Time flies when you’re lost in a good book

Humidity and heat = AC and books!

I chose to take June off from blogging. Then the heat and humidity of a South Carolina summer sapped me of the strength to do anything more in my garden than just water the plants and let them be. Doing so left me nothing to blog about from my garden – how many posts can I write on wilting vines?

Summers in SC are perfect for staying indoors, reading, sipping sweet iced tea, and enjoying Mr. Willis Carrier’s wonderful invention of commercial air conditioning. To keep this short, I’m just posting a list of some of the books I read since June, with maybe one or two lines of description. Tell me what a person reads and I’ll tell you about that person….

June

Kindle

Out of the Silent Planet
by C. S. Lewis

The beginning of Lewis’ lesser-known trilogy for adults. Fanciful yet deep. It rewards constant re-reading.

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot
Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard

I’ve read so many books about the Kennedys – this was one of them. I can’t remember much about it.

January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right
Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly has been the voice of those who have no voice in this matter. Read it and be infuriated.

OUTCRY: Why does Pope Barnabas release Catholic clergy from their vows of celibacy?
Ned Cosby

A piece of fiction which imagines a future pope determined to rid the church of sexual abuse.

Paperback and hardcover

Uncharted (1) (Arcane America)
Sarah A. Hoyt and Kevin J. Anderson

I love Sarah’s blog and love to read her books.


July

Kindle

The Devil’s Hand: A Thriller (Terminal List Book 4) AND

In the Blood: A Thriller (Terminal List Book 5)
Jack Carr

I had to read both of these to finish the series before I watched an episode of Amazon Prime’s Terminal List series. My conclusion: I’m happier with the books.

Blessed With All This Life (The Wilder Bunch Book 7)
Max Cossack

The last of the Wilder Bunch series, and yes, of course I have them all. I was turned on to the famous novelist Max Cossack by his lovely wife who writes the Ammo Grrrll columns at Powerline blog.

Paperback and hardcover

The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, COVID-19 and The War Against the Human
Naomi Wolf

Still finishing this one up – it makes my blood boil!!


August (so far)

Kindle

The Iron Web
Larken Rose

A chilling look at a possible dystopian future, where men have forgotten how to be free.

The Puppet Masters
Robert A. Heinlein

My introduction to a master – thank you, Sarah Hoyt!

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
Robert A. Heinlein

I’m 75% of the way through this and it makes me cheer. The transportees settled forcibly on Luna (our moon) have risen up and declared their independence. I’d heard of this one before I read it – it is a masterpiece.

Waiting in the wings

The Little World of Don Camillo (Don Camillo Series Book 1)
Giovanni Guareschi

Another delightful recommendation from Sarah. Can’t wait.

Paperback and hardcover

One Row at a Time
Rochester A. Baker, Sr.

Rochester is in my Toastmasters club, Two Notch Toastmasters. He has written a lovely book which is both a memoir of lessons learned in his long life, “one row at a time,” and a tribute to his late wife Sheilda. She came with him to Toastmasters meetings years ago, before she passed. A wonderful elegy.

Gotta get back to my latest …

As you can see, I’m still finishing a couple or three. I’ll usually have four or five on the go at all times. Oh, yes, I read two Jack Reacher paperbacks as well this summer, but they’re in the car, destined for the Little Free Library on the corner and I can’t be bothered to dig them up.

A good book, a glass of sweet tea, and a little something to munch on – it don’t get better than this!

– Aunt Gem’s dad

Gird Your Loins and Fight

Latest in my series of book reviews

Never go to war against a mom

Before I started “weaning” myself off my smartphone – I couldn’t have handled a 651-page book – even one as entertaining as “Shut Up! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment.

The librarian of your nightmares wants you to stop questioning the Library Board

This book makes me so glad I did the work to get my concentration back. Authors Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan tell the tale of their multi-year fight with a public library which allowed adults to access porn on their computers – and did nothing to stop it, saying it was allowed by the First Amendment. (Spoiler alert: no, the Supreme Court ruled libraries do NOT have to allow access to porn.)

A pleasant day turned peep show

At the beginning of the saga, Megan was a homeschooling mama of two little girls, named “Seven” and “Four” to protect them in the book. One day she decided to take them to the Orland Park Public Library with friend Kevin along with the ride. A quick errand to print some homeschool activity sheets led to a three-year saga – complete with lawsuits and a cast of characters that could fill a long-running soap opera. Here’s how Megan described it:

“There’s the awkward sibling of a beloved TV icon; a national hero from the Reagan administration; a former Playboy model, jewel thief, ex-wife of a Chicago Bear, ex-girlfriend of an infamous mobster who turned state’s evidence against him (and those last four are all the same person!); Our Ladies of the Perpetually Furrowed Brows; the heiress to the Comiskey baseball diamonds; a former United States Senate candidate from Illinois (who is more famous for once being married toa Sci-Fi starlet who flew around the universe in a spaceship); the King of Journalism; a gargoyle; someone who sold his soul on eBay (like it was a good thing); hot cops; … some of the best lawyers in the whole damn world (pitted against clearly some of the worst) … SNL’s Weekend Update; … the Karate Kid; famous legal scholars; fearless watchdogs; sexually harassed whistleblowers; and the nation’s leading expert on the dangers to children in public libraries.”

