Dec 6, 2012

Boost Your Memory: 52 brilliant ideas you won't forget

Boost Your Memory: 52 brilliant ideas you won't forget by Darren Bridger 
 
There is absolutly no one that couldn't benifet in some way from reading this book. There is a little bit of something for everyone. However, that means there is a lot in it that probably wont be relivant or interesting to you.

I found myself bored for most chapters. My mind wandered, I skimmed...I just wasn't interested.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it an Alright. I happened to get this as a free download - which is no longer available. I might feel differently if I'd payed for it. I don't think there's anything groundbreaking in it.

...Meh.

Dec 5, 2012

Nov 21, 2012

Total Explosion of Adorable Cuteness - Tiny Penguin Gets Tickled

Welcome to Wednesday. If you need a little cheering up to push you through this middle of the week day, might I suggest an adorable animal video?

This is Cookie, the mascot of Cincinnati Zoo's bird house.



You can watch a longer video of Cookie here that ends the same way - penguin tickles!

Nov 20, 2012

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Description: Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.


I found this book to be really interesting while I was reading it, but just didn't get drawn into it like I often do with books. It took me over a month to finish it, mostly because I always found something else I could pass my time with, not because it was a difficult read or I was particularly busy.

The bulk of the book centered around The Chicago World's Fair - from it's beginning idea, through the trials and triumphs it had right up to it's end. There was a lot of talk about architecture. As someone who has absolutely no interest in architecture (other than being glad that it exists) I found these parts a little tedious. And I guess that was my whole problem with the book. Although I really enjoyed reading about the creation of the first ever Ferris Wheel and the other majestic elements of The White City, all the in between parts slowed things down for me.

I really enjoyed reading the parts about H. H. Holmes. What can I say, I like reading about serial killers. That probably says more about me than the book. I guess it's a slow down to gawk at car wrecks kind of thing.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it a Pretty Good. I could have enjoyed it more, but I also could have enjoyed it less. 


Nov 19, 2012

Music Monday: Stranger



"In other words: Put some clothes on and call me."


Nov 17, 2012

How the ITU could put the internet behind closed doors

I love the Internet. I mean, really, who doesn't? Everyday I'm reminded what a strange, wonderful, exciting place the world is - and that's all because of the internet. It gives us the ability to connect with each other and share our passions and our lives with people across the globe. It lets us create in new ways. It allows us to learn things that we didn't even know we wanted to know about (like, for instance, did you know that there is such a thing as a Mini Donkey?). You can watch live videos of rescue kittens. This just scratches the surface of what wonders lie on the vastness of the internet.

A lot of it wouldn't be possible without open internet access and the freedom to create content without fear. Yet it seems every time I turn around these days, there is some government entity somewhere that wants to threaten that. And not just in far away places like China and Iran. This is everywhere. The future of the global internet is at risk.



For more information, visit WhatIsTheITU.org and share the video. Stand up, speak out and let your government know that you believe in open internet.

Nov 14, 2012

Susan Cain at TED

Want a little taste of what Susan Cain's Quiet is about? Check out her TED Talk, The Power of Introverts.



Nov 7, 2012

Today I Will

Today I will practice being happier than a dog on a trampoline.



What will you do today to better your life?

Oct 30, 2012

The Killer Inside Me


The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

Book Description: Lou Ford is the deputy sheriff of a small town in Texas.  The worst thing most people can say against him is that he's a little slow and a little boring.  But, then, most people don't know about the sickness--the sickness that almost got Lou put away when he was younger.  The sickness that is about to surface again.

This book was written in 1952. One of the big issues I have with older novels is that the writing style is dated, which makes me bored. Unlike most old books, it doesn't read like an old book. It reads like it could have been written yesterday, and set in 1952.

A first person account from Lou Ford - Deputy Sheriff and Psychopath. Ok, I'm no psychologist, so I'm not sure that's the correct diagnosis, but he's got "the sickeness". He's a manipulative, charming liar and he likes to kill people.

I found the book interesting and suspenseful. I really liked the first person aspect of it - seeing both the real Lou, and the Lou he showed to the rest of the town. And I absolutely didn't see the ending coming until it happened.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it a Quite Great. Well written and stands the test of time thus far. 

Oct 25, 2012

Containment


Containment by Christian Cantrell

Book description: The colony on Venus was not built because the destruction of Earth was possible, but because it was inevitable…
A brilliant young scientist and one of the first humans born on Venus, Arik works tirelessly to perfect the science of artificial photosynthesis, a project crucial to the future of his home, V1. The colony was built on the harsh Venusian surface by the Founders, the first humans to establish a permanent extraterrestrial settlement. Arik’s research becomes critical when he awakens from an unexplained, near-fatal accident and learns that his wife is three months pregnant. Unless Arik’s research uncovers a groundbreaking discovery, V1’s oxygen supply will not be able to support the increase in population that his baby represents.
As Arik works against time, he begins to untangle the threads of his accident, which seem inextricably linked to what lies outside the protective walls of V1—a world where the caustic atmosphere and extreme heat make all forms of known life impossible. For its entire existence, Arik's generation has been expected to help solve the problems of colonization. But as Arik digs deeper and deeper, he discovers alarming truths about the planet that the Founders have kept hidden. With growing urgency and increasing peril, Arik finds himself on a journey that will push him to the limits of his intelligence and take him beyond the unimaginable.
This book has an interesting premise, that although isn't new, will continue to be interesting to me in it's many forms. First off Earth colony and it's trials and struggles. Generally, when something has a theme I love (zombies, dystopian futures), I either love it or hate it, so I try not to get my hopes up too high. 

