Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: book quotes Page 2 of 7

Weird Science: A Kangaroo Rat’s Unhappy Flight

The life of a kangaroo rat. If you think your life is hard, that too many crazy things just happen to you and you have no control what-so-ever, just think of him. Not only does he contend with attacks from above and below, he is regularly swept up by strong winds AND humans on a weird science quest to determine windspeeds!

“The kangaroo rat has proved to be a useful unit of measurement for the upward speed of a dust devil. Or so concluded one researcher in 1947, according to the scientific literature: Having noted that dust devils sometimes snatch up these luckless creatures, the investigator measured the speed at which a kangaroo rat falls when dropped from a tower. From this observation he was able to calculate that the upward speed of dust devils must be at least twenty-five miles an hour. He further observed that the kangaroo rat was angered by this employment but unhurt. Since California’s Mojave Desert, as an example, can host thousands of dust devils a day, evolution may have furnished the oft-lofted kangaroo rat with a crashproof anatomy.”

The Secret Life of Dust by Hannah Holmes
Weird science experiment "lab rat"
A rescue from the cat.
Those fluffy bouncing tails
are just too tempting!

You come up from your burrow to the surface, squinting your big black eyes at the brightness. The sun is low on the horizon, casting long shadows of joshua trees and cholla across the ground, perfect hiding places from predators up above. You take some tentative hops out onto the hot desert floor, your little rat feet barely noticing the sandy 150-degree surface.

A warm breeze brushes past your short whiskers and you sniff…smells dry and dusty. You stop, lean back on your giant back legs (the better to jump with my dear) and take a long look around. That ridge there looks promising for delicious seeds. Dropping forward into a long fast hop to the next shady spot, the breeze gets stronger and your whiskers twitch in alarm.

You lean in and pick up speed, your big but stout ears can hear the roar of the wind coming on like a freight train (if you knew what one was). Suddenly, you’re airborne, tumbling through the sky, fluffy tufted tail over tiny nose and around again.

“Not again,” you grumble to yourself as you spin through the air along with pieces of paper, abandoned grocery bags, and loose sand. Bits of rocks and twigs bite your ears as you tumble and turn in the air with them. “Where will I land this time? And how long will it take me to find my burrow? My wife just won’t believe it happened again!”

As quickly as you were picked up, the dust devil drops you back onto the hot desert floor like a human toddler tired with its toy. You roll along the ground and land head down with your back smack against a large rock, a rock larger than you, anyway. Righting yourself, you shake your head in disgust, throwing the fine sand from your ears and take stock of your situation.

You have no idea where you are. Everything looks familiar, but the smells here are so different. “How many miles from home has that devil taken me this time?” A few tentative hops tell you that nothing is broken, just a bit battered and confused, when you’re suddenly pounced on by a cat and brought into the human house like a toy, or worse, scooped up by a lab coat wearing researcher to be dropped ON PURPOSE, your fall timed with precision, all in the name of science!

I wrote about this wonderful book back in January. Hop over the post, “The Secret Life of Dust” by Hannah Holmes to read my first thoughts on it.

Have you read this book? Want to read along with me? Go get The Secret Life of Dust and leave me a comment about your thoughts on it. I can’t wait to hear from you!


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Cultural Literacy is the key to Communication On the Internet

The best way to build cultural literacy is to read widely.
Last post about this gloriously written book!

Rebuilding a common cultural literacy doesn’t mean we all have to return to the same classical books as our grandparents. We don’t all need to read all the same dead western white guys to understand each other, but we probably should start reading (and watching, listening, and experiencing) a little of as many different works of art, from as many different cultures and backgrounds as possible, if we’re going to save civilization from ourselves.

“How does an audience identify an allusion? The whole system of signaling depends, quite obviously, on a high degree of cultural literacy – an easy assumption in traditional societies with fixed literary canons and a high capacity for verbatim retention of texts, but something of a problem for contemporaries, who often come to literary texts from a background of loose canons, little reading, and languid memory.”

The Pleasure of Reading in an Ideological Age by Robert Alter

That’s a lot of fancy words for we aren’t all coming from the same entertainment background. We aren’t all reading the same small collection of books these days, even more today than when he wrote this because our world has become infinitely larger and more connected virtually.

