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If you’re looking for something fabulous and spectacular to do tonight in Memphis, here it is:

Much Ado About Shimmies

There will be an array of beautiful dancers paying homage to authors and their great works: Edgar Allen Poe’s Mask of the Red Death, Isaak Asimonv’s Robot Visions, Nicolaus Coperneicus’ On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Anne Rice’s Witching Hour, Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland, Shi Jin’s Ancient Book of Songs, George Martin’s Game of Thrones, and of course One Thousand and One Nights…and many, many more!!

Come celebrate art in its many forms.


Night Circus

I didn’t intentionally set out to read a bunch of books on magic last year, but that’s what happened. We can blame Erin Morgenstern because it all started with her Night Circus, which was magically delicious and one of the best books I read all year.

Night Circus 2


Two ancient magicians pit their young pupils against each other in a strange and beautiful competition that takes place in a very special circus. The ‘competition’ wasn’t the fighting contest sort. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m not entirely sure what the point of the competition was. It had something to do with the creation and development of the circus.  Regardless, I was more enthralled by the characters and the scenery than the dumb competition. The performers were delightfully circus-y, of course, and the reveurs (i.e., the devoted followers of the circus) were also an entertaining set.  The circus’s scenery was so vividly rendered it almost felt like a painting. Good stuff.


At Morgenstern’s recommendation,  I discovered V. E. Schwab and she kept me entertained for a good two months with her work. First came Vicious.

ViciousCollege students Victor and Eli are researching and provoking near-death experiences amongst themselves, which leads to them developing supernatural powers…and a rivalry. The comic-book style characters with special abilities reminded me a little of the T.V. show Heroes.  It wasn’t my usual reading fare, but it was smart, well-written and suspenseful enough that I wanted to read more by the author.


I liked Schwab’s writing style well enough to plunge right into her Shades of Magic series.  It was awesome.  The trilogy centers around court magician, Kell, of Red London.  Kell is one of the last of the Antari, who are powerful spell casters able to travel between the parallel Londons: Red London, White London, and Grey London.  There’s also a Black London — the source of all magic existing in the other Londons, but the magic consumed that version of London and it was sealed off.  Back to Kell – he has one entirely blacked out eye – as Antari do – and he’s a smuggler, which gets him into big trouble. His smuggling eventually becomes a threat to all of the Londons, but you can’t be mad at him for that because he’s so dreamy! I might have fallen in love with him a little.

A Darker Shade of Magic

In the first book of the series, A Darker Shade of Magic, Kell meets Delilah Bard, otherwise known as Lila.  She is a bad-ass thief and to-be pirate lass from Grey London.   She is quite possibly one of my favorite characters ever.  She has her own names for the various Londons: Dull London, Creepy London, Kell London, and Dead London.  The interactions between Kell and Lila are worth the cover price.  They are adorable together. It’s hard to know who’s the hero and who is the side kick – they complement each other so well.


A Gathering of Shadows

The next book in the series, A Gathering of Shadows, features all sorts of magicians who come together in Red London for a magical fighting sort of competition. Kell and Lila do all sorts of bad things. I’m not one for reading fight scenes, but they are well written, so I was all into them. There’s also Alucard, who is a awesome pirate, or ship captain, depending on how you want to think about it. He becomes Lila’s teacher and their interactions are a riot.


A Conjuring of Light

The third book in the series, A Conjuring of Light, is about Black London.  Prince Rhy Maresh, Kell’s brother of sorts, plays a larger role in this story. There are all sorts of twists and turns, subplots, drama and intrigue. And magic. Lots of magic.   

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes about Delilah Bard:

“Lila smiled at that, one of those smiles that made Kell profoundly nervous.  The kind of smile usually followed by a weapon.”

“There were moments when Lila wondered how the hell she’d gotten here.  Which steps–and missteps–she’d taken.  A year ago she’d been a thief in another London.  A month ago she’d been a pirate sailing on the open seas.  A week ago she’d been a magician in the Essen Tasch. And now she was this.”


