Monthly Archives: February 2016

the life-changing magic of tidying up – Chapter 5 Notes and Conclusion

What follows in this blog entry is my summary and thoughts on the self-help book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.   My notes should in no way be construed as a replacement for the book and if you want to know more you are encouraged to purchase the original work and have a look for yourself.

Chapter 5 – the magic of tidying up dramatically transforms your life

Getting your house in order is a process not only of physical cleaning but of self-discovery.  By casting off excessive things you are allowed the freedom to make room in your life for what’s really important to you, to get at the nub of existence.  It also refines your ability make decisions as you repeated practice of deciding what to keep and what to be rid of.

We have trouble getting rid of things for two reasons.  The first is a misplaced attachment to the past; a desire to go back to some point in our lives that we believe we have lost.  The second is fear of the future, that we will need something we’re considering getting rid of.  This is a dangerous thing because our ownership of things is a guiding principle in our lives so by allowing our lives to be ruled by regret and fear we never manage to grow beyond those things.

It should not be said, however, that discarding things is entirely without regret.  Many of the author’s clients do end up regretting things they’ve gotten rid of, at least temporarily.  Eventually, however, they find great relief in the certainty of not having to search for something and being able to focus on the job of moving to find a solution to the problem.  The author points out too though that there are some things which are joyful and there may be pressure to get rid of them from others.  You should never get rid of that which truly brings you joy no matter what the neighbors might have to say about it.

At the heart of all this though is the idea that you should treat your house with respect.  Greet your home and thank it for sheltering you and welcoming you home.  When tidying, remember that this is not a sad event.  It’s a time of joy in which you can send off your unwanted possessions to a better life to do service for others.

To summarize extremely compactly, your home is a reflection of you. By tidying it you show it respect and in turn demonstrate respect for  yourself.  Her clients even go so far that tidying helps them lose weight and become healthier and while this might seem absurd, coming home to a tidy house just feels good.  There is a joy in looking around your home and seeing everything all in its place and just so.  Feeling good about your home and your surroundings is a vitally important thing and it would be easy to see how this positive feedback could impact your physical well-being.


Series Guide

View back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Chapter 1 – Why can’t I keep my house in order?
Chapter 2 – Finish discarding first
Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic
Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine
Chapter 5 – The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

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World Religions: Islam – Lecture 9: Islam at the Crossroads

The following bits represent my notes and thoughts as I watch The Great Courses, “Great World Religions: Islam” by John L. Esposito.  A few things are worth noting:

  1. I encourage those with an interest to seek out the original source material.  You can do that on The Great Courses website.  My notes are just a pale shadow of the whole course but they might whet your proverbial whistle.
  2. These are just my notes and not an attempt to encapsulate the whole course.  As such, it should be painfully obvious that I’m no expert and at times prone to oversimplification and outright error.
  3. There is no third thing.  I just can’t stand having only two things in a list.

Lecture 9: Islam at the Crossroads

This lecture, more than the others, doesn’t try to provide answers so much as it attempts to frame the questions that face Muslims in the world today.

There are four Muslim orientations towards faith and the greater world:

  1. Secularists – They believe that the Muslim faith is a personal engagement and that it should have no impact on the larger governance of the world.  “Keep Islam in the Mosque”
  2. Conservatives – Wish to follow tradition and allow for no change over time.  They rely only on past doctrine under the argument that these laws were specifically laid down by God and therefore should be immutable.  Leaders of conservative Muslim groups tend, therefore, to be high-ranking clerics.
  3. Mainstream or Fundamentalist – Beliefs based on Quranic teaching but more flexible and prone to interpretation in view of the world as it is now.
  4. Reformers – Liberal Muslims that borrow heavily from Western thought.  Beliefs are still rooted in the Quran but they draw a distinct line between divinely proscribed law and those rooted in man’s interpretation of those laws.

These groups, and even subgroups within these groups, vary wildly on a few key questions:

  1. What is the role of women?  In some countries, women can’t drive but in others women hold high-ranking political offices.
  2. What is the role of the democratic process in governing?  Some countries hold free elections while others are theocracies.
  3. Where is the separation, if any, between the role of the church in society and that of the government?
  4. What is the status of non-Muslims, or dhimmi?  In some countries, non-Muslims are treated as second class citizens forced to pay a head tax to remain in the country.  In others, they are treated as equals in every way.
  5. Does the hudud, Quranically proscribed punishments such as amputation and stoning, have a place in Muslim culture?
  6. At its heart, all these questions seem to boil down to one: Is the law of God mutable over time as circumstances changes or is it written once and for all time never to be changed?

