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Positive Signs this Week…

Athough the covid-19 panic continues to dominate the media, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. The virus is still not taking hold outside of mainland China —and even in China itself the rate of infection has fallen for the 16th consecutive day (7th in Hubei province). As well, it seems that patients without pre-existing health conditions are making full recoveries, much like with the common flu, and the number of patients being discharged is rising by the day.

Rational reporting is on the rise as well. Here’s a good piece via The New York times on the erratic ways we evaluate risk and how this particular virus taps into our worst fears:

Loyal reader(s) will also be delighted to hear that toilet paper is returning to the shelves of Hong Kong supermarkets. It remains unclear whether this supply will be maintained, particularly as the the ringleader of the ‘Toilet Paper Gang’ is still on the loose, but we have reason to be optimistic.

Breaking News: ‘Toilet Paper Gang’ Busted

The story that set hearts racing around the world just got an update: two members of the infamous ‘Toilet Paper Gang’ have been arrested.

So now as the world takes a collective breath, the attention of the ever-vigilant Hong Kong Police turns to apprehending the mastermind of the heist, who is still at large.

Many now will be making comparisons to the ‘Great Train Robbery’ of 1963. Bruce Reynolds, the man who lead the band of 15 in the robbery of £2.3 million pounds, evaded capture for 5 years after escaping to Mexico. We can only guess where the leader of the ‘Toilet Paper Gang’ will end up but surely the rich returns of toilet paper in the current HK market will prove irresistible.

Fortunately though, and unlike the ‘Great Train Robbery’, all the toilet paper has been fully recovered. As well, initial reports indicate that none of the recovered toilet paper has been used.

More updates on this city-wide manhunt as they come to hand.

‘Toilet Paper Gang’ Strikes in Hong Kong

Straight from the front page of BBC.com, here’s a story to set your imagination racing.

In a throwback to the daring robberies of the wild west, an audacious group of Hong Kong criminal masterminds just pulled off the heist of the year.

Yesterday, three masked villains held a mild-mannered delivery man at knife point. Luckily the driver came to no harm, but he was forced to surrender his precious cargo — a van load of brand new toilet paper.

The cunning thieves made off with more than 600 rolls of extra-soft toilet paper. They would have taken even more, had their arms not been so full.

Fear not though, the Hong Kong Police are on the case and investigating as a top priority.

More information on the ‘Toilet Paper Gang’ as it comes to hand…

Introducing: The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

From right in the middle of this pile of books, here’s one that might interest some of you: The Daily Stoic.

It was put together by marketing maverick turned author, Ryan Holiday. Holiday has had a lot of success recycling the ideas of Stoicism in his books: ‘The Obstacle is the Way’, ‘Ego is the Enemy’ and ‘Stillness is the Key’ —all of which were best sellers. ‘The Daily Stoic’ stands apart from these titles as a different type of book.

It’s a collection of 366 Stoic quotations, one for each day of the year. Each quote is followed by a short commentary, with each month focusing in on a different aspect of Stoic thought:

Holiday is a fine interpreter of the ancient Stoics and he adds value to each of the entries. He is an excellent curator of wisdom and at his best when bringing threads of meaning together for the modern reader. Holiday’s long-form narrative never quite managed to hold my attention (despite the excellent subject matter) but his uncomplicated writing style works well within this format.

The entry for today, February 17th, contrasts happiness with yearning. The Stoics argue that happiness only comes when we become content with the things we already have. This is not a new idea of course but it remains a difficult one to grapple with.

If you do find your own happiness just out of reach and dependent on certain outcomes (don’t we all sometimes?) then Negative Visualisation is an immediately powerful psychological technique that is worth trying.

The Daily Stoic is a good book to have around (get a hard copy) and I can see it becoming an enjoyable part of my morning ritual. Perhaps you might enjoy it too.

A Song for Sunday with Bruce Springsteen

The best version of one of the best songs ever written.

A transcendent Springsteen singing ‘Thunder Road’ live in London is 1975.

Decent lighting be damned, this is as good as music gets:

Want more?

Hear Springsteen reading his life story ‘Born to Run‘ on Scribd by joining up for a FREE month. It’s the deal of the century — grab it before these people come to their senses.

Book 6: Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus's Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior –James Stockdale

At the end of William Irvine’s ‘A Guide to the Good Life’ is a short recommended reading list— one of the titles is James Stockdale’s ‘Courage under Fire: Testing Epictetus’s Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior’.

‘Courage under Fire’ is in fact a transcript from a speech delivered in 1993 at King’s College in London. I bought the kindle version but later discovered the free downloadable PDF here. It’s only 27 pages but if goodreads count it as a book, then so do I!

Stockdale was a military man who discovered the work and Epictetus in early adulthood and subsequently lived a life in accordance with Stoic principles. These principles would give him strength and resilience to survive as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

In 1965, while leading a mission over North Vietnam, Stockdale’s A-4 jet was shot down. While parachuting down into enemy hands he thought to himself, “Five years down there, at least. I’m leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epictetus.”

For seven and a half years, Stockdale was subjected to unimaginable horrors including routine torture. As one of the leaders of the prisoners, Stockdale was soon moved to solitary confinement — a 3’ x 9’ windowless, concrete cell with 24-hour electric light. Each night he was locked in leg irons. Stockdale stayed in solitary for 4 years.

‘Courage under Fire’ demonstrates the profound impact that Stoicism can have on an individual’s subjective experience and Stockdale credits the work of Epictetus as being central to his survival.

Read this for a short introduction to Stoicism as well as a rare window into the life of an American hero.

For those interested in reading more of about the astonishing resilience of some POW’s during the Vietnam war, read the incredible story of Stockdale’s fellow prisoner Bud Day in American Patriot: The Life and Wars of Colonel Bud Day.

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

James Stockdale via Jim Collins

Review: ‘Eat Bugs’ Insect Protein

A few weeks ago, I bought this rather handsome container of ‘Eat Bugs’ cricket protein:

Initial impressions were all positive: the powder had a brown tinge sure, but it smelt like vanilla ice cream and dehydrated oysters.

I got my smoothie ingredients ready:

A few minutes later:

Now I had a whole raft of adjectives and metaphors ready to describe this…so imagine my disappointment to not be able to taste anything unusual at all. It just tasted like a normal smoothie!

I tried again the next day with just the cricket powder and water. Still nothing strange apart from the cloying hit of stevia (the world’s worst sweetener).

Talk about an anticlimax!

It’s good news I guess. Even though I was looking forward to describing the cricket ‘taste’, no taste seems like a good outcome for the popular market. And let’s not forget why cricket protein is an excellent idea:

These little guys don’t need much water, making them an ideal protein source for a sustainable future and very much part of the ‘Planetary Diet’ described here.

Join the revolution!