-Megan Fox

Truly, this book had EVERYTHING, as Megan described it: “Sex, government corruption, child porn, a gold heist, libel, slander, defamation, lawsuits, death and rape threats, police harassment, a SLAPP, cloak and dagger intrigue, fruits, 7 pounds of Italian beef and 2 large jugs of peppers, and special interest groups out to sabotage a suburban mom and her whimsical gay friend.”

Kevin and Megan take turns, chapter by chapter, telling the story. Their styles of storytelling complement and contrast with each other. Both bring in themes from children’s stories to anchor the tale: if you’ve read Harry Potter you’ll love the way they work in references to that saga. Kevin’s style is more “whimsical” as Megan said, and Megan’s motherly concern doesn’t just shine through – she’s on the warpath to make the library safe for all kids. Thank God these two are people who NEVER back down. They fought a public governmental body for years and triumphed. The best stories are ones where good defeats evil – and that’s exactly what happens here.

Whew!

At the end, you, the reader are drawing in a long breath after just reading about it. By the time the final lawsuit was settled, Megan had added another baby to her family. Kevin was advising other libraries how to prevent these horrors from happening.

I wanted another book – a sequel. What new adventure did Kevin and Megan have? What crimes are they uncovering? Today, you can follow Megan’s investigative reporting on PJ Media and on her YouTube channel. I haven’t been successful finding Kevin’s public profile (but then, I don’t use Facebook anymore!) I’m sure wherever he is, he’s busy employing his talents of organization, letter-writing and campaigning to keep fighting for government accountability.

Learning to focus

How do you maximize the time you have to do the things you enjoy?

As part of this ‘work-at-home’ journey I’ve been on for the past nearly two years, I’ve had to learn more about focusing than ever before. As much as I enjoy my job (well, not all the meetings, that is) it is tempting to sometimes let my mind wander. And before I know it, 15 minutes has passed. And then I need to work later, longer hours to make up for it. And that eats into my “me” time – my time for my hobbies, the time for my stuff outside of work.

So today I’m going to share with you one of the tried-and-true methods I’ve found for making it easier to stick to the task at hand…

Continue reading “Learning to focus”

DIY fail …

Last Monday I sat down to build my new bar cart. It had been sitting in its box in the den since Wayfair delivered it in October of 2020. One thing after another delayed my building it – laziness, Thanksgiving, all the stress of work projects in December, Christmas, being sick over Christmas, then more laziness. That Monday, though, was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I had a holiday. (I realize this isn’t how most observe the day. Hey, you celebrate your way, I’ll celebrate mine.) It was time to put together that bar cart.

Continue reading “DIY fail …”

Learning to speak the language of love

This is the text of a speech I gave at my Toastmasters club, TNT, the Dynamite Toastmasters.

Würden Sie gefallen langsam sprechen?

Wie bitte?

What is that? You didn’t understand me? I said “Would you speak more slowly please?”

If one of us is speaking a language the other doesn’t understand, it doesn’t matter how loudly or how often you say it. They listener doesn’t get it. We resort to pointing and gestures.

Over the course of 30 years of marriage counseling, Dr. Gary Chapman found that couples who were trying to show love to each other weren’t always getting the message across. He’d cited an example, familiar to any counselor, of a couple who’d come to see him. One partner was perplexed at the accusation, “He doesn’t love me anymore.” “What do you mean? I go to work 50 – 60 hours a week, take out the trash, mow the yard, pay the bills and visit your mother … how can you say that I don’t love you?”

Yet the other partner did say that, because she wasn’t having her emotional needs met.

Chapman found that it was the same disconnect that two different language speakers would have. He identified five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. Today I’ll briefly highlight each one of these Five Love Languages.

Before I begin – it is important to note: everyone, regardless of primary love language – likes these things. They’re all nice. But one will speak to you more than the others. One will communicate love to you, and be your preferred method of communicating love. That is your Love Language.

Let’s look at them:

1 – Words of Affirmation

These are the verbal compliments. They are the most direct words of affirmation you can give. It’s not verbal flattery to manipulate – but to do something for the one you love.

Each love language has different dialects, just like a spoken language. In Words of Affirmation, there’s also:

Encouraging words – words to build another up

Humble words – love makes requests, not demands

Indirect words of affirmation
Pay a compliment to your partner to someone else – when it gets back to him, you get bonus brownie points!