The beginning was a bit slow. There was a lot of history of earth and colonization of space stuff. The only thing that got me through was that, chapter to chapter, we jumped back and forth through time, breaking the dull bits into more manageable chunks.

I really liked the characters, although I have no idea why. They were awfully one dimensional. I still found myself caring about them and wanting good things to happen to them.

As I was writing this, I learned Christian Cantrell is also a technology writer. A piece of info that was not at all a shock after reading his novel. There are a lot of very detailed descriptions of the tech used in the V1 colony. Although there were times when I felt like I wished the author would get on with whatever it was he was moving toward, for the most part I didn't feel like details bogged down the story.

I was not a fan of the ending. There were just too many unanswered questions. Purposely unanswered, which bugs me even more. I'm all for a little bit of unknown at the end of a story - if everything is spelled out for you, it seems forced and fake. I'm not looking for an And-Everyone-Live-Happily-Ever-After situation. But there's a fine line between leaving a little to the imagination and leaving your reader feeling unfulfilled. Containment didn't make it to the line. If it seemed that the author wanted to make room for a sequel, I'd maybe be a little more understanding. This book doesn't need a sequel though. It needs an epilogue.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it an All Right, I Guess. It could have been better, but it could have also been much worse.

Oct 18, 2012

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies by Matt Mogk

Description: The most comprehensive zombie handbook ever published.  In one indispensable volume, Matt Mogk busts popular myths and answers all your raging questions about the living dead.  With foreword written by Max Brooks!

It might go without saying, but I have a thing for zombies. I spend a lot of time thinking about them. Two of my favourite books ever are zombie books (World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide). I am itching for The Walking Dead to come back on air. I love zombies. Well, not actually because zombies are horrifying. You know what I mean.

This book is better than The Zombie Survival Guide. I'll let that sink in for a minute. In The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks takes some creative liberties (such as knowing how zombies come into existence) in the name of entertainment. Which is fine. Great even. As I said, The Zombie Survival Guide is one of my favourite books ever. What makes Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies the better book is that it is all fact. Although zombies are a fictional being, science says they aren't impossible. The book provides good insight into that.

The book not only explores the science of zombies, it gives an in depth look at all manor of zombies in popular culture - from film, literature and video games to zombie walks and zombie proms. It really is everything you wanted to know about zombies.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Totally Awesome. It joins the ranks of my favourite books of all time. If you even have a slight interest in zombies, you should read this.

Oct 17, 2012

Savanna Cheetah Cub and Puppy (Max) Play at the Cincinnati Zoo



Watch this cheetah cub and puppy named Max play, while letting the mid week doldrums melt away.

...that wasn't supposed to rhyme.

Anyway, the video is adorable. Watch it.

Oct 16, 2012

Naked Cruelty


Naked Cruelty: A Carmine Delmonico Novel by Colleen McCullough

Description: Carmine Delmonico returns in another riveting page-turner by international bestselling author Colleen McCullough.
America in 1968 is in turmoil and the leafy Holloman suburb of Carew is being silently terrorized by a series of vicious and systematic rapes. When finally one victim finds the courage to speak out and go to the police, the rapist escalates to murder. For Captain Carmine Delmonico, it seems to be a case with no clues. And it comes as the Holloman Police Department is troubled: a lieutenant is out of his depth, a sergeant is out of control, and into this mix comes the beautiful, ruthlessly ambitious new trainee, Helen MacIntosh, daughter of the influential president of Chubb University.
As the killer makes his plans, Carmine and his team must use every resource at their disposal—including a highly motivated neighborhood watch, the Gentlemen Walkers.

This is the third novel staring Carmine Delmonico, Captain at Holloman Police Department. I didn't read the first two. When I picked this book up (for $4.99, off the bargain table at my local mall book store) I had a feeling that there were previous books but it wasn't super clear. I had no idea how many came before it until I started writing this review. I rightly assumed that it didn't matter - almost always when a book says it's an [insert name here] novel, it's just a bunch of books that that happen to star the same character. A few times while reading I thought, hmm, I'm sure that would make more sense if I'd read the other book(s)...but never during important plot points.

First and foremost I want to talk about the rape scenes. They were incredibly graphic and started as soon as the book did. If that's not the sort of thing you want to read, this is not the book for you. The graphic-ness of it came as a shock to me - generally you have some sort of warning about these things, even if it's just an inkling. I guess I'm used to police books having everyone show up after the fact, when everything is kind of glazed over and fuzzy. You get that something horrible has happened, but you aren't hit in the face with it. This book hits you in the face. You've been warned.

