A few weeks ago, I wrote a post inspired by reading ‘This is happiness‘ by Niall Williams [see ‘Are these the laws of engineering?’ onJuly 14th 2021]. On a more personal note, I enjoyed another description in the same book: ‘he was over sixty years…the moving bits of him could no longer be taken for granted, and twinges, pulls and strains in the elasticated parts were matched by aches, clunks and creaks in the skeletal.’ This description could apply to me but fortunately only on a bad day at the moment. I am going on a deep vacation [see ‘Digital detox with a deep vacation‘ on August 10th, 2016] for a few weeks in order to rejuvenate my mind and body by walking some sections of the South-West Coast Path [see ‘The Salt Path‘ on August 14th, 2019]. Regular posts will resume when I return in August.
Traditionally in Easter week, I go to the Lake District for a week of hill-walking with my family and a digital detox [see ‘Eternal non-existence‘ on April 24th, 2019 and ‘Gone walking‘ on April 19th, 2017]. For the second year in succession, we have had to cancel our trip due to the national restrictions on movement during the pandemic [see ‘Walking and reading during a staycation‘ on April 15th, 2020]. I am still attempting a digital detox but the walking is restricted to a daily circuit of our local park. While Sefton Park is not on the scale of Central Park in New York or Regent’s Park in London, it is sufficiently large that a walk to it, round its perimeter and home again takes us about two hours. It might not be as strenuous as climbing Stickle Pike but it is better than repeatedly climbing the stairs which was the limit of our exercise last year [see ‘Virtual ascent of Moel Famau‘ on April 8th, 2020]. We might not be allowed to leave our locality but we can switch off all of our devices, do some off-line reading (see ‘Reading offline‘ on March 19th, 2014), slow down, breathe our own air (see ‘Slow down, breathe your own air‘ on December 23rd, 2015) and enjoy the daffodils.
Along with many people, I have been working from home since mid-March and it seems likely that I will be doing so for the foreseeable future. Even if a vaccine is discovered for COVID-19, it will take many months to vaccinate the population. For the first few months of lockdown, I worked on an old workbench in the basement of our house; however, now I have an office set up in the attic and the picture above is the view from my desk. It certainly has eye-stretching potential but it is also frustrating because I can see the roof of the building in which my university office is located. However, the lockdown in the UK has been relaxed and so we are going on holiday to Cornwall where we will be walking sections of the South West Coastal Path and reading a pile of books. If you want experience the walking with us then I recommend reading ‘The Salt Path‘ by Raynor Winn [see ‘The Salt Path‘ on August 14th, 2019]. Although I will be indulging in a digital detox [see ‘Digital detox with a deep vacation‘ on August 10th, 2016] combined with some horizon therapy [see ‘Horizon therapy‘ on May 4th, 2016], the flow of posts to this blog will be uninterrupted because lock-down has allowed me write sufficient pieces in advance to maintain the publishing schedule.
I noticed that both of the posts cited above about the importance of relaxing were published in 2016, along with Steadiness and Placidity on July 171th, 2016. 2016 must have been a stressful year!
I am on vacation this week though, due to the restrictions on our movement imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it will a be staycation in our house. We usually go to the Lake District at this time of year to walk and read; so, I might make another virtual expedition [see: ‘Virtual ascent of Moel Famau‘ on April 8th, 2020], perhaps to climb Stickle Pike and Great Stickle this time. I was asked recently about books I would recommend prospective science and engineering students to read in preparation for to going to university. It is not the first time that I have been asked the question. This time I thought I should respond via this blog since the disruption brought about by the pandemic probably means that many prospective students will have more time and less preparation prior to starting their university course. So, here are six books that are all available as ebooks, and might be of interest to anyone who is staying home to counter the spread of coronavirus and has time to fill:
 It is hard to find good novels either written by an engineer or about engineering [see ‘Engineering novelist‘ on August 5th, 2015]; however, Nevil Shute’s novel ‘Trustee from the toolroom‘ [Penguin Books, 1960] satisfies all of these criteria.
I have more than 40 years experience of engineering science so I am not the best person to ask about books that will appeal to young people just starting their journey in the field; however two books that have been popular recently are:  ‘Storm in a teacup: the physics of everyday life‘ by Helen Czerski [Penguin Books, 2016] and  ‘Think like an engineer‘ by Guru Madhavan [One World Publications, 2016]
Regular readers of this blog might have spotted some of my favourite science books in the lists of sources at the end of posts. Perhaps my top three at the moment are:
 Max Tegmark, Our Mathematical Universe, Penguin Books Ltd, 2014. [see: ‘Converting wealth into knowledge and back to wealth‘ on January 6th, 2016; ‘Trees are made of air‘ on April 1st, 2015; ‘Is the Earth a closed system? Does it matter?‘ on December 10th, 2014 & ‘Tidal energy‘ on September 17th, 2014]
 Susan Greenfield, A Day in the Life of the Brain, London: Allen Lane, 2016 [see: ‘Digital hive mind‘ on November 30th, 2016; ‘Gone walking‘ on April 19th, 2017 & ‘Walking through exams‘ on May 17th, 2017].
Of course, I should not omit the books that I ask students to read for my own first year module in thermodynamics:
Peter Atkins, A very short introduction to thermodynamics, Oxford: OUP, 2010.
Manuel Delanda ‘Philosophy and Simulation: The Emergence of Synthetic Reason‘, London: Continuum Int. Pub. Group, 2011 [see: ‘More violent storms‘ on March 1st, 2017; ‘Emergent properties‘ on September 16th, 2015 & ‘Emerging inequality‘ on March 5th, 2014].