I always wanted to run away and join the circus, so I had high hopes for The Book of Speculation after a quick scan of a few pages revealed all the right words: an old, mysterious book, a curse, circus performers, magic, tarot, and mermaids.

book of speculation

The title was intriguing too, so it surprised me how much I struggled to get through this one. I abandoned it twice to read other books, but I kept coming back to it thinking it had to get better. Basically, the plot revolves around a librarian, Simon, who tries to figure out why all the women in his family die tragically before the same thing happens to his sister. The biggest problem for me was that all the best characters who carried the story were dead and in the past while the characters in the present were too boring to hold my attention for extended periods.


return of the witch

A couple years ago I went on a witch kick with Paula Brackston and read all her witchy work. Last year she released, The Return of the Witch, as a sequel to The Witches Daughter. The nefarious warlock Gideon somehow has managed to escape his imprisonment in the Summerlands.  Elizabeth returns to protect her student Teagan,  who has developed strong magic in her own right as a result of  having traveled the world to study with the masters. A handsome Timestepper, Erasmus, is enlisted to help find Gideon who has traveled back to the 17th century to wreak his havoc.  The flashbacks to Teagan’s training were a highlight for me, but it was Erasmus who steals the show in this one.



No one has really “read” the  The Voynich Manuscript in a very long time as it’s a one-of-a-kind medieval codex of mysterious origin written in an indecipherable script. However, I am including this one here because I think there is something magical about a book no one can read. To quote Erin Morgenstern,  “…magic is secret and secrets are magic, after all.”

I did read the commentary and history of the manuscript as detailed by Skinner, Prinke, and Zandbergen and I have pored over the drawings of plants, herbs, and their roots. I have pondered its depictions of women erupting from concentric sheathes, each displaying their unique stars while encircling a centralized goat that is always, always eating. These particular drawings are categorized by the “experts” as astronomical, astrological and cosmological.  Then there are the nude women bathing communally in green and blue lagoons, interconnected through a strange system of tubing. The author had quite a lot to write about this, apparently, but the pictures tell their own story as these bathing tubes evolve into individual systems that seem more like a method of transportation and communication. Rainbows erupt between them. Mermaids. I see mermaids and rainbows (f82v-f83r). We go back to the sky then, and return back to the earth.  So cool. I have to wonder if it was indeed authored by a man, as all the experts referenced in this collection of commentary seem to think. I have other ideas.

21. Inferno
Last year I was a bit obsessed Dante’s Inferno. In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure what that was all about.  The obsession carried over a little into 2016, which is why I read Dan Brown’s Inferno. Here’s the plot in a nutshell (and this sums up the plot of all three Dan Brown books I’ve read): a handsome, brilliant professor gets called in by some organization to save the world from utter doom by using his knack for solving puzzles and his esoteric knowledge of symbology. After reading this novel I felt like I had just completed a course on art history. I found myself nerdishly looking up all the images of all the art that was referenced. It also felt like I’d just read a travel guide to Florence, Italy.  Embedded in between the art history course and the travel guide, there is a relatively good story, but the characters lack dimension.

22. The Brain: The Story of You

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist with a fancy academic pedigree – he was mentored by Francis Crick. Does the word “pedigree” make anyone else think about dog shows? Non sequitur. Anyway, I just discovered that The Brain: The Story of You was written as a companion book for his PBS documentary, which I haven’t seen yet. It works fine as a stand-alone book.  It touches on big picture topics like how the brain constructs reality, how it makes decisions, how it constructs a sense of self, how it does empathy, etc.  It is very well written and a good choice for the layperson interested in catching up on the latest trends in brain research.

23. Brain on Fire

This is the memoir of a reporter who was diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune encephalitis following a psychotic episode that left her strapped to a hospital bed. The condition was treated, she recovered, and wrote the book. I appreciate that it gets the word out about a rare condition.  The expository aspect of the book was fairly well written, but I didn’t particularly enjoy reading the autobiographical bits where the writing had a fledgling, gratuitous quality. I think it would have worked better as a magazine article.
24. The Belly Dance Handbook

I bought the book following a workshop I took from Princess Farhana, who is a knowledgeable, generous, and just plain fun teacher.  The handbook is all about the business of being a professional belly dancer. She covers a wide-range of topics:  classes, contracts, costuming, makeup, music, stage lighting, swords, veils, zaghareets, and zills. It’s loaded with tips, tricks, and pitfalls to avoid.

