Sunday, August 26, 2018

Review: Don Quixote

Don Quixote Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Initially funny - ultimately terribly tedious. I did not like this book and want to apologize to my first three kids, because I made them read it in high school, as I was under the false impression that it was one of those "very important books".

The only important message I could extract from the 900 pages is that if you read too many nonsense books, it might deal a serious blow to your sanity, which is what happened to Don Quixote of La Mancha.

It is a clever book, yes. I laughed at Quixote's idiocy, but I found my own limit for whimsical stupidity at around page 300. Sympathy for his straight man, Sancho, and fatigue over the Dulcinea delusion had me just scanning some of the following 600 pages and sometimes just reading the first sentence of each paragraph.

Apologies to all sweet on Cervantes. This book was not for me.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On any given night of the week, say around 8 pm, do you find that you, your spouse, and all of your kids have their eyes glued to a screen of some kind? Does it bother you? Does it worry you? Read on.

In Irresistible , Adam Alter explains why we have become slaves to our devices by first explaining addiction, generally, and then by explaining technology addiction, specifically.
This alone is scary stuff. It gets more intense, though. I’m sure you’ve come across at least one article on how technology is actually changing our brains, right? Like me, you probably had a moment of extreme uneasiness -- just before clicking over to the next article.

In this book, after clearly defining behavioral addiction, Mr. Alter points out that behavioral scientists now have enough data to do valuable analyses of the effects of internet use on humans. He then closely examines how we get hooked, why we get hooked, and how our lives are impacted negatively; from obesity and diseases of sedentary-living to digital amnesia and a shrinking capacity for remembering. Although the author does devote a chapter to “what you can do to fight it”, when I put this book down, I was left feeling worse than when I read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

As with the last book I read on the topic of unwise and excessive internet use, this book began with examples of industry giants (Steve Jobs and a half dozen other “recognizables”) who would not under any circumstances allow their kids iPads or allow them to use the apps and games they develop. Steve Jobs was quoted specifically (soon after introducing the iPad as something that every person should own and use) as stating that his kids will never use one. It is hard to get past that, it really is. It is like discovering that the landfill in your backyard grew from the waste of Silicon Valley multi-millionaires who live hundreds of miles away.

I made myself read this book because I knew it would spur me on to action, even though I could not imagine what that action would be. Figuring out how to de-internet my life when every aspect of my existence is plugged into it? Seriously, I don’t have time for this. Then, I returned to page 242 which describes how in one study, thousands of US and European adults struggled to recall their own kids’ cell phone numbers, and, in fact, found it hard to remember any string of numbers. Does anyone other than me remember when we stored (in our minds) the phone numbers of countless friends and family members? Could you do that now? One study revealed how our ability to reach into the chambers of our own minds to retrieve information which is there has been compromised and changed by our choice to just Google it. For example: “I know the capital of Iowa. Give me a minute, I’m gonna remember this. Oh, never mind, I’ll ask Siri.” A few years of this behavior, and those chambers grow darker and darker.

While I don’t think I have time for this, I also know I can’t afford to do nothing. I don’t like the fact that when the power in my house fails during a thunder storm, no one knows what to do with themselves. (What did we use to do, back when we were humans?) I don’t like so much sitting at the end of the day. I want to do more and click less. I am not 21, but I am also not finished becoming who/what I want to be - living like an appendage to my device is not what I want to be.

I hope you choose to read this book. All unplugging suggestions warmly welcomed!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life

The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first of three books I have read this summer on how we (adults and kids) learn, and how the internet is profoundly changing our ability to learn....really learn, that is.

The content in these books quakes my soul and has been so disruptive that I’ve been unable to write about it. At last I am here, fingers poised over the keyboard, finally ready to distill the content, one book at a time.

This is a review of The Learning Habit. With plans to read two other books on this general topic, I eased in with this one first. I had read it three years ago. It scared me, so I tucked it away. Hmmm. But, as my concerns about digital communication and its impact on our ability to think deeply and to focus have continued to grow, I pulled this book back out and sat and read. Again.

Written in 2013, The Learning Habit is a book reporting on the results of the largest study on the digital lives and routines of American children and their families of its kind. The Learning Habit examines how children spend their time online and it looks for connections to performance in school and levels of social anxiety in children. It should scare any conscious parent.

This quote from a very successful game developer will cue you in on one of the central themes of this book: The goal of developers is to make the most complex, most captivating, most addictive games they can. I don’t let my children play video games for precisely that reason. I don’t want my kids spending time gaming, when they could be playing a sport or reading a book.”

Among many other disturbing facts, The Learning Habit Study, which is filled with multiple charts (I love charts!) and with great research, found that children who game more than 90 minutes a day are twice as likely to have social problems. The book demonstrates how social media is many things but that increasing true socialization among kids and teens is NOT one of them. It demonstrates how kids are increasingly able to waste up to 10 hours per day online using iPhones and computers and internet-enabled tablets, doing very little productive work, but are not able to sit still and read a book for 10 minutes. There is a connection.

If your children are young, please read this book. It is probably a book more geared toward parents of young children/elementary school-aged children. It is filled with great advice for parents; it does not merely excoriate electronic entertainment. It contains step-by-step guidelines for how to set limits, how to make sure the time your child spends online is productive, and how to partner with them in their lives online, before it is too late. It is filled with case studies, time management techniques, focus checklists, and helpful homework approaches.

Read it. This is a book that truly matters.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Review: The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America by Amy Chua
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Triple Package

From the author of Tiger Mom, this book on achievement within distinctly different cultural groups in America steps into the abyss more commonly known as politically incorrectness, but does it thoughtfully and successfully. It is a scholarly approach (over 80 pages of end notes and references) to a tender topic – why some cultural groups in America succeed while others do not.

Amy Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, co-author this brave book, which is a bestseller. Its central tenet is that a cultural group succeeds in America when it preserves within its culture these three critically important things:

1. A sense of superiority – a feeling of being distinct and special from other groups in America.
2. An air of insecurity – a belief that they have to work harder to prove their worth, that there are many others who are better, that they need to strive more.
3. Impulse Control – the ability to postpone rewards, a pragmatic and consistent self-regulation in an era which pushes immediate gratification.

The authors cover many different distinct groups: Mormons, Cubans, Nigerians, Chinese, African American, Evangelical Christians, Jewish, Korean and more. They discuss how these cultures hold fast to this Triple Package and how some, through complacency, had it but lost it. They do not make the mistake of oversimplifying or painting with too broad a brush. Remember, there are 80+ pages of research-referencing notes.

Importantly, they chart the history of America’s exceptionalism and they trace the trajectory of those things which contributed to its decline – all of it fitting snugly into the Triple Package premise. It totally worked for me.

Two thumbs up ~ highly readable and very motivating!

View all my reviews