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Books Living

Life in these United States

woman in white long sleeve shirt standing near white and gray house during daytime
Photo by Julian Jagtenberg on Pexels.com

A couple of commentaries I read today really brought home to me some of what’s happening to life in these United States. Both of these articles strike me as like the other:

Zen and the Art of #VanLife Influencing

The problem of getting old is an old problem, which means there are plenty of established ways of coping. The new problem, the one harder to deal with, is the diminishing possibilities for our species. Settling down means something different now, because there is no long term. The best one can hope for is a temporary pocket of equilibrium, to be enjoyed while it lasts, and then mercilessly abandoned. …

I grew up in Portland, and I love it. Here’s why I’m never moving back, even though I can work from anywhere.

…what links the vanlifers, the influencers and the get-rich-quick kids isn’t laziness or dreams of going viral, but rather a sense of precarity that they see all around them, whether in campgrounds filled with the homeless, in the ongoing climate disasters and now in a pandemic that has isolated them from their friends. …

In other news, I’ve recently discovered Ted Kooser (thanks to the By the Book profile of author William Kent Krueger in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review). Kooser’s known for his plainsong poetry about the Great Plains. I’m really enjoying his prose – in particular his great memoir about life in rural Nebraska: Local Wonders. Highly recommended – his evocative sentences are a real delight to read!

Contrary to what out-of-state tourists might tell you, Nebraska isn’t  flat but slightly tilted, like a long church basement table with the legs on one end not perfectly snapped in place, not quite enough of a slant for the tuna-and-potato-chip casserole to slide off into the Missouri River. The high end is closest to the Rockies, and the entire state is made up of gravel, sand, and silt that ran off the front range over millions of years. …

Categories
Books Living

More Book Recommendations…

After writing yesterday’s post including my book recommendation for Falling, I realized there were two other books that I really enjoyed reading in the last couple of months – and wanted to share them.

The first is Daniel Silva’s The Cellist, the 21st book in his long running series about Gabriel Allon. Silva rewrote a lot of this book after the events at the Capitol on January 6th. He lives in DC and is married to a CNN correspondent – so he was right in the midst of those January events. He masterfully weaves that story line into the end of The Cellist. There’s a great interview online with Silva talking about this book that’s worth watching.

The second is the The President’s Daughter by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. This is their second collaboration – I also enjoyed the first (The President is Missing) but found this second one even more enjoyable. Patterson’s use of plot twists along with Clinton’s “spice” of realism regarding the presidency and post-presidential life add a lot to this story. There’s also a great interview of the two of them with Lee Child that’s well worth watching.

Both of these books – along with Falling – are great summertime reads!

Categories
Books Covid-19 Living

Stuck in Neutral

Back in May, I wrote about re-emergence – that feeling of coming out of the pandemic and “getting back to normal”. If only that had proven to have been true!

Instead, what’s happened is the “Delta relapse” – as this new Delta variant has demonstrated again that viruses are clever and have a “mind” of their own. A more contagious mutation – causing “breakthrough infections” even among dual vaccinated individuals – has thrown a new damper over those good feelings we had back in June.

For me personally, that’s meant staying closing to home again – avoiding group contact, etc. But it’s also been good in some ways – as I’ve added a new regular daily walk to my morning routine. That’s help me drop a few more pounds in weight – a very good thing – and provided a daily photography opportunity.

We’ll see where we are as we get through August – as schools try to re-open, traffic picks up again, and “normal” life tries to re-emerge again. Delta curves in India and the UK provide some hope that the US will see some stabilization and recovery soon. We also expect to hear soon about the need for a booster shot this fall for vaccinated individuals – wouldn’t it be wonderful if that got combined with this year’s flu shots?

Life goes on – just another roller coaster ride!…

Book recommendation: over the weekend I read Falling by T.J. Newman. It’s right at the top of my list of the most enjoyable books that I’ve read this year. Definitely not recommended for reading on a flight but otherwise it’s a great escape! I finished it in one day – a great example of a “page turner”!

