Friday, April 27, 2012

It's just a little cold.

SickSickness comes on horseback but departs on foot. ~Dutch Proverb, sometimes attributed to William C. Hazlitt

I was fine a few days ago.  Then the sore throat started, and yesterday it settled into my chest.  Yep, a cold. It's already the end of April, and I thought we had squeaked through the season without suffering much in the way of illness.  I guess I thought that too soon.

I took a really long nap after I got home from work last night.  5pm-10pm, I woke up just in time to catch the news and then get ready for bed.  I feel much better today.  That time sleeping did cut into my reading time.  (Along with blogging time, cleaning time, watching TV time, messing around online time, and play time.) 

I had two book clubs this week and didn't finish either book in time to lend much to either discussion.  I suppose I should have started the books before I left for a short vacation in San Diego.  Somehow the month got away from me, and I didn't realize that the few days after I got back were book club days.

                                   Blind Descent (Anna Pigeon Series #6)     So Cold the River

I listened to half of Blind Descent by Nevada Barr for book club on Tuesday night, and managed to read 95 of the 506 pages in Michael Koryta's So Cold The River for Wednesday night's book club. My cold has since cut into my finishing of those books.  Specifically, that nap yesterday.  You can't really hurry along an audio book, but you can speed through a regular one.  I'm really enjoying So Cold The River  and I'm sure I'll have it finished by the end of the weekend.  But first, I need to play a bit of catch-up around the house.  As long as I'm doing something I find tedious, I'm going to make the most of it and finish listening to Blind Descent.  It's amazing how much easier it is to clean up my house when I'm listening to a good book. 

If you aren't familiar with Nevada Barr, she writes a series of mysteries involving Anna Pigeon who works for the National Park Service.  They all pretty much take place in different National Parks, and entail varying sorts of mysteries.  Her descriptions of places are very readable, and the characters have personality.  Reading a Nevada Barr book can make you long to visit some of these National Parks and Blind Descent does exactly that.  It takes place in New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns, and it travels below ground through the much less explored area of Lechuguilla Cavern.  If you don't like tight spaces, you will feel the pain of Anna Pigeon as she descends underground.  It's a fun listen, if you haven't been able to get your hands on the book.

So Cold The River is a fun book.  A man who makes memorial videos is asked to create a movie based on one woman's father-in-law who is not long for this earth.  He goes back to the man's hometown, and finds that things may not be as they were presented to him.  A little mystery ala Stephen King.  Not scary, just creepily mysterious.  It's a book that if I could, I would just lay down with it and read the day away.  You want to know what's going to happen next, and that makes it hard to put down.  Even when your eyes are struggling to stay awake as mine were yesterday.

That book is giving me motivation to get my house cleaned up and thus finish listening to the other.  I want to know what happens next.  Besides the dishes.

Don't call me a pig!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Behind the scenes.

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. ~Dave Barry, "Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn"

I was on an airplane yesterday sitting next to someone who does not value the work other people do to make our lives easier.  She was obviously someone of importance in her line of work, and it was evident that she thought the flight attendants were beneath her.  It bothered me.  There is no reason to be so haughty to someone who is simply doing their job.  If you're slow about turning off your computer when you've been asked to (because you're doing important work, I'm sure) then there is no reason to be snarky to the attendant who asks you if you are shutting it down.  

I wasn't always as publicly chatty as I am now.  I test out as being an introvert, or at least all the times I remember taking that personality test that's what I've been labeled.  But, it's always nice to be on the receiving end of someone with a positive expression and you don't need to be an extrovert in order to be nice.  So, I do my best to project a positive attitude when I'm dealing with other people.  I don't always.  Most of the time, but everyone has an off day. 

It doesn't take much.  A sincere smile goes a long way.  A fake smile is better than nothing.  A little friendly chit-chat goes even farther.  It doesn't have to be anything much.  Something to make some sort of connection with the people you are interacting with.  Look around you.  Look and see all those people doing jobs that don't get much attention.  

In our media saturated society it seems that everyone dreams of being a star.  All those reality TV shows that turn people into stars, doesn't everyone dream of being a star?  It takes a lot of people to make a star.  I'm not just talking about the make-up artists and sound people either.  What about the people so far behind the scenes that you don't even know they're there?

Who made that bread you're eating?  Who caught and processed the tuna between those pieces of bread?  Who loaded the cans of tuna onto the truck so that someone could drive those cans of tuna to a grocery store near you?  Who unloaded the truck, who stacked the cans, who rang up your bread and tuna purchases at the grocery store?  At my grocery store, they also bag your groceries for you.  I always give the check out clerk and bagger a smile and a thank you.  That person; and so many others, made that tuna sandwich possible.  It's nice to let them know that you appreciate the job they've done so that you could have something for lunch.

It doesn't take much effort to be nice to other people.  Be crabby when you're home alone.  It doesn't take long for a fake smile to become real.  Share a smile, and chances are pretty good that one will be reflected back at you by the people you are interacting with.  See if that doesn't change your fake smile to a real one. 

Day 32/366. Put a Smile on your face :) (Self-Portrait)

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.  ~Mother Teresa

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A half-baked idea is okay as long as it's in the oven. ~Author Unknown

You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea. ~Pablo Picasso

I've spent the past several days daydreaming.  I've given myself permission to sit back and idly think about various things.  I peruse magazines for ideas, search the web for ideas, and look online for ideas.  I fill my head with ideas and then sit back and let them percolate.  These are things that I've been thinkjing about for decades, years, months, or days.  You never know when something new might spring up when you sit back and let all the ideas simmer. 