Funny story, and one you’re probably familiar with. My kids think the memes they find on social media are hilarious. Sometimes, when they show them to me, I don’t get the joke. Or the other way around. I think something is deep and wonderous and they look at me like, “Huh?”

We don’t get the allusion in each other’s media. We don’t see the signals. Once again, I’m reminded of the Star Trek TNG episode “Darmok and Jalad”

To understand each other, especially in the written word, we have to come from a similar background first of all. The more figurative the media, the more it relies on allusion, the more similar our backgrounds need to be for us to “get it.” I can’t understand why you say that the character is like Sisyphus if I haven’t heard or read that story. And you won’t understand that I “Trumped your sly comment with a better one” if you’ve never played the game.

Each nation, each culture, each generation alters its canon a little at a time. We build on the past, let some things go, and add new things, all in an effort to do what? Describe and understand the world around us? Communicate with others near and far, now and in the future? Too bad we can’t send messages back in time and warn them. “Don’t light that match mom!” or “Don’t invent that device!” But then, I’m not sure that would help us really. If we know anything from time travel movies, it’s that events are sticky. They seem to want to happen no matter what we do.

Unlike most children in the U.S., my sons grew up in close proximity to us, 24/7, not because we’re paranoid about someone taking them, or over-protective. It was because we liked them. I wanted to be around them more and figured they’d go to school later when we got tired of each other. I’ve talked about it before, but we unschooled instead of homeschooled. We lived as if school didn’t exist. I should write a new post about THAT!

The short version is that we lived and worked from home, together for 18 years. They had a very similar canon of books, tv, movies, and music as we did because that’s what we knew and shared with them. As we grew, so did they. New movies. New books. New music. Human events unfolded around us. All of it happened in light of what we already knew, our own family’s background canon.

So, when we write a story, share a joke, or make a reference, all of us almost always get the allusion. Until…cue dramatic music…they began to move in circles outside our house. Noooo!!! Once, they found social media, got jobs, friends, and then started college, it all changed. Their canon shifted from ours. And I know that shift isn’t over. Now that they have moved out on their own it will keep growing and changing as long as they live. We’ll be coming back together for holiday gatherings and sharing our worlds with each other for a long time to come.

Michelle? What they heck? What does that have to do with reading?!

It’s the same with books, not to mention articles, movies, and music. The artist creates his work from the memory of his own canon, assuming that the audience has a similar enough background to understand the allusions. If I read something by someone that is so far outside my world, it’s more difficult for me to understand the deeper meanings of the references the creator is trying to convey. That’s what happened to me when I read, “The 28 Mansion of the Moon.”

I think most of us tend to remember that when we’re reading a book but tend to forget that we need to do the same when we read or watch anything, especially on the internet. Here we are with the world at our fingertips. We can see and hear everyone all over the world, but are we communicating? Rarely. It’s not because we’re mean and evil, or less smart than we ever were. It’s simply because we are assuming that everyone we see and hear has the same canon, the same cultural background, as we do. Translation is not simple. We may even be speaking the same language but come from entirely different worlds.

It’s going to take humanity a long time to adjust to this new development. Let’s hope we don’t destroy each other in the process.

Click over to my original post, “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” to read my initial thoughts on this book!

Find “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” on Thriftbooks and read along with me. If you do, be sure to comment so I know you’re out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Can the Free Association of Writing Help You Find Yourself?

The Pleasures of Reading book cover on a book shelf. Can you "find yourself" through writing?

Oh, my gourd, I see the words “find yourself” and cringe. What does it even mean? Is there a better term? Maybe…discover my own depths? Learn more about who I really am, what I want, clarify my thoughts and feelings and use them to my advantage, instead of running blindly through life?

“It is the very process of writing allowed the writer to tap unguessed levels of his own self, to achieve a kind of nonvolitional heightening of ordinary insight, as, analogously, the process of free association in psychoanalysis is supposed to do.”

The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age by Robert Alter

That is exactly why I write, here and in my personal journals. My process with almost everything I write is to start and see where it goes. With books, I read and make notes, then go back later and pull out the quotes that trigger to me think a little. Most of things I made note of at the time I was reading, usually mean nothing to me a few weeks later. But those that do still trigger me get marked and brought here for further use.

