommendations?–Let me know in the comments.)
What could you learn if you consumed an extra 20 books a year without changing your schedule? More importantly, what are you missing out on? Give audiobooks a try and let me know how it goes.
- Giving to beggars: My policy, reasons, and recent outcomes
I have a policy when it comes to giving to people who come up to me in the street and ask for money to buy food or some basic necessity: I tell them that I do not carry cash (this is the truth, I do not carry cash), then offer to purchase for them what they say they need the money for. (I won’t purchase them alcohol, drugs, weapons, cigarettes, or things like that. But, who actually tells you they need those things?)
For a month and a half at the beginning of the summer, no one took me up on my offer. I would get uneasy looks, then the person would decline and walk away. Two examples:
1. A man told me a story about how he had AIDS and how he was in a shelter, and he stands in front of the post office (where he and I both were) opening doors for people so that he can get money to go to Publix and buy juice to drink. It just so happened that I was going to Publix (directly across the street), so I made him my normal offer: “I don’t carry cash, but go across the street with me and I will buy you juice at Publix.” Unsurprisingly to me, he did not take me up on my offer. He said, “Oh, I can’t go to Publix. I’ll manage.” It was obvious to me that he didn’t want to get juice… he just wanted money for other things. (By the look of him, it was likely drugs.) So, I walked away, and he continued asking people for money. (I wonder if he changed his story?)
2. I work in downtown Atlanta right now. I walk down the street multiple times a day, and get asked for money at least once a day, usually more. This story is true (and typical of what usually happens): As I was walking between my office and Georgia Pacific, a man approached me and asked me if I could spare a dollar for a sandwich. I told him that I do not carry cash, but I would walk one block down the street with him to the food court and buy him a meal. He looked kind of worried and said, “No, that’s okay,” and walked away. This happens most of the time. I can only assume these people want something other than a sandwich, but don’t want to admit it. It is strange to me that they do not take me up on my offers, though. [EDIT: It was pointed out to me that it does not necessarily follow that people want this money for other things. See the comments.]
After a month and a half, I actually had two people take me up on the offer, just a day apart. One was a woman, the other a man. The woman took me up on buying her a MARTA (Atlanta’s metro system) ticket to somewhere on the other side of town so she could get to a women’s shelter. The man wanted soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant so he could be clean for an interview. I have no idea whether the stories they told me were true or not, but that does not matter to me. I made an offer, and I held up my end of it once they accepted. I can only pray that these individuals use what I bought them to help alleviate their situation.
Some people have asked me why I do this. Here are my reasons:
-Offering to buy someone food or basic necessities instead of immediately rejecting them and walking away acknowledges that person’s human dignity. These people get treated as less them human all day, so the least I can do is acknowledge their dignity and offer to help them out.
-Offering to buy someone food or basic necessities weeds out most people who want money for something else, such as drugs or alcohol. I’ve made the over dozens of times with only two people taking me up on it so far. This way, I can help people who really need it. I know this isn’t a perfect system, but I think it is better than just giving out cash. If people actually need help, I feel an obligation to help them.
-In 2008, when I attended my first FEE seminar, Dr. Anthony Carilli finished out the week by telling the attendees that, besides being a professor, speaker around the US, and an umpire for minor league baseball, he is a volunteer fireman. Why? In his words, “If you believe in the free market, you have to be willing to do your part to support it.” I’ve thought about that statement a lot in the last four years. If I advocate abolishing government welfare programs, I have to be willing to help people out with my own time and money. I am trying to do that.
Some people I know have objected to my practice. One guy said that I am just providing temporary relief to their problem and it doesn’t really help them. So, when I asked him what he recommends, he cited a privately run homeless shelter that has strict rules about work, but actively helps people get jobs and is surprisingly good at doing so. But the guy who told me this does not donate to such shelters or individuals, and isn’t actively trying to start one. That is fine with me. It is his time and his money, which he can do what he wants with it.
One of my favorite professors at Hillsdale always says, “Once you confront a situation or possibility, you have to own it.” The situation I am confronted with on a daily basis is people asking me for help. This is my way of owning it. I know it is not perfect, but I am trying to do what I can.
- I am Engaged!
On December 24, 2011, at around 12:45 a.m., Amanda Kate Rubino and I got engaged.
Check out Amanda’s blog, The Ring Diaries, to see the ring and for more info.
