Monday, October 08, 2018

I worry for our world.

We have the ability and knowledge to shape a better future for the world.

I worry we are not doing it.

"This report is not a wake-up call, it is a ticking timebomb," said Gro Harlem Brundtland, Acting Chair of The Elders in a statement. "Climate activists have been calling for decades for leaders to show responsibility and take urgent action, but we have barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done. Further failure would be an unconscionable betrayal of the planet and future generations."

And this:

"It's the final call, say scientists, the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures." 
What can I do?
The report says there must be rapid and significant changes in four big global systems:
  • energy • land use • cities • industry
But it adds that the world cannot meet its target without changes by individuals, urging people to:
  • buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter and more locally sourced seasonal food - and throw less of it away • drive electric cars but walk or cycle short distances • take trains and buses instead of planes • use videoconferencing instead of business travel • use a washing line instead of a tumble dryer • insulate homes • demand low carbon in every consumer product 
Lifestyle changes can make a big difference, said Dr Debra Roberts, the IPCC's other co-chair.
"That's a very empowering message for the individual," she said. "This is not about remote science; it is about where we live and work, and it gives us a cue on how we might be able to contribute to that massive change, because everyone is going to have to be involved."
"You might say you don't have control over land use, but you do have control over what you eat and that determines land use.
"We can choose the way we move in cities and if we don't have access to public transport - make sure you are electing politicians who provide options around public transport." 

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Ending Summer 2018 and into the Fall

Fur, Fortune and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America by Eric Jay Dolin.  I’m not sure that I would characterize this tale as “epic” though it was intriguing.  In line with many books I’ve read in the past year, this book told stories I had some sense of (I grew up in Oregon and knew of the trade in furs reaching to Astoria), and yet, it pointed to so many characters, issues of trade and even the market shifts of different furs.  In an era (or at least in my own life) when I have no ability whatsoever to fathom the desire to wear a Beaver skin, it was intriguing to read how this trade - and the trade in many other furs, from persons from Europe coming to the America’s, was shaped.  The trade in American furs shaped persons lives - and built businesses that shaped entire economies.  And it resulted in the intersection of so many lives and cultures- for good and ill.  Fascinating.

Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the battle for the Americas, and the catastrophe that ended the Outlaw's Bloody Reign by Stephan Talty.  I’m not sure it would be appropriate to say I have an interest in Pirates, though I do enjoy the annual TLAP Talk Like A Pirate day that comes in September.  This book, along with so many that I read, helped me recognize how little I knew of a particular group/portion of history. I can’t even come close to chronicling here what I learned about pirates, sailing, the legality and illegality of it - so I won’t try.  I will say that one thing that stood out to me is the fact that Buccaneers were a kind of hybridization of pirates, where male partners chose bedmates among their male partners for “life” on the sea.  Who knew?  There was much to consider in exploitation, slavery, debauchery, prostitution and theft in this intriguing historical account.

QBQ: The Question Behind the Question Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and In Life  by John G. Miller.  A simple book that aptly helps persons “get to the point” of some key issues in communication.  As one Amazon reviewer correctly summarizes: "The book starts by stressing the need for more personal accountability and then presents a simple process for asking ourselves questions which will hopefully lead to making better choices as we work through our day. The questions take the form, “How (or what) can I do to complete some goal?” For example, “How can I better serve the customer, work with the team, manage my projects, etc.?” By asking these questions, we make ourselves personally accountable. By answering these questions, we supposedly become able to make changes for the better within ourselves."

Amish Peace: Simple Peace for a Complicated world by Suzanne Woods Fisher.  I enjoyed this book so much that I’m certain I’ll read it again - perhaps a few times.  There was nothing remarkable about it, per se.  The author captures a few “wisdom sayings” or “proverbs” from the Amish and then narrates stories from their lived experience that frame and explain their particular way of “wholesome” living - within community and with an integrity to their entire lives being shaped by their traditional experience.  One curious take-away I found is that Amish people own no “Amish Furniture Stores” as only other Gentiles use their name to profit.  Amish make furniture, of course, but they do not use their religion as the basis for making a profit!  Wholesome, great, moral stories of depth.

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara.  I did not like reading this book, detailing the rapes and murders of the so-called Golden State Killer (the alleged rapist and murderer only recently arrested and not yet tried!).  I skipped portions of it as I do not like the gore/fear brought on by stories like this. Still, the narrative was intriguing and I found the means by which the author (and those who posthumously finished her work) provided a compelling “forensic file” on tracking down the monster behind these crimes.  As I “liked” the book, I also “hated” it and can’t recommend it without a major “caution” to the kinds of “bad” things described that I find to be horrific and deeply, deeply troubling.

This is Water: Some Thoughts Delivered on a Significant Occassion, about Living a Compassionate Life by David Foster Wallace.  I’ve read and listened to this “famous” graduation speech by Wallace a few times - and I’ll come back to it again, I’m sure.  It is a simple, short “read” or listen - and it is remarkably profoundly significant.

