Continuous Self-Improvement

I was talking to my boss the other day about motivation, self-improvement, staff and such. We’ve discussed these topics before – I think we both agree these are important goals.

He mentioned that he was reading the biography of Benjamin Franklin currently. Mr. Franklin didn’t finish school, he learned the hard way – because he wanted to. Benjamin would dedicate 5 hours each week to reading, not just anything either… he would read something different than what he was working on – so he didn’t just read about newspapers or how to discover electricity (they didn’t have “Discovering Electricity for Dummies back then) but things outside his regular wheelhouse.

It’s a good idea – I read a lot actually but mostly stuff I love and work in. Insurance magazines, accessibility information, comic books… but it’s much better to expand my horizons and expose myself to something new once in a while.

So I thought I’d start tonight to try some more continuous improvement – but not with books… I decided each day I’m going to watch at least one TED Talk.

The tag line on TED.com is “ideas worth sharing”and I’ve watched a few over the years…

  • Amanda Palmer – The Art of Asking (a while ago, her husband talked about it on his Tumblr so I checked it out) interesting, I liked it
  • Stanley McChrystal – Listen, Learn… then lead – not what I was expecting but good lessons about leading, failing and not becoming failures
  • Paola Antonelli – Why I brought Pac-Man to MoMA video games as art, if you’ve any doubts about the beauty of video games subscribe to World of Warcraft for 30 days and see some amazing stuff… I’m sure there are other games just as beautiful

I watched a few others that don’t stand out in my mind at the moment… but the bottom two were for tonight and I’m thinking I can watch at least one tomorrow too.. Let us see what these great minds can share with me.

I’ll also likely pick up the biography as it sounds interesting. I had just read an article on Mr. Franklin’s schedule not that long ago and now RBU mentions it… so I think that’s a good indicator of what I should read next. Many moons ago several people talked to me about the Kite Runner in the same week so I read that, well worth it too.

If I find some phenomenal TED talks I’ll share em here or on social media.

Filling Up on Books for the Summer

I received an email today from Amazon about an Apple eBooks Antitrust settlement. Something about price fixing, yada yada yada… well anyway, as a result of the settlement I was given $184.67 in credit to spend on books… now that is a great day right there…

You might have such a credit or more – the email is legit, go check it out on Amazon’s site. Then get reading… Continue reading

Loss of Words

I went to see the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Friday night even after a friend had commented on Facebook about being disappointed with it. See, I’m a fan of the genre, I’m a fan of the book and three that came after – I could recall many of the parts that made up the Lord of the Rings trilogy but found I couldn’t for the Hobbit, that partially explains why my friend Rob was disappointed but I enjoyed the movie.

When I was watching the dwarves and Bilbo on the mountain – I found myself thinking of Flint Fireforge from the Dragonlance series and I got a little misty thinking about when he passed on and Tasslehoff’s tears… yet, knowing I read the Hobbit you’d think I could recall all the details of that, but I cannot. I remember Smaug, I remember there being dwarves, a spider and maybe some elves… but that’s about the extent of it. When I think of Dragonlance, I can recall intimate details and feelings about Raistlin and his brothers relationship, knowing how Tanis Half-Elven was torn between the ageless elf and the sultry Kitara… Maybe I loved that series more? I don’t know, but the Lord of the Rings trilogy stayed with me longer.

As I was thinking on it I think of all those books I read when I was younger and how they seemingly changed my life:

A Brave New World

1984

Flowers for Algernon

Way of the Peaceful Warrior

A ton of stories from Jack London

A Clockwork Orange

You know, I can’t recall details of those books, I have a memory of how much they meant to me at the time and how into them I was, but they didn’t stick. I remember a line from Way of the Peaceful Warrior “we only sell fruit juice here and don’t call me Pop” and I recall being truly frightened reading A Clockwork Orange… but I don’t really have any details, I can’t quote them or reference them with any authority as they’re gone.

I have them on my Kindle, I bought all these books because I used to own them and I wanted them to be a part of my collection again. And I might have to reread them again, to see if the magic is still there – if they grab me and take me to the world the author wanted me to experience with them, to see if I still get frightened during or if this time 1984 scares me more.

