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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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
An interesting look at how technology changes the way we think. I posted thoughts this one HERE.
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?
If you have been around this blog for a few years, then you may think I sometimes get a little too preoccupied with toilet technology. While I would have to disagree, I do appreciate you enduring these episodes if you find them uncouth.
If you are just joining this party, welcome to the fold. And just let me say I think “preoccupied” is really too strong of a word for what goes on here. You may want to consider it more like an occasional recurring theme. Rest assured, whatever label you want to put on it, this too shall pass, and we will soon resume our regularly scheduled programming.
And if you’re only here to get the bruise status update, well today it features a pink crescent moon entrapped within a fushia hexagon from which a cloud of navy smoke billows. May you sleep better knowing.
So my interest in toilet technology began a couple years ago with a TedxTokyo Talk called Toilet Talks, which opened my eyes to how far we Americans lag behind the Japanese in lavatory engineering. Still reeling from that revelation, a couple weeks later I encountered another disturbing sign in a university bathroom stall indicating America’s ineptitude in latrine design and the lengths those in the ivory tower will go to enshroud this truth with their propaganda. The problem was made personal with some unfortunate business that occurred on I-40 in a snowstorm. Then that summer I learned that Japan is not the only country wildly ahead of us when I learned of Ayurvedic medicinal herbs and I tried the Poo-Poo Tea at the ashram.
Today I discovered a video that provided a ray of hope. Other minds are acknowledging the errors of our ways. Mark my words: innovation is coming.
“You love me. Real or not real?”
Every single weekend for the last month I have been consumed by The Hunger Games. Four weeks ago the movie came out and I bought the book. I devoured it that Saturday before going to see the movie the next day. The following Saturday I read the second book. The Saturday after that I finished the third book of the series. With that, I thought my obsession was over and I could get on with my life.
This past weekend I inadvertently found myself in Asheville, North Carolina, where much of the movie was filmed. We were road tripping our way to a conference in Raleigh, when my own hunger struck. I consulted Yelp, (a must-have app for roadtrips), read a few reviews, and decided on Rezaz in Asheville for lunch. The odds were oddly in my favor. The seven vegetable couscous was a different flavor in every bite: here a chickpea, there the sharp crunch of fresh ginger, and everywhere the ruffley texture of grilled kale intermingling with couscous and cilantro. It was a real Capitol meal. The Devil had a pizza that rivaled his own devious creations. The pizza alone warranted another visit to the restaurant on the return road trip: a crisp cracker crust, lightly grilled and topped with marinaded mushrooms that finished with a hint of pepper. Creamy gellato for dessert – chocolate for her, vanilla for him, each topped with a flakey sugar cookie. Hunger games, indeed.
I thoroughly enjoyed the books. I’ve started, abandoned, restarted, and reabandoned an embarrasing number of books the past several months. Nothing has been able to compete with the flying colors of life experienced moment-to-moment in its bold and beautiful unfurling. Until this. What a pleasure to finally find a series to keep me captivated and wanting more.
Across from Rezaz sits the Grand Bohemian Hotel. It was filled with interesting things – a stuffed boar wearing a fishing hat, for instance, and other dead things surrounded by unusual lighting. The decor was overwhelmingly antlered. There are fine lines to be drawn between rustic and classy and creepy. The hotel decorators played hopscotch with those lines.
There were all sorts of fancy people milling about in the lobby doing all sorts of fancy things like sitting around in their fancy hair and shoes drinking fancy drinks while having fancy conversations. What a strange scene to take in against the backdrop of skulls and skins, hides and horns.
The hotel I learned offers a Hunger Games package for a few hundred dollars. Apparently trips to the setting are all the rage.
I enjoyed my brief adventure and I definitely want to go back to explore.
Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.
As promised in my last post, here are a few of the apps I have found helpful in managing, organizing, and simplifying my work-life:
Pocket Informant HD. ($12.99). This app complements the organizational methods described in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. It includes a calendar, project manager, and list of tasks to keep each project moving along. The calendar can be organized by day, week, or month and will show your events accordingly. It also allows you to set alarms for reminders. You can organize your task list by context, folder, due date, priority, action, tags, project, etc. It syncs with Google calendar, Outlook, or Toodledo if you need to do that sort of thing. It has eliminated my need for any other planner or calendar. This only scratches the surface of the app’s features. There are tutorials on youtube to help you get it set up.
Dropbox. (FREE). Dropbox allows electronic files to be stored, synchronized, and shared. Weekly reports from multi-users can be uploaded and processed in batches instead of cluttering up an e-mail box. You can update, access, and upload files from a mobile device, laptop, or PC without the use of a USB drive. Here’s a little video that explains a bit more about what dropbox does: What is dropbox?
SmartNote. (FREE/$2.99). With this app you can create notebooks and take notes in your iPad. Your notes can typed, written (with your finger or a stylus), or audiorecorded. You can also highlight and bookmark your notes. It allows you to export your notes as a pdf or toss a copy in dropbox. There is no “search” option, so you have to be organized on the frontend if you are taking a lot of notes and make good use of the bookmark. The free version suits my needs and it is the right price. In the free version you will have ads along the top of your screen and your pdf files will have a SmartNote “waterstamp.”
iAnnotate PDF. ($9.99). I highly recommend this for graduate students and researchers who must read and organize mass quantities of journal articles. You can download pdf copies of documents, organize them in files, highlight them and add notes. You can also perform searches through your articles for certain keywords. This app has drastically reduced the paper clutter in my world and saved me tons of time hunting through filing cabinets or electronic folders for that elusive article I read just the other day.
GContact Lite. (FREE/$2.99). This one is a contact file with group capabilities. It is helpful when I want to send e-mails to groups of people.
My LessonPlan. ($3.99). This has been a great way to capture and organize my ideas, websites, goals, materials, etc. as I have been prepping a new class for next semester.
Prezi Viewer. (FREE). This gives me access to my prezi collection on my iPad, which has been pretty cool for impromptu presentations with smalls groups. Unfortunately, you cannot create the presentations with the app, but if they already exist, you can access them. If you’re not familiar with prezi.com, check it out! It’s a fun platform for creating the visual component of your presentations.
What apps have you found helpful for work?
What apps do you love for just chillin’ ?