I write out the quote in a word document and start musing. Sometimes I wander far from the author’s original intent. Sometimes I wander far from my own! And sometimes the trail goes nowhere. That’s when I file it away and begin again.

The same goes for my “New Read” and “Why I Get Up” posts. There’s a trigger and then some meandering down the path of thought through words. My personal journals go the same direction, but they are never censored or edited for content. They are mine only and lead me to more ah-ha moments that I use in my daily life. I apologize to anyone that reads those. They are circular and quite profane at times. I’m sure they look the ravings of a mad person.

“Nonvolitional” is the perfect word. They all just go where they go, a free association of thoughts followed by new ideas, and thoughts on those ideas, in the hopes that some conclusion can be found.

Once I get a bit down the path and feel like I’m close to a discovery of sorts, I close the document and open the previous day’s work for editing. That’s when I try to put a bit more order and polish on my work. I didn’t use to. I used to post right after I wrote. I’d say it was some noble attempt to “be real” but honestly it was just laziness.

The past few months I’ve tried to be more consistent and deliberate with my work. I start in the same way, but spend more time editing and rearranging things so that they get across better the idea I’m attempting to convey. Hopefully, I’m starting to get better at it.

What I do know is that I’m enjoying writing more, I’m getting much more out of the books I’ve read, and I’m learning a lot more than I used to. I’m able to quote from and use the information and helps that I’ve written on, in my own life. It brings me happiness, a sort of personal purpose.

Click over to my original post, “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” to read my initial thoughts on this book!

Find “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” on Thriftbooks and read along with me. If you do, be sure to comment so I know you’re out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Life Choices: Is there a clearly good or bad decision?

The Noticer cover on a desert background, a book filled with help with our life choices.

Not only do our life choices have an effect on the rest of our existence, they ripple out to the lives around us and down their timelines as well. But that doesn’t mean there are always clear “right” and “wrong” choices at the moment we’re making them. We can’t possibly know what all the results will be for all our options and which ones will lead us the “right” way, so we do the best we can with what we have and keep on living and loving.

“There are generations yet unborn, whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take…tonight. And tomorrow. And tomorrow night. And the next day. And the next.”

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

Maybe we should limit ourselves to what will do us, and those around us, the most good in the moment we are in when we are considering our life choices.

I made a note at this line, “The Butterfly Effect.” Remember that movie? I think I’d like to watch it again. I remember the concept but not the details, the plot eludes me other than tiny ripples make large differences in the distant future.

I remember thinking about it when my kids were very little and becoming overwhelmed with the idea that what I do now, while they are so young, every day, can have lasting effects on their lives and their own families lives in the future. At the time I was feeling so not ready for the family situation I thought I had wanted. I remember walking home from the park pushing a stroller, my husband walking with his daughter a few paces behind, wanting out.

What have I done? My choices are going to destroy more lives, ruin more people’s futures. My family will be disappointed. My husband will lose what he thought was the love of his life. And my sons…another couple of children brought into this world and then abandoned. I literally wanted to run away, not divorce and reorganize, just run away from all of it. It was a rough time.

Luckily, I got some help and decided to stick around and see what happened. Today, I’m glad I did, but in all honesty, it wasn’t always so. It was touch and go for a while. Some days and weeks were better than others. And I still have bad days from time to time. But that’s all beside the point.

My decision to stay in the relationship, to raise my children with my husband, led me right where I am right now. It was one decision that led to another and one that will affect everyone around me forever. If I had decided to do the opposite, or chose and entirely different option, I can’t know what would have happened, unless we invent some way of seeing alternate timelines.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean I made a correct or best choice either. Life is good right now, but it could always be better. It’s good for me, but maybe it would have been better for my stepdaughter if I had left. My husband could have met someone else that would have made a better parent to her than I did. Who knows? All I’m saying is that every decision you make, everything that accidentally happens, every stroke of fate, leads you to another that gets you where you are now.

I became overwhelmed back then because I was trying to make “the right” choices to create “the right” future. But there is no “right.” There is only the moment we are in, with the information we have, and the people that are there now.

At some point in my life, I decided to stop worrying about making the “right” decision and started thinking about how I could make life nicer for the people around me in that moment, including myself. I stopped nagging about things I wanted done and did them myself. I stopped complaining about other people’s choices and focused on my own. It was only the beginning and I don’t even remember where that idea came from, what book, website, movie, or conversation led me to stop and think.

