Sunday, March 5, 2017

Still Alice

Book: Still Alice
Author:Lisa Genova
Edition:eBook from the Fresno County Public Library
Read:March 5, 2017
293 pages
Genre:   Fiction, Psychology, Aging
Rated: 4  out of 5

Synopsis:
Alice Howland is a Harvard professor who lectures and researches in psychology, particularly in the area of linguistics. One day she gets lost on a route which she normally runs on her daily jog. Later in a lecture she stumbles over a word she normally knows inside out.

She thinks that it is only going through menopause causing her confusion. Her doctor does not think so and refers her to a doctor in the Mental Disorders unit who figures out she has Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease (EOAD). The book works through the processing of what this means, both on Alice's, her husband's and family's parts.

It also follows her through the deterioration of her mental condition. From being able to give good lectures to even regressing to a point where she forgets she is the professor for a class and thinks she is a student. Harvard catches on that something is happening-maybe drugs or drinking and is shocked that its is EOAD. She no longer can give lectures and is assigned only to one graduate student who is nearing completion of his doctoral thesis.

The book ends with Alice still with the family but significantly impaired to the point where she recognizes family as familiar objects.

Thoughts:

A couple of weeks ago, I heard an interview with Amy Dickinson on NPR. She talks about the dedication page, which is to her mother with one of her sayings, Life is a memory. That evoked a lot of thoughts in me. First, is this true? Can we measure our lives by the memories? Is that who we are? If you have dementia or amnesia, are you no longer that person who you once were? Or do you continue to be that person?

I have been asking myself variants of that question. Alzheimer's sort of gets to the core of the question, who are we? Am I just a bunch of carbon molecules peculiarly put together? Or am I whats in my mind? Or are we something else beyond mind and body? The Christian says we are beyond that.

September 2003
Genova hits the chief concern of Alzheimer: the lack of context. This is from my thinking, nothing which I have really read or research. But from my imagination, what would be the worst part of this disease? The lose of navigational powers. Why is this more depressing than lose of memory? Both are bad. But the navigational skills is because of our memories. It is how we know how to relate to each other.

Genova follows the decline of a Harvard professor as she deals with Early Onset Alzheimer Disease. The reader is placed in an almost diary format novel, letting you in on Alice's thoughts as she loses her memory and ability to work out daily situations. This is done skillfully with sensitivity.


February 2004
Alice's husband is in denial concerning the diagnosis of EOAD. There is a desire to say it must be something else, anything else.  But there is a strong reason to believe that the diagnosis is true-either because the victim knows it is true or because the victim cannot repress the evidence over time. We do not want the diagnosis to be true because it denies who we are. Our memories is how we know things. Without that, we are confused, not able to navigate our environment. Eventually we become someone whom we no longer recognize.

April 2004
Genova talks about that with in-vitro implanting that they can select which embryos have the presenilin-1 gene so that offspring do not have the gene for EOAD. That sounds wondrous. Is it better to let things happen by chance or the definiteness of filtering out bad possibilities? I definitely would not want a child of mine to have EOAD. So that would be the deciding factor. And yet, do I really want to determine the exact characteristics of a child? Somehow, that seems so wrong, so much as making a child in my own image, rather than God's. (Does this imply God could have EOD-I think not.)

May 2004
There is a comparison to butterflies. How short their lives are. But just because they are short, does not mean that their lives are tragic. On the contrary, they have beautiful lives where their wings bring joy to so many people. Is this a good way to think out our lives? Or particularly somebody with Alzheimer's? Do not look at the end of life as everything, but look at their life in total.

Then there are stories of devotion. The man who comes everyday to have lunch with his wife, even though his wife does not know who he is. He knows who he is and that is important.

One devastating conclusion: No one got out alive.  [from Alzheimer]. You have it, you die with it. There is no reprieve, it only goes relentlessly on.

What we want for ourselves when there is not much  time, reveals who we are. Is it important to have professional standing? Or simple joys? What would I do? Want? Alice's was to see the best for her children, to be with her husband, to read.

August 2004
It is pointed out that it was hard for Alice to track conversations with many participants in t. But because she was not able to process the words, she was able to read more into the body language.   Is this true of Alzheimer people? I can see the tracking part, but the development of reading body language is new to me.

November 2004
The quiet pleased her. I suspect within the head of an Alzheimer person, things get pretty confused. So at times, the quiet, stillness, is a relief where they can let the mind rest so much. Maybe that is why sleep takes on a bigger and bigger part of their lives.

January 2005
Alice questions herself, where does love reside? Head or heart? The importance is that it is the one thing you do not want to lose. If it is in the head, the disease will take it from you. In the heart, there is a chance it will be sheltered there. I suspect that that the person will always know she loved someone, just does not know who it is.

There is a yearning in Alice to be close to her husband, to have the time left. But her husband seems to be distancing himself from her. Couple of thoughts here.
  • Alice seems to be very cognizant of her memory lose and wants to make use of the time while she still has it. Is this common among Alzheimer people? Or is it more common that a person slowly, slip away from knowing relationships and the past without the self awareness?
  • John is frightened. I am not sure if he does not want to face the reality, is selfish, or needs to distance himself from what is going on. Maybe all thre are at work.

Strange the things being remembered and forgotten. You would think important things like your children you would remember and how to swirl a glass of wine, you would forget.

February 2005

Following multiple instructions, even simple ones are hard.

March 2005

Alice gives a speech to a large group of Alzheimer professionals. This is really an advocacy for Alzheimer's patients and their treatment. Diagnosis early, get on medicine to slow deterioration, and hope that a cure or better treatment comes along.  Also a plea to treat Alzheimer's patients with dignity.