So, this book has a lot going on. That's another way it was different from most police investigation books I've read (and tv shows, and movies). Generally speaking, you usually have your one crime and it's the only thing (more or less) that the police unit in question is dealing with. Totally unrealistic but not something that's ever bothered me. Anyway, in this book you've got a sadistic rapist turned murder, you have someone vandalizing a glass shop, a bank robbery, a weapons cache found at a school and a kidnapping. And that's just the crime. There's also a bunch of personal and professional issues happening both within the police department and in Carmine's home. Even with all of that going on, it was still pretty easy to follow. I had really hoped that some - if not all - of the sub-crimes would be entirely unrelated to the big case (the rapes/murders). Sadly, all but one were connected together in one way or another, although some of the connections were tenuous at best. It wasn't exactly all wrapped up in a neat little box with a ribbon and a bow, but everything fit in there more or less. I was disappointed, but it was ok.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Pretty Good Boarding On Just Ok. I guess what kept me from really liking the book is that I didn't really like any of the characters. I also didn't hate them. They were just kind of there. That's a problem. But there was always something happening making it never boring. Would I read another Carmine Delmonico book? Probably not, but I wouldn't say never.

Oct 10, 2012

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business


The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg


Description: A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.

Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to earn a billion dollars a year.

An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in the Dow Jones.

What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.

They succeeded by transforming habits.

In
The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.

At its core,
The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.

Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.


 This book follows a very familiar format. Basically, it mixes of neuroscience with both personal and professional/business stories to prove the point it's trying to make - in this case, the power of our habits and how to change and cultivate them for a better life and a better world. Luckily I love this type of book. See my reviews of Quiet, How We Decide and Imagine. After what happened with Jonah Lehrer/Imagine, I do take the information contained in them with more of a grain of salt, so to speak, but I give the authors the benefit of the doubt and don't let one bad apple spoil the whole genre.

We all have habits we'd like to change. The big question on everyone's mind is Will this book help me change them? To that I say...I don't know. Maybe. Probably. I mean, it's definitely not going to hurt. Knowing is half the battle and the underlying principals seem sound. Plus, the writing is good, the stories are interesting and it's an enjoyable read. And if you want to get into the habit of reading more, reading this book would be a pretty good first step.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it an Extremely Awesome. Although the format is familiar to the point of almost overdone, I still loved every bit of it.

Oct 9, 2012

Who was Che Guevara (and why is his face on all those T-shirts?)

Forty-five years ago today, Che Guevara was executed in La Higuera, Bolivia. He was was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. Today he's seen as a symbol of rebellion and freedom.

But who was he really?

Oct 8, 2012

Just Put the F*cking Turkey in the Oven

Cooking a turkey today? This is the best advice on turkey roasting. Ever.



Happy Thanksgiving, Canada.

Music Monday: Peaches

Oct 6, 2012

Slow Motion: Water Balloons Free Falling



This video is kind of mesmerizing, don't you think? All slow and...blobby. And set to music. The orange and white ones kind of remind me of pumpkins and ghosts, but that's probably just because it's October and my brain is kind of going there anyway, right?

...Anyway. Slow Motion: Water Balloons Free Falling. Mesmerizing.

Oct 2, 2012

The Color of Tea



The Color of Tea: A Novel by Hannah Tunnicliffe
 
Book Description:
Macau: the bulbous nose of China, a peninsula and two islands strung together like a three-bead necklace. It was time to find a life for myself. To make something out of nothing. The end of hope and the beginning of it too. After moving with her husband to the tiny, bustling island of Macau, Grace Miller finds herself a stranger in a foreign land—a lone redhead towering above the crowd on the busy Chinese streets. As she is forced to confront the devastating news of her infertility, Grace’s marriage is fraying and her dreams of family have been shattered. She resolves to do something bold, something her impetuous mother would do, and she turns to what she loves: baking and the pleasure of afternoon tea.
Grace opens a cafĂ© where she serves tea, coffee, and macarons—the delectable, delicate French cookies colored like precious stones—to the women of Macau. There, among fellow expatriates and locals alike, Grace carves out a new definition of home and family. But when her marriage reaches a crisis, secrets Grace thought she had buried long ago rise to the surface. Grace realizes it’s now or never to lay old ghosts to rest and to begin to trust herself. With each mug of coffee brewed, each cup of tea steeped and macaron baked, Grace comes to learn that strength can be gleaned from the unlikeliest of places.
A delicious, melt-in-your-mouth novel featuring the sweet pleasures of French pastries and the exotic scents and sights of China, The Color of Tea is a scrumptious story of love, friendship and renewal.

I purchased this book because I needed something to read at work to keep me from going insane (I work in a call center). Mostly I picked it because I liked the cover. Also, the story seemed decent and it was 40% off the cover price.

First and foremost, this is a girly book. If you don't like girly books, you wont like it. I happen to like girly books, esspecially ones that aren't all about getting a man. If that's what you're looking for, this is it.

I found the quality of the writing itself was fantastic. The descriptions of things were incredible. I'd never before thought about the way the air tastes. I had a very vivid picture of the setting the whole time I was reading thanks to the author's skilled descriptions.

I really liked the characters, especially Gigi - the young, smart mouthed chinese girl who speaks fluent english. I also understand Grace, the main character. She deals with her problems the same way I do - ignore them, and hope they go away. I never felt like any of the character were too one dimensional. They always felt like real people that you actually might meet if you opened a cafe in Macau.