25. A Dirty Job

Hapless agents of Death abound in San Francisco’s used bookstores and  thrift shops, where objects and the souls they contain are peddled to the soulless in the natural order of things until one mysterious buyer with dubious intentions arrives on the scene. We come to know and understand this strange world through the eyes of Charlie Asher, a beta-male, recent-widower,  new father, and newly-minted death merchant in a tale that is equal parts fabulous and ridiculous.

I almost never re-read books, but this one was my suggestion for the book club.  It’s been almost a decade since I read it for the first time – it was just as good the second time.

26. Second Hand Souls

This is the sequel to Dirty Jobs.  Asher’s little girl is growing up and causing a ruckus.  Goth girls, vampires, the homeless “mayor” of San Francisco, hell hounds, Buddhist monks, the squirrel people, Minty Fresh — you’ll find all the same strange characters from the first book, plus a few ghosts and new weirdos.  It’s as funny as the first one.

27. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High

Just adding more tools to the box with this one. I read it and then re-read it. Again, something I rarely do. It was a book referenced in Thanks for the Feedback (see below).

28. Thanks for the Feedback

I originally read Thanks for the Feedback in an effort to sharpen clinical and communication skills. However, the information seems widely applicable and much needed for everyone given the current political climate. Employing the techniques might help us all  find our way back to civil discourse. Stone and Heen discuss the art and science of giving and receiving feedback. They emphasize the receiving end of the interaction (i.e., listening), particularly when you would rather not listen to what’s being said (e.g., in a tough feedback conversation).  The deep listening techniques the authors describe are intended to enable you to respond productively rather than to simply react in ways that may be counterproductive. Their explanation of why it’s so hard to listen to dissenting opinions is grounded in research on the cognitive neuroscience of empathy. It’s a smart, well-written book.

29. Take the Stairs

Take the Stairs is our book club pick for the new year. It’s packed with motivational ideas like “visioneering,” which is  creating a vivid mental image of your ideal life that will inspire you to take action on a daily basis. Vaden recommends scheduling virtually every moment of day. Beyond the formal work day schedule, he suggests scheduling (in writing) additional time weekly for five basic areas of life: Faith, family, faculty (i.e., work), fitness, and finances.  His suggestion reminded me of a visit to the Clinton Museum and Presidential Library, where they have an exhibit displaying the daily schedules for Bill Clinton while he was in office. His schedules were packed with  back-to-back activities from early morning to late night.  I was exhausted just thinking about it. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good schedule. Mine is hand-written, color-coded and cross-referenced with a spreadsheet of goals/resolutions and to-do lists. But that’s my work life. I don’t want to schedule my “off” time to this extent.  Back to the book. Much of it I had read elsewhere, but one unique suggestion was to not attempt to achieve balance in the five areas of life.  Instead, Vaden, recommends using “harvest time” to get the most out of the seasonal shifts of life.

30.Top Secret Twenty-One

My sister and I joined a mystery reader’s book club in the 90s and that is where we first read Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money. Maybe that’s why I experience a bit of nostalgia every time I step into a Stephanie Plum mystery. It’s like returning home to catch up with family and old friends (minus the dead bodies and exploding cars, of course).  The series is formulaic, thus predictable, and it still makes me laugh.

11. Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones marks the 24th book I’ve read by Stephen King.  Hey, stop judging me. I went through a dark binge-reading period in my teens when I consumed books by the author en masse.  I eventually grew out of it and moved on to brighter things. A fellow book clubster picked this one, so I felt obliged to read it.

Here’s the gist of the plot in one sentence: Unable to write following his wife’s death, a best-selling author returns to their lake house where he is haunted by ghosts and harassed by an old, evil millionaire.