My yesterday's are disappearing and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment.... just because I'll forget it some tomorrow doesn't mean that I didn't live every second of it today.
April 2005
There is a discussion about what to do as a family. John has been offered a prestigous position in New York-they live in Boston. Alice wants John to take sabbatical so they can spend the remaining time together. The grownup children want them to stay in Boston where there is a supportive family. This is the kind of discussion where there is no winners, or for that matter there does not need to be losers. But it really depends on priorities. How important is it for John to have this position? Do you take the stand that Alice will not remember the year off?  Are the children really up to caring for Alice? No good answers until you have lived it. Does Alice have a meaningful say in this?

By the way, do all decisions have to be rational? Can't they be based upon emotion?

June 2005
The language part of us starts to become confused as the disease goes on, making it hard to communicate.

Summer 2005
And then even your relatives become objects-the man who owns the house, which is John her husband. Also there is a tendency to revert back to childhood experiences and relations.

There are also times when the Alzheimer's person understands what they had and misses it. This may be the hardest to deal with for those close to the Alzheimer's person, but also when you can be close to them.

Drugs:
  • Aricept
  • Namenda



Evaluation:
The power and strength of this novel is not so much in Genova's ability to weave together prose, but in allowing into the world of an Alzheimer's victim. Genova writing draws you into Alice's world, having you understand the disorientation which Alzheimer's present. If you have a family member or friend who has Alzheimer's, read this book to get an emphatic view of that person's mind.


 
Notes from my book group:
It was noted that the family was not a family of faith, so they only had each other to rely on.


My questions:
This book is highly personal to me.

What is the appeal of the book Still Alice? Is it only for those who are dealing with Alzheimer's?

What are the first signs that Alice may be having memory problems? What does she do about it? How does she react? Later when the doctor states she has EOAD, what reactions does she have? Why does she not tell John about the diagnosis?

Why did Genova choose being a Harvard professor who specializes in the interactions of the mind with speech? Did her profession and success at it inhibit her from saying anything? How come her Harvard associates would not have picked up on her change in behavior?

Were you able to place yourself in the fog of dementia? What did it feel like to you? Why does Alice's doctor tells her, "You may not be the most reliable source of what's been going on" ? Is Still Alice a reliable journal of Alice's life?

Alice's fail safe solution was to have a checklist of important things to remember. If she was to forget these things, what was her action plan? How effective was it? How does it show the effects of Alzheimer's? Is this a viable solution to dealing with the disease? What is the a viable solution?

John does not accept the diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer Disease. Why would he not accept this? Why does he fidget with his wedding ring? Why does Alice taking her pills make him uncomfortable? What kind of a person does this make John? How did John's and Alice's relationship change over the course of the book? At the end of the book he is in New York with his career while his children are taking care of Alice. What are your thoughts on this arrangement?

Who were Alice's caregivers? How were they able to support Alice? What effects did it have on them? On her? What would a successful family caregiver look like for Alice? Did the documentaries which Lydia make work?

How do you honor a person like Alice's wishes? Do you follow them? Or overturn them?
Genetic testing is available for many diseases. Why would or wouldn't a person want to be tested? Why did Lydia not get tested? Have you or someone you know had genetic testing? How has that changed their outlook?

What makes the memories of her Mom and sister so potent to Alice? Why does she intermix those with reality? Is this just a matter of getting mixed up or is it something deeper?

What memory would you like to never forget? How would it change you if you could no longer remember it?

The title is Still Alice. Is she still Alice at the end of the book? What makes Alice Alice?




From Simon and Schuster:
1. When Alice becomes disoriented in Harvard Square, a place she's visited daily for twenty-five years, why doesn't she tell John? Is she too afraid to face a possible illness, worried about his possible reaction, or some other reason?
2. After first learning she has Alzheimer's disease, "the sound of her name penetrated her every cell and seemed to scatter her molecules beyond the boundaries of her own skin. She watched herself from the far corner of the room" (pg. 70). What do you think of Alice's reaction to the diagnosis? Why does she disassociate herself to the extent that she feels she's having an out-of-body experience?
3. Do you find irony in the fact that Alice, a Harvard professor and researcher, suffers from a disease that causes her brain to atrophy? Why do you think the author, Lisa Genova, chose this profession? How does her past academic success affect Alice's ability, and her family's, to cope with Alzheimer's?
4. "He refused to watch her take her medication. He could be mid-sentence, mid-conversation, but if she got out her plastic, days-of-the-week pill container, he left the room" (pg. 89). Is John's reaction understandable? What might be the significance of him frequently fiddling with his wedding ring when Alice's health is discussed?
5. When Alice's three children, Anna, Tom and Lydia, find out they can be tested for the genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer's, only Lydia decides she doesn't want to know. Why does she decline? Would you want to know if you had the gene?
6. Why is her mother's butterfly necklace so important to Alice? Is it only because she misses her mother? Does Alice feel a connection to butterflies beyond the necklace?
7. Alice decides she wants to spend her remaining time with her family and her books. Considering her devotion and passion for her work, why doesn't her research make the list of priorities? Does Alice most identify herself as a mother, wife, or scholar?
8. Were you surprised at Alice's plan to overdose on sleeping pills once her disease progressed to an advanced stage? Is this decision in character? Why does she make this difficult choice? If they found out, would her family approve?
9. As the symptoms worsen, Alice begins to feel like she's living in one of Lydia's plays: "(Interior of Doctor's Office. The neurologist left the room. The husband spun his ring. The woman hoped for a cure.)" (pg. 141). Is this thought process a sign of the disease, or does pretending it's not happening to her make it easier for Alice to deal with reality?
10. Do Alice's relationships with her children differ? Why does she read Lydia's diary? And does Lydia decide to attend college only to honor her mother?
11. Alice's mother and sister died when she was only a freshman in college, and yet Alice has to keep reminding herself they're not about to walk through the door. As the symptoms worsen, why does Alice think more about her mother and sister? Is it because her older memories are more accessible, is she thinking of happier times, or is she worried about her own mortality?
12. Alice and the members of her support group, Mary, Cathy, and Dan, all discuss how their reputations suffered prior to their diagnoses because people thought they were being difficult or possibly had substance abuse problems. Is preserving their legacies one of the biggest obstacles to people suffering from Alzheimer's disease? What examples are there of people still respecting Alice's wishes, and at what times is she ignored?
13. "One last sabbatical year together. She wouldn't trade that in for anything. Apparently, he would" (pg. 223). Why does John decide to keep working? Is it fair for him to seek the job in New York considering Alice probably won't know her whereabouts by the time they move? Is he correct when he tells the children she would not want him to sacrifice his work?
14. Why does Lisa Genova choose to end the novel with John reading that Amylix, the medicine that Alice was taking, failed to stabilize Alzheimer's patients? Why does this news cause John to cry?
15. Alice's doctor tells her, "You may not be the most reliable source of what's been going on" (pg. 54). Yet, Lisa Genova chose to tell the story from Alice's point of view. As Alice's disease worsens, her perceptions indeed get less reliable. Why would the author choose to stay in Alice's perspective? What do we gain, and what do we lose?

