Every autumn, a spectacular animal migration takes place in Georgia’s Tusheti region in the northern Caucasus Mountains. Radio Free Europe photographer Amos Chapple recently joined a group of shepherds and their dogs on what he refers to as a “deadly, boozy journey” from the steep mountains to the plains, as they brought their 1,200 sheep down to their winter pastures.
[We’ve] practically been living at the Orlando IKEA as we research and buy things in bursts — a dumb strategy I do not recommend to anyone and can only justify by the fact that we didn’t have an IKEA back when we lived in Oklahoma City and are inexperienced but we dived into this project headfirst anyway thinking it would be fairly straightforward and we were WRONG […]
As we near the finish line of this project, I thought I’d put together a little guide of the IKEA items we decided on and why. Enjoy.
Note: Our travel trailer is a 2004 Jayco Jay Flight 27BH, and we bought the items below with that particular space in mind. It should go without saying that if you’re going to remodel your own RV, small apartment, or whatever with IKEA stuff, measure every possible thing in your space and match the items that will fit best. “Your mileage may vary” and all that.
* * *
VALLENTUNA sleeper sectional.(normally $635 for this configuration, but prices vary otherwise)
One of the top items to replace on our list was the RV’s original couch. It was ugly, not very comfortable to sleep on when folded down into a bed futon-style, and hard to clean around. We knew that anything we replaced it with also needed to have some way to fold out into a bed for when my wife’s younger siblings visit us, and after trying every conceivable sleeper couch at IKEA, we settled on the VALLENTUNA sleeper sectional.
The VALLENTUNA series is a modular couch system that allows you to assemble the perfect large or small sofa for your needs. They’ve got a sleeper seat, a storage seat, and other options you can play with here.
The particular configuration linked above is the one we went with, and includes:
Sleeper seat section — The bottom of the couch slides out like a drawer, revealing a long lower bed frame, which the seat cushion then unfolds onto to create the mattress, as pictured below.
Two backrests — These are taller than the armrest pieces you can select, creating more of a private nook you can hang out in.
Two back cushions — They’re expensive for what they are, but the backrests alone — though slightly cushioned — aren’t all that comfortable to lean back against, so you kinda need them. I will say that the back cushions are quite comfy, so we didn’t mind the added expense.
Our old dinette had one thing going for it: When needed, the tabletop could be lowered down onto the two opposed seat frames to create a bed, with the back and bottom seat cushions acting as a “mattress”. The problem was that the frame was falling apart in places and the bed mode was never very comfortable.
After carefully measuring the space we had to work with after taking the dinette out, we discovered that the smallest EKEDALEN extendable table would fit perfectly. In its compact form, the square table rests in the corner of the dining area. When we need a little extra room, the end of the table slides out like a drawer, revealing a table leaf we can take out and secure onto the end.
We love, love, love this table. One of our upcoming projects will be finding a way to secure it to the wall so we don’t have to flip it upside down onto a blanket while towing the trailer.
The table above doesn’t come with any seating of its own, and we needed something that wouldn’t be too uncomfortable to sit on but could easily stow away when we need more space. We got four of the FROSTA stools, which stack together very neatly and slide under the table when we need them out of the way. They’re surprisingly not bad at all to sit on, given they have no cushions.
The built-in closets next to our beds are narrow, but tall. Until now, the only way to take advantage of that vertical space was to stack a bunch of folded clothes. With a few of these SLÄKTING hanging organizers, we were able to add “shelving” to our closets and keep things better organized, with some additional structure thanks to these compartment boxes.
It’s not quite as cool as what the guy at 6:59 of this video has — where he keeps two of these organizers stowed in box-like cabinets on the floor of his van and extends them upward to hang them from ceiling hooks as needed, with clothes and shoes already inside — but they’re helpful nonetheless.
There’s no dishwasher in our RV, so we have to wash dishes by hand. Our system until now usually involved setting wet dishes face-down on a towel spread across the stovetop’s fold-down cover to air-dry a while. The GRUNDTAL dish drainer lets us get drying dishes out of the way so we can still use the stove without having to put everything away first.
Before you ask, yes, we know we’re a little lazy about putting the clean dishes away. Sue us.
Our RV is a “bunkhouse” (hence the 27BH model number), which means it has a bunk bed area for our son. We took the bottom mattress out forever ago to turn that area into a kind of playing/reading area, but keeping his toys and books organized in there is something of a pain, especially when we move the trailer.
