Massage Your Brain – take an Art Museum Day

I think the thing I liked most about these floating coffee tables were the books underneath.

I think the thing I liked most about these floating coffee tables were the books underneath.

Since the weather isn’t cooperating with my snow skiing desires I decided to try something different. I went to the Nevada Museum of Art.

Your best thinking is what got you here. My “here” is not exactly where I want to be. I don’t know how to get to where I want to go. So I have to try new things.

The new thing I tried today was a visit to an art museum. I got the idea from James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. He recommends exposing yourself to new ideas and an art museum is a great place to get some exposure.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I wanted to show my brain some creativity hoping it was contagious and my creativity would light on fire.

My brain didn’t light on fire.

It did feel good to see some beautiful paintings, pictures, and artwork. I can’t explain the feeling.  It was stimulating.

A few years ago I went to the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The only reason I went is because my friends were going. I had no desire to look at paintings. My friends went because a Vincent van Gogh collection was on loan from a museum in France. I tagged along.

That van Gogh stuff will knock your socks off.

I don’t know the first thing about art but I was attracted to Starry Night. It was fascinating. The layers of oil built up on the canvas to produce a 3 dimensional painting. If you ever get the chance to see Starry Night in person—Go.

The oil paintings I was looking at in the Nevada Museum of Art didn’t have the thick layers of oil build up that Starry Night had, but they still made me feel good.

This picture:

Louis Aston Knight "Skyscrapers"

Louis Aston Knight “Skyscrapers”

made me feel happy.  Maybe it was because the industrial city looked bright instead of dark and shadowy.

The landscapes of Larry Mitchell were almost magical.

Larry Mitchell - The 1 Degree Centigrade project

Larry Mitchell – The 1 Degree Centigrade project

The landscape oil paintings were huge, maybe 7 feet wide. The ripples in the water spoke to some inner part of my brain I didn’t know existed. It was soothing looking at the ripples. Ahhh…

The darkness of Frank Stick’s Winter Hunter provided some weight to the museum trip that acted as a balance to some of the other art.

Winter Hunter

Winter Hunter

Pictures, paintings, art is great and all, but how does that help someone? How does that specifically massage one’s brain?

I have no idea, it just seems like a good thing to do.

I eat a lot of dark leafy veggies. I don’t immediately feel like Superman when I eat broccoli or kale. I think over the long run it’s a good idea to eat veggies.

I think over the long run it’s a good idea to immerse yourself in great surroundings. It’s good to be in the presence of great people, art, and I really like great mountains.

It’s therapeutic to experience new awesomeness.

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Utilize Difficulties in a Constuctive Fashion

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I take full responsibility for my lot in life.  It is what I have or have not made it.

I’m still trying.  Most of the time I’m just spinning my wheels in the mud, not getting anywhere.

Charlie Munger’s advice to become a Learning Machine resonated deeply with me. I thought, “Hey, even I can do that.”  That’s why I named this blog Adventures in Learning.

Recovering from the avalanche gave me a new way to look at things.  I hoped to use the lessons I learned from that experience to propel me in the direction I want to go.

I’m not there yet.  I get scared, depressed, and frustrated that I haven’t done more to create value for other people.

I’ve found that if I surround myself with great people, then I feel better about myself.  It’s a selfish act because I haven’t figured out how to return the favor.  When I have a conversation with a great friend or acquaintance, I am better for it.

I love a great pep talk.

It would be nice to have a conversation with an inspiring person everyday, but I haven’t been able to make that happen yet.  So I use books, the internet, and social media to increase my exposure to great people, that inspire me and encourage me to stay positive.

I came across this short video on twitter the other day.  It’s a cut from a Joe Rogan Experience podcast episode where Joe is going off on a deep, profound, and positive pep talk.

It’s good stuff.  I’ve listened to it several times.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Do Expensive Wines Taste Better?–maybe

A great tasting (in my opinion) expensive bottle of wine.

A great tasting (in my opinion) expensive bottle of wine.

I like the musings on The Freakonomics Podcast. It is a well polished program, more like a traditional radio show than the barebones conversational format of other podcasts.