Inspiration to change comes from everywhere at every moment. As I walk through the store, drive down the freeway, or post on the internet, I try to remember that I’m influencing the world around me. I want to send positives out into the world, but sometimes the negatives influence others to do good things too. I’m not going to worry about any other timeline but the one I’m in and that branches out from what I’m doing right now, the best I have isn’t always that great, but it is what is and I can’t change that.

I posted about this book when I read it back in January. Go check out “The Noticer” by Andy Andrews, to see where my journey with it began.

Andy Andrews has a lot of inspirational books out and a podcast too! His website links to all his work.


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Life is a Journey Not to the Top of One Mountain but Several

The Noticer book cover on desert background. If life is a journey, this is a sweet book to help guide your path.

“Life is a journey.” It’s pretty cliché, I know, but sometimes a cliché just works so well we can’t describe something a better way.

Have you ever felt that life had become stagnant? A career had peaked and there was nowhere to go. A relationship had hit a plateau. A hobby you adore suddenly seemed pointless. That’s the mountaintop and life’s journey doesn’t end there.

“Think with me here…everybody wants to be on the mountaintop, but if you’ll remember, mountaintops are rocky and cold. There is no growth on the top of the mountain. Sure, the view is great, but what’s a view for? A view just gives us a glimpse of our next destination – our next target. But to hit that target, we must come off the mountain, go through the valley, and begin to climb the next slope. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak.”

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

You can get to the top of a hill and think, “Ah, yes. Here I am. I’ve made it to the top.” You begin to set up camp, make a space for yourself, but then that feeling sets in. When you take a look at your immediate surroundings, it seems there is nowhere to go but down the other side. Is this all there is? I’ve gotten to the top and now I just sit and wait?

Nope. Not even close. Take a longer look out at the horizon, get your binoculars out if you have to. There’s another peak in the distance, maybe another small one or a big one. The valley below may be wide or narrow, swampy wet or bone dry, it may even look like perfect farmland, but it has to be crossed. This is growth.

We tend to look at our life as one long climb, interrupted by trials and errors. If we somehow manage to get to the top, we win, but most of us never get that far. Most of us keep looking at our feet, climbing is all we know.

What if instead we looked at our life as a journey, with up sides, down sides, hills, mountains, fertile valleys, and dry deserts? Each portion of the journey helps us get to the next. Each hill gives us a view to survey and decide which direction to choose. Each valley teaches us the skills we need for the next climb.

Each of us should be living our own independent lives, creating our own future, following our own individual paths. People join us on our journey, long and short term. We’re born to parents that attend us in the beginning, into families that help us through the first valleys, but at some point, we stand on a mountaintop and choose a direction of our own.

We meet friends and lovers, choose full-time, part-time, and occasional partners, build small and large clans that make it easier to pass through the next valley and up the climb to the peak. Again, we stand and survey the view, choose a direction, find out who will join us, and wish the others well on their own chosen journey.

At the end of our lives, we may be at any point on the map. We’ve met people and lost people. We’ve created relationships, lost some, built on old ones. I’d like the see the “location history” of a single life, with all the intersections of other’s lives, how long they moved alongside us, and where we all ended up.

This past year, I’ve been on a mountain top and had begun to feel that “Is this all there is?” feeling. The longer I sat on it, the more fearful I became about what was coming next. Stay on the mountain dreaming about the other peaks, waiting for something to happen, or head down into the valley to work through and then head back up another peak. Neither option looked like something I wanted to do.

But then I thought, “I can’t sit here enjoying the spoils until I die. It’s just too early in life for that!” I took a good look around, decided on a new general direction and headed down the hillside. I’m not sure what peak I’m headed to at this point. I only know that the journey isn’t over and that standing still for too long isn’t going to make anything easier.

Life is a journey that’s too short to wait on fear of the unknown.

I posted about this book when I read it back in January. Go check out “The Noticer” by Andy Andrews, to see where my journey with it began.

Andy Andrews has a lot of inspirational books out and a podcast too! His website links to all his work.


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Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Negativity Bias can be a Positive Force

An example of negativity bias from the book on a desert background.

The old negativity bias is a strong instinct.

“Just like in life, where beautiful moments vanish in a second, and things that ache feel like they stay with us a whole lifetime.”

