Reading Revolution

To me there is no better way to relax than to curl up with a good book. As a child I’d read anything – even a milk carton – I was that thrilled with my new found reading skills. I still think strong reading skills are important for a person to develop good analytical skills and personal empathy. But not everyone has the time and I suspect more people spend time reading their phones than reading a book.

I resisted having a kindle for a long time because I love the experience of reading a physical book, but the kindle has some advantages: I can carry a few hundred books in the space of one physical novel, there is a fair bit of free content out there (thank you Gutenberg), and I can read Dutch books with the help of a convenient online dictionary. The big downside for me is I can’t share or pass on books, yes Amazon makes it technically possible but most publishers don’t allow it. For a while it seemed that e-readers would spell the end of physical books but there seems to have been a turnaround, with the sales of ebooks dropping, as the sales of physical books rises.

I don’t think people are necessarily reading less, but they might be reading differently, here are some developments in reading formats.

Serial Box

An old idea repackaged for today’s technology. Episodes of a series are released each week and you can switch between reading text or listening to audio without losing your place in the story. Some content is existing books repackaged, but the Serial Box is heading into creating original content, the first episode is free to whet your appetite, and a few classic books are issued as a free series – I’ve started with The Woman in White as a trial. You can hear more on a recent Recode Decode podcast.

Sleep Stories

If you’ve ever thought “just one more chapter” and then woken up at 2am with arm cramp and the light on this might be for you. Each Sleep Story is constructed with enough drama to keep you focused on the story but not so much that you’ll stay awake. The readers are chosen for their soothing voices, it’s a joy, even the three minute explanation on the site had me drifting off.

As a free alternative, try listening to a podcast in a language you don’t speak. I find Welsh very pleasing and restful.

Audio books

One advantage of reading is you can’t do anything else except read. If that sounds like a disadvantage for you then audiobooks are the answer. There are a range of services out there, mostly subscription based. I admit I don’t go in for audio books as I tend to loose focus and have to replay whole chapters. I have the same problem with podcasts longer than 30 minutes. But a friend who does really long travel, like 8 hours of driving, for her job finds them brilliant. In a way this is also an old idea upgraded with technology, books were serialised on the radio, this is just radio on demand.

Whatever technology we’re using, we still are looking for good stories.

Image via pixabay 

Creativity at Play #2

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be more creative and one way I’m doing that is picking creativity exercises from the brilliant book Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 exercises to wake up your brain.

Here’s this month’s challenge

What day is it?

The week of seven days was adopted in Rome somewhere about 400 AD and spread into Europe, but it had been recognised long before that in the East. The names of the days are generally associated with Roman mythology.

It’s time they received a contemporary change. Your task is to rename the days of the week to be more modern. They can all be associated with a theme, or they can all have different meanings. They can be as long or as short as your like, but they must all end with the suffix “-day” like they do know.

First up, the names of the days of the week in English are generally associated with Norse mythology, not Roman. Latin based languages adapted the names via Roman Gods, so Friday is named after Frigg/Freya, the wife of Odin. She was often associated with love, and connected to Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Friday in Italian and French became venerdì and vendredi respectively. That’s the factual detour out of the way, now I can get creative.

First, what if we just numbered the days? Oneday, Twoday, Threeday, Fourday, Fiveday, Sixday, Sevenday

It’s much easier to remember, and handy for foreigners learning English. In fact Mandarin Chinese does this, for six of the seven days, and it is very easy to learn. Slavic languages also use numbers in naming some days, but in a more complicated way, and Sunday is something like “no work day” in Czech which is genius.

A random co-incidence there are seven colours in the rainbow so how about:

Day  Day  Day  Day  Day  Day  Day

It may appeal to people with synesthesia, less useful for people who are colour-blind. Tricky for design and colour printing.

I have rather neutral associations with the actual words for days of the week, maybe if I renamed the days I could have positive association.

Monday becomes Beginday

The first day of the week and you get to start new things

Tuesday becomes Dashday

For some reason Tuesday is often a day for lots of meetings and actions, which sounds heavy unless I think of it as dashing my way through the meetings and then it sounds fun.

Wednesday becomes Focusday

We’re in the middle of things, time to focus on the centre of what needs to be done

Thursday becomes Doday

A day to get things done with the energy of Thor

Friday becomes Capday

Time to cap off the week and plan for the next week

Saturday becomes Playday

A day for socialising, for meeting friends, for watching movies and doing the fun things of the week.