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Books Payments

New Book: Global Payments

Congratulations to my long-time partner at Glenbrook, Carol Coye Benson! Carol has just published a new book on Global Payments.

Carol is a real industry expert with years of experience on this topic. If you’re looking to better understand the complexities of how payments work on a global scale you’ll want to read this new book.

Global Payments is available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Carol and I collaborated many years ago to write the book Payments Systems in the U.S., now in its third edition with co-author Russ Jones.

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Books Podcasts santa fe Travel

A Few Links for Labor Day

Here are a few links to articles and podcasts that I found interesting this Labor Day morning and over the past few days:

  • Malcolm Gladwell and Timor Kuran. A few days ago someone mentioned The Portal podcast hosted by Eric Weinstein (@EricRWeinstein) and, in particular, the episode with Duke University professor Timor Kuran (@timurkuran). Their discussion about Kuran’s theory of preference falsification was fascinating – especially about how things in society can “cascade”. A day or two later I happened to watch this New Yorker video (April 2018) with David Remnick and Malcolm Gladwell (@gladwell) during which Gladwell highlights perhaps his favorite New Yorker article titled Thresholds of Violence (October 2015) – about how school shootings have caught on in America. In that article, Gladwell talks about Stanford professor Mark Granovetter‘s famous 1978 paper about how riots happen – in particular how “a riot is a case of destructive violence that involves a great number of otherwise quite normal people who would not usually be disposed to violence.” He asks the question: “But what if the way to explain the school-shooting epidemic is to go back and use the Granovetterian model—to think of it as a slow-motion, ever- evolving riot, in which each new participant’s action makes sense in reaction to and in combination with those who came before?” The connection between Kuran’s false preferences and Granovetter’s threshold models of collective behavior was striking to me. I highly recommend both the Gladwell video and the Weinstein/Kuran discussion on the podcast – fascinating stuff with profound implications for our time.
  • Podcast: Land of the Giants – by Jason Del Rey. A few fascinating episodes exploring the success of Amazon.com. Highly recommended!
  • Podcast: The Moment with Brian Koppelman and his interview with author Ben Mezrich (author most recently of Bitcoin Billionaires which I also really enjoyed reading – see my highlights here).
  • Photography (YouTube): Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge – Sean Tucker – The challenge provides a photographer with a minimalist cheapie camera – and follows him shooting with it. Good fun!
  • Travel: The Insider’s Guide to Santa Fe – from Outside magazine and Tourism Santa Fe. One of my favorite small cities and the home of Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
Categories
Books Living Poetry

“it could be that there’s only one word and it’s all we need…”

In a recent Facebook post, Barack Obama listed three books he’s recently read and wanted to share. One of them was one of the late poet W. S. Merwin’s – “The Shadow of Sirius“. Obama wrote:

One of the great poets of our time, W. S. Merwin, passed away recently. A brilliant writer and conservationist, Merwin spent the final period of his life on a former pineapple plantation in Hawaii, working to restore the surrounding rainforest. … I’ve drawn inspiration from Merwin’s writing because it teaches us about ourselves, our world, and how we as humans connect to nature. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time on poetry but Merwin’s death reminded me of how a good poem can inspire and instruct. So if you’re in the mood, give one of them a try.

Obama’s pointer took me to a recently published collection of Merwin’s poetry: “The Essential W. S. Merwin“. Yesterday, on Father’s Day, I was flipping through this collection and happened to come across his poem “The Unwritten” which I really enjoyed. It’s about a pencil – and how the pencil holds words “that have never been written, never been spoken, never been taught”. He concludes with:

it could be that there’s only one word
and it’s all we need
it’s here in this pencil

every pencil in the world
is like this

Indeed.