The 28 Mansions of the Moon by Motaz H Matar

I’m not a romantic, so the first thing I think when I read something like this it, “Of course they do! The things that ache remind us not to do that again!”

Humans are geared, like any animal, to watch for danger signs.

I’m trying to remember who said it, but I remember hearing on a podcast that the good things can happen over and over again. That which will kill you only needs to happen once, so we have an eye for those things. We should anyway. That’s what has kept us alive.

The beautiful moments; the attentive partner, the hot coffee with the perfect amount of Irish whiskey, a taco expertly crafted (that’s meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and then siracha ketchup, for those that are unaware), we can experience them time and time again and get joy from them each time. We don’t need to remember forever the feeling of looking out over Main Street at Disneyland and seeing the castle. We can go see it again! And better yet, forget it and go experience something else, like a perfect score at a trap shoot or bowling game with friends and beer!

The things that ache though, that’s what we need to remember. The grocery store that always has the bad meat that you can’t eat the next day. That freeway that is always packed with cars? Better to remember that and find a new route. That romantic partner that gave you signs he would turn out to be a complete asshole? Yeah…things you should remember and avoid in the future.

If we’re wired this way naturally, if we all keep having the same response to the same phenomena, shouldn’t we consider why? Instead of thinking, “Wow. Humans have some serious flaws,” maybe we could consider how the response may have served us in the past and how we can use it today.

What Is The Negativity Bias and How Can it be Overcome?

Knowing that we are hardwired to pay closer attention to and hold on to the negative aspects of life can help us sort through and make sense of our feelings. Instead of romanticizing them and crying over it, maybe we can think logically and use this instinct to our advantage.

You can find this book and others at Motaz H Matar’s website. If you read it, let me know what you think!

I posted about this book when I started reading it at the beginning of January, “The 28 Mansions of the Moon.”


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Finding Balance in the Study of Eastern and Western Philosophy

Eastern and Western philosophy quote from the book on a desert background.
The first of many gems I found in this book, even though it wasn’t what I expected.

“Underlying all Western modes of analysis is a very strong rationalistic tendency – an assumption that everything can be accounted for.”

The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

I can’t be the only one that is thinking that the study of Eastern and Western Philosophy may be a way to bring the chaos of modern civilization into balance. If each of us could spend time considering ways to live more peacefully, the mood of even social media may change for the better.

When I read the quote above, I imagined a bean-counter sitting at his desk picking apart a human consciousness. This is related to this. That is caused by that. Hmm… You can see the animation play out, can’t you?

Some would read this and think, “Yeah, those dumb Western thinkers! Always thinking they can reason their way out of everything, control the outcomes. Not everything has a rational explanation!”

And not everything can, or should be, controlled.

Modern thinking has supposedly thrown out superstitious and spiritual “woo-woo” reasons for what happens in the physical world. In my opinion, it seems we’ve simply replaced it with something far more dangerous, the worship of the state. Voting seems to give government supernatural abilities that are unlimited in scope. We need not worry, think, or reason for ourselves because every few years we vote for someone else to do that for us.

But that’s not what this book is about, or what I came to talk about. It’s just what leaked through my brain as I thought about the quote.

There’s a lot of good that has come from that bend toward rational accountability in Western thought. Christian teaching tells us that God gave us the earth to take care of.

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 

Matthew 6:26

Taking the reins of life on earth is a big job for humanity. It’s a huge responsibility. The forces of life on earth are great. What if we could control and guide them? What could we accomplish if we drove them instead of rode them?

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible…enter chaos, right? That’s where Eastern thought, and Buddhism specifically, is helping me personally. Could it help all of humanity, like in a balance way, two halves of a whole finally coming together in the modern era?

I think so. Reading this book has only confirmed some of my suspicions about Eastern and Western philosophy and now I want to know more. My Western culture has taught me ambition, responsibility, and reasoning. Can Eastern culture teach me acceptance and peace about the chaos outside?

I’ve been curious about Buddhism and Eastern thought for years and I think it’s about time I spent some serious study in it. I’m still looking for good sources, so if you know of any you’ve had experience with, let me know in the comments.

You can find The Art of Happiness at Thriftbooks. If you read it, let me know what you think!

