Well if nothing else, this year I will [probably] at least do a monthly blog update to tell you about what I’ve been reading. Whether or not this is actually interesting is a whole other story, but whatever, it is my blog. 

This month brought the theme of more things that are terrible or at least suck mildly, but make very interesting books. 

I finished off 12 books this month—down 3 from last month if we are quantifying this, but there are also no short fiction books on this list like there were last month, such as the 27 minute read that was Steal Like an Artist, and 3 less days in the month. 

Here’s what I read in February 2019:

  • Without You There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite – Suki Kim. I’d understood the culture of North Korea to be restrictive, I didn’t know what that “looked like”. American/South Korean journalist Suki Kim goes undercover as an English-teaching missionary in a boys school in North Korea (Yes. Journalist undercover as a missionary under cover as an English teacher), the resulting book is extremely interesting.
  • Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew – Michael D. Leinbach. I remember watching news coverage mixed with the Saturday morning cartoons. It is one of those things, like 9/11, that burned into my pre-teen mind at age 12. I was not aware of the intense search for debris, for remains, the painstaking efforts to return the pieces found in Texas to Florida to “reconstruct” what happened, written by then Shuttle Launch Director, recovery team leader, and Columbia Reconstruction Team leader, Michael D. Leinbach.
  • Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary confinement, a sham trial, high-stakes diplomacy, and the extraordinary efforts it took to get me out – Jason Rezaian. After listening to this episode of Pod Save the World, I quickly dove in to Rezaian’s account of what happened after he and his wife were imprisoned by Iranian authorities. (If you read this book, the podcast is likely a great pre- or post-listen, as it includes former Obama Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes, who worked among the team to free Rezaian, adding a whole other layer). This book does a good job of also capturing the attempts made by the Washington Post and US authorities, that from the inside of Evin Prison, Rezaian knew nothing about.
  • Playing Dead: Mock Trauma and Folk Drama in Staged High School Drunk Driving Tragedies – Montana Miller. I actually downloaded this one by accident from Bookshare but decided to read it anyways. As someone who participated in a “Day of the Dead” in high school, the possibly Canadian version of “Every 15 Minutes”, I was curious about any effectiveness/deterrence research surrounding these staged events. I was also shocked by the huge dramatization and special effects involved in these “performances” at US schools investigated in this book. By the way, it was a tough slog, and I gave it 2/5.
  • Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud. The book I was actually intending to download also could have been more interesting than it actually was. The author really rambled on a lot about her own fantasies of just disappearing, but instead of disappearing she writes a book about what happens to people who choose to disappear.
  • Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival – Maziar Bahari. Another book of a captured Canadian-Iranian journalist at Evin Prison in Iran. This book, turned into the movie Rosewater, focuses much on the interrogations Bahari underwent, and his family’s pursuit to free him. Contrasting this with Rezaian’s book was also interesting. 
  • Parkland: Birth of a Movement – Dave Cullen. Author of COLUMBINE, Dave Cullen’s tactic in this book shifts from what happened during the Parkland school shooting and discovering the motives of the shooters (as he did in Columbine) to a focus on the uprising of students to protect any more kids from dying or suffering as a result of lax firearms laws. He spends weeks, months with the kids who started #NeverAgainMSD—and those who felt in left in the shadows—and crafts a comprehensive story. Reading this on February 12, just days before the one year anniversary of the Parkland shootings, I was repeatedly shocked by just how recently this all unfolded.
  • Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories – Sarah Lerner (Ed.) An often heart-wrenching collection of writings, stories, and poems from MSD students processing the tragic shootings at MSD. (As usual, I constantly wanted “more” information and of course, this is not the book nor format for that.) 
  • Poison Candy: The Murderous Madam: Inside Dalia Dippolito’s Plot to Kill – Elizabeth Parker & Mark Ebner. Dalia Dippolito hires a hitman to kill her husband—the day of his “death” she arrives home to police, police cars, and police tape, and is taken to the police station… To find her friend reported her intentions to police and her hired hitman was, in fact, an undercover police officer.
    My Goodreads review says it best: “I think this book COULD have been really good but it was written in a way that was so boring. I heard about this case from the Court Junkie podcast [which I’d gotten into days before], and wanted to learn more but beyond some random tidbits, the time invested in a 40ish minute podcast was much more worthwhile.” (Here’s the podcast.)
  • Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive – Stephanie Land. Recently, my friend Ryan wrote an article for CNN about this book’s author. It provides an “insider’s” perspective at a position nobody wants to be in: homelessness, transitional housing, and working minimum wage jobs to survive. This book is an eyeopener into the “working poor”, and why it can be so hard to get out of the trenches, when the government support that allows you to pull yourself up is stripped back as soon as you hit a barely survivable income level.
  • The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible – A.J. Jacobs. An agnostic dude who writes memoirs about things he does for a living writes down all the “rules” from the bible and tries to follow them as literally as possible for a full year. While a bit “long” at times, I was constantly captivated by the logistics of this pursuit—from goodreads “which, let’s be honest, a book like this could definitely be boring, which it was certainly not.”