Guided Meditations: Six Essential Practices to cultivate love, awareness and wisdom by Jack Kornfield.  I engaged several.  Enjoyable.  Nothing remarkable or “better” than what can be accessed free online from youtube to computer apps.  I think the thing that most surprises me, still, i show Jack Kornfield made millions by collecting other persons stories - for his profit.  How can I figure out a way to do such a thing?

Joseph Smith:  Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman.  I’ve done a fair amount of study on Joseph Smith and the history of Mormons recently.  I have some good, good, good friends who follow the teachings of Joseph Smith and the “prophets” who have emerged from his religious creation.  I do believe many (most) mormons are truly “good persons” though I have to admit that I think Joseph Smith was and is an intentionally misguided moral person who, intentionally acted the part of a charlatan and con-artist, and used his ploys, which he knew to be false, to earn renown, wives and a following.  A good book, written by a follower of Joseph Smith, who “believes,” and yet written with access to primary sources in an important historically-critical perspective.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams.  As an Oregonian who finds myself depleted in the bland and boring topography and geography of Oklahoma (some portions of Oklahoma are pretty, yes - and I am sure it was quite a land to behold when the Tall Grass held the soil in place in the days of the Bison herds!), I found it easy to resonate with the premise of this book.  I am certain Creation heals my humanness in some key ways.

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those who Survived the Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan.  I’ve been living as an exile in Oklahoma for more than 20 years.  This story revealed so much of what I did not know about the “dust bowl” era in this region, that I did not know.  I’ve been telling people recently that many of the books I’ve read in the past year have helped me realize how little I knew about so many things.  I’ve shared, “I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until I read X book.”  That would be true about my sense of the dust bowl years.  I had a sense of the story from the Grapes of Wrath, of course, but this historical account gave me pictures of the dust, the grains, the withering cattle, the experience of it and even the electrical currents generated by it - that revealed much to me.  This book is almost worth a second read for discerning the nuance and textures of the complexities of life these people experienced.  Intriguing indeed!  Dragging chains behind vehicles to keep the electrical charge of the vehicle grounded - and black-out-darkness from dust.  Amazing.  And, how the cattleman/farmer ruined the natural grass prairie (which wasn’t too much narrated in the book, though was part of the story, in some way).

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow. This man, it seems almost true, though not a fact, created rapacious capitalism that “the monopoly.”  Though he ended his life generous - he controlled markets in ways that allowed him to undersell competitors until he could take out their entire business - so they would sell out to him.  He hired chemists to help him discern new ways to refine oil and it’s various by products.  He figured out how to take hold of the most productive cash capital elements of the trade, while NOT being in the oil exploration business which could “bust” at anytime.  He lived a curious childhood with a wayward charlatan of a dad.  An intriguing story in every way.

Principles: Life & Work by Ray Dalio.  I had heard Mr. Dalio discussed on a recent podcast  . . . so I thought I might enjoy this book.  Nope.  I’d describe it as hundreds of pages, narrating way too many details, all boiling down to “old” already realized proverbial maxims from life.  NOW! having said that, I was intrigued by the brute honesty by which he and those in his company critique people.

Monday, August 27, 2018

End of Summer 2018

It’s the end of the Summer and as I have too many projects approaching with the start of the school  year - - the next comments will be too brief, and yet will capture the reading completed.


The Stranger: Barack Obama in the Whitehouse by Chuck Todd.  As Todd notes, it’s too early to write about the lasting effects of the Obama Presidency.  Still, this book pointed me to consider new aspects of the “person” of Obama and how who he is who he is, shaped his decisions, speeches, advocacy and  - ultimately in time we’ll fully discern, the legacy of his Presidency.

Thirteen Moons: A Novel by Charles Frazier.  I enjoyed this fiction.  It made me think about indigenous persons from America in new ways.  I’m not sure how to think on fiction, really.  It seems to me that I rarely read deeply compelling fiction (like that of Wendell Berry, for example.)  This was good, not great.  

Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness by Mark Epstein.  I almost think I’ve read this before.  (I had to look, to be honest.)  The book follows the scope of what the publisher states. Epstein "shows us that happiness doesn't come from any kind of acquisitiveness, be it material or psychological. Happiness comes from letting go. Weaving together the accumulated wisdom of his two worlds--Buddhism and Western psychotherapy--Epstein shows how 'the happiness that we seek depends on our ability to balance the ego's need to do with our inherent capacity to be.' He encourages us to relax the ever-vigilant mind in order to experience the freedom that comes only from relinquishing control. Drawing on events in his own life and stories from his patients, Going to Pieces  Without Falling Apart teaches us that only by letting go can we start on the path to a more peaceful and spiritually satisfying life." (From Amazon listing.) It was a good read.  I’m 50/50 on whether or not I should read it again, though I think I will recommend it to others.