One of their most popular episodes is “Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?” I had to listen to this episode because 1)I’m a wine nut 2)the economics of wine are such that you don’t a lot of $$ to get a good bottle, and 3)this is a classic wine question.

I found myself disagreeing with the conclusion they made. Which is ok. I don’t agree with anyone 100%, not even myself.

While in college Levitt conducted the classic blind wine tasting on an unsuspecting group of wine-savvy colleagues. His colleagues usually purchased expensive wines for their dinner-meetings. When it was his turn to buy the wine, Levitt mixed in a few cheaper wines with the expensive ones, to see what the reactions would be.

Everyone agreed that the cheap bottles of wine were delicious.

When Levitt revealed the names of the wines, several of his wine enthusiast colleagues were pissed off. They also made up b.s. excuses as to why they couldn’t tell some of the wines were cheap plonk. One claimed that he had allergies and therefore didn’t have his normal sense of smell and taste.

The issue I had is that Dubner and Levitt seem to come to the conclusion that the cost of the wine bears no relation to the quality of the wine.

That’s where I say yes—and no.

While not a law (like the second law of thermodynamics) or a rule, expensive wine tasting better is more of a higher probability event. Great tasting wine often costs more to produce and the producer has to pass that cost on to the consumer, so good or great wine, usually costs more.

The problem is the wine world is weird. Taste and smell are subjective. Perception is everything. And all wine rules can be bent, broken, or completely disregarded.

A wine producer can take an average bottle of wine, put it in a heavy bottle, add some luxury marketing, and charge $100 a bottle. For whatever reason the recipe works and the wine is a hit. The producer can make and sell a lot of it.

Another wine producer can make a great bottle of wine from a less prestigious growing area, use economies of scale found in larger winery operations, maybe have a weak currency like the Argentinean Peso vs. the U.S. dollar, not charge much for the wine (maybe $20), and they can’t find any buyers.

This is one way expensive wine can be considered a bad value and cheap wine can be very high quality.

This is how it can seem that expensive wine is not better.

My experience living and working in Napa Valley was that the best wines were almost always expensive, it just depended on how expensive.

Napa Valley wines will always be expensive because the costs to produce the wine are so high. The land to grow the grapes, the labor, the water, everything is expensive. So the wines are generally expensive. And not all of them are worth the price.

But, even in Napa Valley, all wine rules can be bent, broken, or completely disregarded.

The winery I worked for was unique in that it owned top quality vineyards in most of the best growing areas in Napa Valley. Most wineries couldn’t afford to have so many high quality vineyards.

I got to taste wines from these various vineyards. I thought it was my duty, as a good employee, to do my homework and “get to know” these wines. I put in extra effort and did as much tasting as I could. I constantly pestered the winemakers to let me taste the young wines.

I tasted wines from Carneros, Howell Mountain, Oakville, Rutherford, and the Stags Leap District (all sub-growing regions in Napa Valley). I tasted the grapes as they’d come into the winery fresh from the vineyard. I’d taste the wines while they were fermenting. I’d tasted them in the barrel, and finally as the finished product in the bottle.

This is what winemakers do. They constantly taste and evaluate the wines.

The higher quality wines get higher quality treatment. That means that the best juice will spend more time aging in small oak barrels. The best juice may also spend time in new barrels (as opposed to 1 or 2 years old barrels), and the best juice will get the best barrels. The best barrels come from France and cost $1200 a barrel, compared to $600-$800 for an average barrel of American oak.

Tasting a variety of wines in barrel is a great learning experience. Most barrels look the same. The differences in the wines are limited to the smell and taste of the wine. There are no fancy labels, shiny bottles, or price tags to distract your judgment.

You end up judging the wine with less bias.

Tasting through barrels, it was clear that some juice was of much higher quality than others. Often times the best juice would come from our vineyards that were on rocky and sometimes steep hillsides.

These harder to access vineyards, were more labor intensive and had to be farmed by hand. They were often inaccessible to tractors. They cost more to farm than vineyards that laid flat on the valley floor.

The steep rocky vineyards produced fewer grapes per acre. The grapes they did produce were more intensely flavored. Less quantity, more quality and higher cost.