Sunday becomes Createday

On Createday I will write and work on creative hobbies.

Did this exercise break out the creativity? Yes, it was fun to think about it from different angles and throw some different languages into a post for once. Will I really use my new days of the week? Sort of, it feels positive to give working days a theme, but I can’t completely control my calendar so the theme remains loose during the week. As for the weekend – that’s already a reality.

Creativity at Play #2

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be more creative and one way I’m doing that is picking creativity exercises from the brilliant book Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 exercises to wake up your brain.

Here’s this month’s challenge

What day is it?

The week of seven days was adopted in Rome somewhere about 400 AD and spread into Europe, but it had been recognised long before that in the East. The names of the days are generally associated with Roman mythology.

It’s time they received a contemporary change. Your task is to rename the days of the week to be more modern. They can all be associated with a theme, or they can all have different meanings. They can be as long or as short as your like, but they must all end with the suffix “-day” like they do know.

First up, the names of the days of the week in English are generally associated with Norse mythology, not Roman. Latin based languages adapted the names via Roman Gods, so Friday is named after Frigg/Freya, the wife of Odin. She was often associated with love, and connected to Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Friday in Italian and French became venerdì and vendredi respectively. That’s the factual detour out of the way, now I can get creative.

First, what if we just numbered the days? Oneday, Twoday, Threeday, Fourday, Fiveday, Sixday, Sevenday

It’s much easier to remember, and handy for foreigners learning English. In fact Mandarin Chinese does this, for six of the seven days, and it is very easy to learn. Slavic languages also use numbers in naming some days, but in a more complicated way, and Sunday is something like “no work day” in Czech which is genius.

A random co-incidence there are seven colours in the rainbow so how about:

Day  Day  Day  Day  Day  Day  Day

It may appeal to people with synesthesia , less useful for people who are colour-blind.

colours or sounds

moods

 

 

Creativity at Play #1

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be more creative and one way I’m doing that is picking creativity exercises from the brilliant book Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 exercises to wake up your brain. The first

That Looks Just Like Nothing

Our lives are filled with pattern. We see patterns in textiles, building materials, nature, even food. With as much pattern as we see, it begs the question. “Is anything random anymore?” Time to explore the answer. Grab a digital camera. Your task is to take ten pictures of things in your environment that have no pattern or order. Find things that are completely random. Go!

I picked this as a first challenge because I thought it would be easy. It wasn’t. Almost everything made by humans has some element of pattern in it, to be fair it’s often functionally needed. Nature also defaults to patterns, trees are essentially lazy fractal patterns, snowflakes are more or less hexagonal, water forms spirals. Even things that seem random, like cloud formations, have a level of predictability and therefore non-randomness. My eye is drawn to patterns and symmetry and found I really had to focus on looking for the off centre, the accidental and the out of balance. That woke up my brain – It was a good exercise!

So I’ve chosen 9 images, an odd number, but nice and symmetrical on the page.

New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I’ve made three. It’s been a couple of tough years filled with change and I finally feel more settled with a company I respect and a comfortable home, so it’s time to challenge myself again! Here are my three challenges for this year.

1 Say Yes To Scary Stuff

Seek out and say yes to opportunities to speak at conferences or write for professional sites. I always get a lot out of doing this, and saying yes to one often leads to more opportunities. I’ve connected with a group of friends and we’re going to encourage and mentor each other to step up and take these opportunities.

2 Be More Creative

My job and my hobbies lead me to spend a lot of time staring at screens, and I want to have more fun and be more creative.

I want to get back to crafting, when I’m not looking at a screen I like knitting, sewing and fabric art. I want to complete at least four craft projects this year. One is something for a friend’s baby, that shouldn’t take long!

I’ve started a new Instagram account called 101 Good Things, where I make very bad drawings of things that make me happy. It’s a nice combination of making me notice the happy moments and have some fun trying to draw it. I am really bad at drawing hands, there may be improvement over the year.  Not sure whether I’ll stop when I get to 101.

Back in 2010 I reviewed Caffeine for the Creative Mind but rediscovered while unpacking, it’s 250 exercises to help you be more creative. I’m going to test the exercises and see what works. I may even post some of them here.

