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Showing posts from May, 2010

10 Reasons Why Memorial Day Is the Best Holiday

We all have our preferred holidays, of course, but some are under-appreciated when compared against the traditional favorites like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. A case in point is Memorial Day which, when looked at objectively, not only compares to any of the five star holidays, but is actually superior to them all.

I'm aware that Memorial Day is a U.S. holiday and might not translate for everyone, but I tried to pick qualities that aren't really specific to America.

Below are ten reasons why Memorial Day is the best holiday of them all.
Memorial Day always falls on a Monday. This guarantees a long weekend. Plus, Monday holidays are easier to plan around and less disruptive than a mid-week holiday where you get a day off and then have to drag yourself back to work for a day or two before the weekend.Memorial Day traditionally kicks off summer movie season and the release of highly-anticipated movies. Some of the notable and top grossing Memorial Day weekend movies …

The Sound of Social Media Silence

In the hours leading up to the "Lost" series finale that aired last Sunday, many people updated their blogs, Facebook statuses, and Twitter pages with a statement indicating that they'd be staying off the Internet and powering off mobile devices until after they watched the finale, so as to avoid surprises and spoilers.

Of course, you don't have to be a fan of "Lost" to relate to the impulse to disengage from online distractions, but the willingness of so many people to do so to watch a television show made me wonder what else qualifies as a reason to steer clear of the Internet and social media.

Do people just pull away for media that's prone to spoliers and leaks, like anticipated television shows and movies? What about pro sporting events, particularly when someone attempts the often tried but difficult to accomplish feat of recording the game, avoiding the score, and then watching it later without knowing the outcome. And what about people who disen…

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Book Review)

I rarely say this about any book, and think I've only done it once before, for Night by Elie Wiesel, but Half the Sky is one of those books that everyone should read.

It's both an unflinching and brave piece of journalism that reveals the widespread plight of women in the developing world (even in this day and age), and a clear call for change through awareness and action.

The authors present their case by focusing on some of the major problems facing millions of women worldwide, including sex trafficking, sexual violence and rape, and maternal mortality. Then, they look at the solutions that are having the greatest positive impact, especially girls education, access to healthcare, and microfinance.

There's a lot to take away from Half the Sky, but perhaps the most memorable point is how uplifting and educating women in countries where they have been traditionally held down can begin to transform the country's entire society -- economically, socially, and even politica…

Larry's Kidney by Daniel Asa Rose (Book Review)

With Larry's Kidney, author Daniel Asa Rose hits the ball hard and deep, but ultimately foul.

The premise of a man and his cousin traveling to China to try and obtain a kidney for a transplant the uncle desperately needs is great and the setup draws you in at the start. But the story didn't maintain momentum or keep my interest, in large part because, though the book is a true story, it felt like neither memoir nor fiction. I'm not sure why. The events seemed plausible but the characters spoke and acted at really odd angles. They didn't come across as real to me, and certainly didn't capture my sympathy. However, they didn't read like fictional characters either. Perhaps the problem is with me and that I've read too many memoirs that are so fabricated and scripted that my sense of a real person in a memoir is blurred and really off.

In any case, the book never come together for me.

TiMER (Movie Review)

TiMER is a fresh and fun Indie film where the technology exists (TiMERs) to show people the numbers of days, hours, minutes and seconds until they will meet their soul mate. The film is ostensibly a romantic comedy but it resists easy categorization and at times feels as much like a drama or a science fiction film as it does a romantic comedy.

We learn about TiMERs through two sisters -- Oona (Emma Caulfield) and Steph (Michelle Borth) -- who approach dating and relationships in large part based on the readouts of their TiMERs. For example, Steph knows that she won't meet her soul mate for many years, so she is casual in her encounters and resists intimacy. Oona's TiMER is blank, which indicates that her soul mate hasn't installed a TiMER yet, and the impasse leaves her frustrated and impatient for her one to emerge.

In this state, Oona departs from her calibrated routine and begins a relationship with a younger man. The change and excitement wake Oona up, and she finds h…

The Politics of Social Media

When you're connected to someone on a social media site like Facebook, Twitter, or even LinkedIn, and the person uses the service regularly, it doesn't take long to learn some new things about the person that you might not have known, including likes, interests, and affiliations.