It was worth the effort. The wines were significantly better than the same wine grown a few hundred feet away on the flat land.

The best juice gets the best treatment. These higher production costs make the retail cost of the wine more expensive.

I saw this scenario play out over multiple vintages. The best wines came from the best sites. They got the best treatment. And the result was a high cost.

All that said. It sorta doesn’t matter. There is a world of wine. You can still find nice bottles of wine for cheap.

The problem is that the really good wines, from the best growing sites, usually taste better and cost more.

This makes my wallet unhappy.

Expensive wines often taste better. Expensive wines can taste better. Expensive wines should taste better (but remember the nature of wine rules).

Enough of this writing stuff. I’m off to test this theory myself.

P.S. What do you think?

When is it OK to bail on a book?

Raise the white flag on crappy books.

Raise the white flag on crappy books.

Let me tell you a story.

I was attracted to this girl that read a lot of books. Unfortunately she would not sleep with me. Something about her already having a boyfriend and not being interested anyway. We had great conversations about books. She recommended that I read some of Hemingway’s stuff. She thought his writing might suit my style. I’d never read any Hemingway.

Guess what? I picked up the first Hemingway book I could find. It was Across The River and Into the Trees. It was the first book of his that I found in the library. I read the entire book. It was brutal.

The book is about this older dude in his 50’s, who is dying. He spends the whole book talking about this young girl that he is obsessed with , who’s maybe 18. He keeps calling her “My love” and stuff like that. Older dude wanting to bone younger chick. The whole book was about that.

I suffered through and finished the book because it was my first exposure to Hemingway. I wanted to read a work by one of the greatest American authors. I told my friend, a retired winemaker who was finishing his own memoir, about my first Hemingway experience. He said, “Yeah, that was when he was older and that’s not one of his best works.”

What I learned is that I should have bailed on the book.

Not every book is great. Your time is limited. If you cast a wide net and read books on a variety of topics; if you read books that challenge you and take you out of your comfort zone, you will find yourself reading a book that just doesn’t work for you.

If you find yourself struggling forward, like trudging up a hill in deep sand, then consider putting the book down. If it feels like torture, it probably is.

Sometimes the best action is to surrender. Give up. Cut your losses and bail on crappy books.

Years later I tried reading another novel by one of the great American authors. I picked up Tender Is The Night because I enjoyed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. What is it about authors writing entire books about an older dude wanting to bone 18 year old chicks? Tender Is The Night reminded me too much of Across The River and Into the Trees.

This time I cut my losses and bailed on the book one third of the way in. It was the right decision.

Both of those books were written by great American authors and maybe both are regarded as great novels. But they weren’t great for me.

There are too many good books out there to waste your time reading something that makes your brain feel like mud.

The problem is that some books are slow to get started, then pick up speed, and explode at the end. These are some of the most rewarding books to read.

So how do you know when to bail on a book or to keep reading when it feels like you’re getting bogged down? It boils down to experience and intuition.

When I was less experienced I’d plow through tortuous, uninteresting books because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. As I dealt with this problem more I got a better feeling of the situation. I understood myself better. I knew when a book just wasn’t right for me, and I’d put the book down.

Experience will teach you when to let go. The important thing to realize is it’s ok to give up on a book, even if the book is considered a classic or written by a great author.

What about Hemingway? Did I miss out on one of the greatest authors of all time? No, I went back and read The Old Man and The Sea. Now that is a good book.

And the girl, what about the girl? I dunno. I moved 3000 miles away and she stopped answering the phone when I would call. Ouch.

Where are all the Dragons?

I don't see any dragons out there.

I don’t see any dragons out there.

IT HASN’T BEEN SNOWING

Again. The weather has been nice mostly in the 50’s and a few days in the 60’s here in Reno. Clear sunny skies. The jogging was nice. I tried playing disc golf but the high desert wind kept stealing my disc. This is all fine and good except… it’s January!

This is the fourth winter in a row that has been way below average in levels of snowfall. It just isn’t snowing out there. It’s as if someone has stolen the winter season. Again! Four year in a row now.