Enhance Your Book Club
:
1. If you'd like to learn more about Alzheimer's or help those suffering from the disease, please visit www.actionalz.org or www.alz.org.
2. The Harvard University setting plays an important role in Still Alice. If you live in the Cambridge area, hold your meeting in one of the Harvard Square cafŽs. If not, you can take a virtual tour of the university at: http://www.hno.harvard.edu/tour/guide.html
3. In order to help her mother, Lydia makes a documentary of the Howlands' lives. Make one of your own family and then share the videos with the group.
4. To learn more about Still Alice, please visit www.lisagenova.com.

From the Book Coaster's Blog:
Discussion Questions:
1. Still Alice is Lisa Genova’s debut novel. It has proven to be very successful, with a movie version currently in production. Originally the author struggled to find an agent or publisher due to the perceived lack of appeal of the subject matter of the book. Why do you think this book has found such universal appeal?
2.  Alice’s relationship with her husband and children changes over the course of the book. Were you surprised by John’s response to her disease? Why do you think he reacted the way he did? What changes did you notice in Alice’s relationship with her children?
3. Why do you think Alice didn’t tell John about her disorientation in Harvard Square? How do you think you would react if a similar situation happened to you?
4. Alice devices a set of questions that she must answer each day. Failure to answer the questions means that she must then follow her step by step suicide plan. What do you think of Alice’s suicide attempt? Do you think her family would have understood or approved?
5. Along with memory loss Alice’s experiences physical deterioration. What are some of the physical changes? and what is the impact of these changes to Alice and her family?
6. Alice’s attends a support group where the members discuss how their reputations suffered prior to their diagnoses. Do you think that preserving their legacies is one of the biggest concerns to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease?
7. As the disease progresses Alice’s independence and ability to make decisions is reduced. What examples are there of people still respecting Alice’s wishes, and at what times is she ignored?
8. Each of Alice’s children have to decide if they will take the genetic test for the mutation that causes Alzheimer’s. Why do you think Lydia decides not to take it? Would you take the test?

From Mohawk Valley Library System:
Observations and Questions:
1. Now Still Alice is a best seller, but originally, no publisher wanted it and first-time novelist, Lisa Genova, could not even secure an agent to help her sell her book. The story was thought to be one to appeal only to those who have dear ones with Alzheimer’s Disease. Clearly, the appeal of this book is widespread. What aspects contribute to the book’s close-to-universal appeal?
2. Are the characters in Still Alice credible? Which ones support Alice? Which ones disappoint her? Where do John’s actions and responses fall? Are any of the characters less than believable? Why?
3. When Alice becomes disoriented in Harvard Square, a place she's visited daily for twenty-five years, why doesn't she tell John? Is she too afraid to face a possible illness, worried about his possible reaction, or some other reason?
4. After first learning she has Alzheimer's disease, "the sound of her name penetrated her every cell and seemed to scatter her molecules beyond the boundaries of her own skin. She watched herself from the far corner of the room" (pg. 70). What do you think of Alice's reaction to the diagnosis? Why does she disassociate herself to the extent that she feels she's having an out-of-body experience?
5. Is Alice’s speech to the convention chronologically out of place? At that point, does Alice really seem capable of composing and dramatically delivering this politically powerful speech?
6. Each of Alice’s children decides whether to take the genetic test. Would you?
7. Do you find irony in the fact that Alice, a Harvard professor and researcher, suffers from a disease that causes her brain to atrophy? Why do you think the author, Lisa Genova, chose this profession? How does her past academic success affect Alice's ability, and her family's, to cope with Alzheimer's?
8. Alice answers the same several questions each day. One day she cannot answer them and begins to follow the steps of her suicide plan. How do you view Alice’s attempt at suicide?
9. "He refused to watch her take her medication. He could be mid-sentence, mid-conversation, but if she got out her plastic, days-of-the-week pill container, he left the room" (pg. 89). Is John's reaction understandable? What might be the significance of him frequently fiddling with his wedding ring when Alice's health is discussed?
10. Why is her mother's butterfly necklace so important to Alice? Is it only because she misses her mother? Does Alice feel a connection to butterflies beyond the necklace?
11. Lydia is accepted at two colleges to study acting. It makes very little sense that anyone who is accepted at NYU would prefer Brandeis (although Brandeis is a great school in general). This flaw in the plot bothers me. Does it bother you? Or am I missing a subtle detail? Is Lydia sacrificing NYU for the sake of allowing her mother to stay where she can see her grandchildren?
12. In my experience with a friend who began showing signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in the early 1980s, the loss of physical coordination was the most visible sign. She was clumsy and tripped up on things. She couldn’t stuff envelopes and lick stamps without a great effort. How is Alice’s physical deterioration made known?
13. Alice's mother and sister died when she was only a freshman in college, and yet Alice has to keep reminding herself they're not about to walk through the door. As the symptoms worsen, why does Alice think more about her mother and sister? Is it because her older memories are more accessible, is she thinking of happier times, or is she worried about her own mortality?
14. "One last sabbatical year together. She wouldn't trade that in for anything. Apparently, he would" (pg. 223). Why does John decide to keep working? Is it fair for him to seek the job in New York considering Alice probably won't know her whereabouts by the time they move? Is he correct when he tells the children she would not want him to sacrifice his work?
15. Alice and the members of her support group, Mary, Cathy, and Dan, all discuss how their reputations suffered prior to their diagnoses because people thought they were being difficult or possibly had substance abuse problems. Is preserving their legacies one of the biggest obstacles to people suffering from Alzheimer's disease? What examples are there of people still respecting Alice's wishes, and at what times is she ignored?
16. How do you rate the ending of Still Alice? What other endings can you imagine?
17.

