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Review: A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload

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A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload by Cal Newport My rating: 1 of 5 stars As someone with a good critical grasp of technology, Newport's latest book felt like a great disappointment and a case where he misses the point significantly to a degree that can feel negligent. His argument is that email is one of the primary sources of inefficiency in work and while it served a purpose at one point, it has been a detriment to productivity at work. He spends the first half of the book trying to prove this point that email is the problem. For the second half, he spends a lot of time identifying other tools (Trello, Kanbans, and other project management software) within particular case studies to show how they are doing well without or with little email. In the end, he has a technodeterminist approach that would have us believe that eliminating email will make us much happier and much more productive at work--it's the t

This Is 42

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Estimated Reading Time: 10.5 minutes So it's that time again. On my birthday each year, I do a share out about the year and think about what is ahead. This is apparently year #5 and you can see the others below. 38 39 40 41 Let's start with some of the numbers, shall we? Home :  Arlington, Massachusetts Relationship status :  Married (7+ years) Cats Owned :  2 (Bear and Pumpkin) Other Pets :  1 mud turtle (MJ, 35'ish years old) Degrees earned : 5 (3 masters, 1 bachelor, 1 associate) Degree working on :  PhD in Higher Education Credits Completed Toward Dissertation : 72 out of 72. Reading since Sept 2019 : 298 books, graphic novels, and audiobooks (Latest reads can always be found on Goodreads ) Work : Director of Digital Pedagogy at College Unbound (full time)  Adjunct Academic Partner at Southern New Hampshire University Teaching courses at  North Shore Community College Weight :  243 pounds Longest Distance Run This Year : 14 Fastest Pace This Year : 9 minutes per mile (

Review: Later

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Later by Stephen King My rating: 2 of 5 stars Jamie can see dead people--but he swears it's not like that kid in the movie.  Still, it happens and when his mother realizes it and comes to believe him, he swears her to secrecy. He's fine with keeping it quiet but his mom, during a more economically desperate time in her life betrays that trust and leans on her girlfriend, Liz, a dirty cop, to capitalize on Jamie's ability.  That should have been it, but Liz has decided there are more opportunities to benefit from with Jamie's ability proceeds to prey on him, and this ultimately results in a darker and more evil being coming forth from the dead that now Jamie must face.   This is standard Stephen King with a young person with special abilities, single parent, smarter than many around him, finding a mentor in an older quirky male, and a willingness to name and confront evil. Of course, it also includes some of the typical points o

Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan My rating: 2 of 5 stars Mr. Penumbera's 24-hour bookstore is clearly not your average bookstore. It may not even be your average "weird" bookstore but Clay Jannon needs a job after he's hit hard by the Great Recession of the late 2000s and Mr. Penumbra is hiring. He soon discovers the bookstore does not sell many books but there are a series of odd customers who show up and request books from a special collection. The itch to understand why pulls at Jannon until he begins to scratch and scratch and scratch. Before longe, he's stumbling into a strange society of book-seekers who are attempting to find a secret code that may lead to immortality and has been around for hundreds of years. Jannon has realized that he might know how to hack the code and relies upon a band of misfit but highly successful friends to solve the mystery. As a story, the novel is fun and goofy and h

Canceling Oedipus or a New Oedipus Complex?

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Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes First off, no, I'm not calling to cancel Oedipus, though I do feel like Freud should be canceled for the Oedipus complex, but that's another thought for another time and one to which I am like 87% joking.  So if you're reading this hoping or fearing that I'm taking down a fictional character from millennia-old mythology, you probably want to move on right now.  It's ok--I'll wait.   Last year, before the pandemic (so, like 29 years ago in "pandemic time"), I wrote a blog post where I shared a video by Contrapoints on "Cancelling"  (100 minutes).  Since then, there have been two other pieces of media that I feel have meaningfully build up Wynn's arguments about the nuance of how Cancel Culture is understood and discussed within the US culture at this time.  The first is Lindsay Ellis's episode, "Mask Off"  (100 minutes) where she explores how there was a push to cancel her and she very syst