I posted about this book when I started reading it back in December, New Read: The Art of Happiness

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

I Am A Writer. What’s your Superpower?

Writing Superpower quote with book cover on desert background.

“It feels powerful to him to put an experience down in words, like he’s trapping it in a jar and it can never fully leave him.”

Normal People by Sally Rooney

I’m a writer. In the past I wouldn’t have made a statement like that. I’m not published. I don’t have a huge following. I don’t write books, fiction or non-fiction. My blog posts…well…what can I say? I have tried my hand at few short stories this past year. It’s something I didn’t realize would bring me so much joy.

It may be one of those flawed super powers that seems cool, might be useful for something, but usually just looks silly or gets you into more trouble than its worth. But I am a writer. I always have been.

I have a box in my room filled with journals, the oldest of which dates back to 1984. I was twelve years old. I was also an avid letter writer when I was a kid. A box of old letters from pen pals, friends that had moved away, proves that.

Do all writers keep things like this?!

The things I choose to keep prove that I am a writer (and a reader) deep down in my soul. Books, journals, letters, photo albums, maps, postcards, etc. fill my shelves all over the house. I even have all the calendars and planners I’ve had over the past twenty-five years, filled with notes about who was where and when, what was made for dinner, and what was spent on what.

I plan on torturing my children with this treasure trove of information someday. When they harass me about my habits, I laughingly tell them that someday the electronic world will disappear and all that will be left of life in early 21st century will be my written archive. Then who will laugh?!

When I walk around my neighborhood, or go for hikes with friends and family, I make up quick stories about the things we see and where we are. “This tree root looks like it’s hatching a rock egg.” “What if we pretended that we were time travelers and asked people what year it was?” “This trail leads to Hobbits.” I’m happiest when I’m with people that will add to the story, not laugh at it as if it were an odd thing to do. Now I’m thinking I should write down and expand on some of those tales.

Unlike the character in the book, I don’t write things down to capture them. It honestly depends on my mood and what I’m writing. I’m attempting to communicate; sometimes with myself (future and past), sometimes with others, sometimes with my family and friends.

Everything I write, including this blog, is simply me trying to understand myself and the world around me, even the fiction. I physically write it down, and share my thoughts here with you, in the hopes that someone out there can benefit from it. I don’t want someone to read my work and think, “Oh! That’s what I am going to do!” I’m not attempting to be anyone’s “guru” in this world.

Ultimately, I’d love it if someone that reads me understands me, considers my thought process, and maybe gleans something from it that makes their life just a little bit nicer.

My superpower is attempting to communicate ideas through the written word. I may not be a proficient one, but I am a writer. I always have been, and I always will be.


If you’d like to go back and read my thoughts on this book from the beginning, start at my post New Read: Normal People.

You can find “Normal People” by Sally Rooney on Amazon.

My monthly newsletter highlights my immediate after-thoughts about the books I read the previous month. You can sign up for that awesome email at the link on the right or by hopping over to my Autobibliography page. Once you opt-in, you’ll receive one email a month only available to my email followers…mmm…so exclusive!

The School System is Oppressive for a Reason

School system feels oppressive quote from book and book cover on desert background.

“Marianne’s classmates all seem to like school so much and find it normal. To dress in the same uniform every day, to comply at all times with arbitrary rules, to be scrutinized and monitored for misbehavior, this is normal to them. They have no sense of the school as an oppressive environment.”

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The school system we have is not the best way to create a responsible and independent population.

Speaking out against the public school system is unpopular, I know. I usually get even fewer likes when I speak my mind here. But hear me out, please. What we are currently doing (and have been for nearly 100 years) isn’t working. That old cliché definition of insanity comes to mind.

I pulled this quote out because it reminded me of my own experience in high school and my feeling when I talk to parents that send their kids to school. In fact, it reminds me of how I feel when I talk to kids in high school, or that have just left it.

I was good at the system. I was able to work my way through public school in the 80’s and get good grades, make some friends, and start university. But I felt like I as living a lie, walking among zombies that didn’t realize there was a world outside what we were being forced to live until we were 18 or completed so many credits. Why was I different?

I don’t believe controlling other people from birth to death is the way we create order out of chaos. I’ve heard time and time again, if you don’t teach a child that you are bigger and stronger than them, the authority in all things, while they are small and fragile, they’ll walk all over you when they get into their teens and are bigger than you, capable of walking away from your control. It sounds so perverse.