26/115 — 23% of the way to my goal in 16% of the year. Hopefully I continue to crush this one ;). 

What are you reading?

(Hello blog, it’s been forever.)

Hello, 2019. 

I’m not into resolutions, as we’ve probably discussed before. Or maybe we haven’t, because I haven’t written anything here since March, apparently. Either way, I’ve written a lot about goal-setting elsewhere, so while I know how to set goals, I’m not into planning to tackle things which I’ll never accomplish just because of a truly arbitrary date known as January 1. Let’s be honest, I’ll spend the first 4 months of the year turning the 8 into a 9 when writing 2019. 

That doesn’t mean I’m going into 2019 unfocused though. (Well, I mean, I presume I will remain unfocused.) After ringing in the new year with The Trews (preceded by The Treble and Attica Riots, which happened after a Moose hockey game—so yes, an overall kickass New Year’s Eve), at 1:21 AM I threw a note down in my phone.

Bullet points for 2019:

  • Blog more (personally)
  • See more live bands
  • Travel for fun
  • Read interesting shit
  • Embrace awesome moments.

That’s it. And that’s enough of a plan; I can make the rest later. Because “Who says it has to be the new year to start a new year?” 

As such, I hope my next post here doesn’t start with “Hello blog, it’s been forever”. That I keep up my excellent start to this year seeing more bands play live. That I do as I did last year and travel more for fun, not “just” for conferences (though hopefully I do that too!)—last year was Montreal with Dia, Orlando with my parents, the Holiday From Real Roadtrip from Palo Alto to LA with Ryan, and to Penticton, BC to see Bryan and David (thanks to Air Canada for stranding me in Toronto and then giving me a flight credit for that last one!). Hopefully I tell those stories here, in keeping with point number one. The last two are easier: I feel my reading materials diversified somewhat last year, thanks to Bookshare mostly—I mean, that doesn’t mean I didn’t just start reading a lot of true crime, but hey, that’s a departure from mainly pure YA. And finally, embracing awesome moments—whether that’s just in my head, via mindfulness, or chronicling them somewhere, too.

We’re off to a strong start 2019. Let’s keep it going. Stories, music, friends, family… and all the other good things.

This thing is cool.

http://i0.wp.com/farm5.staticflickr.com/4486/36830015114_c7fe8e7a24.jpg?resize=500%2C375&ssl=1

Awhile back, I learned of the C-Pen Reader from the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba. After learning more about it, I felt like the C-Pen would be a tool that would help me as a person with a learning disability who learns best through listening rather than seeing—as I’ve written before, I primarily now read audiobooks, and frequently use text-to-speech or VoiceOver on my MacBook, iPhone and iPad when reading longer texts. This switch has greatly enhanced my retention of what I read. But what about actual paper documents? It becomes a hassle to scan dozens of pages to have them convert. 

Enter the C-Pen.

In video, because it probably makes more sense that way. 

Disclosure: I contacted Scanning Pens in the UK requesting to review the C-Pen Reader. They got back in touch quickly sent me one out via a Canadian distributor. I am in no way obligated to provide a favourable review.

I’ve been on this huge audiobook kick the last week. As in, since December 12, I have read 8 books. (This is what happens when I finish my work early/do not have enough work to do. Honestly, this is fun but I’d rather be writing.) Maybe I’m just trying to hit my 40 book goal for 2016—I am at 26. The answer seems like yeah, right.