I don’t have memories of people from the late 70s to 80s either, they’re just gone. There are people from two different high schools that I’m supposed to know and I can’t seem to place them, they seem oddly familiar but they’re just not inside my head anymore. Kind of weird really. I pretend, it’s easy on Facebook to pretend I remember, but I don’t… There come times though when I run into them in real life and then the pretending go well, cause I can’t lie about it… happened a few years ago when I was visiting a friend I do remember and two of our high school mates showed up, but I couldn’t recall them and I should have been able to, and it’s happened since and will likely happen again. Part of why I stay in touch with some many people from past jobs is I’m afraid if I don’t I won’t be able to remember them – it could happen.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to rereading these stories and going to another world with the authors.

Careful Readings

I want to thank someone, problem is I can’t remember who to thank. At the beginning of the year someone suggested that I start reading As Bill See’s It cover to cover, in order… you know how you read most books. I had always just opened it up randomly or searched in the index in the back for a particular topic. I’ve added it to my morning readings and read two pages a day (at least, sometimes more) and it’s been really great to have those extra ideas and reflections. (you can add in here the joke you hear at conventions: Bill wrote “As Bill See’s It” but Lois wrote “Lois Remembers” which is kind of funny… the first time…)

As Bill See's It

As Bill See’s It

As Bill See’s It is an interesting book – it contains quotes from Bill’s letters, books, talks, most of them offer something to think about for the day. But there are things that really get on my nerves about it – they will cite the book Alcoholics Anonymous for certain passages but it wont match exactly… for example I’ve written about the Grouch and the Brainstorm a few times where in the book it says “brainstorm” but in ABS it says “the sudden rage”. There are actually several times where it does that and I think to myself “Aren’t there Cite Police” that monitor this kind of thing? I actually went so far as to contact A.A. World Services to ask them about it…  Continue reading

Tales of Old Re-Read Anew

In 1985, I was either a Freshman or Sophomore in Whitehall Memorial High School (who was it a Memorial to? I have no idea) and we were required to go to the school library to attend the R.I.F. event. [The library was not one of my favorite places anyway, learning the dewey decimal system was required – yeah, that’ll get me interested in books or suicide, lets risk it.] We’d been having R.I.F. events at school each year, maybe twice a year and I was never really interested in the speel they’d give before they let us pick a book or even the books that were available to us. At this particular R.I.F. event I was there with my friend Ted and after the opening remarks we started looking at the books, not too hopeful at all that there would be anything good.

We stumbled upon a book or two that had dragons on the cover and in the title. Both were from the same series Dragonlance Chronicles and were the 2nd and 3rd in the series. Ted grabbed Dragons of Winter Night and I grabbed Dragons of Spring Dawning and agreed to read what we could and talk about them with one another. Ted and I were already talking about comic books regularly and all that was going on there so this was a natural progression I suppose. I don’t know why the first book wasn’t available nor why I didn’t seem to grasp the whole idea of a story progressing from one book to another…

 

 

Over the next few weeks Ted and I would share what we were reading and became enthralled with the characters of the books and the story that was happening. Being on the third book I was really rather lost as to what was going on and the significance of the characters as they related to the whole story. But it was still a good story that kept me reading from one page to the next – Ted too. At some point we switched up the two books. Fortunately for Ted he was following the progression, but I was a bit confused and tried to piece it all together. Later on when we found the first book, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, we’d both be in the same boat. After starting at the middle and the end we both re-read the books from the beginning to the end and really appreciated them all the more. We loved the story, the characters the ideas that stretched our imagination.

 

 

Most importantly, we kept reading other things – so R.I.F. was successful for us. It got two guys that mostly only cared about comic books to read other things. It didn’t mean either of us put our comics away or that we were only going to read about stories with dragons and wizards, but it did mean that we actually came to find the enjoyment only a book can offer.

Recently these titles have become available for the Kindle and I just finished re-reading the first book and fell in love with the characters and story all over again. In moving and aging somehow I lost my original books to this series, I have a collected works that has all these books in one large volume, the cover and first few pages have come off and it’s aged and yellow. I really love this old story and reading it again.

Thank you Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Margaret McNamara and the 1975 U.S. Congress for helping me find something I enjoy so much.