...it also left me with more than a little obsession with macarons. 

The story itself, although predictable, wasn't predictable in the ways that I thought it would be. If that makes any sense at all. Like, I knew what happened at the end was going to happen. I knew it as soon as Gigi walked through the door at the cafe. And then it happened, but it wasn't quite the way I thought it would happen. And the thing with her husband? Called that too, but not exactly. It wasn't exactly cliché, but...I don't know. It was very safe. Its the kind of story that you feel good about reading, but it's not going to stick in your mind. Generally speaking, I liked the little bits of surprise in my safe story.

Ok, so lets talk about Grace's mother for a minute. So, this might be a little spoilery and might not make sense to anyone who hasn't read this book, but it really bugged me, so here it goes. From the very first time Grace mentions Mama, it's pretty obvious that her mother is dead. It quickly becomes clear that Grace feels a lot of guilt about it. Through a series of flashbacks, a picture of Mama is painted - her personality, her moods. To me, it was very apparent what was wrong with her. So, when we finally get to find out what happened to Mama, I was very confident I knew how she died. But then...that's not what happened. What did happen was very...boring. And although I get why Grace felt guilty, I think my way would have been a lot more powerful. Sometimes the obvious answer is obvious for a reason. Still, even if the author had chosen anything other than what she did for cause of death...like, terminal illness or deranged gunman would have been better choices. Anything other than what actually happened. It made me feel kind of..empty? Let down, maybe?

Last little annoyance: the protagonist is a red head. A very big deal is made about this. Not just sort of red, like my hair is sort of red. Words like fiery are thrown around. Why is the girl on the cover not a red head? It makes no sense.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it a Pretty Great. An easy, enjoyable read.

Sep 29, 2012

Why Quantum Physicists Don't Get Fat: Inject Your Diet With Rocket Fuel (Volume 1)


Why Quantum Physicists Don't Get Fat: Inject Your Diet With Rocket Fuel (Volume 1) by Greg Kuhn

Description: Finally say goodbye to unwanted weight!

1. Have you tried to lose weight only to wind up
gaining it all back (and more)?

2. Have you repeatedly dieted and been unsuccessful
at losing your unwanted weight?

3. Are you tired of trying to hide your weight gains
from family and friends because weight loss plans
just don't seem to work for you?

If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, you're no different than millions of Americans; you've been frustrated by your seeming inability to lose your unwanted weight. It might surprise you, though, to learn that the specific diets you've tried aren't the problem. Would it surprise you further to learn that YOU definitely aren't the problem either?

The problem is not the weight loss plans and neither is it you. The problem is the science! The diets you've tried have failed you because they are based on old, outdated science. Science that has, in fact, been replaced, right under your nose, by an amazingly accurate and incredibly reliable one called quantum physics.

Why Quantum Physicists Don't Get Fat will teach you, in simple, everyday language, to unlock the awesome power of quantum physics to inject any weight loss plan with nitroboosting rocket fuel. You'll quickly find that the great-feeling, slender body you've dreamed of is just around the corner!


If you'd like to read a weight loss success story (as well as the story
of how Why Quantum Physicists Don't Get Fat came to publication), go to
the following webpage:
natural-humor-medicine.com/why-quantum-physicists-dont-get-fat.html


When I failed to win a copy of this book on Goodreads, I was contacted with the information that it was available as a free kindle download for a limited time (no longer an option, but still a pretty good price).

As someone who knows absolutely nothing about quantum physics,  I had very little trouble following the science of the book. It was written in such a way that you don't have to have a science background to understand, which is important for this type of book. That being said, if you don't have much interest in science then you'll probably not enjoy the first half of the book as much as I did. I am however taking the author's word that the facts in the book are sound. It assured me several times that they had been successfully shown in lab testing. It just wasn't all that clear how exactly one would go about testing the claims being made; I just couldn't picture a test that would prove them since, as I've mentioned, I know nothing about quantum physics. It was a minor annoyance and I actually think the book would have been worse off if it had all of the minutiae details. It would have bogged it down too much. Luckily I generally give people the benefit of the doubt, so I'm willing to believe that the facts of the book are sound, even if I don't really get the why or the how of it.

On the diet front the advice is at it's most basic this: Eat foods that are good for you and move your body more. Common sense, sure, but it's good advice. The other part of it was that we need to tell ourselves better stories about the food that we're eating. This is what I feel made the book more than just another gimmicky weight loss book. I don't know if it aids in weight loss or not, but I really believe that the way we think about food it broken. If you can't feel good about what you're eating, that's a problem. Not that I'm immune to such thinking. Not even a little. So this point should be made as often as possible - no matter if it's dressed up as science or warm-and-fuzzy-self-help - Stop thinking about foods as good and bad, and if you can't feel good about eating something, perhaps you shouldn't be eating it.