From Nicole Amsler's blog:
Do you know anyone who has suffered from Alzheimer’s? How did it affect their loved ones and you? How did it affect them?
What are the stages of grief family members and the patient must travel through when facing Alzheimer’s? (Five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.) What stage did each family member reach? What about Alice? Can you get stuck in a phase, or repeat a phase?
To what extent are we made of our memories? 
What are some of your fondest memories? Do you have a memory you would like to completely erase from your memory? Do you think your personality/self would change if a bad memory was removed?
It is rare that an Alzheimer’s patient doesn’t consider suicide. Were you relieved she was thwarted or gladdened that Alice survived?
Do you empathize with the idea of controlling your own death, when faced with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s? What about other diseases? What makes the difference for you? Where do you draw the line?
If you have children, your children often feel they have a different parent from their siblings. If you have children, due to different circumstances, how are you a different mother to each of your children?
Oldest memories are the last to go for those with dementia, along with scent. What scents bring back memories for you? What is your earliest memory?
John carries on without Alice, making decisions without her. Does this bother you or do you empathize?  
How would this story have changed if told from another perspective beside Alice’s?




Good Quotes:
  • First Line: Even then, more than a year earlier, there were neurons in her head, not far from her ears, that were being strangled to death, too quietly for her to hear them.
  • Last Line: You got it exactly right.
  •  


References:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Quiet the Power of the Introvert

Book: Quiet the Power of the Introvert

Basic Information : Synopsis : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : New Words : Book References : Good Quotes : Table of Contents : References

Basic Information:
Author:  Susan Cain
Edition:eBook on the Nook
Read:February 9, 2017
288 pages
Genre:   Psychology
Rated: 3 1/2  out of 5

Synopsis:
Obviously this is a book about introverts. Cain wanders through what is an introvert. Then how our Western culture became infatuated with being more outgoing. Style becoming more of a priority than the substance of what is being projected. Cain shows how this puts the introverts at a disadvantage.  There is a side excursion about how group think has been drugged into this. The emphasis being spontaneous input rather than arriving to a correct solutions. This puts the introvert at a disadvantage.

Cain looks at how an introvert becomes an introvert. Followed by, how can an introvert survive in an extrovert world?

There are sections on how societies which is more known for its quietness functions. Also about their adjustments they make to live in the United States. This is followed by tidbits on how to work out arrangements with spouses who have opposite personalities as well as nurturing quiet children.


Thoughts:


INTRODUCTION: The North and South of Temperament

What does it mean to be quiet and have fortitude? Can goes on and says this implies shy and courageous? I often have a Mel Gibson image of a person with resistance. But the bulk of people go about their lives quietly. The quest is do I go about my quiet life with integrity? Integrity to what? To myself. But that just begs, who am I? Are my ideas ones which are worth making a stand for?

Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. I think Cain is defining almost exclusively in terms being an introvert or extrovert. What I am wondering is how true is this statement. Also how does it affect us?  Later in the book, she does talk about some of the effects of being an introvert.

Archetypical extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed taking, certainty to doubt.   This contrasts with a statement later on introversion-along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness-is now a second class personality trait... Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man's world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.   First, notice the attributes given for both. How is this supported? Cain makes these assertions, setting your mind to accept what she has to say latter on. While I think they are pretty much true, the question is how did she come about to say these things?

Description of introverts:
  • Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration.
  • Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills

Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Interesting. Can you have a shy extrovert? Hard to imagine.


1. THE RISE OF THE “MIGHTY LIKEABLE FELLOW”: How Extroversion Became the Cultural Ideal

Every American was to become a performing self. Don't we put on a performance in some ways when we are with someone else? Even with your spouse? This raises the question of who am I really? Am I the person who I really am when I am by myself? Or am I being real when I am with others? This is the question Bonhoeffer asks when he was in prison through his poem, Who Am I?

“Citizens” morphed into “employees,” facing the question of how to make a good impression on
people to whom they had no civic or family ties.
  As we change social surroundings, do we maintain our same personhood? Or do we change?

Apparently it’s OK to be squeamish about doing a regression analysis if you’re excited about
giving speeches.
I naturally get excited by such a statement since I rarely see the term regression analysis or equations in a book. Of course I loved this part of statistics. But this does get to the heart of something dear to me. Is better to have a good presentation or good content in a presentation. The answer is, it is better to have both as a good presentation is not worth the time to put it together if it is meaningless or false. On the other hand, the best content with the most striking conclusions if wrapped in a plain brown wrapper will not get too much attention. This is not an either or, but needs to be both.

