Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Years for 2011

Since it is already New Years Eve day in New Zealand and Australia as I write this, I am posting this to say


 to all my readers. May 2011 be a much happier year for you than 2010 was.

Refuse to Choose - Book Review

Refuse to Choose
By Barbara Sher
Rodale Books 2006
Author's Website

Don't know what to do with your life?

Drawn to so many things that you can't choose just one?

Barbara Sher has the answer- Do EVERYTHING!

I didn't know I was a scanner until I read this book.

I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were so many things I was interested in. Now I know why.

I used to worry that I might have ADD but now I know I'm not alone with having lots of passionate interests and that it can even be an advantage.

Scanners is one way to describe people who are generalists, not specialists. But society these days insists on  training people to be specialists. The economy is designed to be run by specialists.

Sher names Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe, Edison and Ben Franklin as Scanners. Good company! She tells us why they were honored for their many interests, but in today's world the Scanner is often considered lazy or undisciplined.

Sher champions Scanners. She reminds us of our gifts - what it is that's so wonderful about being a Scanner. She also counters the negativism we often hear about pursuing multiple interests.

In one paradigm-shifting sentence Barbara Sher notes that: "If Scanners didn't think they should limit themselves to one field, 90 percent of their problems would cease to exist!"

In the early medieval times, your family had a career and every male in the family - from grandfather to father to son - was trained to work in that one speciality.

During the Renaissance (which means the Rebirth) it was sort of acceptable to become a generalist. Famous generalists of the Renaissance include Leonardo da Vinci. He is well known as a painter, a writer, an inventor and a scientist,

200 years ago, it was still perfectly acceptable to be a generalist - to know something about a lot of things, Benjamin Franklin was a famous generalist. He was a writer, an editor, an inventor, a scientist, a politician and a diplomat.

But the tide has turned and society went back to demanding that people be specialists. I beleive that is one way to control the people - to make them more docile and less able to think. The government needs to be able to control the people and the best way to do that is to force them to do just one job over and over again. Very boring. No wonder so many people hate their jobs.

Scanners fear that they have ADD, but usually they do not have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
Scanners are people who believe that they are Hopelessly interested in Everything
Scanners were previously often seen as Jack of all Trades

Start a Scanner Daybook. Use this daybook to note down all your various ideas and interests. They should not ordered (the Da Vinci Notebooks were famously not ordered). When you are distracted by a tangential idea write it down "get it out of your system" then return to your previous task

Yappers - Another name for Scanners is YAP Yet-Another-Project

Backward Planning Flowchart - A way of breaking down a project until you find a step that you can action immediately

Start Small Start Now - The importance of doing something now, making some small progress. This builds your confidence

There are scanners who can never start their projects
There are scanners who can never finish their projects
There are scanners who are constantly told they are lazy

Other Scanners find that they are organized enough to start and complete their projects but unfortunately lose interest in it as soon as they have mastered it. So for instance they might qualify as a teacher and then announce that they have no desire to teach. This often astonishes and dismays friends and family.

Scanners often have Good Enough Jobs that is to say jobs which earn enough to pay the bills, but allow them enough energy to pursue their other passions. Scanners have usually given up on finding the perfect job anyway.

There are two major types of Scanners.

Sequential Scanners and Cyclical Scanners.

The majority of Scanners are Cyclical Scanners - those who return to the same group of interests over and over again.

Sequential Scanners do not return to the same interests over and over again. They prefer to always be looking for the next challenge or area of knowledge to learn and master.

When a Scanner is asked the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? most adult scanners are unable to make that decision. They have too many things they are truely interested in, so that they cannot choose just one area that they must specialise in for the rest of their life.

A Sequential scanner may have an interest and want to go to school to learn all about that area of interest, but once they graduate, they lose interest and have no desire to teach or work in that area. They just love the challenge of learning or mastering that area. So they go back to school and learn a new area. Again once they graduate, they have no desire whatsoever to teach or work in that area. If you know anyone who is known as a PROFESSIONAL STUDENT, they may be a sequential scanner.

As I said in an earlier post about Polymaths, I wanted to read this book to see what I could do to salvage the remaining 20 years of my working life.

I have a diploma of Business Administration. Nothing special but I enjoyed most of the courses I took. I am not a numbers person so I disliked the accounting classes. However I did pass them, the first time around. They did drag my overall average down which is why I graduated with Distinction and not with Honours. Distinction is an overall average grade in the 80s, Honours is an overall grade in the 90s. My overall average grade was 88%.  I also have a specific group of interests that I usually tend to return to over and over again. I listed them in my previous post on Polymaths. This makes me a cyclical scanner.