3 Read More Books from More Diverse Writers

I didn’t read enough last year, and I missed it. This year I want to read more, and from more diverse writers. A friend of mine posted this list, from R. O. Kwon, and I’ve added about 10 books from it to my wish list. I received an amazon voucher for Christmas but it’s not going to cover it!

  • by a writer who identifies as LGBTQI
  • a classic (not a re-read)
  • a poetry anthology
  • a Booker or Pulitzer prize-winning writer
  • by a writer from Africa
  • by a writer from China
  • by a writer from another Asian country
  • by a writer from a country I haven’t visited

I’ve started Middlemarch, so that’s the classic covered, I’ll take recommendations for the other options.

 

Let’s see how well I do – I’ll review at the beginning of December.

Digital Is Forever

In the last of my looking back series – celebrating 10 years of this blog – I’m looking at post I wrote back in 2009 about what happens to your digital presence when you die. A cheerful thought.

The Legacy Locker I mentioned in my original post no longer exists. So what has changed? (Don’t panic: there are other services available. )

Two other big changes; legal firms recommend you appoint a digital executor and platforms have developed their own polices and processes in the event of a user’s death.

For example, facebook have acknowledged the reality of our digital forevers with the option to memorialise accounts, and even give you the option of appointing a legacy contact. Twitter will work with families, or next of kin, to deactivate the account.

Since my blog post two friends have died, and in both cases Facebook was used to organise memorial meetings. Both their accounts are still live and we, as friends continue to share memories on their pages. Given that both these friends have friends and colleagues from around the world it’s a wonderful way for us to keep some memory alive.


What happens to your web presence when you die? Does it hang around forever? With much of our personal administration done online how do our families handle those accounts? And now that we have “virtual” friends and relationships online, does a withering avatar inform them of our demise?

digital_tattooThere’s a new service to be launched next month, called Legacy Locker, which provides storage of all your online profiles, logins and passwords and will release them to a family member in the vent of your death (and on provision of a death certificate and other documentation).

It will certainly easier to go through this process once, rather than multiple times with each social networking/blogging/email/service website.

They’re not the only ones to contemplate this issue, a Dutch networking site Mediamatic has been contemplating it more from a philosophical point of view. They’ve created an exhibition “Ik R.I.P” (Ik = I in Dutch), which is billed as “an exhibition about death, internet and self-representation”. There’s a matching website where you can leave a sort of digital will, linked to one of several online profiles. The focus here is more on the social aspect of what happens after your death, whereas Legacy Locker looks at the very practical problem of your personal information and services online.

Given how much of my life is now online, it makes sense to plan for aspects of my death online.

Reviewing the Book Reviews


Over the last 10 years I’ve reviewed thirty books for this blog, all the reviews have been positive, because if I don’t find a book interesting or valuable I don’t finish it, let alone review it.

Here’s my review of the reviews. Very meta.

The first book I reviewed was The Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen. I characterised it then as “an anti Web 2.0 rant.” Oh boy. At the time I was more optimistic about what we now call social media, but now I think I should have paid more attention to Mr. Keen. He was more right than I realised and the issues he identified still aren’t resolved.

The two books I recommend most often are Don’t Me Think, by Steve Krug which I didn’t review, and The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander which I did.  The first is a speed guide to the principles of building good digital properties – it started out as an internet guide but the principles can be used for more than that. I think I’ve given away at least a dozen copies over the years, I’m not even sure whether I currently own a copy!

The second, the Art of Possibility,  is my favourite leadership book of all time, it’s a book leading to reflection on your own personal leadership style and how you can lead in a way that is honest and encouraging. It’s a delight to read, and almost 10 years after I first read the book I dip into it for inspiration.

Two books that made me think about how we work are A Year Without Pants, by Scott Berkun, and Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution, by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. Both examine how we work today and it’s evolution from industrial era principles. In my current job I am the only person from my team, or even my department in the office I usually work in, so the ideas in this book about work, results, and communication are once again useful.

A final favourite, and not just for the great title Weird Ideas that Work, by Robert I. Sutton, the weird ideas are for building innovative and creative teams, which is relevant for part of my work. I had accidentally figured out some of his ideas before I read the book but use them even more now. It also helped me look at conflict – when it’s about the work – in a more constructive way instead of wanting to calm it (natural peace-maker reaction). An added reason to like this book, when I reviewed it Mr. Sutton was kind enough to thank me via twitter.

 

Reading books is one of my favourite things to do, here’s to another 10 years of reading, learning and thinking!