The AUDIO lecture - Grasping God’s Word: A Hands On Approach to Reading, Intepreting and Applying God's Word by  J. Scott Duvall.  It was the early 2000's that ‘Grasping God’s Word” was emerging as “the book” “all Baptists” (in my experience) were using in every church.   Squarely within my metier, and that is likely the reason I found the content dull and boring - it was ‘too basic’ for me and simply was not “lively” nor entertaining” nor “compelling” in what it presented.

Short Stories: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Jesus by Amy Jill-Levine.  I very much enjoyed the depth of engagement the Jewish-Christian Scholar gave to the parables (and other proclamation) of Jesus.  One of the most significant classes I took in all my Masters or Ph.D. work was a class entitled The Parables of Jesus.  It is a specific class where I remember nearly every class session, including my class colleagues.  This book reminded me of that class, contained some of the same data, and yet provoked me to consider yet other interpretive perspectives from and in the Parables.  I started it - and had to return it to the library before I had time to finish it.   I considered purchasing it - and then checked it out again from the library to finish it, instead.  I may yet purchase it and re-read it.  I rarely do that with library books though, of course, routinely read within OT/Hebrew Bible and some Peace or Psychology texts.  This one, I’ll likely own soon - and use/read again - for preaching.

The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir by Maude Julien.  When I started reading this book, I had not remembered where/how it had come to my awareness.  I was several chapters in when I found things too unbelievable to be worth finishing the fiction.  And yet, I decided I needed to remember why I had picked up this book - and I was astounded to be reminded (told?) that it was not fiction - and this was an auto-biographical account.  I re-read book reviews on the book - much to the praise of the book.  I opted not to finish it.  Perhaps - and so it seems - it seemed fictional to me as the over-bearing-tyrannical and abusive rule (role) of her father seemed unbelievable.  I do acknowledge that I can not understand that and it seems, it “felt” too unreal to me - and yet, I’ll note that I still think there were unbelievable (inconsistent) aspects to the abusive father  - and - a few phrases used by Julien to narrate her story were, in fact, anachronistic I double checked some phrases she used and this led me to think the story must certainly be fictional.  The book is popular - I did not find it worth reading through to it’s end.

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Having read a powerful and compelling work by Coates in recent months - I was intrigued to read this.  I found some of the chapters compelling, but overall, not enough of them were compelling to keep my interest.

I don’t remember how many years ago (was I a teen?) when I read about Shackleton and his epic antarctic journey. This book picked up with stories of Shackleton and others - as they tried to discern their way across the arctic.  An Empire of Ice:  Scott, Shackleton and the Heroine Age of Antarctic Science by Edward J. Larson.  The story weaved science and history, narratives of exploration and the persons who were behind the exploits.  The book gave attention to persons  though it also framed their exploits and discoveries and progress rooted in the scientific discoveries and social and geographical contexts of their lives.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

101 Tips for Your Productivity!

Different persons find that they need to organize their lives differently.

We can all benefit from "tips and tricks" to be more efficient and intentional with our time!  This is true for scheduling assignments in courses - and is true for all kinds of professional (and pastoral !) work.

In my experience, pastors are some of the most inefficient persons I have worked with.  (Mind you, I realize some pastoral work, by it's very nature, is "not efficient"  - as a pastor does not want to rush a hospital call and a pastor should not hurry a grief counseling sessions!!)

This 101 Time Management is excellent.  I have used several of these in different times of my life.  I DO use a few of these (everyday!!).  And a few were new to me.

You *can't* use every one of these! Though, you could find one or two to try - and then another one or two to try - until you can find better ways to structure your days and your weeks for your success in coursework, pastoral work, and any professional pursuits you seek to accomplish.

  • "Scheduling around your time" ( #5 on this list) is something I learned personally more than 15 years ago and when I realized I should do work when *I* am at my best, and not when societal norms and conventions tell me I should be "busy," I was able to finish my dissertation and then write my first book.
  • The "Pomodoro Technique" ( #26 on this list)  is one I use and have shared for years  with students who are engaging research on library projects! 

I could list other examples from this list that have decisively and directly impacted my productivity by giving me a tool and "method" to achieve greater success.  

I am 100% confident a few of these practices 
will help you to be more productive. 

Private link to archived DUPLICATE data.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Troubling reading in 2018

Many of my my readings in late 2017 and now 2018 have left me deeply troubled.  The framework within which early settlers in America and the government cheated, lied to and annihilated indigenous persons has been deeply troubling to me.  Certainly, I’d read of it in the past - but the detailed descriptions in the books below left me astounded by the treachery of advancing white men - their lies and genocide.

Equally, I thought often on MLK’s “I have a Dream” Speech where he noted that it was “our labour that made cotton King” as I read yet more on the historical trauma and capitalistic gains - for some - on the backs of Blacks brought forcibly to America (and much of the rest of the world.)

These accounts are deeply, deeply troubling to me.