One thing I have discovered about myself is that most of my interests are related to communication and words. I could have done well as a librarian, a historian, a researcher, a journalist, an editor or a writer. I love history and I love doing research. I also love art, art history, antiquarian books and antiques. Maybe I can try to get into those areas as well. But without a BFA (fine arts degree) that will be hard.

In the meantime I am looking for an administration position with a non-profit company or a business related to the arts and antiques world. I have also discovered that I prefer the casual business environment and NOT the corporate environment. OK thats enough about me.

This book makes suggestions of how one can cope with choices and how to find a career that covers the vast array of interests that scanners have. At no time does this book ever say for sure that a scanner is better at doing one particular career over another one, That's because scanners have such widely differing interests.

If you want specifics on finding a career for you, this book is NOT for you.
If you want a challenge in finding the right career for you, then this book is perfect for you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Review for 2010

I cant say that this year has been a great one. It hasn't. It has been a so-so year. 

In January I was hit with a major medical issue - which may require me to take drugs for the rest of my life. It's not fatal, but it is annoying, and it does affect my diet. There are now some foods I can no longer eat and others I have to drastically cut down on.

The recession is biting heavily and it is very hard to find a job despite living in a major world city. I  submitted my resume to any number of appropriate vacancies and never received any response. I can only assume there are other people out there who have more education and a more stable work history than I do - and they are being hired.

My son is doing reasonably well in school. He is at or above age appropriate requirements in most areas. While he can read quite well, he does not like to read for pleasure - certainly not like I do. He takes after his dad in that respect.

My son also much prefers computer games, and he has had heart set on a specific game console. He has only been asking for this console for the last 2 years. This year we have finally been able to purchase the latest version of the game console he wanted. He received it for Xmas today and is now thoroughly enjoying himself playing it. Right now I am listening to him playing Super Mario Brothers and the loud music that goes along with this platform game. So far he has 2 games cartridges - but we can easily purchase more games in the future.

I have not read as many books as I usually do. You can tell that by the low number of posts I have actually posted this year (92 if the counter is correct). Blame that on Fan Fiction. I discovered fan fiction this year and spent at least 6 months reading these stories online. Fan Fiction is where fans create and write stories about the characters from favoruite TV shows and post these stories online. The main TV shows I read fiction from, are Stargate, Star Trek and JAG - all of which are currently not running. 

On top of this I am keeping an ear and an eye out on the politics and world events going on. I see the USA frantically trying to get a new world war started anyway it can do so. First they wanted to invade Iran. That didnt work. Then they tried Pakistan and allowed Israel to start yet another war with Gaza over nothing whatsoever. That didnt work. They even tried Venezuela for a short time.

Now they are trying to push the 2 Koreas into starting a war. North Korea refuses to be goaded. Very astute of them I say. South Korea needs to stand up and stop acting like a YES man and start asking some serious questions as to WHY they are allowing the USA to tell them what to do. The US government will do anything to get peoples attention off the poor state of the economy. This situation is NOT helping my stress levels.

One more thing. The stresses about the year 2012 - I personally don't beleive anything is going to happen in December 2012, but one never knows. It certainly does not help my stress levels when Hollywood and the tabloid newspapers insist on making all kinds of predictions and releasing thriller movies about what they think will happen to the world on that date - especially when they have NO PROOF.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Winter Ghosts - Book Review

The Winter Ghosts
By Kate Mosse
Orion Books October 2009
Authors Website

Book Blurb

The Great War took much more than lives. It robbed a generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson's case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. In the winter of 1928, still seeking resolution, Freddie is travelling through the French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. He stumbles through woods, emerging in a tiny village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful woman also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, he will have stumbled across a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries.

My Review

While the beginning was slow - it was mostly about Freddie Watson and how he was still mourning over the death of his older brother George during the First World War. While he is mourning, he travels to the Languedoc in southern France. While out driving one day in the Pyrenees, he gets caught in a snow storm and crashes the car. He hikes to a village called Nulle and while he is there, he meets the villagers. Due to the storm, Freddie develops a fever and is very ill that night. While the owner of the inn where Freddie is staying looks after him, she insists that Freddie stay in bed for one more day. Freddie refuses.

Freddie beleives the villagers he met are 20th century villagers. In fact they are from the 12th century. He falls in love with one girl called Fabrissa. She tells him the story of the village - of how the inquisition (She just referred to a War and called the men soldiers) attacked the village and forced the villagers to go into hiding - up into the mountains where they sought shelter in the caves. The Inquisition soldiers followed the villagers up into the mountains and then built up walls to block up the caves.

Freddie takes the village mechanic back to his car and they arrange for his car to be towed to a mechanic so it can be repaired,. While they are discussing the repairs, Freddie is also asking questions about the villagers and the caves. Eventually Freddie gets a wild idea - to climb up the mountains and try to find the cave where Fabrissa and her family sought safety.