All of which raises the question, how did we go from Character to Personality without realizing that we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way? This is sort of the side question. The other question which is not asked, nor answered, is, are we better off? Any change usually has a downside to it.


2. THE MYTH OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP: The Culture of Personality, a Hundred Years Later

It also suggests that salesmanship governs even the most neutral interactions. She goes on and brings up the argument that all interactions have been considered on a win-loss basis. I would agree that some are and if you want to me more Machevillian then all can be viewed that way. But I do not see it that way. Some are, particularly in a work setting. If viewed that way, then we are the most miserable of creatures as we are always looking at any friendship in view of what do I get out of it and not how do WE grow as people.

We tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people. In some ways this is true. Extroverted people tend to broaden their range of relationships. The question then is, Is it better to have more or deeper relationships?

HBS grads likely have influenced your life in ways you’re not aware of... Not really essential to her case about who introverts are. But as she talks about the force of extroverts at Harvard, she is saying how extroverts act affects your daily lives as they are the ones who are being pushed by schools like Harvard. You couple that with the pressure everyone feels at Harvard to succeed.  ...everyone knows that it’s important to be an extrovert and troublesome to be an introvert. While you get a successful model of extroverts. But you also get something which only works one way-the loud way.

I just like this picture:  The first thing I notice about the Harvard Business School campus is the way people walk. No one ambles, strolls, or lingers. They stride, full of forward momentum

The essence of the HBS education is that leaders have to act confidently and make decisions in the face of incomplete information. Which is a useful skill. The trick is to choose the right window of opportunity, realize when a window is passing you by and when you can wait for more light on a subject. But the imperative in business is to act, right or wrong. More credit is given for acting rather than reflecting.

The risk with our students is that they’re very good at getting their way. But that doesn’t mean they’re going the right way. The problem of the verbose. What is their guidance?  The more a person talks, the more other group members direct their attention to him, which means that he becomes increasingly powerful as a meeting goes on. It also helps to speak fast; we rate quick talkers. Something which I do not do.

What is the Bus to Abilene anecdote? According to Wikipedia, it is when a group does something which everybody dos not want to do. It comes from a parable by Jerry B. Harvey.

ranks of effective CEOs turn out to be filled with introverts, including Charles Schwab; Bill Gates; Brenda Barnes, CEO of Sara Lee; and James Copeland, former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Interesting that you do not need to be an extrovert to lead extroverts or a large company. How is that done? Cain is short on this.

[Darwin] Smith [Kimberly-Clark] replied that he never stopped trying to become qualified for the job. Cain uses this as an example that an introvert keeps looking for ways to improve. But I heard this as a manager from cycles of improvements.

We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run. With the current political situation, this quote has never been more appropriate.

The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness with extroversion Ah yes, the evangelism which says you must collar everyone and read them the four spiritual laws. But is there a place for the more quiet types? This kind of faith does not understand the mystics or the contemplative. This is followed by a talk with Adam McHugh at Rick Warren's church. He argues that evangelism means listening as well as talking, that evangelical churches should incorporate silence and mystery into religious worship, and that they should make room for introverted leaders who might be able to demonstrate a quieter path to God. Interesting. You wonder how it would come out. My brother goes to Red Rocks Church in Denver. Lots of music, activity and good preaching. Very entertaining.  But I sometimes wonder where the quiet voice comes in. Can's conclusion is that it must be hard for introverts to feel good about themselves.

Proust called these moments of unity between writer and reader “that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.” It looks like Proust's original comment was more on reading Ruskin than reading in general. More specifically he thought that Ruskin may have missed the point and that reading is not necessarily a spiritual activity. This is from a book by Marcel Proust called On Reading Ruskin, page 113



3. WHEN COLLABORATION KILLS CREATIVITY: The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone

To the Homebrew crowd, computers are a tool for social justice, and he feels
the same way. No particular reason putting this in. Just was something I wanted to remember. The “he” is Woz of Apple.

not everyone aspires to be a leader in the conventional sense of the word. Sort of a bland statement. Can makes this statement when she observes a third-grader being forced into a leadership role as a school safety officer.  After all, if there are only leaders, where will the followers be. But the real secret is how to follow well and be able to share your abilities and knowledge.

Cain talks about the work of Anders Ericsson. Ericsson came up with some things which differentiated experts from the common. They included:
  • Serious study alone
  • Ten thousand hours of Deliberate Practice to gain true expertise
  • Reinforces existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them.

The last thing in this chapter is that when the group is literally capable of changing our perceptions and when to stand alone is to activate primitive, powerful, and unconscious feelings of rejection, then the health of these institutions seems far more vulnerable than we think. She talks about how a collaborative effort can easily fall into the trap of listening to its most vocal person. Instead of getting many viewpoints, you get only a few of the more vocal with many people agreeing to it. Not necessarily the wisdom of the group.

PART TWO: YOUR BIOLOGY, YOUR SELF?
4. IS TEMPERAMENT DESTINY?: Nature, Nurture, and the Orchid Hypothesis

Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioral and emotional patterns
that are observable in infancy and early childhood; personality is the complex brew
that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the
mix. Definitions for us non-psychology types.

When writers and journalists talk, they want to see a one-to-one relationship—one behavior, one cause. This is important to note as there are very few things which are one-to-one, cause and effect. Usually there is a several causes which leads to a specific result.

child’s sensitivity to novelty. The example was that a child observes a stranger who comes into the room. Cain indicates it is not the person, but the newness of the object.