Through the Centre for Equitable Library Access program (CELA), Canadians with print disabilities can access a variety of audio or braille books on loan, for free. Most of these books are recorded by the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), and as such, Canadian authors are well-featured, and I’ve actually been able to find a book on goalball in the collection. Following Margaret Trudeau’s Changing My Mind, I read Invisible: My Journey Through Vision and Hearing Loss by Ruth Silver.

On attending a conference about promoting independence for those who are both hard of hearing and visually impaired (Deafblind or deaf-blind), she writes:

There was only one speaker who was deaf-blind.
—Ruth Silver in Invisible: My Journey Through Vision and Hearing Loss 

Immediately, I rewound. I listened again, and shook my head.
Typical.

I do not know for certain what year Ruth Silver attended this event in question, of which she wrote “There was only one speaker who was deaf-blind,” prior to starting the Centre for Deaf-Blind Persons in Milwaukee in 1983. She published the memoir in 2012. In any event, that is twenty nine years prior to the book’s publication, and thirty three years ago as of 2016.

I do know that not much has changed.

In mid-November, I had the opportunity to attend an event in Toronto, one that had patients in the title no less. While matters were not “solved”, in response to Twitter-vocalization regarding true patient inclusion by Bill and I, the organizer reached out to us via e-mail following the event to “address” our concerns. The crux of the matter is, even an event that was meant for patients, did not feature a single patient speaking on the matter at hand. While you can scroll back in my Twitter feed or contact me directly to learn more, I’m not going to give nods to the event itself. One, because as much as this event frustrated me, I want to believe they had good intentions even if they were way off the mark, and two, because I believe that these nonprofits are likely doing their patient communities good: it is not up to me to speak on the actual work of these groups. (Disclosure: They paid my travel and expenses, they being pharma, I presume).

So here it is again. There was not one single patient on the agenda. I don’t want to hear any of that bogus “we are all patients” crud (nor that taxpayer BS)—yes at some time we are all patients. However, there are those of us who are chronic patients, reliant on medicine to stay healthy and/or alive.

How sad is it that as this uprising, somewhat-bright, restless collective of humans craving better, how is it we have not gotten this straight in thirty three years?

I wish I knew. Documents like the excellent Patients Included Charter for Conferences get us closer. But they need to be implemented, advocated for in themselves. And we need Canadian patients to be in on, in for this movement, too.

It’s been 33 years. And we’re only starting to figure this out. The uprising is bottom-up, not top-down. I mean, or the reverse, depending on how you view who is in power.

so must we demonstrate
that we can get it straight?
we painted a picture
now we’re drowning in the paint
let’s figure out what the fuck it’s about
before the picture we painted
chews us up and spits us out 

sick of painting in black and white
my pen is dry, now i’m uptight
so sick of limiting myself to fit your definition.

redefine.

—redefine, incubus

We are well overdue to break the typical.
Probably, well overdue by well over 33 years. 

Week Three Fact:
adhd fact fridayADHD sometimes comes with the opposite of being unable or having difficulty focusing. Hyperfocus is just what it sounds like: intense periods of focus, which make attention deficit disorder all the more confusing.

Yes, it seems paradoxical. Yet hyperfocus is very real to many ADHDers, myself included—ADHD is an “attention regulation disorder”—as difficult as it can be for us to focus on tasks that are boring or not mentally stimulating, it can be equally difficult for us to redirect our attention from something that is fun or interesting.

Hyperfocus can be the saving grace of people with ADHD with a deadline ahead of them, or a massive obstacle when we find something fun or enjoyable… and should be doing other things. However, sometimes we get so sucked in that it can be extremely hard to break our focus. Even people talking directly to us might not be enough to interrupt us—the polar opposite of what people perceive as our attention deficit selves.

For myself, I think hyperfocus is the reason I could read book after book when I was younger, especially when I had nothing else mentally interesting to do: if the book was interesting, that was the only place my attention went.

Day 21 Challenge Update

Plank: 155 seconds while on FaceTime with Kat. Which made it easier, actually.

Meditation: I completed the Bite Size Meditation series on Smiling Mind.