The first season of this drought I somehow managed to get broken by an avalanche on the first powder weekend of the year, which was until the middle of March. That was a shitty season.

Season 2 of the drought wasn’t quite as bad as the first season. I was slowly learning how to ski again and terrified of powder snow because I thought it would attack me. I didn’t mind that it didn’t snow much that year.

Season 3 of the drought was about the same as season 2. It was more fun because my body was stronger. I was able to ski better. I returned to the scene of my devastation, Kirkwood, and got to know the great people of the Ski Patrol that saved my life that day. That was special to me. And it was awesome to be skiing at Kirkwood again because Kirkwood is fucking awesome. But the season ended early again because of lower than average amounts of snow.

Which brings us to this: Season 4 of the drought. The West is dying from dehydration. Tahoe skiers are begging for an average season. Average in Tahoe is 300-500 inches of snow. Average is awesome. We are once again way below average. It’s January but people are thinking more mountain biking than snow skiing.

What do you do when you can’t do your passion? What do you do when you are denied your life’s pursuit?

This is a good question for ski bums to ask themselves. Unlike football, basketball, or baseball players, ski bums can ski most of their lives’. They don’t get too old and have to retire. In times like these it’s good to think about what you would do with your life if you couldn’t ski.

For me, if skiing were out of the question, I’d be gone. I’d move back to the East Coast to be with my family and friends. I moved to the West Coast, and recently to Reno, to live the dream. To feed my skiing addiction. It has cost me a lot. But when it’s good, it’s worth it, if just for that moment.

I sit around waiting for storms that don’t come.

Laird Hamilton, the legendary Hawaiian big wave surfer, once explained to his wife what it was like when there were no waves to catch. He said imagine if you were a dragon slayer. What would you do if there were no more dragons?

Two books every entrepreneur should read… but probably hasn’t heard of.

A very smart dude.

A very smart dude.

Scientific Advertising and My Life In Advertising are two books that every entrepreneur should read. They were written by Claude Hopkins. He was a pioneer of effective, measurable advertising.

Why is this important to an entrepreneur? Well, to be in business you have to sell and market your product effectively. You need to understand your customer. You need to test ideas, products, and markets. These books will teach you how.

Simply reading Chapter 2 of Scientific Advertising titled Just Salemanship may be the most profitable five minutes you’ll ever spend reading.

Hopkins used plain and direct language, strong guarantees, and clever offers to get incredible results. The ad man David Ogilvy said Scientific Advertising changed his life.

Claude Hopkins dedicated his career to understanding a prospect’s wants and desires. A man committed to the idea of “practical selling”, he was scientific about the process. Hopkins demanded to see that his techniques would produce sales.

He tested every idea on a small market first to see if it worked before throwing more time and capital at a campaign. If the campaign produced sales, it was applied to larger markets, if not, he would move on to the next idea. Using this method he kept his losses small and let his winners run.

If you haven’t heard of Hopkin’s work don’t worry. The books were written in the 1920’s.

While technology has changed, human psychology has not. The principles in these books are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

And you can read Scientific Advertising and My Life In Advertising online for free.

How To Buy Good Wine For Less $$

A lot of wine.

A lot of wine.

Every state in the US now produces some type of wine. That’s crazy. Alaska wine? I’ve been to a winery at the southern tip of Florida. So many countries produce high quality wine that it’s hard to keep up with. The average quality of a bottle of wine is respectable.

All this influx of people and resources into the business has boosted production to historically high levels. The problem isn’t producing good wine anymore, the problem is selling it.This competition has crushed profit margins and put pressure on prices.

Yes, the famous wines will always demand a premium price, but that is only a small percentage of the market. The rest of the market has to fight it out for customers.

This is awesome for the cost conscious wine buyer.

You can buy good to very good wine for not very much money. Here’s how to do it.

1) Don’t spend more than $15-20 on a bottle.
You can get some great wine for cheap. You have to be open to new ideas. You have to learn new wine regions. You have to be patient. You can obtain wines that will excite and delight for no more than $20.