Last point - this book suffers from what I've come to call Exclamation Mark Overkill. I'm mentioned this before (and again). Seriously - stop it. If your content can't stand on it's own as important information, the exclamation mark it only going to draw attention to your weak point. And if the information you're presenting really is important/ground breaking/novel/exciting/whatever, it'll be seen as such. Assume that your reader is smart enough to decide when a piece of info is exciting or interesting. Trust me. This book could have been a hundred times better. The important bits could have stood on their own. Unnecessary exclamation marks make your non-fiction books seem unpolished and amateurish. Don't do it.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it a Pretty Decent. Easy to understand, interesting concepts on the science front, common sense on the diet end. Just...cut it out with the exclamation marks.

Sep 20, 2012

The Future Belongs to the Curious



I'm taking a couple courses on skillshare right now. So far it's pretty excellent. But this video? So awesome and true.

Sep 19, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking



Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Book Description: At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert."
This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.

I first realized I was an introvert during my high school sociology class. I was in grade eleven and it came as a bit of a surprise. I know this seems pretty late in the game to realize such a thing, but I'm very close to the middle of the introvert/extrovert scale. At the time, I felt a kind of shame about it. It's should not be a surprise to anyone that in the western world being extroverted is the ideal that is prased. Since then, I've come to terms with my introvertedness  and try to work with it rather that fight against it.

I didn't find this book life affirming or anything, but I imagine it could be for someone who isn't comfortable with their introverted selves. Especially if they are a "classic introvert" if you know what I mean. Close your eyes and picture an introvert. I assume we're both picturing something similar - mousy and quiet, likes spending time alone. Obviously, not every introvert is that intovert. I'm not that introvert. And the book does make that clear. But I suspect that introvert will see themselves reflected in the pages of this book more than I did.

And that's ok. Even if you're not introverted in the least, you still could enjoy this book. It's full of feel good stories of innovation and success. It has tons of psychology and science. Also, lots of general awesomeness. Plus, maybe you'll understand the introverts in your life. And better understanding can never be a bad thing, right?

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it an Extremely Awesome. Informative, interesting, engaging and well written - this is just an all around excellent book.

Sep 18, 2012

A Brief Note about Jonah Lehrer

Back in January, I wrote a review of Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. It was a pretty glow-y review, too. Or at least it would have been if I knew how to review books properly. I like to think I'm getting better at it, but I might just be fooling myself. Anyway, the point is that I really enjoyed that book. I enjoyed it so much that my ending recommendation was that everyone should read it. I loved it. I thought I would hold it up as one of the best (if not the best) book I read this year.

That's why I was saddened to learn that some of the quotes in the book were just plain made up. No, more than saddened. I felt betrayed. Not as betrayed as I might had I actually paid for the book, but betrayed none the less. I don't like to be lied to when I'm reading non-fiction.

His other journalistic misdeeds? Well, I'm no journalist, so I'll leave the ethics of those up to the professionals. (Also see Whose Words Are These Anyway)

I thought about taking down my review. Instead I wrote this.

Sep 17, 2012

Sep 11, 2012

Brave New World



Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Description: Far in the future, the World Controllers have finally created the ideal society. In laboratories worldwide, genetic science has brought the human race to perfection. From the Alpha-Plus mandarin class to the Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons, designed to perform menial tasks, man is bred and educated to be blissfully content with his pre-destined role.

But, in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, Bernard Marx is unhappy. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, feeling only distaste for the endless pleasures of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

A fantasy of the future that sheds a blazing critical light on the present--considered to be Aldous Huxley' s most enduring masterpiece.


When it comes to book choices, I am generally not interested in anything that could fall into the category "classics". This may make me seem uncultured, but it's true. I usually enjoy them once I get into to them (as you can probably tell from my previous reviews, I'm not particularly hard to please when it comes to books) but I often find them tedious at first - before I get into the rhythm of reading them. I just kind of have a meh attitude about classic literature in general. 

...I'm not really sure what my point is, except to say this book has always been an exception to that rule of sorts. I've been meaning to read Brave New World for some time now, but just have never gotten to it until now. I love dystopian fiction and want to read as much as possible (seriously, if you have suggestions I would like to know them). 

Does it ever happen to you that you hear a lot about a book (or a movie, or whatever), and you think you know what it's going to be about but then you actually read it and it's not at all what you expected it to be? And, if you really think about it, you realize that you really didn't know anything about it to begin with? Well, that's what this book was for me. It was not at all what I had expected it would be, and that was both good and bad, as you can imagine.  Good because, well surprise is always good, right? At least, when reading fiction. Bad because...well, it's kind of hard to explain. I just expected to like this book a lot more then I did. I didn't expect it to be this big, life changing inspiration or anything, just...yeah. I expected it to be more than it was. 

I guess I'm just used to it being very clear who the good guys are and who are the bad guys. But...I mean, the people of civilization weren't exactly bad guys. They just had a very narrow existence. A very boring, narrow view of the world...but they were happy, at least. And "The Savage", well, he was a little too extreme and intense for me to want to side with him. A product, I'm guessing, of being a character written for an audience in 1931. I just wanted to say to him, Dude, chill out. You're making mountains out of mole hills. Also, Lenina was this awesome character, right up until they went to the reservation and then she instantly got annoying and stupid. That made me more than a little displeased. I really, really liked her at the beginning. I know she was just being who she was brainwashed to be, but I wanted her to be so much more.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful, I'd give it a Very Good. I'm glad I read it and it had some really interesting ideas, but I didn't love it.

