Friday, October 23, 2009

Outliers: The story of success by Malcolm Gladwell

I don't even know where to begin, how to describe just how enlightening this is. I have to say there wasn't a whole lot for me to take to improve my life at this point. I am too old and job enslaved to enact the 10,000 hour rule (explain in a sec). But it will help me with Sid. For one, I will make sure I send him to school the year he will be oldest in his class. 9 months can make a huge developmental difference at a young age and apparently teachers aren't taking this difference into consideration when they are choosing the talented students to poor their attention into and which "slower" ones to ignore and make feel stupid. What results is that over the years it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy based on an originally false pretense. The 10,000 hour rule says that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to master it. The thing is, who has 10,000 hours? No one with a job that's for sure. I intend to make damn sure Sid does not have to work as a teenager and make sure we find out what he's good at and likes and can get a fair shot at opportunities to work his ass off. Yes, success require astronomical amounts of effort, concentration, and hard work. But it's not as simple as that. A lot of hard work is the result of an opportunity to do that work, like things that require rink time, access to certain equipment and technology, coaching, etc. Anyway, what it all boils down to is that I've always said that all hard work is not rewarded equally and this book is the proof. I haven't learned this much truly original (new to me) stuff from a book in long time. He talks about cultural legacy and how where we are from dictates more of our behavior than we know. I just wish there was a way to look up my own cultural heritage and read about what it means for me. Anyway, I take issue with people who would argue that if one is not a success in life then the ONLY thing they were missing was work ethic. Work ethic is a must, but having it doesn't mean one will be a success. This book is a must for those people.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I don't normally read fiction. Sometimes I think it's a waste of time when there is so much to learn. Not true with this one. It is beautiful, tragically sad and blissfully uplifting. I do need a good novel once in awhile. Now I can't wait to see the movie. OH yeah and I did learn some stuff about bees, but for the most part I was just taken with the courageous honesty of the main character in the writing. She was so real. This may sound weird but other things I've read have main characters that aren't conflicted enough to be real. Anyway, this isn't meant to be helpful, I just wanted to record for myself that I read it and that I loved it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Economic Apartheid in America: A primer on economic inequality and security by Chuck Collins and Felice Yeskel

Ok, I don't know if I should really be writing about a book I didn't even finish, or even read half. But I just got bored with all the statistics and graphs. I know the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the gap is getting wider. The number of people with more is shrinking, the number of people with less is growing. This is common knowledge any more. I know this and that's why I picked up this book. The cartoons did elicit the occasional smile. There were suggestions and the end for action, but I could tell as I flipped through that they weren't for me. I'm not looking to start a grassroots movement. The system is pretty irreversibly rigged at this point. I'm more interested in ways to live my life in a way that makes me happy in spite of this. I guess this is why I enjoyed Commonsense Rebellion more. I'm not going to waste any more of my emotional energy trying to change the unchangeable. The only thing I can change is myself. I don't need a bigger piece of the monetary pie to be happy.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Economics by Tom Gorman

So this is one of the things I was reading that dampened my previously uplifted mood. But not much. It was happily pretty technical although I did make a few notes of philosophical argument. Umm, something about the fact that our whole economic system is hitched to the principal of scarcity which I believe doesn't exist. With our current technology and knowledge and resources, there is so enough food and shelter for everyone on Earth. "And, tragically, we don't know how to overcome poverty, hunger, crime, and other evils rooted in economic reality." My pink sticky says, "Can but won't." I believe he actually makes the claim in there somewhere about real wages having risen, which is an utter fallacy. When adjusted for inflation, wages stagnated after the 70's and have begun falling. I made a note reminding myself to do some further research on communism and why it is hitched to dictatorships. Hence the name "communist dictatorship." Why do these automatically go together and is there an alternative? When discussing the "invisible hand" at work in supply and demand, he makes a passing mention of the amount of waste produced which I noted gives lie to the notion of scarcity driving the train. Anyway, by the end I mentally gave up just like I did with my nutrition studies. Too much of anything is bad, don't get bogged down in details and find balance in the big picture.