2) Costco is your friend
Costco is the number one retailer of wine in the US which is also the largest wine market in the world. They have massive influence on the industry. They negotiate the best prices because they buy in such large amounts. And they only markup the wines, at most 14-15% above their cost and often less. You can always get a good bottle for cheap at Costco.

3) Try new wines
You need to be open to new grape varieties and new wine regions and even new wine countries. In 2008 my go to wine was a $3 bottle of Carmenere from Chile, it was delicious. Like Napa Cab? Me too, but my wallet doesn’t. You can get a very good quality knockoff from Paso Robles for $15. What about different countries? Have you ever thought of England for sparkling wine? Spain will knock your socks off in the price to quality ratio for some of their sparklers.

4) Talk to your local wine merchant
The guy working in your local wine store is a good source for discovery of good cheap wine. If he is working in a wine store that means he doesn’t make much money. But he also likes to drink good wine, because OBVIOUS, he’s working in a wine store. So he’s a perfect resource. Ask him the best wine for no more than $15.

5) Private Labels
This is an area where you need to be cautious. Large companies like grocery stores like private labels because the profit margins are better. The wine is hit or miss. Some wines in a private label brand will be ok, some not, and sometimes the whole line up stinks.

Costco has done some good work with private labels. If there is a person working the wine section ask their opinion of private labels.

I’ve had both good and bad experiences with private labels, but I still feel it’s worth it to try a private label every now and then.

The Cameron Hughes line is similar to private labels. He buys finished wine from wineries. The wineries sell this wine instead of bottling it under their own label for a variety of reasons. I once had a Cameron Hughes Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon that cost $12 that was easily as good as a cab from a name brand winery costing 3 to 4 times as much.

Private labels are worth the risk every now and then. If you can get some extra tips from someone familiar with the wine you’re looking at that will help.

6) Whites are easier than Reds
There more excellent quality white wines in the $15-20 dollar range than red. Many white wines are fermented and aged in large stainless steel tanks where reds require time in small oak barrels. And often the whites age for less time than reds. Less expense in producing the wine means less expense in selling the wine.

One of my all time favorite white wines is made by my former employer Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier. The make 100,000 cases annually and the full retail price is $15 and it’s totally worth it.

The Cenin-Vio is just one of many examples of high quality white wines for cheap. You can also find good reds for cheap, it’s just easier for whites.

7) Special deals, discontinued wines, last of vintage, etc.
This is where you need patience. This is why you browse the wine shops and the wine aisles for no reason other than to look. The great deals will pop up but you never know when or where. Because there is such tremendous competition for sales inevitably some wineries/brands won’t be able to sell as much as they projected and they have to unload the wine at reduced prices.

Usually this is not because of the wine’s quality but the marketing behind the wine. This is the producer’s loss and your gain. You’ll know it when you stumble across these deals. At first you won’t believe the price is correct. After you recognize the situation, purchase immediately.

Once purchased, open this wine and taste immediately. If it’s as good a deal as you thought go back and by more bottles. Your future self will thank you.

8) Don’t hate the major labels
As a wine fiend it’s easy to hate the big brands. They’re all marketing. The wine’s watered down and thin. There’s no terrior. They’re definitely not cool.

Don’t fall for this trap.

These ideas maybe somewhat accurate but… you’ll be missing out. The major brands have the money and technical expertise to make high quality wine for cheap. Yes, some of the wines suck but most of them are pretty decent. And if you can find them on sale, which you often can, then your wine wallet will approve.

9) The Inside Source: Friends that work in the industry
This is will be the hardest deal for most people to get. If you don’t know anyone in the wine business don’t worry about it. Important: Don’t befriend someone just because they are in the wine business. That’s a silly reason to be friendly with someone. But… if you know someone that works in the wine producing, distributing, or selling side of the business… you can often talk them into buying some wine for you at their discounted employee price.

Proceed with caution. Don’t be annoying. But do let your friend know that you would like to purchase some wine at their employee price if they can make that happen.

10) Deal of the Day websites
The most popular deal of the day or flash-deal websites that I know of is Wines Till Soldout. These sites feature one discounted wine at a time. Be patient with these sites. During times of financial distress, like right after 2009, they can feature lots of amazing deals. When the economy is performing better, the amazing deals are in smaller supply.