5. BEYOND TEMPERAMENT: The Role of Free Will (and the Secret of Public Speaking for Introverts)

we can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point. While it is popular to say we can be what ever/whoever we want to be, Cain points out there are residual effects which limit this ability to transform us. If we try to be something which we are not, then it takes toll.

When Cain talks about free will, I think she misuses the term. It refers to the “devil made me do it”, not our being's constraints. Such as if we jump, no amount of willing ourselves will prevent us from falling. Free will can take us far, suggests Dr. Schwartz’s research, but it cannot carry us infinitely beyond our genetic limits ... We might call this the “rubber band theory” of personality. We are like rubber bands at rest. We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much. But Cain does say as much: Even though we can reach for the outer limits of our temperaments, it can often be better to situate ourselves squarely inside our comfort zones. Her recommendation is that when you operate outside of your comfort area, be sure to have times of respite from those times.

The word that Kagan first used to describe high-reactive people was inhibited, The term high-reactive refers to those people who reactive to new stimuli in a sharper way than others. Such as a person coming into a room who they do not expect will startle them. The amygdala  area of the brain is more sensitive to these things.

let’s focus on another difference between introverts and extroverts: their preference for stimulation. There is research which indicates that extroverts enjoy a higher level of simulation than introverts. So this leads into that each personality type should understand their needs for stimulation.

high arousal levels in the brain don’t always correlate with how aroused we feel. Interesting statement. There is a disconnect between activity and emotion. Explains why we can be doing something which we enjoy but not be happy.

You can set up your work, your hobbies, and your social life so that you spend as much time inside your sweet spot as possible. This falls under managing yourself.  Know who you are, what you are doing and how it is affecting you. Then adjust to provide respite or relief. Can points out that this is harder for introverts, who have trouble projecting artificial enthusiasm.




6. “FRANKLIN WAS A POLITICIAN, BUT ELEANOR SPOKE OUT OF CONSCIENCE”: Why Cool Is Overrated

Dr Elaine Aron-pioneer in looking at the highly sensitive person.

The man who would declare that he had nothing to fear but fear itself felt a bit lost with his wife's introvert ism. That would be Elanor. Sort of makes you appreciate how she stretched her bounds to become the woman she was.

She sends me an agenda explaining that we’ll be sleeping in rooms designated for “napping, journaling, puttering, meditating, organizing, writing, and reflecting.” Cain attended a conference for introverts and this is the introduction. Sounds interesting.

She [Dr Aron] had trouble finding the sacred in the everyday; it seemed to be there only when she withdrew from the world. I do not think Cain meant this to be a religious statement, but it brings me to both Anne Lamott and Annie Dillard and how they do find the sacred in the ordinary.

The other thing Aron found about sensitive people is that sometimes they’re highly empathic. It’s as if they have thinner boundaries separating them from other people’s emotions and from the tragedies and cruelties of the world. That sometimes is a bothersome word. It is not as you get more sensitive you  get more empathic, but sometimes. Not sure what to make of it.

Griselda-a folklore where a wife is tested. Sort of an ugly tale.

There is no single best … [animal] personality,” writes Wilson, “but rather a diversity of personalities maintained by natural selection.”

“When sensitive people are in environments that nurture their authenticity, they laugh and
chitchat just as much as anyone else.” So what is this environment which nurture their authenticity?  According to Strickland, the source of the quote, sensitive people only go this way after going deep. What happens when you make this culture, but it does not match someone else's culture?

But instead it reinforced my deeper yearning for balance. Cain had attended a conference for introverts at a ranch in Marin. She thought this would be Nirvana-my words. Instead she found she needed both types of interactions. Sort of says something about us all, doesn't it?


7. WHY DID WALL STREET CRASH AND WARREN BUFFETT PROSPER?: How Introverts and Extroverts Think (and Process Dopamine) Differently

some scientists are starting to explore the idea that reward-sensitivity is not only an interesting
feature of extroversion; it is what makes an extrovert an extrovert. The reward-sensitivity is how you react to being rewarded for actions taken. Such as I get a bonus for doing a good job. The statement above sounds a bit too simplistic. Such as do I strive to do a good job so I can get a bonus or I do a good job and am rewarded.  Understanding where we fall on the reward-sensitivity spectrum gives us the power to live our lives well. In Christian terms, how well do we fall into temptation. Rather than work for the intrinsic value of an action, we go for the reward. Understanding why we are doing something says a lot about ourselves and who we are.

introverts are much better at making a plan, staying with a plan, being very disciplined. This gives me an explanation about why when I was a supervisor some people I had to keep after and others would follow the plan out.

Extroverts are better than introverts at handling information overload. I do not understand Cian's explanation. What she says is that extroverts seem to have their mind more on the information than introverts who. It sounds like an introvert my be having side thoughts as the information is being presented.

insightful problem solving. According to a paper at PLOS, there are four salient features of insightful problem solving: (i) mental impasse, followed by (ii) restructuring of the problem representation, which leads to (iii) a deeper understanding of the problem, and finally culminates in (iv) an “Aha!” feeling of suddenness and obviousness of the solution

the fulfillment that comes from absorption in an activity outside yourself. To me this is saying the more you can be engrossed in a task, the more you will feel that the task itself is it own reward. Maybe this was the reason why some people at work were obviously clock watchers, while others seemed to thrive in a project. The clock watchers were always the ones more discontent.

the extroverts would argue that they never heard from the introverts. True. If you do not speak or communicate, how will your ideas be made known. You also get to be known as someone who is not engaged. While a good supervisor will know their people, it takes a lot of energy and time, usually in short supply .

So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. I do not think Cain ever faced deadlines or people who expect some bang from their buck.