- Summer Job
This summer I had an internship with the Foundation for Economic Education. I was based out of Atlanta where I worked with the Programs branch of the organization. We did a total of 7 week-long seminars in 3 cities (Atlanta, Estes Park, CO, and Irvington, NY) with over 600 students in attendance during the 2010 summer seminar series.
To see more about the summer, check out the Summer In Review book I put together for FEE (3.6mb pdf). It is full of my photos from the summer!
- Ozone Falls
On Friday morning, I started my trip down to Atlanta for my summer internship with the Foundation for Economic Education. I got to my grandparents’ house in Kingston, Tennessee in the early evening and stayed with them for two nights. I had a nice time staying with them, and they took me to a few neat places on Saturday. We went to Ozone Falls and Black Mountain. Here are a few photos of Ozone Falls:
(Click on the photos to view them at a larger size)
I got to the apartment I am staying at for the summer in Sandy Springs, GA this afternoon. It is just north of Atlanta. The apartment is new and spacious, and in a very good location! I am living there with two other FEE guys- one intern and one full time employee (a Hillsdale grad). I am really looking forward to this summer!
- Spring Break Part 4 of 4 – Nice
The last city I stayed in was Nice, a beautiful city in the on the French Riviera in south-eastern France. It is such a gorgeous place! David and I took an overnight train from Bordeaux and arrived around 8:30 in the morning. The train was an experience… we stayed in a couchette car with four other people and were woke up multiple times during the night by either a shaking train or children with asthema. Anyway, once we arrived we put our stuff at the hotel, freshened up, and bought some pastries and ate them on the edge of the Mediterranean. The rest of that day and the next were devoted to much exploring and eating, then I had to take another overnight train to Paris to fly home.
I hope you enjoy the photos! Click on them to see them at a larger size.
The Promenade des Anglais and the Mediterranean Sea:
Natural rock formations that I climbed out on many times (with a kayaker!)
The harbor and the hillside:
Arches – possibly an old aquaduct?
A small lighthouse/beacon at the edge of the harbor:
Lit walkway on the edge of the sea
Rocky beach, the sea, and the sun: (click to view large!)
Me sitting on the rocks on the edge of the sea (Photo by David):
Rough waters as a storm rolls in:
Entrance to the harbor on a cloudy day:
Thank you for checking out my photos from spring break! I hope you enjoyed them.
- Spring Break Part 3 of 4 – Bordeaux
Finally, after a stressful week, I have a few hours before I have to start studying for finals.
Here are my photos from Bordeaux, where I spent the most time. There I did lots of things like exploring alone, spending a day in a French high school (not pictured), and going to a small funeral at a small village in wine country (long story, and not pictured), and ate lunch with some British folk (also not pictured). Here are my favorite photos from my wanderings in Bordeaux. I hope you enjoy them! Click on the photos to view them at a larger size.
I got caught in a downpour, but afterwards this rainbow over Garonne River and Pont de Pierre bridge appeared. Definitely worth standing in the rain to see:
The riverwalk and quays along the Garonne River:
Pont de Pierre bridge at night:
The general chaos that is a French street. Trams, bikes, motorcycles, cars, and pedestrians walking any which way:
Place du Palais:
Delightful pastries in a cafe:
The riverwalk again:
I was amazed at how much French men pee in public. It seems like they go wherever they feel like. When I looked though my photos, I was surprised to find this. I didn’t notice this guy when I took the photo!
Cathedral St. Andres:
Behind St. Bruno church:
Check back in a few days for photos from Nice!
- Spring Break Part 2 of 4 – Arcachon
After my short stay in Paris, I took a train a few hours south to Bordeaux, where my friend David lives. After a short nap at David’s apartment, we immediately went to the town of Arcachon, a small but beautiful place on the Atlantic (well, technically on Arcachon Bay, but we could see where the bay opened up to the Atlantic from the beach.) We were originally going to go there two days later, but the forecast was rain for that day, so we went right after arriving from Paris. Below are a few photos. As always, you can click on the photos to make them appear at a larger size.
The summer village:
Down in the summer village:
Down in the summer village (again):
The breakwater and oceanfront:
Two beautiful houses in the afternoon sun:
Me! (Photo taken by David Wagner)
Next up, Bordeaux! (Check back in a few days!)