Review: Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy

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Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy by Rachel Ricketts My rating: 4 of 5 stars Rickett's delivers a powerful and thought-provoking meditation on understanding the insection of spiritualism, activism, and anti-racism primarily directed towards folks who present or pass as white women. She takes this angle, explaining it is for them on behalf of Black people and other racially marginalized groups and that it has been white women who have done her personally the most harm, often while claiming to be doing the work.  Regardless of the primary audience, there's much to get out of her work by all readers. Those who face white supremacy and marginalization can find meditative practices to help reinfuse their strength and community as well as clear language that may put words more directly to their experiences.  Others will find what it means to practice allyship in ways that will both push them and hold

Review: The Secret to Superhuman Strength

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The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel My rating: 4 of 5 stars In this memoir of body, mind, and relationships, Bechdel explores how she's come to better understand herself and her close relationships through her pursuit of physical excellence. The narrative moves chronologically through the decades of her life and is filled with a mixture of general themes and specific scenes that often focus on her latest physical pursuit, recent relationship challenges with parents or partners, her coping mechanisms, and increasingly unhealthy work habits. Interspersed, Bechdel calls upon a mixture of Buddhist writings, Enlightenment poets (Wordsworth & Coleridge), Transcendental thinkers (Emerson and Fuller), and Beat poets (namely, Kerouac) to frame and connect her own narrative as well as highlight the intellectual giants who have guided her in this deep reflection of her life. In many ways, Bechdel outdoes her previous accomplishment (Fun Home) a

Review: Ariadne

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Ariadne by Jennifer Saint My rating: 4 of 5 stars Ariadne of Greek mythology, the daughter who betrayed her father and helped Theseus find his way through the labyrinth and kill the minotaur (her brother), gains a rich and layered narrative through the skillful prose of Jennifer Saint. But it is not just Ariadne's story but her sister, Phaedra as well and Saint weaves a story to which both the readers and the two protagonists discover the ways in which the Gods and the men acted with all egos and little consideration for others. The result is that women inevitably suffered; particularly, those women who resisted the status quo. Indeed, Saint reminds readers of Ariadne's family line which includes women such as Medea and other women who were seen as subversive. In this retelling, Ariadne and Phaedra both regal their stories through their own points of view, trying to find strength and power in the situations they find themselves in: Phaedra unwilling

Review: 1919

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1919 by Eve L. Ewing My rating: 4 of 5 stars Ewing's poetry serves as a wonderfully nuanced call and response to a work from 1922, The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot by the Chicago Commission on Race Relations . Ewing reproduces excerpts from this book and other relevant texts of the time and beyond. Then, she provides a poem that is in dialogue (or even argument, one might say) with the way official records represent, re-present, and misrepresent Black identity and agency. Ewing uses rhythm, wordplay, and rich cultural cues to draw out larger meaning and feeling throughout the works to create a tapestry of vibrant life and experiences of Black people who are wiped from the historical record or presented in a way that can feel caricatured.  Her knack for drawing out what is not said within the report or for reconfiguring the voice from being about Black people to by Black people will resonate with many while al

Review: How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America

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How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America by Heather Cox Richardson My rating: 4 of 5 stars In the wake of the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection, this book feels all the more poignant and essential for reading and understanding the modern party politicals of the Republican Party. While the book starts in the founding of the country, its major focus (as the title indicates) is understanding how the pretext of the Civil War and its aftermath reinforced a central privileging of white men at the disregard and disposal of women and people of color, who despite legal changes in the 1800s were still marginalized and second-class citizens throughout the 1800s, 1900s, and even still in the 2000s. The central argument that she makes is that the founders of the country and the leaders of the South invoked the language of freedom and individualism as the grounds of the United States,