PART THREE: DO ALL CULTURES HAVE AN EXTROVERT IDEAL?
8. SOFT POWER: Asian-Americans and the Extrovert Ideal

My mother has the kind of strength that not everyone can see. This is an Asian-American talking about his mother. GK Chesteron said something along the lines of there should be a part of everybody which nobody has seen. We Americans tend to show everything which we are, which makes you think, are we a bit hollow?

Talking is simply not a focus, and is even discouraged. Once again, Cain is telling us about how Asian-American think. This is in contrast to American culture where we blurt out everything.

Perhaps instead of trying to change their ways, colleges can learn to listen to their sound of silence.  What exactly is Cain advocating here? I think what she is trying to say is that we have students who are put into group situations, trying to figure out what a professor knows. Rather than having the professor illuminate their students.

talking is not always a positive act.

Asians are “not uncomfortable with who they are, but are uncomfortable with expressing who they are. In a group, there’s always that pressure to be outgoing. When they don’t live up to it, you can see it in their faces.” If you have a whole region of what looks like introverts, are they really introverts? Same way as if you have a country of blind people can you call them handicapped?

In the United States, he  [Professor Preston Ni of Foothill College] warned, you need style as well as substance if you want to get ahead. The Asian-American's usually get the substance part; Americans sometimes get style. It is a good and powerful combination to get both.

Aggressive power beats you up; soft power wins you over. In our current political climate, we only know the aggressive power. We need to learn how to use the soft power.

Their communication skills are sufficient to convey their message, but their real strength comes from substance. People understand it when a person is invested in a cause or project. When a person is speaking to impress, that shows through too. The example which goes with this sentence is MADD.

But Gandhi felt that he had learned “to appreciate the beauty of compromise.” What Cain does not say is that this is coupled with his take on how hard and soft truth is.  Later on Cain talks about the Gandhian term” satyagraha, meaning“firmness in pursuit of truth.”



PART FOUR: HOW TO LOVE, HOW TO WORK
9. WHEN SHOULD YOU ACT MORE EXTROVERTED THAN YOU REALLY ARE?

Free Trait Theory. A theory put out by Professor Brian Little which essential states:  it’s possible to adjust these traits in order to advance “core personal projects,” or projects that give you meaning and direction. In other words, your character traits are more malleable than you think. From The Writing Reader blog. This is one of Cain's more important points. As an introvert, you can assimilate a more active character. But the more of that characteristic you assume, the more down time you will need. So there is no need for an introvert to be condemned to a life of being ignored.

Her [an introverts] interior monologue was The route to success is to be the sort of person I am not. This is not self-monitoring; it is self-negation. Cain talks about that there are times when we do need to be more outgoing, more in the thick of things rather than reserved or contemplative.  This is an example of the conflict we feel.

the best way to act out of character is to stay as true to yourself as you possibly can—starting by creating as many “restorative niches” as possible in your daily life. Center piece of Cain's advice

Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. Good observation. Sort of like copying is the best for of flattery.


10. THE COMMUNICATION GAP: How to Talk to Members of the Opposite Type

introverts desperately craving downtime and understanding from their partners, the extroverts longing for company, and resentful that others seemed to benefit from their partners’ “best” selves. The age old complaint of spouses-they do not understand me. Not that it is wrong, just more than the introvert/extrovert conflict. But now that I got that out of my way, Cain does add some pieces into the puzzle which can help us solve this a bit better.

But the catharsis hypothesis is a myth—a plausible one, an elegant one, but a myth nonetheless.
Scores of studies have shown that venting doesn’t soothe anger; it fuels it.

But the catharsis hypothesis is a myth—a plausible one, an elegant one, but a myth nonetheless. Scores of studies have shown that venting doesn't soothe anger, it fuels it.  Cain's answer is do not get angry in the first place. Sounds good, except that you cannot do that in the real world, except if you go numb to all which is around you. So what do you do with anger once you have it? My guess is that you should learn to redirect it to something useful. Like a solution to the problem you are angry about. That does say you are in control of the anger and not already boiling which nothing can stop the irrationality at that point.  As a note, she says that the very act of frowning triggers the amygdala to process negative emotions.

The key to bridging Greg and Emily’s differences lies in the details. The couple here have conflicts with him being an extrovert and she an introvert. The details are often the real issue in bigger issues than the war of 'verts-how to do something, how often, how. Not where do you want to go.

But these studies measured how well introverts observe social dynamics, not how well they participate in them. Like any study or poll, you have to ask yourself, what is being measured and does it match your conclusion?

They found that the extroverts were a lot more accurate than the introverts in assessing whether
their partner liked talking to them. On  first reflection, it would be why? Wouldn't an introvert be more likely to study a person, understand the person before speaking? But it maybe that the extrovert does more reading, more interacting with a person, so gains experience in understanding how a conversation should progress than an introvert who may be more interested in listening than interacting.

They buy because they feel understood. This is a statement said by an introverted salesman, something oxymoronish like army intelligence. This is an interesting statement because when I think about a salesperson I think about a fast talking, lets get this person out the door type of person. But where is a person who took him time with each person, listening to them. He was able to tailor what he had to say to each customer. In thinking about the sales people I have responded well to, this is consistent with his statement.


11. ON COBBLERS AND GENERALS: How to Cultivate

introverts relate to other people.  Not sure how this correlates to that extroverts read people better than introverts.

Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them
One of the best things you can do for an introverted child is to work with him on his reaction to novelty. This goes back to the high-sensitivity thing where introverts are more sensitive to change than extroverts.