I feel the need to repent of them and seek restitution, even though I did nothing wrong, I am the recipient of the privilege that was created.  I am thankful for my deeply intentional and abiding intentional love for black persons in my life - our daughter and my intentional commitment to worship with the Black congregation of a former student and deeply loved friend in his Black Church . . . and yet, it is not enough - not even close to enough to make right the wrongs wrought on the backs of his forebears.  

Additionally, a few accounts of forced Christianization of persons, has left me disgruntled with past practices of forced cultural assimilation and supercessionism, given under the guise of Christian evangelical care.

Separately -in late 2017 and now 2018 I have read a few astounding books in and on the sciences.  One I’ll recount here makes me want to, quite literally, seek a degree in Quantum Physics.  Fascinating.

I’ll note here, too - I’m beginning to wonder if I should create a list of books I started - and intentionally stopped reading.  My blog record here is mainly to capture things so I have some recollection of names of books for when I want to share ideas with someone - or remember a few key issues for books I want to come back to read.  However, I’ve had many books in the past months that I have started - that were “worthless” and I made it just pages or chapters in before opting to stop reading.  Perhaps I should list these merely as “Throw-Aways” or something - simply as archival record, too


The Heathen School:  A story of hope and betrayal in the age of the early republic by John Demos.  Well worth reading and almost ranks as a book worthy of a 2nd read, but not quite.  The book calls the reader to learn about and then question any faithful (whether or not is was faithful) work of persons in the 1800s and 1900s to establish “education” and “mission” (forced evangelical education) on persons of many indigenous people groups around the world, by White American and British persons. Some intriguing history of the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii, in particular.

Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden.  Absolutely stunning in its clear descriptions and connections for what we know about - and can and can not understand - about the Quantam world and how it shapes everything.  Numerous analogies and ways of explaining complex features were made accessible for persons like me (and I consider myself well-versed in Science).  I am astounded, truly, about what I learned - about what we (Scientists) do and do not know and the mystery of the world in which we live. That live exists - that species/animals/DNA/photosynthesis/Quantam Plants works and with such intricacy - is truly, nothing short of amazing.  Amazing. Amazing.  A GREAT read.

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazi's in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead.  I did not like the way this book started, as Caroline spoke ill of one of the books in my, perhaps Top 20, for shaping my life.  She starts by downplaying the roles of Andre & Magda Trocme’, Eduard Theiss, and the people of Le Chambon Sur Lignon as not being “that important” (my words) and many others were involved in saving Jews in France during WWII.  That aside, this book was a wonderful addition to my awareness of innumerable events and persons that shaped the resistance and peace-love-care of Jews in France doing WWII and the Vichy Republic in ways that was illuminating.  I learned much and valued the book greatly.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward Baptist.  This book was deeply significant to me.  Very, very important.  Noting that, I wish it would have been condensed and contained fewer facts.  I wish there were an abbreviated version of the book both for me - and FOR OTHERS - who may not want (be able/willing) to read the depth of research engaged here by Baptist.  I learned so much - about persons, dates, history, times, names - and the experience of Black persons during their enslavements.  Historical accounts and quotes flavored the book  - actual data of the registers/account books and tracking of financial data in many ways, with many persons were listed.  One particular chapter that started with the use of f**king the mud and others was “awful” and yet, I will not forget for what is recounted.  This book has shaped me to be a different person - as I was deeply troubled by so many features of what I learned.  I must read it again, though I wish for some more accessible book - both for me and for others - as I will recommend this book, certainly will do so.  And yet, I wish I did not know that which I know from this book.  My sense of who I am and why America is troubled and why race issues are urgent and complex is deeply shaped in new ways after reading this book.

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States:  by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz.    I started this book late in 2017 - had to return it to the library and wait weeks to get it again - though I had to finish it. The last few chapters that moved on to other places of American colonization not in North America was “less interesting” to me and “felt a bit off topic” to the many other chapters, though I agree with the author that they were fitting to the overall scope of the books topic.  In the chapters, Dunbar-Ortiz narrates how early American settlers and then the American Government and various persons and numerous failed treaties and explicit exploitation and theft/deceit/lies laid siege to the lands of the indigenous persons of America/Mexico.  I am embarrassed and ashamed by what I learned about the history of political exploitation.  The Doctrine of Discovery astounds and upsets me in ways I can not quite fully articulate.  I am the recipient of its privilege, no doubt, and yet, I’m not entirely sure how to repent now of the - nor disjoint myself from - who I am and where I have been.  We annihilated indigenous persons - their culture, their ways of life, their history, their beauty.  It’s deeply, deeply troubling.  

Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel by Marie Benedict.  Enjoyable Historical Fiction.  Captivating *enough* to keep me invested . . . though I had to ponder the probability of many of the imagined scenes/plotlines.  It did cause me to think new about the emerging Victorian class of wealth in America - and - pause to consider new realities about the Carnegie family that I’d never considered (as the Carnegies were not that intriguing to me.)  I wished it were closer on par to Empty Mansions which I still find intriguing from reading 1-2 years ago.