The book features everything you’d expect from Stephen King: sentimental reflections on marriage, gruesome and gratuitous violence (in the form of a gang rape scene), and pages upon pages of confused and unnecessary sex dreams.  So, yeah, 24 is way more than enough Stephen King to last a lifetime.

12. The Invention of Wings

“I saw then what I hadn’t seen before, that I was very good at despising slavery in the abstract, in the removed and anonymous masses, but in the concrete, intimate flesh of the girl beside me, I’d lost the ability to be repulsed by it. I’d grown comfortable with the particulars of evil. There’s a frightful muteness that dwells at the center of all unspeakable things, and I had found my way into it.”

–Sarah Grimke, The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd

Monk Kidd’s historical fiction, The Invention of Wings follows the lives of two women in their search for freedom:  abolitionist and feminist Sarah Grimké  and Hetty “Handful” Grimké, her personal slave. Kidd’s portrayal of Sarah is based of newspaper articles, and her letters and diaries, while Handful is largely imagined — she died early in life. It’s beautifully written and richly imagined with vivid characters and pitch-perfect dialogue.

 There are a couple editions out – the original and the Oprah edition. Just letting you know so if you decide to read you can make an informed decision about whether you need the version with Oprah’s commentary or not.

13. Traveling with Pomegranates

This travel log/memoir by Sue Monk Kidd was co-written with her daughter as they traveled through Greece and Turkey.  It explores mother-daughter relationships, different phases of womanhood, and feminine mythology. It sounded like something I would like, and I really wanted to like it, but the switch back and forth between authors was clunky  and as a whole it had a gimmicky vibe.  Not my favorite.

14. The Association of Small Bombs

This is what it felt like to be a bomb.  You were coiled up, majestic with blackness, unaware that the universe outside you existed, and then a wire snapped and ripped open your eyelids all the way around and you had a vision of the world that was 360 degrees, and everything in your purview was doomed by seeing.

–Karan Mahajan

A bomb explodes in a bustling Delhi marketplace. Among the dead are two young brothers on their way to pick up their father’s TV from the repairman.  Karan Mahajan puts the reader in the mind of various people affected by the blast, each trying to piece back together the fragments that remain of their lives in the aftermath of the terrorist attack.  We glimpse into the lives of the father and mother of the dead children, the store owner, the terrorist, his girlfriend, his unsuspecting friend, and the bomb itself personified. What emerges is a horrific kaleidoscope (or perhaps more accurately collide-oscope) of  perspectives.  It is a fascinating read.

15. The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage from It’s Violent History

BeauJeau picked this one out for me because he knows how much I love all things tea. He even calls me T (or is it tea? I don’t know.). Anyway, I learned all sorts of interesting things about tea from Episcopal priest, Becca Stevens in this inspirational and meditational book.  It’s packed with all sorts facts, history, and recipes. The Way of Tea and Justice also describes the origins of the Thistle Stop Café in Nashville, and their mission to honor the stories of the women who have “survived lives of trafficking, addiction, prostitution, and life on the streets” in order to “illustrate the simple truth that love heals.”

16. Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living

This is a manly man book. I bought it because I was at the bookstore reading the back cover when a random guy walked by and said he’d read it and that it was hilarious.  Having binge-watched Parks and Recreations and having been thoroughly entertained by Ron Swanson, I figured I’d see what the man behind the character had to say about himself. It seems he’s a big, lovable, hard-working, goofus, with a vocabulary that can switch from crass and vulgar to highbrow and pretentious in an instant. It contains illustrations (literally drawings) of things like breakdancing moves and acceptable vs. nonacceptable facial hair styles. It’s kinda funny, but I wouldn’t say it’s “hilarious.”

17. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

A smart, funny, and heart-touching book for high schoolers, young adults and beyond. The book was awesome and so was the movie.  For  more extensive review,  click here: The Problem with (and Beauty of) Book Clubs

18. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

This is another awesome book for the young adult crowd.  But be forewarned, it was scary enough to give me nightmares!  The movie was less scary, but not nearly as good as the book. For the more detailed post, click here: Peculiar Children.