So while Islam is monotheistic, it is far from monolithic.  There is much diversity and disagreement within the Muslim faith and debate continues daily on these and dozens of other points of view.


Series Guide

IslamView back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Lecture 1– Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam
Lecture 3 – Muhammad-Prophet and Statesman
Lecture 4 – God’s Word-The Quranic Worldview
Lecture 5 – The Muslim Community-Faith and Politics
Lecture 6 – Paths to God-Islamic Law and Mysticism
Lecture 7 – Islamic Revivalism-Renewal and Reform
Lecture 8 – The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
Lecture 9 – Islam at the Crossroads
Lecture 10 – Women and Change in Islam
Lecture 11 – Islam in the West
Lecture 12 – The Future of Islam

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Book reviews: One Person’s Craziness R. T. Ojas

As is often the case I received this book free for the purposes of review. Despite that kindness I’m absolutely honest about it below.

The nutshell overview on this one is that it’s a twlight zone type narrative that touches on alien abduction and alternative human origins. Saying much more would constitute a spoiler but you get the basic genre, I hope.

To the positive side, the narrative is pretty cliche in many ways but manages to find its feet in the end. For 85 pages it was a profound drag but in the last 6 it begins to resemble something worth reading. The text is also reasonably clean with only a few blatantly misused words.

To the negative, the writing is at times painful to endure. The author has fallen into the very common trap of including much irrelevant detail while also omitting many details that might be of interest. The text is rambling, repetitive, self-contradictory and profoundly cliche all the way down to the green-blooded aliens. A few textual samples follow:

“We could make anything out of anything. Literally.”

“As they approached the entrance to the vessel, she saw an opening through which she could slip through.”

“For some reason, I always liked the rain. Something about the rain falling always seemed to give me joy. On our island, it rained maybe once or twice a week. In some periods of the year it rained almost every day…” [tired of typing. you get the idea. It’s’ quite a lengthy and irrelevant hunk about rain]

“As we got pulled into the vessel, we both suddenly stopped yelling as we observed the interior of the vessel.”

In summary, there’s a small nugget of goodness in this book but it’s hidden under an absurd amount of poor writing and tired plot points.

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World Religions: Islam – Lecture 8: Contemporary Resurgence of Islam

The following bits represent my notes and thoughts as I watch The Great Courses, “Great World Religions: Islam” by John L. Esposito.  A few things are worth noting:

  1. I encourage those with an interest to seek out the original source material.  You can do that on The Great Courses website.  My notes are just a pale shadow of the whole course but they might whet your proverbial whistle.
  2. These are just my notes and not an attempt to encapsulate the whole course.  As such, it should be painfully obvious that I’m no expert and at times prone to oversimplification and outright error.
  3. There is no third thing.  I just can’t stand having only two things in a list.

Lecture 8: Contemporary Resurgence of Islam

Note: This lecture is an extremely boiled-down version of the history of the 20th century Middle East and very informationally dense even before I try to summarize it.  As such, the reader is encouraged strongly to seek out the source material directly.  This is the most currently relevant and interesting lecture to date but I cannot really seek to do it justice.

The current political states of the Middle East were created, for the most part, by European colonial powers after World War I.  These states were put together with little regard for history or demographics of the area and so it should come as little surprise that decades later they rebelled to form their own governments that more accurately reflect the people being governed.

Historically, these states have fallen into two basic groups

  • More secular governments were favored by the West and looked upon as more ‘Modern’ and easier to deal with.  As is typical, the West confuses “better” with “more like us”
  • Muslim governments are looked down upon as backwards or antiquated and fall out of favor with the west unless there’s some direct economic benefit to be had by dealing with them.

In 1967 the third Arab-Israeli War, or Six-Day War, tripled the size of Israeli-held territory while Arab forces from Egypt, Jordan and Syria were soundly defeated.  Even more importantly, Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam was no longer under Arab control.

In the Muslim community this set up a bit of an identify crisis.  Why had Allah abandoned the faithful?  This war become the rallying cry for a massive movement to reject Western identity and replace it with a stronger affirmation of the Islamic past and traditional values.

Over the ensuing decades, a quiet non-military revolution ensued in many countries in which educated Muslims rose to political power and replaced their previously secular governments.  Those old governments had been supported by the Western powers that had helped established them in the first place and met with resistance from their own militaries as well as old allies.