This is just a rough guideline and I hope it helps.

Not every cheap bottle is good but many are.

The main idea is that you can drink high quality, tasty wines without spending a fortune. I personally won’t spend more than $15 on a bottle. The reason is simple. There is too much wine out there and the average quality is higher than ever.

If you have any questions or know of a great cheap wine I need to try, let me know at brucepaulson1@gmail.com

Give your kids an UNFAIR advantage, and a world of opportunity… for FREE.

One of the American Myths.

One of the American Myths.

Without a big announcement–life has changed.  Technology has destroyed the gatekeepers.  Information and knowledge are cheaper and more accessible now than ever.
This change is leaving many behind and exposing a lot of American Myths.
Did you know “The American Dream” was coined by marketers after WWII to help Fannie Mae sell more mortgages?  How many folks feel they HAVE to own a house?  I wonder if they understand good marketing?
Another American Myth that is slowly fading away is the importance of college.  Most humans learn by doing, by experience.  Unless you’re trying to learn how to drink beer without throwing up, there are better uses for one’s time.
But learning is important! Yep, it sure is.  But it can also be done for a fraction of the cost in time and money that college demands.  For instance, you can get an MIT education for FREE online.
But you need to go to college to get a job!  Well… not really.  Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college… to go to work.  Google Cares Less About SAT Scores And GPA Because They Have Better Hiring Data .  They’re more concerned with employee’s creativity and ability to produce results.
So what are the options?  What do you do if you don’t go to college but you want learn and be productive?
First I recommend reading this free ebook from James Altucher “50 Alternatives To College“.
Then listen to this podcast (it’s about an hour long, and if you want you can do a search and download it on itunes) where Altucher and his co-host debate the pros and cons of college education.  This podcast is the most well thought out and reasoned discussion I’ve heard on the topic.
More and more smart people are realizing that college is unnecessary.  The good news is that there are plenty of great alternatives.
If you have any questions, let me know, brucepaulson1@gmail.com

2014 A Powerful Year Of Book Reading. The Review.

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For the last 3 years I’d made the same New Year’s resolution: to read more books in this year than I’d ever done before. After 2 years of this I realized I had a problem. I wasn’t keeping track of how many books I’d read.

That changed with the help of My List. I wrote down all the books I’d read as soon as I finished them in 2014 and I highlighted the entry in blue. If my records are correct, and I’m not sure they are, I read a total of 19 books in 2014.

That’s weak, not even a book every 2 weeks. I need to do better. In 2015 I will beat that number.

By keeping a list you can notice trends. The biggest trend in my reading this year was reading more fiction.

I stayed away from fiction for several years. I wanted to spend my reading time learning, so I read non-fiction books about business and history.

In 2014 I finished my first draft of my book about recovering from the avalanche and self-pity. It took 2 years for me to write and it is utter garbage. By struggling to write my own book I gained an appreciation for high quality fiction writers. The skills it takes to write dialogue that is worth reading are immense. Currently I’m obsessed with Michael Crichton’s books.

Sleep is important to me.

In researching how to get better sleep I came upon the technique of reading fiction for an hour before bed. Reading fiction turns off the problem solving part of the brain that produces stress and anxiety. You have to suspend your disbelief with fiction. To me this is relaxing and a good way to prepare for sleep. I got this idea from Tim Ferriss.

Enough of the blabber! What did I read? What was the best? What was the rest? In no particular order here it is.

A Case Of Need by Michael Crichton:
This is a work of fiction that Crichton wrote when he was 26 years old under the pen name of Jeffery Hudson. Crichton’s Harvard Medical School training is obvious here. The book is about a botched illegal abortion that leads to the death of Karen Randall, the daughter of a prominent Boston surgeon. It’s a touchy and technical subject and Crichton educates the reader with medical and legal terms so that even a reader that knows nothing of medicine or law can follow along easily.

This is what I love about Crichton’s writing, his ability to explain highly complex medical, legal, and scientific language so that the reader can not only follow along with the story, but also learn something.

