Enjoying quarantine: something for those with more time on their hands, and something for those with kids

There are some of you who have found yourselves with more time on your hands than you had before Covid-19 emerged. According to the media, some of you are finding this to be a hellish experience.

As someone doing home quarantine with a high-energy 3-year-old and a 6-month-old, I find this difficult to imagine, but I thought I’d share two free courses that I would participate in if I were you:

Principles of Economics

This looks to be a super interesting introduction to the concepts that underpin the discipline of economics. It promises to expand our view of what economics is and how it touches broadly on decision making.

Find it here

The Science of Wellbeing

Offered by Yale University, and taught by Professor Laurie Santos, who also hosts The Happiness Lab podcast, this course in practical psychology is oriented toward teaching participants to understand their own brains and to think better.

Find it here

For those with kids, here are two free resources that I think are useful:

Elevenses with The World of David Walliams

David Walliams, the Little Britain comic turned children’s book author, is making a new audio story available each day at 11am (GMT). His narrations are hilarious.

Find them here

P.E. With Joe

Every morning at 9am (GMT), Joe Wicks leads a live P.E. class on YouTube for kids and their parents. From what I understand, a lot of primary schools in the UK are building this into their homeschooling schedules.

Find it here

Six of my favourite podcasts

Podcasts have been one of the ways I have learned about the world over the last few years while commuting or, in the early days of parenting, when I felt too tired to read. This is a short introduction to some of my favorite podcasts.

Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell looks back at stories from history, at something overlooked or misunderstood, and uses them as focal points for discussing something bigger. His recent series on memory was particularly engrossing.

Caliphate from Rukmini Callimachi at the New York Times looks at the rise of ISIS from the inside as she makes contact with a young man who spent time working as a member of the group’s religious police in Syria.

Where should we begin by Esther Perel is a podcast that takes you into the counseling room as a different couple in each episode participates in couples therapy. 

Philosophise This! by Stephen West attempts to give a succinct overview of the history of philosophy. Each episode focuses on a particular school of thought. This is a great way to get an overview of a philosophical concept before you read into it more deeply.

Desert Island Discs from the BBC is the podcast version of their long running interview show in which a well known person chooses eight songs and tells the story of their life. Often very insightful.

The Writer’s Voice is a podcast of short stories from the New Yorker. Read by the authors themselves and beautifully told. I love fiction, and it’s nice to be able to start and finish a story during a commute.

How about you? What are your favorite podcasts?

Inspiration: Top 10 of 2015

Before we’re finished with January, I thought it’d be fun to present my list of things that inspired me this year. To begin with, I was going to present my “best reads of…” but felt like this would be more interesting…

  1. Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 21.09.38Zeitoun by Dave Eggers: the true story of a Syrian man and his family living in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina. When the hurricane arrives and the rest of his family leave town, Abdulrahman Zeitoun decides to stay behind to keep an eye on theirs and their neighbours’ homes. This book was produced as part of the Voice of Witness project that seeks to use storytelling to illuminate human rights issues.
  2. To the newcomers from Syria: Welcome to Canada: The Toronto Star’s welcome message to the first wave of Syrian refugees they received in December. After months of unease in the European and American media over the subject of immigration, this stood out as an example of a country wanting to do things right. It felt right on so many levels: a warm hearted welcome to these families, naming the troubles they’ve faced, while at the same time challenging them to embrace life as Canadians. It also set the bar of hospitality for those receiving refugees.

    Canadians have been watching your country being torn apart, and know that you’ve been through a terrifying, heartbreaking nightmare. But that is behind you now. And we’re eager to help you get a fresh start.

  3. Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 20.12.41The Other Hand by Chris Cleave: the story of Little Bee, a Nigerian Refugee who finds her life intersecting with that of a young widow in Kingston Upon Thames. A beautiful novel that documents the realities of life as a refugee, the effect that embracing people who are different from us can have on our lives, and that reminded me of the power of a story well told.
  4. Manifesto of a Doer: they may be simple or even obvious, but I enjoyed this concise list of challenges for people who want to effect change. Here’s one of my favourites:

    Avoid easy deadlines. Deadlines serve you best when they are short, hard and, at first glance, impossible. Urgency gets things done.

  5. Fluent in 3 Months: a regular newsletter (and blog) that aims to take the fear out of language learning and encourages people to start speaking their target language from day 1. As a full time language learner, I’ve enjoyed getting regular tips on everything from language learning in general, to specific techniques and resources for students of Arabic.
  6. What ISIS Wants by Jon Foreman: a heartfelt appeal not to give in to the fear mongering of the so-called Islamic State.
  7. Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 20.42.14Red Moon Rising: the story of the 24-7 prayer movement, which began with a small group of friends with a growing desire to pray, and led to a movement of people praying 24 hours a day, all over the world. At times the story feels like something out of Fight Club, as the movement’s ‘founder’ happens upon groups he never knew existed.
  8. Refugees Welcome and United Invitations: while these projects may not be perfect (what project is?), I’ve taken great delight at seeing the rise of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help refugees.
  9. Jeremy Corbyn breaks with tradition and uses his first Prime Minister’s Question Time to ask David Cameron questions from the general public.
  10. Money is to The West what Witchcraft is to Africa by Liam Byrnes: an interesting perspective on the similarities between how witchcraft is used to allay fear in Africa and how money is used to do the same in the West.

(Image credit: el7bara)

Links: While I’ve Been Away

I thought it might be nice to share some things that have caught my attention during the quiet few months preceding this one. In no particular order, here goes:

Fairphone 2

If you, like me, like the idea of owning a phone that hasn’t been made in the harsh conditions of much of today’s technology, the new Fairphone might be for you.

But before you buy one, you might want to read this: Why I Love the Fairphone — and Why I Won’t Buy One

The Myth of the Ethical Shopper

myth of ethical consumer
This is an eye opening read for those of us who really bought into the early energy of the Fairtrade movement. It’s a challenge to do much more than just buy the right brands…

The Guardian’s series of Short stories

From wonderful writers like Dave Eggers and David Sedaris, and others not called David.

Street Art With a Message of Hope

Two artists from different backgrounds have been up to some interesting things recently:

elSeed, a French-Tunisian street artist has been painting quotes in beautiful arabic ‘calligraffiti’, in Europe, America, Africa and the Middle East. Check out his TED talk here.

Andrew Breitenberg, AKA Selah, has been painting messages of hope around Africa for a while, but is currently back home in the States working on The Parallel Bible, check out their Kickstarter for the Book of Mark here.

Build A House

Speaking of Kickstarter campaigns, my good friends Liana and Jason are working on Build a House, their first album in 8 years. Check out their campaign, and pre-order it here.