Losing Our Way: An intimate portrait of troubled America by Bob Herbert.  Good. Not great.  Given that this book was in the same thought space as other recent books I’ve read  - especially (though this was different from) Fantasyland, this book was important to me.  Nothing profound.

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% happier How-To Book  by Dan Harris.  Another good “introductory book” for those wanting to think about and explore meditation/mindfulness.  A good “primer” with good stories and “invitational” in great ways.  Well done.  

Empire of the Summer Moon:  Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne.  This book was in harmony with others I’ve read in the past year or two - chronicling not just the life of Quanah, yet more, his “white” kidnapped in her childhood mother. So many tales and geographic issues from the region of Texas, portions of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado.  Palo Duro Canyon figured into the story several times - and I was audio reading the book as I drove to/from Oklahoma and Colorado.  I remain appalled at the depravity with which Whites dealt with the first Americans, though, this story narrated the equally appalling actions of the Indians.  Historical data about Buffalo hunting, ethnographic details about persons, families, winters, animal tanning, hunting and many features permeated the narrative.  A great book though one that makes me sad, too.

Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart. The author combined her family story of many generations both slaves, owners, and mulatto from Barbados - tracking as well the history of the rise “and fall” of sugar cane. Horrible stories of control of slaves, and yet intriguing tales of the financial issues involved in the rise of sugar as a marketable product. The means by which Sugar Cane was harvested, itself, prove intriguing to me.  The means by which the author was able to tell uniquely *her* family history - and trace her genealogy - while also narrating the industry, trade, power and wealth engaged with sugar provided a compelling read.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Books shaping who I am these days

There is no particular order to review here - though a few down the list were exceptionally great - one reshaped the way I think about my life and several others . . . well, they did too! ha!

An intriguing thinker, ahead of his time. A larger review of this intriguing book ends with this: “Trump and his fellow populists claim that America’s elites have been corrupted beyond the point of saving: they promise not to turn them towards the true and the good, but instead to destroy them. In the context of this right-wing fury, Bloom’s attacks on the university may seem to only reinforce what has by now become a widespread anti-intellectualism. If the university campus is nothing more than an island of philosophy surrounded by the vulgar masses, an elite playground for “useless” learning, right-wing populists might have a legitimate case for dismantling it. But in the age of Trump, Bloom’s suggestion that elite education has a role to play in saving democracy from itself may nonetheless be worth returning to.”  

In the spirit of the preceding book by Bloom, though with varied perspectives about elementary and secondary education, Gatto offers a critique of the educational system that causes us to “churn out” “automatons” (my words) more than creative, thinking, ingenious young persons.

I learned some new ways to think about Buddhism and Buddhist thinking.

One of several books I’ve needed to read to better understand perspectives of women and persons of color.  Her TEDx talk is great. She’s published other books that are on my radar!

This book was actually a bit difficult to read - though it was a wonderful “meanderinga” and yet deeply connected journey on how words work!  Imagine sentence after sentence making connections to one another based on the “word plays” available in language - that was this book.  Delightful for anyone who loves words!

A former student recommended this book and I’m so glad he did.  Imagine an exploration through every possible interpretation and possible way of viewing Abraham and Sarah in relationship to their son Isaac.  Not so much a piece of exegetical or Biblical inquiry - though rooted in that - and more an exploration of the history of interpretation.  Several new ways to think about the characters and story that helped me rethink what I might know about these persons and these stories from Genesis.

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World by Haemin Sunim.  Click through to the Amazon link and read the reviews and comments. The book does exactly what it claims to do in it’s title.  Here’s a single review from Amazon. “A remarkable guide to how to live a life of unpretentious authenticity and compassionate engagement. In Haemin Sunim’s brief essays and aphorisms, the insights of Buddhism have fully become the stuff of life itself.” —Robert Buswell, Director of Buddhist Studies, UCLA”

The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection by Louisa Thomsen Brits.  This was one of the most influential books I read in 2017 - and I think about it nearly everyday.  Since nearly every book I post about on this blog is a book I check out from the library - it is a significant commentary to say that I bought a copy of this book on Hygge for my wife, for several friends, and I downloaded an album that I listen to every other day or so since reading this book.  That Album is here.  I read this back in November of 2017 - and just realized as I commented on the book by Sunim, that I never commented on this book by Brits.  I probably never noted it - as I was too busy sending emails about it.  This book has helped me to think about new ways that I wish to live my life.  I loved it.  It is likely one of few that will have reshaped the way I think about living/being in the world. I recommend the audio of this book over the print edition - mainly to capture nuance and speed of the reading from the author.