Despite being legitimate democratically elected governments, they also came under fire from Muslim extremist groups who considered them still too liberal.  Meanwhile Western powers feared them simply because of their religious backgrounds and resorted to a sort of secular fundamentalism.  Western governments seemed all too willing to support governments of any sort as long as it’s economically beneficial to do so.


Series Guide

IslamView back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Lecture 1– Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam
Lecture 3 – Muhammad-Prophet and Statesman
Lecture 4 – God’s Word-The Quranic Worldview
Lecture 5 – The Muslim Community-Faith and Politics
Lecture 6 – Paths to God-Islamic Law and Mysticism
Lecture 7 – Islamic Revivalism-Renewal and Reform
Lecture 8 – The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
Lecture 9 – Islam at the Crossroads
Lecture 10 – Women and Change in Islam
Lecture 11 – Islam in the West
Lecture 12 – The Future of Islam

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the life-changing magic of tidying up – Chapter 4 Notes

What follows in this blog entry is my summary and thoughts on the self-help book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.   My notes should in no way be construed as a replacement for the book and if you want to know more you are encouraged to purchase the original work and have a look for yourself.

Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine

Proper storage is all about routine.  Each day you should come home and put every item you use back in its proper place.  Unpack your bag and put all its contents in a proper spot if possible.  Show each item that you appreciate it by thanking it for its hard work and give it a rest until its ready to be used again the next morning.  This is important because in effect you are performing a sacred act in giving each article you own a special place of its own to live.

The author relates the story of her old cellphone that she had for years until it became too scratched and ugly to be used.  She used her new phone to send her old phone one final text to thank it and then found it had died a few minutes later as if it knew that its life was done and that it could finally rest.

The author admonishes us to discard first and store later.  Generally speaking, homes already have plenty of storage.  Keep storage simple and centralized.  All items of the same type should be stored together and in one central space.  If living with other people, each person should have their one designated spot.  Decorate your storage space with posters and other memorabilia to make it personal and truly yours.  By taking ownership of your storage space it will be motivation to keep things tidy.

Avoid attempts to define your storage for efficiency or flow planning.  Storage defines the flow of a home much more than flow should determine storage.  Clutter springs from the failure to put things away so making storage centralized and simple is the key.  Over time, let your home decide how storage will be organized.  For example, a drawer will naturally sort itself over time so that frequently used items are at the front and those less used are at the back.

When storing items keep it simple.  There is no need for fancy storage devices; a few boxes and bins are sufficient.  The shoe box is a perfect organizer; the lid can be used as a tray and the box itself is not only attractive but the right height for a drawer organizer.  Boxes with large print or words on them should be avoided as they constitute additional mental noise that takes away from the attractiveness of a storage area.

Handbags and the like should be stored within other bags of the same type and use.  Remember that your bags should be emptied every day so they can properly rest.

Closets should hold everything that would otherwise be on the floor.  In the top of the closet you should store off-season and large items.  The center of the closet should hold clothes, stored and sorted upright, in clear plastic boxes so you can see everything at once.  The bottom of the closet is for appliances and seasonal electronics like fans and space heaters.

Shower and bath should never be used for storing anything.  Soaps and shampoo bottles should be removed when not in use lest they become slimy.  Dry your shampoo bottle and store it in a cabinet.

In the kitchen, hang clothes and sponges out to dry properly lest they begin go smell.  If possible, dry dishes outside in the sun.  Oils, cleaners and spices, even though often used should never be left on the counter where they can be splashed with oils.

Tidying is a sacred act, so the tops of bookshelves are optimal places for sacred objects.

Clothes should be removed from packaging and have their tags off as soon as they enter the home.  Until this is done clothes aren’t really ‘owned’ and thus less likely to be worn.  Some leave tags on in the event they may have to return items or so they’ll be more valuable if you have to take them to consignment.  This is flawed thinking; if this is even a remote possibility then the clothes would be better left at the store.  Don’t stock up on things you might not ever need.


Series Guide

View back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Chapter 1 – Why can’t I keep my house in order?
Chapter 2 – Finish discarding first
Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic
Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine
Chapter 5 – The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

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the life-changing magic of tidying up – Chapter 3 Notes

What follows in this blog entry is my summary and thoughts on the self-help book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.   My notes should in no way be construed as a replacement for the book and if you want to know more you are encouraged to purchase the original work and have a look for yourself.

Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic

Clothes

As previously stated, you have to get all your clothes out and pile them on the floor to gain a proper perspective.  Then sort them into subcategories: Tops, bottoms, jackets and suits, socks, underwear, bags, accessories, clothes for specific events and shoes.

For each item, do the “does it bring me joy?” test.  If it doesn’t, pitch it.  Anything you forget about after trying to get everything in one room automatically gets thrown out too.  Also, no clothing should be downgraded  to lounge-wear.  If it’s not good enough to wear out then pitch it unless it’s specifically designed to be lounge-wear.

When storing clothes, fold them. Don’t hang them unless they would be “happier” on hangers: suits, jackets.  Hang like things together with heavy items on the left (heavy = longer clothes, heavy material, dark colors) and light items on the right.

The author describes herself as a folding fanatic and the description made me think of Sheldon Cooper with his very specific folding tools and technique.  Folded items should be stored on edge so they can all be seen at once when opening the drawer.  The act of folding should be one of care and love.  Don’t ball or tie socks.  They should be folded neatly and respectfully and stood on edge.

The general theme for clothes seems to be to minimize as much as possible, fold with extreme neatness and make sure you give your clothes the proper love and attention that they deserve.  Those socks do a pretty hard job when jammed between your foot and your shoe, after all, so they deserve a break.

Books

All books should be stacked on the floor and broken into subcategories:  General, practical, visual and magazines.  Again, touch each one and decide if it’s going to bring you joy.

General traps to avoid:

  • Nobody every rereads anything.  So if you expect to reread it, forget it.
  • If it’s never been read before, pitch it.  You’ll never feel more passionately about a book then immediately after you buy it so if you’ve not read it yet, pitch it.
  • Papers not of future verifiable usefulness, pitch.  This includes class notes, pay statements, appliance manuals and just about everything that you don’t have to take immediate action on.
  • Empty boxes for items you use should be pitched.  No practical purpose ever.

For Misc items from CDs to makeup and kitchen gadgets, apply the same rules.  One category at a time and one item at a time apply the ‘joy’ test.

Don’t get attached to things just because they’re gifts.  If it’s not currently giving you joy, pitch it no matter where you got it.

Mementos

These have the toughest emotional attachment, so they’re hardest to part with but the same test should apply.  Don’t send your old college stuff back to mom and dad and make the mess their problem.  Unless it gives you current joy then pitch it.  It’s not going to somehow become more important in five more years.

Photos get the individual joy test.  Every single picture, one by one, should be assessed and anything failing the test goes in the bin.

In general, the theme seems to be to pound home the same basic strategy.  The author indicates that you’ll know you’re done intuitively when things just “click” for you and you find you have the correct amount of stuff to fit your own desires and lifestyle.


Series Guide

View back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Chapter 1 – Why can’t I keep my house in order?
Chapter 2 – Finish discarding first
Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic
Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine
Chapter 5 – The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

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Book Reviews: Lady of the Dead: Night World Series by Gretchen S. B.

As is often the case I received this book in exchange for an honest review but despite that kindness my candid thoughts appear below.

The nutshell-no-spoilers-summary on this one is tough because it spans several genres that don’t typically tend to cohabitate between the covers of a single book. It’s part crime drama, part action adventure and part John Edwards psychic fiction. One book features the undead, gritty cops, fierce warriors, werecreatures, immortals and spirits all in the backdrop of modern day Northwest America.

On the positive side, the author certainly isn’t afraid to mix things up. She’s brought together a lot of otherwise dissonant strings and isn’t afraid to weave them together in new and creative ways. There’s a lot of creativity evident in this book and the writer’s textual style isn’t half bad and is fairly devoid of typos and textual errors.

Sadly, the negative side gives the positive a run for its money. The overarching story is weak and the author introduces so many various characters and new types of creatures in her book that it seems forced. One barely wraps one’s mind around one group of people before another one is introduced and then either included for the duration or suddenly dropped. It’s as if the author tried to force several longer books into one shorter one. The whole story lacks patience and pacing is barely readable. The only way I managed to force myself to the end was hope that all the creative energy would somehow pay off. It didn’t.

The author skims over so much at such a high level that I thought for a long time I was reading a YA novel. That was until I got to the EXTREMELY graphic sex scenes at which point any misunderstanding about that point was entirely lost. The author’s only real attempt during the story to add any level of detail to any interaction is in those scenes of copulation.

In summary, I can’t recommend this book to anyone but there is hope for the author. Given a bit more time and patience Gretchen could go far but this one particular example of her work is pretty poor.

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