19. Hollow City

The sequel I literally ran out of the house to buy upon reading the last page of Peculiar Children. With its crazy animals, dizzying time loops, WWII bombing scenes, and eerie vintage photograph, it was a great follow-up to the first book.

20. The Courage of Sarah Noble

Since we’re on a roll with the kidlit, here’s another. A little friend was reading this one at her teacher’s recommendation and wanted us to read it together, so we did.  It’s based on the real-life of 8 year old Sarah Noble, who in 1707, traveled with her father to build their home in Connecticut.  When the project was complete, he left Sarah in the care of a Native American family they had befriended and returned to help the rest of his family make the journey. The sweet story offers a very different perspective from the “savage natives” themes so commonly propagated in past generations.

Herein lies the annual archiving of the books that occupied me this year.  I’m breaking this down into multiple posts to make it easier on all of us.

1. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

If you like Amy Schumer’s comedy and you want a good laugh, then you should go watch Amy Schumer’s comedy instead of reading this book.  If you are curious about the person behind the clown, it is worth reading. It’s written in the style of a personal diary – loosely organized thoughts about her family, her life, her loves, her stuffed animals, and her years of work behind her “overnight” success. She includes excerpts from a diary she kept in her early twenties with retrospective commentary.  It made me want to dig out the Winnie the Pooh journal I kept in my teens to remind myself what I was thinking back then.  As a whole, the book has a vibe of raw honesty that people rarely reveal to each other.

2. A Monster Calls

“The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.”

I paid too much for this book at the airport newsstand because it said “monster” on the cover. It was October 31 and I needed a way to mark the holiday that would be otherwise consumed by travel.  I crammed myself into a little airplane seat with my monster book and read it cover-to-cover. This book had me crying all across the sky on Halloween.

“…and sometimes witches merit saving. Quite often, actually. You’d be surprised.”

–Patrick Ness

3. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity

Silberman has provided the most comprehensive historical perspective on autism that I’ve read in my 16 years of studying autism and working with folks on the spectrum. He also delves into the wide range of controversies, treatments, and organizations associated with autism. It’s a work that honors the varieties of human intelligence.

4. The Japanese Lover

 From a retirement home in San Francisco, an octogenarian recounts the events that shaped her life to her young Moldovan employee. Her recollections span from her immigration from Poland to the events leading up to her marriage and beyond. In the telling I learned a lot I didn’t know about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII  – and that was just the backdrop for a short episode in the narrative.

It’s hard to say what I admire most about Isabel Allende’s novels:  Her settings are as nuanced as her characters. She makes history live and breathe on the page.  She also guards her characters’ secrets well.  You have to get to know them and love them before you gain their confidence.

5. Another Day

This was the much-anticipated sequel to Everyday [Reviewed Here], the fascinating story of a bodiless teen who wakes up in a different person’s body every day.  Unfortunately, Another Day sucked and I am kinda (irrationally) mad at David Levithan right now. It was the same story, same events, same characters as before, but it was told by the boring character’s point of view instead of the awesome one’s.   Ugh – Why do that?  Maybe because it was written more for commercial reasons than for artistic ones.

6. The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism 

A friend wanted to read this book together, so we did. Drawing heavily from research in positive psychology, Cabane offers practical exercises to sharpen listening and speaking skills and to increase one’s general likeability.  The practices and advice were reminiscent of the principles from yoga teacher training, though Cabane couched them in the language of the corporate and academic world.

7. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works-A True Story


TV journalist Dan Harris attributes meditation to making him happier and generally less of an ass.  In his self-help/memoir hybrid he shares the experiences, ideas, and  research to explain the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the type of happy that meditation provides.

8. Leaving Time

A psychic and a detective reluctantly join teenager Jenna Metcalf’s search for her missing mother, Alice.  The search centers around the elephant sanctuary where Alice worked as a scientist. As the story weaves back and forth from past to present, the author explores mother-daughter bonds, memory, and grief in both humans and elephants. The ending had a crazy turn that I did not see coming.

9. The Great Gatsby

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly.”

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ve been a little obsessed with the 1920’s this year and because I hadn’t yet read this classic, I figured it was time.