Once he arrives at the cave, his fever returns. He finds the tomb full of skeletons and finally undertsands that his Fabrissa (the girl he had fallen in love with) was a ghost of the past. He is close to death when he is found and he wakes up in a local hospital. One of the mechanics sons had followed him up into the mountains and rescued him from a cave that was obviously a tomb with a "spirit of death" - the spirit of death was slowly draining the life force from Freddie's body.

Once Freddie recovers, he explains how he climbed up to the caves and discovered a new unknown Cathar tomb. The archaeologists are eager to investigate and excavate. In this cave Freddie found a letter written in the Occitan language (Languedoc or Provencal). While it was not addressed to anyone, Freddie believes it was meant for him. After he is released from the hospital, Freddie returns to England.

Five years later, Freddie finally feels strong enough to know what the letter says. He takes this letter to an Antiquarian in Toulouse. Freddie tells his story to the Antiquarian in minute detail. The Antiquarian translates and reads the letter to Freddie. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Crescent Dawn - Book Review

Crescent Dawn - A Dirk Pitt Novel
by Clive Cussler & Dirk Cussler
Putnam & Sons November 2010

In previous reviews of Dirk Pitt novels, I have not been terribly impressed with Dirk Pitt's son and daughter, Dirk Junior and Summer. But in this novel they come into their own and as a team they are very impressive. But the novel itself could have done with a lot better editing. In fact there are 2 seperate stories in this novel and each story could have had its OWN novel rather than be squashed together as an afterthought to create a 500 plus page monster.

Three events, distant in time and space. A treasure-laden fourth century Roman galley narrowly escapes a ferocious pirate attack; a World War I British warship explodes mysteriously in the North Sea; and in the all-too-real present-day, a string of coordinated bomb attacks destroys historic mosques in Egypt and Turkey. Something (supposedly) links these violent events and it's up to NUMA director Dirk Pitt to find and tie the deadly threads.

While the novel does get off to a slow start, and with different chapters describing each member of the Pitt family becoming involved in their search, the real action doesn't start happening until chapter 20 and when the team members finally get together in chapter 56, they each contribute their strands of the mystery to get the possible entire story.

BUT it turns out there are 2 different stories here, neither of which are directly connected to each other.

At the beginning of Cusslers novels the author always has a brief prologue about one or two historical ships in action - usually by being sunk. These ships always have something major to do with the main story.

So for this novel (Crescent Dawn) there are 2 boats being sunk in the prologue - and both end up having nothing whatsoever to do with the main story and everything to do with the secondary story.

The main story is about the Celik siblings who turn out to be descendents of Mehmet VI - the last Ottoman sultan of Turkey before Mustapha Ataturk deposed the sultans and took control of Turkey in 1923. The Celik siblings have grand visions of making Islam the major religion of the Middle East and the Mediterranean as it once was, over 1000 years previously. They will kill anyone who stands in their way.

First they blow up a historical mosque in Egypt and then they try to blow up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Fortunately that attempt was partially thwarted because Dirk Pitt junior was in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately his new girlfriend Sophie, died as a result of this botched explosion.

Lastly an Israeli water tanker is hijacked on the high seas of the Mediterranean and the crew is forced to fill it with ANFO and HMX explosives. The crew is then locked in the ship and the ship sets sail for Istanbul - where it is obviously intended to be a huge bomb that could destroy the city of Istanbul and a good portion of its 12 million residents.

Pitt and Giordino and their trusty new high speed submersible and speeder called the Bullet (top speed - 47 knots) race to Istanbul to find and prevent this floating bomb from exploding. They are unable to prevent the bomb from exploding, but they do rescue the crew and prevent the explosion from doing a huge amount of damage. In the last few minutes Pitt and Giordino are able to use a dredge to knock a hole in the ship which sinks it.

The Manifest of Jesus is a papyrus list of items that was discovered in Palestine in the late 1700s and reputed to have referred to a cache of items that belonged to Jesus Christ. On the list is an item called the Ossuary of J. The Church of England (Anglican Church) is terrified that it contains the bones of Jesus which will prove that the resurrection never happened. So the church is determined that this list never see the light of day. The Church sends letter after letter to Earl Horatio Herbert Kitchener (the person who is last known to have held the manifest list) demanding that he give the manifest to the church for "safekeeping".

In the early chapters of this novel. Summer Pitt is in England helping a girlfriend (Julie) to research Kitcheners personal papers. Summer uses NUMA technology to do a search around the wreck of the HMS Hampshire where they discover that the explosion that sank the ship, occurred from inside the ship. The hull plates are bent outwards, not inwards. Kitchener drowned aboard the Hampshire when it sunk in 1916.