And, that word is not just in every pencil in the world – but in every human too!…

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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Books

Book Note: “I Love Capitalism” by Ken Langone

I just finished reading Ken Langone’s memoir “I Love Capitalism“. It’s quite a story – of his life growing up and gradually becoming very successful as a co-founder of Home Depot. He tells many stories along the way about his family, business partners, deals, Ross Perot – and Eliot Spitzer (!). A quick delightful read! Here’s a recent review of the book in the Wall St. Journal.

“Everybody talks about the bottom line, but as I’ve seen time and time again, you ignore the human element of business at your peril. Most of the seven deadly sins can and do come into play, and chemistry between people—good chemistry or bad—always has an effect, sometimes a huge effect: in boardrooms, in executive offices, in sales meetings.”

 

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Books

Books: The President is Missing

Just finished reading The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. It’s a crypto-thriller set in the near present day. Lots of twists and turns – and excitement. A very enjoyable summer read!

“Our democracy cannot survive its current downward drift into tribalism, extremism, and seething resentment. Today it’s ‘us versus them’ in America. Politics is little more than blood sport. As a result, our willingness to believe the worst about everyone outside our own bubble is growing, and our ability to solve problems and seize opportunities is shrinking. We have to do better.”

 

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Books Musings

Words Matter – Avoid the “de-words”!

I’m enjoying reading the new book Our Towns – A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America by James Fallows (@JamesFallows) and Deborah Fallows (@FallowsDeb). On my morning walk this morning I was listening to the audiobook version of Our Towns during their discussion of their time in Eastport, Maine.

During one of Deb’s sections, she commented about local language – and how the locals in Eastport are using language as “a power tool of their development.” She described how a local group of women in Eastport had noticed the use of “de– words” in many articles describing Eastport – “words like: ‘depressed,’ ‘dependent,’ ‘decline,’ ‘despair’” and how those words were often used to describe aspects of Eastport’s economics, services, schools, or population.

Deb describes how this group then set forth to crowd out the de- words with re- words: like ‘rebound,’ ‘rediscover,’ ‘redesign,’ ‘reverse,’ ‘renew,’ ‘reenergize,’ ‘reemerge.’ and that they encouraged reporters and politicians to substitute the more positive words in their descriptions of Eastport. What a great idea!…

For more background on the book – and some of their findings and conclusions from their journey – see this video of them at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Categories
Books Tools

Reading Tools

I’m a fickle reader – and read a wide variety of stuff. As a result, I like to browse a lot of books before deciding to dive in and truly reading one. I’ve come to rely on a couple of tools to help me in my quest for interesting book content.

When I come across mention of a book that sounds of interest, I will typically first search Amazon and take a look at the reviews for the book. I also frequently download the book’s sample so that I can spend a bit more time deciding whether I want to invest time and money in the book.

To quickly accomplish this, I use a Launchbar keyboard shortcut on my Mac’s which invokes an Amazon book search and opens a new browser tab directly on the book’s page. This is super fast and convenient – in a flash I can be there. Sometimes, if I’m in the middle of something, I’ll trigger the search, the tab will open, and then I’ll come back to it later. It will wait patiently for me to return.

In addition to free Kindle book samples, another Amazon feature – “Look Inside the Book” – is also helpful for reviewing the first few pages of a book.

I’ve used this approach for several years and it’s become second nature. More recently, I discovered Overdrive’s free iOS app Libby which performs a similar function for me doing a library search for a book. I have library cards for several of the area libraries and have set them all up in Libby. I can open Libby, enter a search, and see if one of my libraries has the book available in ebook format. If so, I can borrow it – or place a hold to be notified when a copy becomes available. Once I borrow it, I can request that the book be downloaded to my Kindle.

I have the Kindle app on all of my devices: Mac’s, iPhone, iPads, etc. Any book (or book sample) that I’ve downloaded to Kindle can be opened on any of those devices – depending on what’s with me.

The two tools that make this all possible are Launchbar on my Mac and the Libby app on iOS.