We picked up IKEA’s TRONES shoe/storage cabinets, which come in packs of three. They’re wall-mountable and stackable, and they stay out of the way thanks to their narrow vertical dimensions. Rather than sliding out like drawers — which we’ve tried in the past but those always fall over/out when we move — they tilt out at an angle.
They’re ostensibly for storing shoes, but they’ve worked quite well for his toys and such.
This is nowhere near everything we’ve bought from IKEA — my wallet will be crying about this project for a good while — but the items above are definitely the most important of the bunch.
I'm in a rut as to the web sites I regularly visit. Help me find better internets to read.
I reflexively go to Huffington Post for political news and a few other sites that I know aren't contributing to happiness in my life (all Trump, all the time) or providing me important information. I gravitate towards liberal politics, history and off-the-wall fun sites (thank you everlasting blort). I avoid celebrity and entertainment.
I'm not just looking for web site suggestions, but a way to discover sites I may have an interest in.
This has the potential to reshape the contractor-based industries. The new law says, "An employer, upon reasonable request, shall provide the pay scale for a position to an applicant applying for employment." It doesn't say, "shall provide pay scale for those applicants who are being seriously considered for the job." It means info about job rates will be public, and job-seekers can compare rates across companies.
The law was enacted to prevent discrimination against women based on past discrimination; it looks like a tremendous boon to anyone who's looking to switch industries, or who's been stuck in a low-wage job while they learned more skills and had more responsibilities heaped on them.
It also means hiring managers will be scrambling to figure out how to rate applicants if they can't use past salary as their quick y/n for "is this person maybe a fit for this position?"
Where the hard edge of physics meets the vulnerable metaphysics of the human heart.
Few people have enchanted the popular imagination with science more powerfully and lastingly than physicist Richard Feynman (May 11, 1918–February 15, 1988) — the “Great Explainer” with the uncommon gift for bridging the essence of science with the most human and humane dimensions of life.
“My heart stopped,” Gleick tells me. “I have never had an experience like that as a biographer, before or since.”
In a mass of unread papers sent to him by Feynman’s widow, Gweneth, Gleick found a letter that discomposed his most central understanding of Feynman’s character. A generation after computing pioneer Alan Turing tussled with the binary code of body and spirit in the wake of loss, Feynman — a scientist perhaps uncommonly romantic yet resolutely rational and unsentimental in his reverence for the indomitable laws of physics that tend toward decay — penned a remarkable letter to a physical nonentity that was, for the future Nobel-winning physicist, the locus of an irrepressible metaphysical reality.
In high school, the teenage Richard spent summers at the beach in his native Far Rockaway. There, he grew besotted with a striking girl named Arline — a girl he knew he would marry. Both complement and counterpoint to his own nature, Arline met Richard’s inclination for science with ardor for philosophy and art. (The art class he took just to be near her would lay the foundation for his little-known, lifelong passion for drawing.) By his junior year, Richard proposed. Arline accepted. With the eyes of young love, they peered into a shared future of infinite possibility for bliss.
But they were abruptly grounded when a mysterious malady began afflicting Arline with inexplicable symptoms — a lump would appear and disappear on her neck, fevers would roil over her with no apparent cause. Eventually, she was hospitalized for what was believed to be typhoid.
Feynman began to glimpse the special powerlessness that medical uncertainty can inflict on a scientific person. He had come to believe that the scientific way of thinking brought a measure of calmness and control in difficult situations — but not now.
Just as Feynman began bombarding the doctors with questions that steered them toward a closer approximation of the scientific method, Arline began to recover just as mysteriously and unpredictably as she had fallen ill. But the respite was only temporary. The symptoms returned, still shorn of a concrete explanation but now unambiguously pointing toward the terminal — a prognosis Arline’s doctors kept from her. Richard refused to go along with the deception — he and Arline had promised each other to face life with unremitting truthfulness — but he was forced to calibrate his commitment to circumstance.
His parents, Arline’s parents, and the doctors all urged him not to be so cruel as to tell a young woman she was dying. His sister, Joan, sobbing, told him he was stubborn and heartless. He broke down and bowed to tradition. In her room at Farmingdale Hospital, with her parents at her side, he confirmed that she had glandular fever. Meanwhile, he started carrying around a letter — a “goodbye love letter,” as he called it—that he planned to give her when she discovered the truth. He was sure she would never forgive the unforgivable lie.
