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What Can YOU Learn From Minimalism?

“The average American household contains more than 300,000 possessions.”

Read that sentence. Now read it again and really consider it. Astounding, isn’t it?

It’s just one of the tidbits I learned in “Essential,” a book of essays written by The Minimalists. I known I’ve written about these guys before, but wanted to touch base on their book of essays, published in 2015. I requested my library purchase a copy and finally got my hands on it!

At its core, minimalism is about making you think. Rather than mindlessly buying more “stuff,” think about WHY you’re doing it. Rather than stashing things in your closet to collect dust for months, think about WHY you’re doing it. In a world of often-mindless consumption and consumerism, it’s nice to take a step back and think about WHY we own the things we own, WHY we do the things we do, etc.

What value is this [object/person/job/relationship/experience/etc.] bringing to your life?

That’s the question we should all be asking ourselves, and it’s definitely one I need to ask more often. The Minimalists look at that question from a number of perspectives, and in respect to various subjects, in the course of their essays in this book.

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Book Review: The McDavid Effect: Connor McDavid and the New Hope for Hockey

Having followed the hockey career of Edmonton Oilers prodigy Connor McDavid since his entrance into the Ontario Hockey League several years ago, I was certainly interested in picking up the book “The McDavid Effect: Connor McDavid and the New Hope for Hockey.”

Since my library didn’t own a copy, I put in an interlibrary loan request, and the book arrived shortly after from the library at St. Lawrence University. The really interesting thing about this book is how new it is; it was released in October 2016, making it less than a year old. It speaks on a lot of history, but also includes a lot of relevant, very recent information. I don’t know that I’ve ever read such an up-to-date book.

Although the title of this book starts with “The McDavid Effect,” it is not just about Connor McDavid. Instead, it is about McDavid and his path through junior hockey and into the NHL, even through his rookie season, yes; but it is also about the Edmonton Oilers franchise, then and now. It is a captivating story that discusses the history of the Oilers franchise, their glory years, their downfall, and now, the arrival of McDavid and the new hope that it has brought to the city & franchise.

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Book Review: Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire

Deepa Kumar’s book “Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire” might just be the most important book I’ll read all year – and I strongly suggest that others pick it up and give it a read as well. The book is a few years dated, but it is so important, even moreso in today’s political climate in the United States under Trump. (Honestly, I can only hope Kumar will re-release it in a few years with chapters about what’s going on in the country today, and I can only hope that in a few years, we’ll be better off.)

It took me about two weeks to read this book, if only because I wanted to take my time and really digest it. There’s a lot of information here, starting with the historical context of Islamophobia – not just in the United States – and leading up to the times that casual Islamophobia ran free under President Obama.

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“Hidden Figures” A Must-Watch

If you haven’t seen the incredible film Hidden Figures yet, what exactly are you waiting for this? It’s a must-see movie that brings to light essential black female historical figures who have, for all too long, been pushed under the radar. Quite frankly, I’m ashamed to say that before the movie came out, I had no idea of their incredible story – but it’s one I won’t forget anytime soon now. I kept meaning to see the film in theaters, but just never got a chance. I was going to place a hold on a DVD copy at the library, but there were a whopping 77 (!) people ahead of me on the list. Luckily, I discovered I could rent it on iTunes and finally, with a day off last week, sat down and watched it. And wow!

Hidden Figures tells the story of three African-American female mathematicians who worked at NASA. Those women: Katherine Johnson, who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and several other missions; Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. The film is incredible, but the story is what matters the most.

Katherine Johnson conducted important technical work at NASA, including her time in the Guidance and Control Division of Langley’s Flight Research Division. All the while, as she was working on these important tasks, she dealt with segregation and discrimination at a number of levels. She became an aerospace technologist, calculating trajectories for missions including Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Apollo 11 and Apollo 13. Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and has received a number of other honors as well. Today, she is 98 years young. Here is her biography at NASA.

Mary Jackson became NASA’s first black female engineer in 1958, after already having worked for the company for years at Langley Research Center. A mathematician and aerospace engineer, she too fought segregation and discrimination. Jackson earned degrees in mathematics and physical science from Hampton Institute in 1942, and later petitioned the city of Hampton to allow to attend night classes at the University of Virginia. Her work at NASA eventually led her back to Langley, where she served as the Federal Women’s Program Manager and the Affirmative Action Program Manager. She retired in 1998 and passed away in 2005 at the age of 83. Here is her NASA biography.

Dorothy Vaughan became the first African-American woman to supervise a staff at the Langley Research Center. She worked tirelessly in her position as a mathematician and human computer, and taught herself & her staff the FORTRAN programming language. This led her to the eventual position of heading the programming section of the Analysis and Computation Division at Langley. Their work expanded, and again, over the years Vaughan also dealt with racial segregation and discrimination. She retired from NASA in 1971, after 28 years,, and passed away in 2008 at the age of 98. Her NASA biography is here.

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Book Review: The Little Book of Hygge

Have you ever heard of hygge? (That’s hoo-ga.)

For a long time, I hadn’t. I saw this book on an Instagram account I follow a few months ago, and I was intrigued. Danish people are said to be some of the happiest in the world, and I’d love to know why. So I requested this book through my library – I was 36th on the list, with it being a recent release and all. Months later, I finally got my hands on it!

So what is hygge? It doesn’t have an exact English translation, but we all know hygge when we feel it. It’s that feeling you get when you’re surrounded by loved ones, able to enjoy each other’s company. When you’re snuggled in a blanket with your dog, reading a book when there’s rain outside. It’s that feeling of warm, hominess, comfort. We all know it, even if we don’t have a word for it.

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