A doctor is jailed for the botched abortion. His friend, the protagonist and fellow doctor, decides to become a detective and figure out what really happened. There are many twists and turns in the book and well as some gnarly medical procedures. If you like to learn something while reading fiction you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a page turner.

The Swerve: How The World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt:

I often learn more from reading a book about a great book than by reading the book itself. That was the case with The Swerve which is about the history of the book On The Nature Of Things (De Rerum Natura) by Lucretius. On The Nature Of Things was written 2000 years ago. A few hundred years after it was written the book was lost, or burned, or melted away in time. Humanity lost Lucretius’ book. Which was sad because among other things Lucretius deduced the existence of atoms about 2000 years before modern scientists could prove their existence.

The Swerve tells the story of a papal scribe named Poggio Bracciolini who found one of the last copies in existence of On The Nature Of Things rotting away in a German monastery and brought it back into the world. This was in the 15th century when the papal court in Rome claimed that it ruled the entire world.

Lucretius’ ideas that the universe functions without the aid of gods or if there were gods they couldn’t care less about humans, that life was made up of atoms and void, and that seeking pleasure was a good thing, did not sit well with the ruling elite. So what did the ruling elite do? Lots of nasty things to anyone that agreed with these ideas, including burning folks alive for simple thought crimes.

The Swerve gives you the background, the history, and context that is the story of the finding and reintroducing into the world On The Nature Of Things. After reading The Swerve I had to read On The Nature Of Things and man, am I glad I read The Swerve first.
On The Nature Of Things is a didactic poem that explains philosophy and it is confusing as fuck. It was super hard for me to read. I’m glad I read The Swerve first otherwise I wouldn’t have known what was going on in On The Nature Of Things. I recommend you read them both.

And Thank You Stephen Greenblatt for writing this book!

Beyond The Bear by Dan Bigley:

This book made me feel like a whining, full of self pity, piece of shit. It was very difficult for me to read. I had to skip over a page or two. This book is graphic. Dan Bigley went fishing for salmon in Alaska one day and got attacked by a brown bear. The bear ate his face. He goes into detail. Dan gets lucky and survives and has a lot of surgeries. He loses both eyes. It’s gnarly. My friend knows Dan and let me borrow his copy of this book.

Because of my own trauma and facial reconstruction, this was a very hard book for me to read. It’s a good book though. If you ever feel sorry for yourself, read this book, it’ll vaporize your feelings of self pity. Life is unfair to everyone in its own weird way. It’s right there with books like Touching The Void in terms of human carnage.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

I struggle with the Great American Novel, but I keep trying to read them.  The last G.A.N. I tried to read was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night.  I gave up on that one half way through because it was too much like a boring teenage love story.

The Sun Also Rises is way better than Tender Is The Night.  And I read the entire book.  And I liked it more or less. But I still had no real idea what the hell was going on in the book.

It’s about a group of American expats in Paris that like to go to cafes and eat and drink. And drink a lot. Then they all take a trip to Spain to watch the bullfights.  It’s a bunch of dudes and one girl and everyone wants to bone her.  She takes a few of them up on it.

What I liked most about the book was the sentences.  They were short and direct.  If sentences can be beautiful, then this book is chock full of beautiful short sentences.  As for a story… I don’t have a clue.  It’s weird.

My favorite quote from the book. “How did you go bankrupt?  Two ways, gradually and then suddenly.”

Letters From A Self Made Merchant To His Son by George Horace Lorimer

This was my favorite book that I read in 2014. Like every great business book it’s not just about business, it’s about human psychology, which essentially never changes. This is a timeless classic.

Damn! In doing a simple search on this book I found out that this is a work of fiction. I’m a fool. And it’s not the first time.

I thought this was a real collection of letters that a father had written to his son over the years. Apparently it’s the work of fiction. Well, ok… it’s still awesome and I love this book. I highly recommend it. There are all sorts of good stuff packed in this book that is just as applicable today as it was when the book was published in 1901.

This book has a ton of great quotes. One of my favorites is this: “Give fools the first word and women the last.” You can’t go wrong there.

Read this book. It’s awesome.