He did not have long to wait. Soon after Arline returned home from the hospital she crept to the top of the stairs and overheard her mother weeping with a neighbor down in the kitchen. When she confronted Richard — his letter snug in his pocket — he told her the truth, handed her the letter, and asked her to marry him.
Marriage, however, proved to be a towering practical problem — Princeton, where Feynman was now pursuing a Ph.D., threatened to withdraw the fellowships funding his graduate studies if he were to wed, for the university considered the emotional and pragmatic responsibilities of marriage a grave threat to academic discipline.
Just as Feynman began considering leaving Princeton, a diagnosis detonated the situation — Arline had contracted a rare form of tuberculosis, most likely from unpasteurized milk.
At first, Feynman was relieved that the grim alternative options of Hodgkin’s disease and incurable cancers like lymphoma had been ruled out. But he was underestimating, or perhaps misunderstanding, the gravity of tuberculosis — the very disease which had taken the love of Alan Turing’s life and which, during its two-century heyday, had claimed more lives around the globe than any other malady and all wars combined. At the time of Arline’s diagnosis in 1941, immunology was in its infancy, the antibiotic treatment of bacterial infections practically nonexistent, and the first successful medical application of penicillin a year away. Tuberculosis was a death sentence, even if it was a slow death with intervals of remission — a fact Richard and Arline faced with an ambivalent mix of brave lucidity and hope against hope.
Meanwhile, Richard’s parents met the prospect of his marriage with bristling dread. His mother, who believed he was marrying Arline out of pity rather than love, admonished him that he would be putting his health and his very life in danger, and coldly worried about how the stigma attached to tuberculosis would impact her brilliant young son’s reputation. “I was surprised to learn such a marriage is not unlawful,” she scoffed unfeelingly. “It ought to be.”
But Richard was buoyed by love — a love so large and luminous that he found himself singing aloud one day as he was arranging Arline’s transfer to a sanatorium. Determined to go through with the wedding, he wrote to his beloved:
I guess maybe it is like rolling off of a log — my heart is filled again & I’m choked with emotions — and love is so good & powerful — it’s worth preserving — I know nothing can separate us — we’ve stood the tests of time and our love is as glorious now as the day it was born — dearest riches have never made people great but love does it every day — we’re not little people — we’re giants … I know we both have a future ahead of us — with a world of happiness — now & forever.
On June 29, 1942, they promised each other eternity.
He borrowed a station wagon from a Princeton friend, outfitted it with mattresses for the journey, and picked up Arline in Cedarhurst. She walked down her father’s hand-poured concrete driveway wearing a white dress. They crossed New York Harbor on the Staten Island ferry — their honeymoon ship. They married in a city office on Staten Island, in the presence of neither family nor friends, their only witnesses two strangers called in from the next room. Fearful of contagion, Richard did not kiss her on the lips. After the ceremony he helped her slowly down the stairs, and onward they drove to Arline’s new home, a charity hospital in Browns Mills, New Jersey.
Meanwhile, WWII was reaching its crescendo of destruction, dragging America into the belly of death with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now one of the nation’s most promising physicists, Feynman was recruited to work on what would become the Manhattan Project and soon joined the secret laboratory in Los Alamos.
Arline entered the nearby Albuquerque sanatorium, from where she wrote him letters in code — for the sheer fun of it, because she knew how he cherished puzzles, but the correspondence alarmed the military censors at the laboratory’s Intelligence Office. Tasked with abating any breaches to the secrecy of the operation, they cautioned Feynman that coded messages were against the rules and demanded that his wife include a key in each letter to help them decipher it. This only amplified Arline’s sense of fun — she began cutting holes into her letters, covering passages with ink, and even mail-ordered a jigsaw puzzle kit with which to cut up the pages and completely confound the agents.
But the levity masked the underlying darkness which Richard and Arline tried so desperately to evade — Arline was dying. As her body failed, he steadied himself to her spirit:
You are a strong and beautiful woman. You are not always as strong as other times but it rises & falls like the flow of a mountain stream. I feel I am a reservoir for your strength — without you I would be empty and weak… I find it much harder these days to write these things to you.
In every single letter, he told her that he loved her. “I have a serious affliction: loving you forever,” he wrote.