Aug 31, 2012

Never Let Me Go


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Book Description: As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.


I just found out this book was made into a movie. An interesting fact, but I wont be watching it. Even if it does have Keira Knightley. Who is awesome. I enjoyed the book well enough, but I wouldn't want to sit through it again.

Most of the things I didn't like about the book, were exactly right for the story it was telling. It was conflicting. Such as, the pace of the book was slow. At time, really slow. But that's exactly the pace that a story which is mostly memories from the past. Kathy also came across as really immature, especially the parts about sex - and there was a lot of sex - but again that only makes since, considering the sheltered lives these children that grew up at Hailsham had. However, just because these things were right for the story, didn't mean I had to like them.

The redeeming quality that kept me reading was the mystery of what the book was actually about. It's so much more than a book about some kids who were at a boarding school together. It becomes clear pretty quickly that there is something the author isn't telling us, and that we want to stick around to find out what it is.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it a Enjoyable. I wouldn't exactly recommend not reading it, but I'm not about to go around shouting about it from the rooftops either.

Aug 29, 2012

Deaf Boy Told To Change Name at School because of Weapons Policy

You know what I miss? When common sence was more important than policy.

This article (which I found via Boing Boing) is exactly what I'm talking about. A 3-year-old deaf boy named Hunter was told by his preschool that he would have the change the way he signs his name, as it violates their weapons policy.
Hunter Spanjer says his name with a certain special hand gesture, but at just three and a half years old, he may have to change it.
"He's deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy," explained Hunter's father, Brian Spanjer.
Grand Island's "Weapons in Schools" Board Policy 8470 forbids "any instrument...that looks like a weapon," But a three year-old's hands?
They have since changed their tune and issued a press release stating that they will not be requiring him to change his name (after angry emails and phone calls), but that doesn't change the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to tell this child's parents that his name violated policy.

It makes me want to weep for the future of humanity.

Aug 26, 2012

UnSelling: Sell Less ... To Win More


UnSelling: Sell Less ... To Win More by Peter Bourke

Book Description: The more you sell, the less the client trusts you to tell them the truth. The more you sell, the less inclined the client is to listen. The more you sell, the more you tend to look (and act) like a hammer looking for a nail – where any nail will do. In reality, the more you sell, the less you win.

This is entirely counter-intuitive to the average sales person, mostly because we are taught from the first day of sales training that the key to success is great sales techniques. You can find thousands of books on the art and science of selling – techniques, tricks, even scripts to “sell” the prospect. Our corporate sales training classes always insisted that sales is about understanding the prospect’s needs and then articulating your solution so that the prospect was compelled to choose your obviously-superior solution – right? Not so fast! The problem: most prospects don’t want to be sold.

This book on UnSelling is designed to shift the buyer-seller relationship from subservient (they say, “Jump,” we say, “How high?”) to collaborative and does so by having the seller resist the temptation to “sell” (or tell). UnSelling is focused on the more consultative approach of understanding the problem the client is intent on solving. The better we understand the client’s problem, the less we have to sell (if at all).

This eBook will outline an approach to control and win the most complex deals that includes:

• Qualifying new clients that requires no “selling” – period!
• Understanding how to create a collaborative relationship with the prospect so that your sales teams can understand the truth from the client – not what they want you to believe
• Contrasting the difference between traditional selling and this unique approach to UnSelling
• And understanding what to say and how to say it

Your sales people and leaders will never “sell” the same way again – and will win more as a result.


 This is a book full of excellent tips on a new way to sell - or Unsell, if you will. For me, it was less of an eye opening, novel new way of doing things than an affirmation that my way of sales may have been right all along.

I used to be a telemarketer. For eight months I sold cell phones and plans through cold calling. I hated it, mostly because I was awful at it. If I could find someone who was interested in talking for a moment, I could quickly find out if we had something that was a good fit for them, but I was really bad at pushing someone into buying something that they really didn't want. This book confirmed for me that my way of selling is just as valid - if not better - than that of your classic sales person. Just not if you're a telemarketer.

Really, the only complaint I have about this book is one that is always a big one I have for non-fiction books - unnecessary exclamation marks. It makes me crazy. It's as if the author is saying, "Look!!! LOOK! THIS INFORMATION IS VERY NOVEL AND INTERESTING!! I am ever so clever to have written it!!", which if what you're writing is actually novel and interesting, the reader is already going to notice it. It's actually a little insulting - like the author doesn't think I'm smart enough to figure out what is important or not. More often, though, the unnecessary exclamation mark accompanies information that is not nearly as big of a surprising breakthrough as the author thinks it is. If this was a face-to-face interaction, it would be the kind of thing I'd respond to with a sigh, and an urge to move things a long. "Yes, we all get it, you're very smart, now lets get on with it." What's even worse is that in Unselling, a lot of the information presented in conjunction with the dreaded punctuation actually was interesting and clever. Making it it even more annoying and jarring. Seriously, if you're writing a non fiction book and you think to yourself, "Should I have an exclamation mark at the end of this sentence?" - Unless you're quoting someone, the answer is no.