Commonsense Rebellion: Taking back your life from drugs, shrinks, corporations, and a world gond crazy by Bruce E. Levine

I wish I hadn't waited so long to write about this book. As I was reading it I could feel my life changing, or at least my attitude, with every passing paragraph. I felt such a weight lift from me. I've read a couple things since then that have dampened it, but not much. Let me see, I have a lot of pink sticky notes in here. First off, the general point and idea is that the increased demand for SSRI's and Ritalin etc isn't because we're crazier or have serotonin issues. We are having an appropriate human reaction to our dehumanizing institutional society. But he takes it beyond that to pretty much every aspect of life in an A to Z fashion. So much of what he said is stuff I've always felt and theorized about, now I'm pretty sure it's true. Take depression for example. Any time it's been suggested to me that I should be taking an antidepressant, I refuse. When I get depressed, my question is, ok, what's wrong with my life, where have I strayed from authenticity, WHY do I feel this way? Not what pill can I take to make it go away? Here's a quote: "Are we sure that depression is a valid "disease"? What if it reflects an emotional and aesthetic sensitivity, a greater capacity to reason and see truth, a greater disdain for authoritarianism, and a more pained experience over lack of community? What if those who became seriously depressed were only considered to be "diseased" by those who were genetically predisposed to insensitivity, injustice, compliance, coldness, and an incapacity to see through sophistry?" I refuse to pop a pill, shut up, and fall in line. Depression tells me something and I need to listen when it speaks. To anyone suffering from depression, please don't read this as "it's all in your mind suck it up." I'm saying there is DEFINITELY something wrong but IT'S NOT YOU! He also talks about our public schools. His message is crazy similar to what I read in It's A Boy, reviewed below. Both have me seriously considering home schooling. I'll send Sid to school at first, but he only has to ask me once and I'll take him out the next day. The minute I sense the color running out of his world I'm taking action. I'm not giving him a pill because he has a boring teacher that can't inspire him. I'll tell you right now what I learned in school: how to get an A. It hasn't proven to be all that useful or motivating. It certainly hasn't turned into a lucrative career. Learning how to get an A in any class never taught me what I was good at or what I liked. Now I'm a f$@#g cashier. I don't mean to sound like I blame teachers. There's only so much they can do in our institutional school system. Here's a quote: "Former teacher Alfie Kohn admits he relied on grades to "motivate" students only when he lacked the skills and the curriculum to help students develop a genuine interest in learning. Kohn tells us in his 1993 book Punished by Rewards....the signs of student dependency are questions such as "Do we have to know this?" and "Is this going to be on the test?" That student is saying, "My love of learning has been kicked out of me." Anyway, moving on to the next sticky, hmm. Oh yeah school, Ritalin, ADD. Is it that our kids all of a sudden have ADD in record numbers, or is it that the traditional school setting is unnatural and out of whack, especially in our new world. With the massive amount of information being hurled at us on a minutely basis, wouldn't it be advantageous to be able to ignore the extraneous, useless, boring material? Also, a note on ADD kids: they function every bit as well or better as regular kids when the activity is freely chosen and intrinsically motivated. Oh but life isn't like that you say? Only for those who believe it, the main message of public school. It's designed to turn living people into drones fit for the labor market. There's more right with kids labeled with "ADD" not wrong. Another excellent quote on the subject: "Because creativity and a sense of humor are dismissed as being unrelated to intelligence, teachers are employed regardless or their talents in these areas. When a child doesn't pay attention to a boring authority, the kid is labeled as having ADD. That the teacher was incapable of holding a kid's attention is not considered a deficit in "intelligence," and is thus taken out of the equation." To anyone interested in the subject I also recommend The Edison Gene: ADHD and the gift of the hunter child by Thom Hartmann. He goes on to talk about rewards and how reward removes the joy from an activity. I know from experience that this is absolutely true. Everything I've ever loved that I tried to do for money turned to trash. It doesn't matter how much I love doing something, as soon as I HAVE to, I don't want to. That's why I read and read and read and read, but I can't got to school. I lose all interest and thirst for further knowledge because it's directed by someone else. I have to remember this for Sid. "Even a single, one time reward for doing something enjoyable can kill interest in it for weeks. When an authority figure gives a reward for something, he or she is defining it as intrinsically joyless." Anyway, I could go on and on, but I recommend just reading the book. It covers so much more than the two areas I chose to highlight. It goes into the messed-up-edness of mass scale and it's dehumanizing effects, chemical dependency, ODD, food, health care, jail, TV, pharmaceuticals, and more. I will probably re-read the advice at the end of each chapter on a regular basis, particularly when it comes to parenting. I will never be a "do as I say because I say so" type parent. That is the surest way to make sure your children never respect you. Give them something to respect. They're not stupid. Anyway, the reason I felt so changed by it is probably because it was so affirming of my nagging doubts about everything. Seeing the truth will help me change it in my own life and get back on the path to authenticity and happiness. For free.