In early 1945, two and a half years into their marriage, Richard and Arline made love for the first time. He had been too afraid of harming her frail health somehow, she too afraid of infecting him with the deadly bacterium consuming her. But Arline insisted that this pent up desire could no longer be contained and assured Richard that this would only bring them closer — to each other, and to the life they had so lovingly dreamt up for themselves:
I’ll always be your sweetheart & first love — besides a devoted wife — we’ll be proud parents too… I am proud of you always Richard –[you are] a good husband, and lover, & well, coach, I’ll show you what I mean Sunday.
But heightened as their hopes were by this new dimension of shared experience, Arline’s health continued to plummet. Her weight dropped to eighty-four pounds. Exasperated by the helplessness of medicine, which Feynman had come to see not as a manifestation but as a mutilation of the scientific method, he invested all hope in an experimental drug made of mold growths. “Keep hanging on,” he exhorted Arline. “Nothing is certain. We lead a charmed life.” She began spitting blood.
At twenty-seven, on the precipice of a brilliant scientific career, he was terminally in love.
On June 16, 1945, while working at the computing room at Los Alamos, Feynman received a call from the sanatorium that Arline was dying. He borrowed a colleague’s car and sped to the hospital, where he found her immobile, her eyes barely tracing his movement. Early in his scientific career, he had been animated by the nature of time. Now, hours stretched and contracted as he sat at her deathbed, until one last small breath tolled the end at 9:21PM.
The wake of loss has a way of tranquilizing grief with the pressing demands of practical arrangements — a tranquilizer we take willingly, almost gratefully. The following morning, Feynman arranged for his beloved’s cremation, methodically collected her personal belongings, and on the final page of the small spiral notebook in which she recorded her symptoms he wrote with scientific remove: “June 16 — Death.”
And so we arrive at Gleick’s improbable discovery in that box of letters — improbable because of the extreme rationality with which Feynman hedged against even the slightest intimation of metaphysical conjectures untestable by science and unprovable by reason. During his courtship of Arline, he had been vexed by her enthusiasm for Descartes, whose “proof” of God’s perfection he found intellectually lazy and unbefitting of Descartes’s reputation as a champion of reason. He had impishly countered Arline’s insistence that there are two sides to everything by cutting a piece of paper and half-twisting it into a Möbius strip, the ends pasted together to render a surface with just one side.
Everything that appeared mystical, Feynman believed, was simply an insufficiently explained mystery with a physical answer not yet found. Even Arline’s dying hour had offered testing ground for conviction. Puzzlingly, the clock in the room had stopped at exactly 9:21PM — the time of death. Aware of how this bizarre occurrence could foment the mystical imagination in unscientific minds, Feynman reasoned for an explanation. Remembering that he had repaired the clock multiple times over the course of Arline’s stay at the sanatorium, he realized that the instrument’s unwieldy mechanism must have choked when the nurse picked it up in the low evening light to see and record the time.
How astonishing and how touchingly human, then, that Feynman penned the letter Gleick found in the box forty-two years later — a letter he wrote to Arline in October of 1946, 488 days after her death:
I adore you, sweetheart.
I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.
It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.
But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.
I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures.
When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.
I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.
My darling wife, I do adore you.
I love my wife. My wife is dead.
And then, with the sole defibrillator for heartache we have — humor — Feynman adds:
PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address.
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Our system for reading 25 pages a day has been adopted by many of our readers and members of the learning community to great success. A couple points have been misinterpreted, though, so we want to clear them up.
Reading is a way to open windows into other worlds that cross time and disciplines. While most of us don't have the time to read a whole book in one sitting, we do have the time to read 25 pages a day (here are some ways you can find time to read). Reading the right books, even if it's a few pages a day, is one of the best ways to ensure that you go to bed a little smarter than you woke up.
Twenty-five pages a day doesn't sound like much, but this commitment adds up over time. Let’s say that two days out of each month, you probably won’t have time to read. Plus Christmas. That gives you 340 days a year of solid reading time. If you read 25 pages a day for 340 days, that's 8,500 pages. 8,500. What I have also found is that when I commit to a minimum of 25 pages, I almost always read more. So let’s call the 8,500 pages 10,000. (I only need to extend the daily 25 pages into 30 to get there.)
With 10,000 pages a year, at a general pace of 25/day, what can we get done?
Well, The Power Broker is 1,100 pages. The four LBJ books written by Robert Caro are collectively 3,552 pages. Tolstoy’s two masterpieces — War and Peace, and Anna Karenina — come in at a combined 2,160. Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is six volumes and runs to about 3,660 pages. That’s 10,472 pages.