2 – Quality Time

This means undivided attention.
Watching the TV together doesn’t count. Texting while talking doesn’t count.
Have you noticed you can tell the married couples apart from the dating couples when they go out to eat? Why is that?

A dialect of this is Quality Conversation.
Chapman defines it as “Sympathetic dialogue where two people are sharing their experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires.” It calls for active listening, watching body language and learning to talk – learning to share.

Another dialect is quality activities. What does your loved one like to do? When’s the last time you joined in?

3 – Receiving Gifts.

Gift-giving is part of every culture’s love and marriage process. It is a fundamental expression of love.
Recall how children love to give gifts to their moms, whether it’s a flower from the garden or a hand-drawn painting right for the frig.

Now – this is not about materialism. The gift is symbolic of the thought. It doesn’t have to be expensive, or even cost anything. The thought is shown by actually getting and giving the gift. It’s a visual symbol of love.

But note — If you love someone whose love language is receiving gifts, you may have to change your attitude toward money. It is an investment in the relationship.

One gift can be intangible — the gift of Self, or presence. It’s not quite the same as active quality time – it is physical presence. This is especially important in time of crisis.

4 – Acts of Service

This is doing things that you know your loved one would like for you to do. They may not be convenient; they may not be what you want to do. But you do them, to show them that you love them.

Have you noticed through life, many couples seem to act differently toward each other prior to marriage than after? The obsessive “in-love” phenomenon causes us to do things differently – then we come out of it and as Dr. Chapman says, “what we did before marriage is no guarantee of what we will do after marriage.”

This language does NOT require that you be a doormat in order to show love. Love is a choice – it cannot be coerced. Performing acts of service for your partner must be an act of free will – not manipulation. To do acts of service out of guilt or fear isn’t love.

5 – Physical Touch

Now this isn’t just sex. This encompasses a wide range of explicit and implicit touches.

Hugs will communicate love to anyone – but for someone whose love language is physical touch – it is an emphatic declaration.

Just as pulling away from someone’s body is to distance yourself emotionally, to touch someone’s body is to touch them – their inner selves.

It can be explicit and demand full attention, such as a back rub, or implicit, such as rubbing a shoulder as you pass in the hall, running your hand through your partner’s hair, or holding hands.

In times of crisis, if the mate’s language is physical touch, then nothing is more important than holding that person when he cries.

If your partner’s Love Language is physical touch, then this one can be a lot of fun to find creative ways to show love!

In summary:

The Five Love Languages are not the sum of emotional communication. But just as learning the basics of another language helps us when we travel, learning the way in which your partner best expresses and receives love means you have a greater chance of being understood.

Learning the right love language is a key to helping another person feel loved. The next time you want to show love to him … speak his language.

Back to work….

… and learning yet more stuff! A full week of classroom training and I come home to a 2-hour class. This is fortunately an interesting WebSphere Content Management (WCM) prototype class, which builds on all the usability lessons I learned last week.

My poor back is paying the price for all this sitting. My chiropractor is gonna be rich.

About to start Day 3 of Usability Conference

… Today I’m sitting in on Application Usability 1, the first of a two-day session. I’ve already had Basic UX on Sunday and User Testing Monday. It’s been an intense, in-depth look at some interesting topics. Sunday we explored why this is important. Monday we learned how to set up Usability Studies, how to recruit participants, write the tasks, run the tests and analyze the results. Today – well, I’ll report back later!

USB stick for course
The materials for each class were on a funny little USB gadget. Twist the top to make the plug pop out.

New York, New York

In NYC for the Nielsen Norman Group’s Usability Week 2013 conference. Five days of seminars on web site usability. And yesterday in NY… It was snowing! And the St. Patrick’s Day parade was held… Crazy! What a town.

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Snow gently falling on Central Park …. Too cold to go across street and get a good picture!

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The Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Just-in-time to just-in-case: another Tsunami impact

Glenn Reynolds makes a good point about the far-reaching disruption to the modern supply chain that a single disaster across the globe can have. From his article:

Japan’s earthquake was in some ways a triumph of preparedness: Thanks to strict building codes, not a single building in Tokyo collapsed. But the earthquake, and the tsunami it produced, have had impacts that go well beyond the immediate.

In particular, the damage is exposing the extent to which modern supply-chain management has produced a system that is so lean it lacks the reserve capacity needed to cope with disasters.

In manufacturing, plants have been idled around the world because Japanese factories — or often, a single Japanese factory — serve as the sole source for a vital component. With the factories sidelined by damage or power outages, the components are unavailable, and production has to stop.

… But the problem goes well beyond cars and subways. Lots of more important systems are similarly vulnerable. My wife takes a heart-rhythm drug called Tikosyn; if she misses a dose, she could die.