Unknown to the girls, a jewish antiquities dealer has hired a shady archaeologist named Ridley Bannister to track down the items from the manifest of Jesus. He ends up shadowing the trail of Summer and her friend as they do all the work. Amongst Kitcheners papers and personal belongings, they eventually find the original papyrus manifest and a translation. Ridley promptly takes the papyrus from them at gun point.

After the fallout from the Istanbul ship bomb dies down, Pitt and his team return to the Mediterranean to complete the search for the items of the Manifest. The trail leds them to Cyprus where they eventually find a Roman galley safely hidden in an old cave. Within the ship are boxes containing the items on the manifest. These items eventually go on display in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

To be honest the religious mystery is NOT related to the quest for muslim domination at all. The two historical ships that were sunk at the beginning of this novel were both directly related to the religious mystery. I think this secondary story is just the authors trying to cash in on the latest trend for novels - religious mysteries ala The Da Vinci Code.

This entire novel is all about religion and terrorism and the middle east - the main story lines still happening in the world today.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

World's most expensive book sells for £7.3 million pounds

World's most expensive book sells for £7.3 million  ($11.5 million)

John James Audubon's Birds of America at Sotheby's in London before its sale for a world record £7.3m. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

A copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America tonight (December 6, 2010) became the most expensive book ever sold when it went under the hammer at Sotheby's for £7.3m. The auction was a rare chance to own one of the best preserved editions of the 19th century masterpiece, with its 435 hand-coloured illustrations, seen as a key volume on US natural history.

It was sold to an anonymous collector bidding by telephone, the auction house said. Each individual picture is so valuable there have been some fears the volume could be broken up and sold as 435 separate works of art. Experts believe that unlikely: the tome is probably more valuable intact.

And collectors hold Audobon in such reverence that the notion of ripping apart a perfect copy would be akin to sacrilege.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Emergence - Book Review

Emergence - Labelled Autistic: A True Story
By Temple Grandin
Arena Press 1986
Reissued by Warner Books, 1996 & 2005
Temple Grandin's Official Website

Everyone knows what Autism is, right?

Autism is that dreaded Neurological condition that we hope our kids don't get. And if they do - well you know your family is in for a constant struggle for the next 20 years.

One of the first things you learn if your child should ever be diagnosed as Austistic is that the child will regress from whatever they had learned at 18 months, and that they will never improve. Well, the good news is that the "experts" have now been proven well and truely WRONG.

In 1950 Temple Grandin was diagnosed as Autistic. She was almost 4 years old and had not spoken at all. Her mother was told to put Temple in an institution. She was told that Temple would never amount to anything so why waste money and time on her.

Like all autistic children, Temple had a fear of being touched and hugged by her parents and her family. She refused to be touched, because her nerves were so sensitive. At the same time, Temple wanted to be touched. She needed to be touched. But the touches that humans gave her were not the right kinds of touch.

So Temple invented and built a machine that would give her the touch that her body craved. She called it a Squeeze machine. It worked along similar lines to cattle chutes where cows are held by a chute for vaccinations and dipping.

Temple craved steady pressure all along her body - something that human arms and legs cannot give. She had to start over several times, in designing and making this machine, because the college where she was studying, assumed the squeeze machine was a bad thing. The faculty's thinking implied that the machine was giving her orgasms. Masturbation in the 1960s and 1970s was considered a very bad thing to do. Temple eventually graduated from college with a degree in Psychology, and a Masters in Animal Science in the 1960s. She later went on to do a PhD in Animal Science in the 1980s. 

Temple is now a Livestock expert. She designs cattle chutes for cattle in feedlots, abbatoirs (slaughterhouses) and on the ranches and farms. Why does she do this? Because she empathises with cows as they are slaughtered. Stressed and bruised meat is NOT good for human consumption. So the aim is to keep the cow happy (de-stressed) right up to the moment of death.

Last year (2009) a  TV movie was made about Temple's life. Called simply Temple Grandin, it starred Claire Danes as Temple. This movie won 7 Emmy awards in August 2010.
Best Made-for-Television Movie,
Best Director, Mick Jackson
Best Lead Actress, Claire Danes
Best Supporting Actress, Julia Ormond
Best Supporting Actor, David Strathairn
Best Music Composition, 
Best Camera Editing

This is Claire Danes (left) and Temple Grandin (right) at the Emmy Awards in August 2010.

If you really want to have some idea of what it is like to be Autistic, then I suggest you watch this movie. It is a stunning movie. It is funny in places, and it is sad too. But above all, it brings hope to all autistic children and their familes that autism can be conquered - even if it cannot be cured.

Temple has written several books. I hope to read the next volume in her life story soon. It's called Thinking in Pictures.