10. What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows

An interesting look at how technology changes the way we think. I posted thoughts this one HERE.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

November was exceedingly strange.  Here are a few pictures I’ve taken this month of things that happened.

There was this…



Moving on.




“I just can’t” said the bear in the Costco parking lot.



(I was waiting on a friend in the car when the bear showed up seemingly unaccompanied.)




“Rawr” said the dinosaur.



(The dino was my contribution to a SoKaN event for #901 Rocks – a delightfully fun community craft movement taking the city by storm. These are some of the other SoKaNers’ painted rocks…)


[And finally, coming home fr0m this mad, funny, heartbreaking, and beautiful world to  retreat (not to be confused with retweet) and recharge.]


cat on my book.jpg

Mad Catter crashing my tea party





This book was not my idea.  Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was one member’s choice for next month’s discussion in a book club I was recently asked to join.  This is exactly the sort of reason I generally avoid clubs: people inevitably want you to spend a whole bunch of your time doing stuff you don’t want to do…like reading about a high school girl dying of cancer. But I begrudgingly decided to just do it because I like these book club people and because I am working to expand my repertoire of kidlit.

The story revolves around Greg (the “Me” in the title). During his senior year of high school he is guilt-tripped into hanging out with Rachel, the dying girl, by his mother who is friends with Rachel’s mom. Then Greg’s best friend and “co-worker” in film-making, Earl, starts hanging out with them too. Hilarity ensues. They begin working on a new film, but after several false starts, one involving sock monkeys, they decide to take a different approach:

“We were inspired by You Tube. God help us. Like whiny boring people all over the world, we decided that the best way of expressing ourselves was just to stare into the camera and talk.”

The whole book was delightfully funny.  On purpose, even. It had this whole meta-analysis narrative embedded in the story that fixed a lot of the problems that a book about a dying girl is bound to have for the reader.

The author, Jesse Andrews, nailed the description of the social atmosphere of high school. There was a fight scene — well if you could call it that; it was more of a get-beat-up scene — that summoned images of Lord of the Flies in my mind. It managed to be both oddly disturbing and amusing. The characters, even the minor characters, were quirky, multidimensional and layered. The view of other characters from Greg’s eyes were along these lines:

“Mr. McCarthy had a look on his face of deep concern. It was definitely out of character for him and it was sort of distracting me. It was like when a dog makes a human-style face at you and you’re temporarily thrown off guard by it. You’re like, “Whoa, this dog is feeling a mixture of nostalgic melancholy and proprietary warmth. I was not aware that a  dog was capable of an emotion of that complexity.”

And speaking of emotions of complexity, last night as I finished the book, I sat in bed a confused mess – literally crying and laughing at the same time over the ending while marveling over life and death in general.

And this is exactly the sort of reason I join book clubs.

Greetings Dear Searchers, Lurkers, Crawlers, and Readers.

I offer a warm welcome to my fellow Americans and guests who’ve made an appearance this week from Canada, Germany, Brazil, the UK, the Netherlands, Slovakia, India, and Australia! I’m baffled, astounded, and honored in equal measure by your presence, however brief, accidental, or intentional it might have been.

Tonight marks the first State of the Spacebook Address in this blog’s history.  As the sixth year anniversary of mylittlespacebook’s existence rapidly approaches, may we all pause to consider for a moment just how we came to be here.

Perhaps you were you were searching for a happy morning yoga playlist, which judging by the fact it’s one of the most frequently viewed posts, a lot of people are. Maybe you lit on the site in hopes of resolving some gender identity issues that had nothing at all to do with chickens. You might be a beloved family member or friend who reads semi-faithfully out of duty, for gossip fodder, or some other strange compulsion. Are you the mysterious, consistent reader who voyeuristically lurks in the shadows, but never comments?

Perhaps, like me, you were just wandering around when the landscape changed drastically and you can’t exactly remember how you got here or what this trip was supposed to be all about in the first place.  Lucky for me, I left a trail of electronic breadcrumbs to follow.

From my first post on June 9, 2010:

My vision here is just beginning to unfold, so  please overlook the banality of this first post.