It’s the same with schools today. I’ve heard parents tell me that you need to put your children in daycare early so that they learn to fit in to the system once they get to school age. Children that have not been corralled from early age have a harder time settling into the mold of school days.

A young person, fresh out of high school at 18 years old, scoffed at the fact that my son (her boyfriend) must have been too lazy to finish high school. He didn’t get the same education as she did and would probably never fully understand the system of merely making good grades and completing checklists instead of engaging in and learning from the material and teachers he came across at college. He was 16 and taking the same classes as her, helping her with her math assignments and holding a job.

When people see us, our children, and our lifestyle, some say, “Sure, that’s fine for you but other people need the control of an authority.” Do they? Or have they been trained from birth to believe that they do?

Some people have met us and have told me, “Wow. Your sons are so happy and intelligent. They seem like full-fledged people, not teenagers.” Their next comment is usually that we must have had a strong hand on them, kept them out of trouble, restricted them from video games and cellphones. It was the opposite. They have grown up being respected as individuals, with their own needs and wants, the ultimate authority of themselves, even when we thought they were crazy. We worked together to make living together comfortable. They grew up treating us the same way.

It wasn’t easy. Every decision, every change, every stage of life has to be thought about and evaluated to some degree. Negotiation so that everyone’s needs are met is impossible sometimes. And sometimes we failed miserably. We were learning too, not just the kids. Ultimately, now that the youngest is leaving home, I think it worked out well overall, more positive than negative.

The quote above, Marianne’s feeling about the school environment she is in, it’s legitimate. Raising large groups of people in controlled environments where they have no choice but to attend and obey is oppressive. It brainwashes people into believing that they are not capable of living outside a set of parameters set by someone else.

And that, my friends, is bullshit. We can all live exactly as we please. That doesn’t mean I have to live next to you or with you and agree with you, but it does mean you have the right and the ability to make your own choices, ones that serve you and your needs alone.

Stop raising humans as herd animals and start treating them as independent sentient beings from the moment they are born and we’ll begin to see civilization flourish in ways you can’t imagine.


If you’d like to go back and read my thoughts on this book from the beginning, start at my post New Read: Normal People.

You can find “Normal People” by Sally Rooney on Amazon.

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Will the negative effects of social media destroy civilization?

Social media quote from Ready Player Two on book cover background.
The second of only two posts on this book!

“A world where people don’t go outside and touch each other anymore? Where everyone sleeps their lives away while reality collapses all around them?
Sometimes I think my parents are better off. They don’t have to live in this utopia you’ve all created.”

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

I honestly (most of the time) don’t believe the negative effects of social media and the internet will destroy the world as we know it, but I was in a bleak mood when I wrote this, so prepare yourselves. I’m not always this pessimistic, but lately, I’ve felt overwhelmed. I try to assume positive intent. I attempt to see things from a different perspective. But man…when everywhere I look (and I’ve been off social media for over a month now, mostly just looking at the physical world around me) all I see are zombies. I want to scream…WAKE UP!

Maybe I need some new friends? A new location? One of my sons has been out in the world recently. His reports come back positive for the most part. My youngest leaves for university in a few weeks and I’m looking forward to hearing his perspective of a whole new world.

Can we overcome the negative side of social media and use it in positive ways?

I can’t think of how to put this into words. This line just killed me. In fact, the whole book was overwhelmingly sad to me and not because I’m a technology hater. I love the internet. I loved social media, until the past couple of years. I see so much potential, so much to create with it.

But it seems the Ready Player Two characters are only reliving the past through virtual reality, escaping into old movies and music, instead of using the new medium to create and collaborate. I’d hoped the second book would build on the first. I’d hoped that the first book had taught humanity a lesson and that the second would be creative in showing us how we could build on this new technology in innovative and exciting ways. I wanted to see Lazarus soar to the skies with his new wings, with the lesson learned about flying too close to the sun.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe the internet is what ends up destroying us. We just can’t have nice things.


Have you read Ready Player Tw0? Did you read Ready Player One? Or watch the movie? Comment and let me know what you think!

Read my previous post about Ready Player Two, Reality is Not the Curated Fragments of Life in the Media.

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

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