..Anyway...

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it an Pretty Great. The information was interesting and even if you are a "classic salesperson", there are some ideas you could (and I would argue should) adopt. Plus, it's free, so the only thing it's going to cost you is a bit of your time. It's no a particularly long book, so there is really no reason for one that is interested in sales shouldn't read it. Just watch out for unnecessary exclamation marks.

Aug 21, 2012

Getting Away With It


Getting Away With It (52 Brilliant Ideas) by Steve Shipside

Book Description: Some people have the inside track on everything. They look ten years younger than they are, they wangle cheap flights all over the world and still get upgraded, they talk their way out of parking tickets, and get glamorous jobs they're not really up to. Well, now it's your turn. In Getting away with it we've assembled more than 20 Infinite Ideas authors to expose the secrets of the world's most (apparently) successful people. Often wondered how some people always seem to have a place on the guest list at the hippest places in town, drive cars way out of their price league and have jobs they simply aren't qualified for? Well here are some of the answers you've been looking for.

I got this book as a free kindle download, but that doesn't seem to be an option anymore. Pity, as far as free books go this one is pretty good. I found it to be pretty well written and edited; it was an overall enjoyable read. And, it was surprisingly not all that smarmy, considering that it's a book about making people think you're more awesome than you are.

On a scale from On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it a pretty good. What really made the difference - that is, what took this book from being really awful to pretty good - was that it doesn't take itself too seriously. And in amongst the bits that are a little heavy on the smarmy are some really good tips on how to look your best and get ahead in life. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Aug 16, 2012

Great Moments from Olympics Past

If you were one of those people that spent every available moment (or even some available moments) wrapped up in Olympic fever, you might be feeling a little withdrawal at this stage in the week. While it's not London 2012, maybe these moments from past Olympic Games will ease your suffering.







Aug 14, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)


Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

Book Description: For fans of Tina Fey and David Sedaris—Internet star Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, makes her literary debut.

Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are in fact the ones that define us. In the #1 N
ew York Times bestseller, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor. Chapters include: “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”; “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”; “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking”; “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane.” Pictures with captions (no one would believe these things without proof) accompany the text.

To say that I'm a long time fan of The Bloggess would be an understatement. I found her blog by accident one day and I was hooked. I went back and read everything ever posted to that site. Although I had to stop reading at work a few times, because I was trying not to laugh out loud like a crazy person, but it was making me convulse a little and people were looking at me strange. Any writing that can make you do that has to be incredible, right?

I've been waiting for my chance to read this book since it was released. When the box from Amazon arrived, I couldn't wait, and starting reading immediately. I had wanted to take it to work with me the next week to read between calls (one of the few perks of my particular call centre job), but it didn't make it that far. I started it on Thursday and was finished Friday evening.

It was an easy, quick read and I loved every second of it. Anyone who's spent a lot of time on her site will find a lot of the stories familiar (as in, hey, I've read this exact story before, almost word for word) but I didn't feel cheated in that way that you often can reading memoirs from bloggers. Most of the contents of the book were brand new and wonderful - in a train wreck kind of way. My favourite parts had chupacabras and scorpions.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it an Absolutely Excellent. You'll love it if you've been following TheBloggess for any length of time, but even if you haven't you should still check it out. It's funny, horrifying and heart warming (I guess?). It's full of taxidermy, bobcats and toxic well water. It has a quest to find a long lost graveyard and guys in Hazmat suits. So, you know - a little something for everyone.




Aug 11, 2012

To Do: Watch The Perseid Meteor Shower

GUYS. Tonight starts the year's best meteor shower. Go find somewhere dark and look up.



If you're in the Annapolis Valley this weekend there are tons of other things going on too.

You could check out the Open House at Camp Aldershot. Military vehicle rides, face painting, Military equipment displays...Free hot dogs. Weapons and tactics demonstrations. Last year the lit the grass on fire. It was entertaining. And free! I go every year, because it is just around the corner from my house. It's still worth checking out if you're in the neighbourhood.

You could also take in Berwick Gala Days, New Minas Celebration Days or Kentville Street Fest!

What's happening in your neck of the woods this weekend?

Aug 10, 2012

The Hunger Games (movie)



So, I finally got around to watching The Hunger Games movie. I don't usually write movie reviews because...it's kind of hard to explain. Although I generally enjoy movies, I don't really care about them. Not enough to review them. I imagine you can see where this review is going.

I felt I should write a quick review for this movie since I wrote such gushing reviews of the books. So here it is.

I'm not going to get into great detail on the differences between the book and the movie. Was it missing things from the book I wish were in the movie? Of course (Haymitch falling off the stage?). It was made up for by adding in things that made the movie work better than how it would have without them. So I'm cool with the differences.

Now, lets talk about casting for just a second. Whoever did the casting did a fantastic job. Even the people that didn't look like I imagined them worked really well. And most of them..well, they were all pretty close to how I saw them in my head. Rue and Effie? They were PERFECT. Casting was well done. Very well done.