Do you give yourself permission to daydream?  Do you set aside time for it?  This is a first for me.  I gave myself permission to sit back and think about stuff.  It's spring, so most of my ideas are about the great outdoors.  My gardens, the patio that I want to make this summer, travel plans, the woods, flowers, fences, and the list goes on and on.  The trouble for me lies in making those dreams a reality.  I need to work past my fear of not being able to complete something, and just get started.  I should probably make a plan of some sort first.

I'm a thinker, not a doer.  Grand ideas that never seem to come to fruition.  I shouldn't say never.  I've seen a few ideas through to completion.  It just seems like I've got more great ideas than time, resources, or talent.  Ahhhh, and that's why it's good to just sit back and take the time to sort through the pile of good ideas.  I'm also not a follower of plans.  Give me step by step directions and chances are pretty good that I won't follow them exactly.  There are times when I exhibit a higher level of confidence than competence. 

Small steps.  Things like patios aren't created overnight by the rank amateur.  I need to put together a bit more of an actual plan.  I loved sketching out my "dream house" when I was a kid.  I'm fortunate enough to be married to a man who can turn my sketches into something a bit more professional looking.  He also knows stuff about concrete, so I bet he could figure out how much we will need for the patio of my dreams.

Maybe if I plan better I'll be better able to follow those plans to competion.  A step by step guide for myself.  More work in begining, but perhaps a better outcome.

Here's hoping my competence will be greater than my confidence.

And now it's time to look around online for more great ideas.  Time for a little more daydreaming.

Ideas never run out

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away. ~Linus Pauling

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

There's always something happening in my brain.

Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!  ~~Dr. Seuss


I've been reading and listening to some interesting books lately.  In many ways the books draw many of the same conclusions in different ways.  Obviously, we aren't talking fiction here. 

Waiting for A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the FutureOutliers: The Story of Success

The first two I've been listening to, the third I actually read (no, I haven't seen the movie).   There have been parts in each book that bring up something I remember from one of the other books.  The first two books encompass different ways of looking at genius and the role of right brain thinking in the future.  Left brain thinking used to be the way, but Daniel Pink makes a strong argument for promoting right brain thinking.  Right brain thinkers are those people who not only see the big picture, but they think outside of the box.  Right.  Yep, that's me.  Right brainer, mostly.  Google right brain vs. left brain quiz and the search will land all kinds of choices.  I took a few, and they all came back with my right brain taking a slight edge over my left brain.  Hunh.  Imagine that.  Malcolm Gladwell makes a case for genius being a product of time, place, and practice rather than person (or their right or left brains).  Bill Gates became Bill Gates not only because of the unique opportunities he was presented with but also because of how he used those opportunities.  It would seem like these two titles wouldn't get along, and yet somehow they do. 

What does Waiting For Superman have to do with either of the previous titles?  It's a different way of looking at education, from a couple different viewpoints.  Do you need to think outside the box to embrace some of the changes that are proposed, or to alter them to suit your needs?  Yes.  Do you need to be a little right thinking to do so?  Perhaps.  Will your previous life experiences color your views?  Yes. 

Can you change from left thinking to right thinking if that's the way to success?  I haven't gotten to that part of Daniel Pink's book yet, and since it's an audio version I don't actually know if there is part of the book on that.  So I don't know what the experts say, but I think you can.  You may not be able to switch over entirely, but I think it isn't a bad idea to give it a try.  You certainly wouldn't lose anything except a bit of your time.   

Where does right brain thinking come from?  I don't know.  Books?  Genetics?  Situations?  Is it possible to change from seeing a problem by concentrating on one part of it to seeing a problem with all of it's causes, ramifications, effects, and beyond?  Do you know when you're only seeing part of the whole?   When I was a kid, I got into a "gifted" program.  I got to do some extra fun things, I got to be creative and think outside of the box.  We learned about problem solving.  Not problem solving math problems, or grammatical problems, but future problem solving.  I don't remember much about the specific problems, I just remember that they were heavy topics at the time, and we were told to find ways to solve them.  A whole process ensued, and creativity was a huge factor in it.  Why did the "gifted" class get to hone our critical and creative thinking skills?  Perhaps it's because this was during the 80's when the left brain still reigned supreme.  

One fun thing I remember from this class is being shown an object and then asked to list in a minute or two as many things as you could think of that it could be used for.  How my imagination flowed!  Mini-brain storms is what they were.  I could list until the time ran out, often with more ideas than time allowed.  (Or are my rose-colored glasses tinting my memories?)  Daniel Pink mentions this in his book, or was it Malcolm Gladwell? 

creativity is a habit

Play this game with a kid: find a rock or stick and take turns listing off things it could be used for.  Anything and everything is a good answer as long as it uses the object.  Do you run out of ideas before the kid does?  Remember, there are no wrong answers as long as the object is being used in some way.  Remember the "what if" stage of childhood?  How do answers to the game of "what can this be used for" change before and after that phase?  It's a bunch of food for thought.  How do you recapture some of that "what if" attitude of endless possibilities?  Will answering questions about what a tin can can be used as help you get it back?  I don't suppose it would hurt to stretch your brain a little. 

Imagination.  Fun.  Thinking out of the box.  Creativity.  Is it any wonder I enjoyed these books?

Waiting For Superman is a look at how our education system is failing.  I started reading it because I'm interested in the ways the education system is trying to improve.  What I found is that much of what we're looking for in improving our education system is reflected in Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink.  It was an interesting thing to be reading/listening to these books all at around the same time.  They each played off of the other in ways I didn't really expect when I checked them out. 

What do you think?  Have you read any of these books or similar works by other authors?  Are you a lefty or a righty?What's going on in your brain?    

Isn't the brain fascinating??

The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person. ~Frank Barron, Think, November-December 1962