A Peaceful Little Night For (Figurative) Unpacking

We left the window slightly open last night during the thunderstorm and light show. The cats thought this was the most exciting thing they'd seen in ages, so they zipped up and down the length of the occupied bed all evening, making excited noises and fighting with each other for a spot by the window. After last night's thrills, tonight's a relatively quiet evening, ideal for a little catching up.

I recently read Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America. It's a history of Latin America from a decidedly economic perspective, and a Marxist one at that. It's an unpleasant book to read as Galeano makes a strong case for placing the blame for the lack of economic development in Latin America on the people who sought to get rich at the expense of (and often on the backs of) the people living there. It's well written and it's a story worth telling, but it's not a fun book to read.

If you look at it from just the right angle, and maybe squint a little, it echoes one of the messages of William Gibson's The Peripheral. One of the recurring themes of science fiction (and human history, I suppose) is that there are few things worse than contact with a superior civilization. In most cases, this means a militarily superior civilization. After reading Galeano and Gibson, I think it might be even more ruinous to encounter a civilization more advanced in its economics. 

So, to clear my palate, I'm re-reading Slaughterhouse Five. It wasn't in my queue, but I wanted something a little more pleasant to read. I love Vonnegut's voice. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a comedic book without enjoying the author's voice. With a thriller, or Serious Literature, or whatever, a writer can get away with having an unremarkable or even grating voice if the story and characters are strong enough. With a book that's meant to be funny, the writer doesn't have that luxury. If their voice is irritating, I won't laugh, and I won't enjoy the book.

On a side note, my sister is about to watch Liverpool play against Valencia in the Europa League final. The match is long over, but she recorded it and is watching it now. Vonnegut's Tralfamadorians live in four dimensions and see time as a solid, all moments existing at once and forever and it is pointless to try to change what will happen since it's already occurred. For my sister's sake, I hope that this is not true and the match will end differently than it did when I saw it, but I doubt that it will.

Anyway, I'd forgotten just how delightful it is to read Vonnegut. 

Vox published an article today purporting to show a relationship between how people commute and how happy they are. People who ride the train are the second happiest, just behind people who can walk to their jobs. I've no idea if this survey is valid, but my experience agrees with their conclusions. Commuting is awful. It's bad enough that we have to work; having to spend my time, my attention, and my money to get there and back is even worse. Anything that minimizes one or more of these factors increases my happiness significantly. Having the good fortune to be able to read in peace and not have to deal with traffic or parking? I'm pretty lucky to have that option.

I'm about one year in to my "reading books on the train" initiative. I just did a quick hand count and it looks like I've read twenty-nine books during my commute over the last twelve months. That makes me happy. The time on the train is "found" time, time I was wasting messing around on my phone and increasing my stress levels before and after work. Carrying a book on the train was an easy habit to pick up and it's easy to keep with it. I still have a longish list of books on my "to read" list, so I bet I'll be doing this for a while.