My biggest complaint about the whole thing is that there weren't enough extremes. The people of District 12 were poor, but weren't portrayed as epicly poor. And the capitol was extravagant and kind of weird, but not as over the top as they should have been. Haymitch had a few drinks, but wasn't a horrible drunk. The Games themselves were awful, but were not near as barbaric as they were in the books. The extremes are what made the books so compelling. They were what I missed most when watching the movie.

I think I would have liked the movie a lot more had I never read the books. But if I'd watched the movie first I never would have read the books. It was good, but not great. I enjoyed it but...meh.


Aug 8, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Book Description:
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

This book made me cry. A lot. Especially at the end. If you don't books that make you cry, then you probably shouldn't read books about teenagers with cancer. Seriously, that would be pretty foolish of you.

I always feel really foolish when I cry at books. I don't know why. It's perfectly ormal, right? I don't know. It never stops me from reading books I know will make me cry. In fact, I enjoy them more than a lot of books that don't make me cry.

I didn't like Augustus at first. There were a lot of things that left me rolling my eyes and thinking, Really? Really. People aren't really like that. But then I remembered that teenagers are often like that. I had friends like that in High School. People who thought they were way deeper than they really were. Also, he grew on me. I really liked him by the end of the book.

Ok, so this might be a spoiler if you're part way through the book or just about to start the book. So you might want to skip this bit. Right. So I spent a good part of the book worried about the ending. I was scared it was going to end like the ending in the book within the book. Every time the ending of that book was mentioned (which was quite a bit), all I could think was, Oh god...if this is foreshadowing and this book ends like that book I will be SO ANGRY and will never read another John Green book. But I will still love his videos (Especially Crash Course) and won't hold this against those. ...long story short, I hope to get my hands on
Looking for Alaska sooner rather than later, so read into that what you will.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrifically Awful I'd give it an Incredibly Great. I would recommend it to...really, anyone. Unless you don't like books that make you cry.

Aug 7, 2012

Hot Dog IN SPAAACE!!

This video is really, really strange and (Spoiler Alert!) ends with a hot dog that goes into space and back.


Aug 4, 2012

What kind of things do security cameras capture?

I stole this from yes and yes because it is crazy cute.



Seriously, I can't stop watching this. It kind of makes you want to go out and be awesome to people, doesn't it?

Great job, Coca Cola. 

Aug 3, 2012

La Chiripa

I received this book (SIGNED by the Author!) through Goodreads First Reads.

La Chiripa by Kaimana Wolff

Book Description:
 On the evening news, Vancouver lawyer Matt Wayne catches the story of a murdered Japanese tourist and instantly makes a decision: he will go to Todos Santos, high in the mountains of Guatemala, to hunt down the woman he hates.


In Todos Santos, Pira and her mother, Alma, keep quiet about their past, much as their Mayan neighbors, still in shock after four decades of La Violencia, now maintain El Silencio over an unspeakable history. But two aspiring journalists, stumbling onto the fate of the tourist, tell the sensational story for their own purposes, proving once again that lies uncover truth better than truth uncovers lies.


Only the shaman Natalya, dreaming of the vengeful, mythic Anton Kristo, foresees the wave of new violence about to engulf Todos Santos with the coming of Matt Wayne. Pira is plunged into a fight for her life and Alma faces a mother’s sacrifice -- to give up everything for a child.

The first thing I'd like to mention is that this is the second book in a series. This is a fact that I was completly unaware of until I got to the end and read the blurb about the author. You know how sometimes you're reading a book and although everything make sense it feels like you're missing something? And only later you find out it's actually the second or third book in a series? This happens to me a lot when I buy books from the bargin bin or when someone gives me a bag full of random books. Anyway, I did not have that feeling even once while reading this book. I had no idea and was quite surprised to know that there was a book that came before this one. It's written in such a way that it feels as if you are not supposed to know the back story. It's actually what I liked most about the book. The not knowing the whole story is what kept me reading. Without it, I don't know if I really could have gotten into it.

When I cracked open the book and found a cast of characters right at the begining, I was a little discouraged. I knew that meant there were going to be too many characters that are difficult to keep straight. I hate that. If I was reading this on my kindle, I would have never finished it, because the cast wouldn't have been so easily accessed, leaving me terribly confused. With a hard copy version of the book, it's not a big deal but it disrupts the flow of my reading experience. That's not to say that the author should have left it out - I needed it more than once. I just...hate when it's necessary is all.

The second thing I found as I continued to the first chapter - the format was really strange. It was a series of interviews, but you only got to read the response to the questions, not the questions themselves. It was really, really weird. I didn't like it at all, and contemplated not reading any further.

However, I would have kept reading regardless of any of the before mentioned facts, as when I receive free books, I feel obligated to read them. Even if they're terrible.

The odds against me liking this book were pretty high, but I kept reading, because I needed to know The Secrets. It was obvious early on that there was something big going on. The Secrets are what kept me reading at the begining, and eventually I got sucked into the story. I don't think I would have liked this book even a quarter as much if I'd read Broken Sleep first.

On a scale from Totally Awesome to Horrificly Awful I'd give it a Very Good. As I haven't read it, I can't suggest that you skip the first book, but don't let not reading it make you miss out on La Chiripa. I'll be on the look out for the last book in the series, for sure.