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Thomas M. Nichols.  Along with other books I’ve read about education and the University and the way we think - and how our social norms are shifting about how we think . . . this book was intriguing.  From the book’s cover: “As Tom Nichols shows in The Death of Expertise, this rejection of experts has occurred for many reasons, including the openness of the internet, the emergence of a customer satisfaction model in higher education, and the transformation of the news industry into a 24-hour entertainment machine. Paradoxically, the increasingly democratic dissemination of information, rather than producing an educated public, has instead created an army of ill-informed and angry citizens who denounce intellectual achievement.  Nichols has deeper concerns than the current rejection of expertise and learning, noting that when ordinary citizens believe that no one knows more than anyone else, democratic institutions themselves are in danger of falling either to populism or to technocracy-or in the worst case, a combination of both. The Death of Expertise is not only an exploration of a dangerous phenomenon but also a warning about the stability and survival of modern democracy in the Information Age.”

Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski.  I loved this book.  I grew up in the home of a science teacher who lived what he taught. When I was in high school I excelled in Science classes and thought I would move into a field of Chemistry or Physics.  This book explains the intricacies of the mysteries/physics of “mundane” things - in a way that “opens the veil” to let us see the micro and macro level issues moving and shaping the world around us.  I’ll re-read this book.

A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn.  I’ve had to check this book out twice and, in truth, have not yet finished every chapter and story. A testimony to the fact that we - and those around us - can make a difference in the world - for the good!  From the cover: “With scrupulous research and on-the-ground reporting, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn explore how altruism affects us, what are the markers for success, and how to avoid the pitfalls. In their recounting of astonishing stories from the front lines of social progress, we see the compelling, inspiring truth of how real people have changed the world, underscoring that one person can make a difference.”

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith.  I’ve read much of what Jamie has published since . . . about 2005 or so. Though - not all of it. The man is seriously the smartest and most kind person I have ever met.  I am not kidding.  Read it simply because he is a GREAT human - and brilliant.  And, read everything he’s published.

Reality is not what it seems: the journey to quantum gravity by Carlo Rovelli.  This book was akin to the Storm in a Teacup, though not as “everyday” and “ordinary” in its presentation.  A fuller review of Carlo’s work is here.  Physics - it’s minuscule issues of finiteness - and it’s largeness of infiniteness - amaze me.  A review from online about this book: “Some physicists, mind you, not many of them, are physicist-poets. They see the world or, more adequately, physical reality, as a lyrical narrative written in some hidden code that the human mind can decipher. Carlo Rovelli, the Italian physicist and author, is one of them…Rovelli's book is a gem. It's a pleasure to read, full of wonderful analogies and imagery and, last but not least, a celebration of the human spirit.”—NPR Cosmos & Culture”   Or, this great line in a review of the book: “this book by Rovelli will not fit easily into a pocket, but its lapidary integration of science and literature is a marvel.”  

Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies by Dick Gregory. I have no recollection of knowing Dick Gregory before reading this book - though he has stood alongside and been in the lives of “every” important American Black person in the past few decades (or so he narrates.)  From his perspectives in entertainment and music industry - and justice work among Blacks, writing as a Black person - he was able to say things I had not heard and I was able to discern new vistas of Black experience I had not yet encountered or understood.  I met new characters and came away with new ideas. This is a book I plan to re-read.  And, I enjoyed the audiobook version as the author reads in his voice, with his pace, with his emphasis.  Read the publisher’s full book description for more.  A good, good read. 

No Logo: 10th Anniversary Edition with a New Introduction by Naomi Klein.  I had not read Klein . . . that I know of.  And yet, it seems apparent to me that she has shaped culture (and/or persons I’ve read elsewhere) as she critique(d)(s) Capitalism, Branding, Clothing(Mall) Industry and more.  From another reviewer: “In No Logo, Klein patiently demonstrates, step by step, how brands have become ubiquitous, not just in media and on the street but increasingly in the schools as well. (The controversy over advertiser-sponsored Channel One may be old hat, but many readers will be surprised to learn about ads in school lavatories and exclusive concessions in school cafeterias.) The global companies claim to support diversity, but their version of "corporate multiculturalism" is merely intended to create more buying options for consumers. When Klein talks about how easy it is for retailers like Wal-Mart and Blockbuster to "censor" the contents of videotapes and albums, she also considers the role corporate conglomeration plays in the process. How much would one expect Paramount Pictures, for example, to protest against Blockbuster's policies, given that they're both divisions of Viacom? Klein also looks at the workers who keep these companies running, most of whom never share in any of the great rewards. The president of Borders, when asked whether the bookstore chain could pay its clerks a "living wage," wrote that "while the concept is romantically appealing, it ignores the practicalities and realities of our business environment." Those clerks should probably just be grateful they're not stuck in an Asian sweatshop, making pennies an hour to produce Nike sneakers or other must-have fashion items. Klein also discusses at some length the tactic of hiring "permatemps" who can do most of the work and receive few, if any, benefits like health care, paid vacations, or stock options. While many workers are glad to be part of the "Free Agent Nation," observers note that, particularly in the high-tech industry, such policies make it increasingly difficult to organize workers and advocate for change.”