That means, in about one year, at a modest pace of 25 pages a day, you’d have knocked out 13 masterful works and learned an enormous amount about the history of the world. In one year!
That leaves the following year to read Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1,280), Carl Sandburg’s Six Volumes on Lincoln (2,000?), Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations unabridged (1,200), and Boswell’s Johnson (1,300), with plenty of pages left to read something else.
This is how the great works get read: day by day, 25 pages at a time. No excuses.
We hold to this advice today. But there are two areas that have been misinterpreted over the past year, so let's clarify them and make sure everyone is set on the right course.
Twenty-Five Pages a Day: Minimum, Not Maximum!
Our friend Ryan Holiday had an interesting retort to our piece, saying that while he agreed with it, he found it impractical in his own life.
Farnam Street had a post recently talking about how the way to get through big books is 25 pages a day. I don’t totally disagree with that, I’ve just found that style is nice in theory but less effective in practice. Really, it’s about whether you can go through large blocks of time at this thing, concerted but sustained blocks of effort—almost like a fartlek workout. Because broken up into too many pieces, you’ll miss the whole point of the book, like the proverbial blind man touching an elephant. Those who conquer long books know that it’s not a matter of reading some pages before you fall asleep but rather, canceling your plans for the night and staying in to read instead.
I suspect that our disagreement is one of degree and perhaps misinterpretation. We totally agree on the point of reading in long, sustained blocks. That's exactly how we read ourselves!
The point of assigning yourself a certain amount of reading every day is to create a deeply held habit. The 25-pages-a-day thing is a habit-former! For those of us who already have a strong reading habit, it's not altogether necessary. I love reading, so I no longer need to force myself to read.
But many people dream of it rather than doing it, and they especially dream of a day when they will read for hours at a time with great frequency, as Ryan does and as we do.
The problem is, when they start tasting the broccoli, they realize how tough that commitment can be. They think, “If I can't read for hours on end, why bother starting?” So instead of doing their daily 25 pages, they don't read anything! The books sit on the shelves, collecting dust. We know a lot of people like this.
Those folks need to commit to a daily routine — to understand what a small commitment compounds to over time. And, like us, most of these people will naturally read far more than 25 pages. They will achieve the dream and plow through a book they really love in a few sittings rather than with a leisurely 25 pages per day. But creating the habit is where it starts.
Eventually, you’ll love it so much that you’ll force yourself to read less at times so you can get other things done.
Don't Slog Through Books You Don't Like
The other misconception comes from the meaty books we referred to: long ones like The Power Broker, War and Peace, and Gibbon's Decline and Fall. Some readers took that to mean that they should attempt these huge tomes out of pure masochism and use the 25-page daily mark to plow through boredom.
Nothing could be further from the truth! (Our bad.)
Too many English lit professors have promoted the idea that “the classics” contain some sort of unique unobtanium of wisdom. Sorry, but that’s bullshit.
If you've gone through our course on the Art of Reading (which we recently updated and revised), you'll realize that there are many better strategies than plowing ahead. You must pursue your curiosities! This is by far the most important principle of good reading.
The truth is that when you're super bored, your interest and understanding come to a screeching halt. There are many, many topics that I find interesting now which I found dull at some point in my life. Five years ago, there was no possible way I would have made it through The Power Broker, even if I tried to force myself. And it would have been a mistake to try.
Here’s another unspoken truth: Any central lesson you can take away from War and Peace can also be learned in other ways if that book doesn't really interest you. The same goes for 99% of the wisdom out there — it's available in many places. Unfortunately, too many English lit professors have promoted the idea that “the classics” contain some sort of unique unobtanium of wisdom. Sorry, but that’s bullshit.
The better idea is to read what seems awesome and interesting to you now and to let your curiosities grow organically. A lifelong interest in truth, reality, and knowledge will lead you down so many paths, you should never need to force yourself to read anything unless there is a very, very specific reason. (Perhaps to learn a specific skill for a job.)
Not only is this approach way more fun, but it works really, really well. It keeps you reading. It keeps you interested. And in the words of Nassim Taleb, “Curiosity is antifragile, like an addiction; magnified by attempts to satisfy it.”
Thus, paradoxically, as you read more books, your pile of unread books will get larger, not smaller. That’s because your curiosity will grow with every great read.