I’m not entirely sure what will come next, but within the virtual walls of my little e-space you may find humorous anecdotes, half-intelligible thoughts hastily written in a chai-induced frenzy, a piece of blue glasssobering reports from the Society of Knitters and Nutters (SoKaN), reviews of books that strike my fancy, a dead rat  you can swing on a string, questionable questions, transcriptions of conversations recorded for posterity, ideas for inventions the world needs to make me happy, lists of things, a few polls, a kitten’s whisker, travel logs, observations from the natural world, philosophical contemplation, notes to self, and maybe even a pearl of wisdom if we get lucky.


As I sit tapping out the current post in a chai-induced frenzy (some things never change) I am struck by how much my life has changed in the last six years and how much I have changed. I’ve gone from transient-academic-carnivore with a purse cat to domiciled-matronly-entrepreneurial-yogi-vegetarian with a flower and lettuce growing obsession.

**BREAKING NEWS:  I just realized my pants are on inside-out. I taught yoga tonight in inside-out pants and nobody had a word to say about it.  At least they were my inside-out pants and not not-my-pants. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.**

What hasn’t changed is that I’m not entirely sure what will come next. It might be something profound or incredibly stupid. Let’s reconvene at a later date and see.

Thank you for being here and for reading.


I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.  The first of these came as a terrible shock, and like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.

-Jacob Portman (Ransom Riggs)

Reeling from the mysterious events surrounding his grandfather’s tragic death, 16-year-old Jacob Portman sets off to learn more about of his grandfather’s  life, the strange photographs he kept, and the fanciful stories he told about them. Jacob’s journey takes him to an abandoned orphanage on a remote island where a secret world hides beneath the ruins of the bombed-out wreckage.

We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing them becomes too high.

–Jacob Portman

As soon as I turned the last page of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children on Sunday afternoon, I ran to the bookstore to buy the next book in the series. This is Ransom Riggs’s first novel and it is  riveting. Riggs has woven a story around the strange and creepy vintage photographs he collected from flea markets over the years, some of which are published in the book as characters and scenes. The pictures alone are worth the book’s cover price.

Though categorized as “young-adult fiction,” consider yourself forewarned, there is a significant amount of dark and violent topics touched on in the pages, including the Holocaust, bomb raids, murder, animal slaughter, animation of the dead, and slightly less scary non-human monsters of the sharp teeth and tentacled sort. In fact, there was a certain point, about mid-way through, when it began giving me nightmares, so maybe it’s not the best bedtime story. But it is a story worth reading.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

A young friend recently introduced me to this book, which is required reading in a local high school curriculum.  I was really not in the mood to read this sort of thing at the time, but once I started it, I was hooked. Drawing from sources in neuroscience, philosophy, history, and literature, Carr proposes that technology steadily alters our patterns of thinking. Our use of the Internet in particular is rewiring our brains in the areas of working memory, long-term memory, attention, and comprehension.  In a nutshell, the process goes something like this: with the abundance of information in hypertext links, posts, updates, emails, ads, crawls, and flippers, and various other pings, and dings that we’re multitasking,  our  concentration becomes fragmented, which overloads working memory, which causes information to not be processed deeply enough to find its way into long-term memory, which interferes with comprehension. So our brains get really busy and excited when immersed in electronic media, but not  in a way that promotes contemplation and comprehension.  Sustained attention is necessary to forge those deeper links.

The chapter on memory was my favorite — well-researched and simply explained.  The ideas raise all sorts of interesting questions.  What are the long-term consequences of outsourcing our cognition to machines – on an individual and societal level?

Will habitual use of electronic media, particularly among children, erode the desire, or even the ability, to develop sustained attention? Being in schools and classrooms across districts everyday of the week I see more and more “smart” technology being implemented in classrooms at earlier and earlier ages.  Given the hand-brain-cognition connection (see Levin’s book The Hand for a comprehensive review of that topic) do preschoolers really need to have more iPads instead of 3-dimensional toys to manipulate with their hands? What are the gains and are they worth the cost?

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