World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer.  I audio read this book while I was traveling - and I found that I was distracted by issues (traffic on the roads!) and missed out on entire sections in my ability to track to entire argument of the book.  I was fascinated by what Foer argues for and I do want to come back to better understand. In its essence, we are leaving ourselves subject to be manipulated by the forces of data and AI in ways that 99.999% of us don’t think about - and perhaps in ways that we do not want . . . and yet we give our data to AI and it now shapes what we see and who we become!  From the publisher: “Elegantly tracing the intellectual history of computer science—from Descartes and the enlightenment to Alan Turing to Stuart Brand and the hippie origins of today's Silicon Valley—Foer exposes the dark underpinnings of our most idealistic dreams for technology. The corporate ambitions of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, he argues, are trampling longstanding liberal values, especially intellectual property and privacy. This is a nascent stage in the total automation and homogenization of social, political, and intellectual life. By reclaiming our private authority over how we intellectually engage with the world, we have the power to stem the tide. At stake is nothing less than who we are, and what we will become.”

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Starting into 2018 - All GREAT reads.

I've been "on retreat" and had time to get through several books in just a few days into 2018.

And some good ones! SOLIDLY good reads here!

These first that I'll cite, I think speak to who I am - I value productivity, peacemaking, understanding cultures and history (historical trauma), travel (and hiking/biking/outdoorsmanship) psychology and biology/ecology.  (Of course, religion(s) - too).

The National Parks: America's Best Idea.  So much to celebrate in this book.  I learned about many characters and bits of history from the parks that I simply was unaware of.  I gained a greater appreciation for the MANY persons and unique events that shaped the National Parks.  I learned about saving ruins, rivers, and wildlife.  Crater Lake, which I've visited from my childhood, had so much history alone - let alone so many other parks.  I was intrigued by how histories of indigenous persons (Native Americans) shaped what we know of these places - and how we pushed them out! :-(   I am so thankful for the many persons (many more than John Muir) worked to save these natural places - including private contributions.  I did not know that the Rockefellers were invested in many contributions of cash and land.  And I learned more about how Congress and Presidents were involved in various decades from the mid 1800s to the late 1900s . . . and individual contributions from persons, literally, their pennies and nickels!  A single quote from the book: Terry Tempest Williams "Our national parks are not only our best idea, but our highest ideal. I think that every time we walk into a national park, we make vows. We make vows that we will live beyond ourselves. We make vows that we will not just care about short-term gains but long-term vistas."

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy Hardcover by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg  This was a great book.  I did not like that Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook "fame" gets so much credit - and the name dropping to Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg and others.  BUT, Adam Grant was clearly behind the data in the book - and Sheryl's personal story of loss was a frame to work around, so it worked.  [ I think I just despise that it takes someone "famous" to be on a book to get the book read by others, when the content of the book itself was so good. ] This would be a single solid "Go-To" resource for the themes in it's subtitle - facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy.  A few take-aways:  Martin Seligman's idea on personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence.  Adam Grand and his colleague Jane Dunton finding that counting our blessings doesn't boost us, but counting our contributions can.  Adam's student, Joe's discovery on finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life, and seeing new possibilities.  "I am more vulnerable than I thought, but much stronger than I ever imagined."  The significance of Gratitude Afterglow - writing thank you notes.  Denmark having "klossen time" and learning how to "matter."  "Companioning" with grief.  Research on Nostalgia - return to pain.  Reflecting on an event helps persons to focus in the future.  Finding strength together - working in mutuality.  This quote from MLK, Jr. " “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality . . . Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”" "Grounded Hope" in the study of Psychology.  "Moral Elevation" in psychology.  Creating a culture to acknowledge our biggest regrets - being about failures to act, not failures of action!  You regret the things you don't do, not the things you do.   A ton in this book!  Adam did a great job.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.  I learned a ton from this book - and it did an excellent job of weaving together histories of humans (and other living things), ecology, biology, grand epochs of history.  It was great. I learned about people who shaped our history  - from Darwin to many others, like Georges Cuvier and Baptiste Lemarck. The first experiences of earthquakes leading to ideas about plate tectonics and Pangaea (some of which I knew, but much that I learned about in new ways.)  [ I did not know that penguins name may etymologically be tied to the Latin for "fat"! ha! ]  We all survived from the impact after an asteroid hit the earth. (Again, I knew about this, but learned so much more in this book.)  "On the perception of incongruity:  A paradigm"  (Google it.  Again, I knew about it . . . but learned so much more.)   "Long periods of boredom interrupted occasionally by panic" - what frames our lived reality.   "Camels often sit down carefully - perhaps their joints creak? Early oiling might prevent permanent rheumatism." (Google it, ha! ). While I knew about the Anthropocene ideas, again I learned so much.  Ocean acidification and coral reefs.  Darwin's Paradox.  The efforts at Biosphere 2, a test pilot on living sustainably in a concealed living pod.  Forest in motion - and woodstocks defecating on their legs to cool off.  Sea levels dropping by 300 feet!!  300 feet!  Thermotolerance.  The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project in Brazil. One person knowing every type of bird in the Amazon based on their calls.  The numbers of extinction. Bats and fungi.  Butterflies evolving to feed on bird feces derived from ants.  Invasive species - global diversity and local diversity making us reform the world back to a kind of Pangaea.  It's not clear that man really lived in harmony with the world - though - can we change our future now.  People holding books as persons who destroy the world like those with AK47s or chainsaws.  "In life, as in mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results." Right now - in the amazing moment that to us counts as the present - we are deciding to, without really meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed.  No other creature has ever managed this.  And it will be, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy."  There was so much in this book!  

Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture)by Heather Andrea Williams.  Such a great book.  It made me weep for how white people displaced Africans, who can truly never find their origins.  I was caught up in stories of dislocation of families - children from their mothers (primarily) and husbands and wives who were controlled by the white men who didn't properly let them marry.  I was beset in new ways with trying to discern how slavery took place for more than 250 years in the America's - by persons who practiced their version of their understanding of Christianity, while beating and separating human persons because they had different skin colour and were perceived as not human.  Legislatures in slave states regulating so many things about what slaves could and could not do. The pathos of loss.  "Disenfranchised Grief."  I'd read about Historical Trauma with indigenous persons - but this book helped me think about this differently with slaves in America.  Bidding on persons . . . I just don't get it.  "Ambiguous loss" in psychology worse than certainty of death.  "Genealogies of separation."  I did not know that "Oh Susanna, oh don't you cry for me" was a slave son.  I want to read more on Historical Trauma - and this book helped me.  Though, this was more on blacks/slaves than Native American Indians (the first Americans!).

Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potentialby Barbara Oakley.  Many great bits in this book - though I think I agree with this Amazon review: "I bought this book because I had previously read Oakley's "A Mind For Numbers" (AMFN) and absolutely loved it. This book is her second and it is weak compared to AMFN. This book is chock full of anecdotes. Long, repetitive anecdotes. AMFN is succinct and full of very constructive steps. Mindshift has very few useful nuggets. It is more like a cheerleader urging you on to make changes. Buy "A Mind For Numbers" and borrow this one from the library if you must read it."  If you need a good cheer leading - read this book though.  Here is a summary of the book, again, from an Amazon review - and on point:  "** Broaden Your Passion >>“What could you do or be if you decided to instead broaden your passion and tried to accomplish something that demanded the most from you? What skills and knowledge could you bring with you from your past that could serve you as you really challenge yourself?” ** Taking Active Steps >> “What mindshift are you trying to accomplish? What thoughts are keeping you stuck? Do you tell yourself that you are too old to make a career change?” **Considering What Underpins Your Mindshift >> “Should the reality of the working world be a factor in your mindshift? If so, how strongly? Do you have a weakness you can change into a strength?"

I was privileged to spend several days with Oklahoma indigenous persons in the Fall of 2017, from Choctaw, Arapahoe, and Potawatomi tribes.  I was entranced by their perspectives and views of life. So thankful for what I learned and I plan to learn more from and with these people personally in 2018. And, this book helped me, too.  Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux by John G. Neihardt.  Weaving autobiography and narratives history - and stories of dreams and insight from "the Grandfathers" - the book gives unique perspective into the worldview of Black Elk as a person.  From the book's cover:  "Black Elk Speaks is widely hailed as a religious classic, one of the best spiritual books of the modern era and the bestselling book of all time by an American Indian. This inspirational and unfailingly powerful story reveals the life and visions of the Lakota healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) and the tragic history of his Sioux people during the epic closing decades of the Old West. In 1930, the aging Black Elk met a kindred spirit, the famed poet, writer, and critic John G. Neihardt (1881-1973) on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The Lakota elder chose Neihardt to share his visions and life with the world. Neihardt understood and today Black Elk is known to all. Black Elk's remarkable great vision came to him during a time of decimation and loss, when outsiders were stealing the Lakotas' land, slaughtering buffalo, and threatening their age-old way of life. As Black Elk remembers all too well, the Lakotas, led by such legendary men as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, fought unceasingly for their freedom, winning a world-renowned victory at the Little Bighorn and suffering unspeakable losses at Wounded Knee. Black Elk Speaks however is more than the epic history of a valiant Native nation. It is beloved as a spiritual classic because of John Neihardt's sensitivity to Black Elk's resounding vision of the wholeness of earth, her creatures, and all of humanity. Black Elk Speaks is a once-in-a-lifetime read: the moving story of a young Lakota boy before the reservation years, the unforgettable history of an American Indian nation, and an enduring spiritual message for us all."