This can create some interesting dynamics and bedfellows, especially when you're interacting online with people you haven't connected with in a long time (like high school or college friends) or have only met professionally. To me, this is most acute when I begin to parse that someone I'm connected to is my complete opposite, politically.

This got me wondering -- what do people think and do when they notice their connections have different politics? Do people disconnect from people if someone's at the other end of the spectrum? Do they keep the connection but ignore the person? Conversely, are social media sites rare vehicles where we actually talk to and listen to each other? It's…

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld (Book Review)

Peeps is a fresh and original take on the vampire story where vampirism is actually a disease caused by parasites and vampires are parasite positives, or "peeps," who carry the illness.

Full disclosure: I'm one of those people who think there are way too many vampire books and movies, and that the whole vampire sub-genre has become pretty stale and tired. I know, millions of people love Twilight and its sequels, so I concede it's a me thing.

That all said, despite my jaded preconceptions about vampire novels, I thoroughly enjoyed Peeps. I thought the book's conceit was original and intriguing, and the rest of the story held-together pretty well. Peeps is targeted at young adults but will be enjoyed by adult readers as well. I know, as I'm one of those adult readers who liked it!

Food Rules by Michael Pollan (Book Review)

I'm a big Michael Pollan fan and thought In Defense of Food was one of the most important books to come along in years. Food Rules recasts much of the important information from In Defense of Food into 64 rules for selecting real food, eating in moderation, and getting off the Western diet.

While I thought In Defense of Food was already pretty accessible and easy to get into, Food Rules pares down the material even further, by relating eating to our daily lives and using simple, everyday language. Most of the rules are just one page in length and, in some cases, the rules are just a single sentence, as with #20, "It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car." It's likely that the streamlined book format and simple rules will allow Pollan to reach many new readers.

I don't know about the utility of Food Rules for those who've already read In Defense of Food. The book felt like a refresher to me and I will probably look to loan it to people wh…

The Samurai Poet by Travis Belrose (Book Review)

The Samurai Poet blends fiction with history in a richly conceived novel about Ishikawa Jozan, a man who turns away from the samurai to a contemplative life of poetry and calligraphy. Narrated by Jozan, the world of medieval Japan comes alive as Jozan initially learns and embraces the way of the samurai, only to repudiate the warrior path for a pursuit of artistic and spritual purity.

As a reader who opened the novel knowing very little about medieval Japan, I learned quite a bit from the book, and came away with a sense of some of the famous historical figures of the period (like Tokugawa Ieyasu, a prominent Shogun) and historical sites that still stand to this day, including Shisendo Temple in Kyoto.

At its best, the book drew me in and let me see historical Japan through Jozan's eyes. This is nowhere more evident than in an early scene when a young Jozan watches as his father duels an arrogant schoolteacher. The detail is picture-perfect and finely rendered.

The novel felt epis…

Less by Marc Lesser (Book Review)

Less is a modest book that offers insight and practical suggestions for doing less and sometimes stopping altogether in order to accomplish more and live a richer, calmer, and more satisfying life.

Author Marc Lesser is a business leader and Zen teacher and has managed to bring both of his worlds together in this helpful, valuable work.

Some of the advice is general and to be applied according to individual preference, such as blocking out some time each day to meditate or take a walk. In other sections of the book, the author includes specific instructions for doing less, such as a suggestion to reduce distraction from emails and phone calls by checkcing emails and phone messages only two or three times a day, during prescribed times.

Less is also distinguished by what it is lacking. That is, there are no five or seven steps to success. There's no program or membership to purchase to get the full payoff to the author's message. And there's no cult of personality overshadow…

The Millionaire Next Door (Book Review)

Before authors like Suze Orman and David Bach cornered the market on personal finance, Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko released a book in 1996 that brought together their findings from interviewing millionaires.

The conclusions are simple and straightforward but go against some of our preconceptions that millionaires spend money lavishly. They are, simply, that millionaires, on average, spend less money than they earn, they live below their means, they save, and they are likely to spend more on their childrens' education than their non-millionaire counterparts.

Though almost fifteen years old now, I still recommend The Millionaire Next Door for anyone in interested in learning the simple, but plain and boring, tactics used by many people to amass fortunes over time.