And it no order at all here’s the other books I’ve read in 2014:

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore – fiction. Death has a job like everyone else. Good Fun.  Moore has become one of my go to fiction authors.
American Gods by Neil Gaimen – fiction. A fantasy novel about a strong dude named Shadow that goes on adventures all over the American Heartland.
Arrian’s Discourses Of Epictetus translated by W.A. Oldfather. This was research I was doing on Epictetus, the slave/philosopher whose ideas helped me recover from devastation. Difficult to read but worth it.
Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. This book ignited a hilarious shouting match on CNBC Lewis takes a super boring topic, high frequency trading, and makes it interesting. The guy is a master. I have to read any book he writes.
The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe – fiction. Wolfe has a style that’s instantly recognizable as his own. The 60’s, a bus, a boatload of LSD, California,rock n’ roll, and… Kesey!
Predators Ball by Connie Bruck. The rise and fall of junk bond king Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham.
Tree Of Smoke by Denis Johnson – fiction. A novel about the Vietnam War. It’s ok but I like his book of short stories Jesus Son much better.
Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield. Quit feeling sorry for yourself and get to work. I liked it.
What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars by Jim Paul. A successful commodities trader holds onto a trade until it bankrupts him. This books dissects the psychology of our decision making process. Timeless.
When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein. Business book about the blowup of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management.
Wine And War by Don & Petie Kladstrup. The Nazis weren’t completely crazy, the liked the finest French wines. Tales of the lengths the French went to, to protect their wine from the Nazis. If you like wine, you’ll probably enjoy this quick and easy read.
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton – fiction. Someone found this finished novel on Crichton’s computer after he passed away. Apparently he started writing it in the 1980’s. A fictional story involving real historical figures. I thought it was great.

The Socratic Dialogues by Plato. I’ll write more on this book later.

That’s it for 2014!

What about you? Did you read anything fascinating in 2014? Let me know at brucepaulson1@gmail.com. I’m always looking for another great book.

Step your game up… Glassware Matters.

The new guy.  The Riedel Vinum XL Cabernet Sauvignon glass.

The new guy. The Riedel Vinum XL Cabernet Sauvignon glass.

I stumbled upon this secret by dumb luck, no special talent on my own.

Glassware matters.  Great glass will enhance the smell and flavor of wine.  And it’s important.  I can’t describe how big of a difference great glassware makes.

The only way to experience it is to beg, borrow, or steal (yes, borrowing a glass is ok) an awesome glass.  Take this awesome glass and pour some awesome wine into it (if you need any suggestions at any price point just ask me).  Then take a regular wine glass that you find in your cupboard and pour the same wine into it.  If you have 3 or 4 glasses, go ahead and use ’em.  Pour some of the same wine into all of them.  Line them up next to each other.

Now smell them.  Don’t drink yet!  Smell first.

Stick your nose into the awesome glassware and whatever average glassware you have next to it.  Swirl the wine around.  Smell it again.  Smell several times.  It will be obvious.  You won’t be able to believe the difference in smell except for the fact that you are actually experiencing it.  There is a HUGE difference in the smell of the same wine in different glasses.

And great glassware always smell better.

It’s ridiculous.  You’ll stick your nose into a great piece of glass and smell aromas in the wine that you didn’t know existed.  The pleasure is more in the smelling of the wine (almost!) than in the drinking of it.

If you like wine you gotta try some over the top high quality stemware.  It’ll take your tasting experience to the next level.

Now I love great glassware, that’s why I’m writing about it’s awesomeness, but I don’t use great glass all the time.  Great glass is hard to come by.  It is usually expensive and always delicate.  You never want to use great glass when drunk, which is a problem because great glass will make you want to drink more wine.

Use self control.

Most of the time I use non fancy glassware.  I prefer to use high quality stemless glasses.  They do a great job.  They’re easy to use and provide a nice sensory experience.  But they aren’t great glass.

So when do you use great glass?

For special occasions.  And special wine.

Pro tip: Never clean a great piece of stemware after consuming wine.  Put the glass in a safe place and clean it in the morning.  Trust me.  I’ve broken way to much awesome irreplaceable stemware.