They focused less on developing his confidence than on making sure that he found ways to be productive.  This goes back to extroverts being confident and introverts trying for substance. But what any endeavor wants from a person is for them to accomplish as much as they can to their fullest extent.

redemptive life story: Out of a book by Dan McAdams:  transform our suffering into a positive emotional state, to move from pain and peril to redemption


A Note on the Dedication
I think that one of the best things about him was his humility. Cain is speaking about her grandfather.  She tells part of his story about being someone who was a bit reclusive, yet people responded to him. When he died, a high crowd came out to be part of the ceremony. But he was a man much more interested in his books than crowds.




Evaluation:
Quiet! Is an eye opening, well-referenced book. People who read it in my book group wished that they had read it years ago because they felt it provided an explanation about who they were. This is the major benefit of the book-it leads to an understanding of between a third to a half of all people.

Cain explains what an introvert is, what they have to offer and what they have to put up with in a world which seems never to rest or be silent. She points out that this is true even in the church, a place where God does say to be quiet and listen to him.

Most of the book describes what an introvert is/does. The last part tries to bring up a few sample, but major, situations such as marriage or child rearing.  I think Cain was trying to bring some “real” examples of how to work through some of the tensions between extroverts and introverts. This is a place which I ended up skimming over  But for most of the book, it is engaging, particularly if you are an introvert.

 
Notes from my book group:


Comments: Book seemed more like a text book. Many of the situations were familiar to our own lives.Questions with numbers beside them are from the Random House Reader's Guide


Why did you choose this book for us to read?

The obvious question is, Are you an extrovert or an introvert? The next question, what does that definition mean to you?  Do you find these labels to be liberating, confining, too broad, too narrow?

3. Which parts of QUIET resonated most strongly with you? Were there parts you disagreed with—and if so, why?

Can start with a question: What does it mean to be quiet and have fortitude? Is this contradictory?

9. QUIET explains how Western society evolved from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality. Are there enclaves in our society where a Culture of Character still holds sway? What would a twenty-first-century Culture of Character look like?

What is the difference between being shy and being an introvert?

How did Cain's statement: Every American was to become a performing self. Strike you? Are there situations which you get into where you fell more like you are performing than being yourself? Is that a bad thing? Do you feel like you are not being true to yourself? Who are you really?

Cain brings up that there is a view that relationships are viewed in a sense of who wins or loses. Have you come across a person where you feel this is how they view your relationship? How does it feel?

Group dynamics are always interesting. How do extroverts and introverts interact during a meeting? What are the consequences of these interactions? When you get this statement:  The risk with our students is that they’re very good at getting their way. But that doesn’t mean they’re going the right way. How can an extrovert confirm decisions? How can an introvert help extroverts work through a decision?

Does being an extrovert make a person better? Introvert? Why or why not?

If you were to come up with a conference agenda, what would it look like?

When Cain talks about the Harvard Business School, she brings up the training that they are taught to act, even with incomplete information than to wait. When is it better to act and when to understand more deeply?

Does what Can says about Free-Trait Theory and adjusting to public or a group face from who you are in a private setting make sense? Is this being a fake?

15. QUIET talks about “restorative niches,” the places introverts go or the things they do to recharge their batteries. What are your favorite restorative niches?

In our church, are there outlets for introverts to shine? How can we provide better outlets for introverts?



Reader's Guide from Penguin Random House
Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Based on the quiz in the book, do you think you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or an ambivert? Are you an introvert in some situations and an extrovert in others?

2. What about the important people in your lives—your partner, your friends, your kids?

3. Which parts of QUIET resonated most strongly with you? Were there parts you disagreed with—and if so, why?

4. Can you think of a time in your life when being an introvert proved to be an advantage?

5. Who are your favorite introverted role models?

6. Do you agree with the author that introverts can be good leaders? What role do you think charisma plays in leadership? Can introverts be charismatic?

7. If you’re an introvert, what do you find most challenging about working with extroverts?

8. If you’re an extrovert, what do you find most challenging about working with introverts?

9. QUIET explains how Western society evolved from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality. Are there enclaves in our society where a Culture of Character still holds sway? What would a twenty-first-century Culture of Character look like?

10. QUIET talks about the New Groupthink, the value system holding that creativity and productivity emerge from group work rather than individual thought. Have you experienced this in your own workplace?

11. Do you think your job suits your temperament? If not, what could you do to change things?

12. If you have children, how does your temperament compare to theirs? How do you handle areas in which you’re not temperamentally compatible?

13. If you’re in a relationship, how does your temperament compare to that of your partner? How do you handle areas in which you’re not compatible?

14. Do you enjoy social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and do you think this has something to do with your temperament?

15. QUIET talks about “restorative niches,” the places introverts go or the things they do to recharge their batteries. What are your favorite restorative niches?

16. Susan Cain calls for a Quiet Revolution. Would you like to see this kind of a movement take place, and if so, what is the number-one change you’d like to see happen?



New Words:
  • sonorous (chp 3): imposingly deep and full. capable of producing a deep or ringing sound.
  • amygdala (chp 4):  a roughly almond-shaped mass of gray matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions.
  • Allele (chp 4):one of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome.
  • batophobia (chp 5): The fear of high objects or of high objects falling down.
    ascending reticular activating system (chp 5): system that transmits messages to the limbic system and hypothalamus, triggers release of hormones and neurotransmitters, and facilitates functions such as learning, memory, and wakefulness. 
  • Limbic (chp 7): The primary structures within the limbic system include the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, and cingulate gyrus.
  • anonymity (chp 9): the condition of being anonymous
  • iatrogenic (chp 11):  relating to illness caused by medical examination or treatment.
Book References:
  • Masterful Personality by Orison Swett Marden
  • Understanding Human Nature by Alfred Adler
  • The Organization Man byWilliam Whyte
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Andrew Carnegie
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
  • Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by AdamMcHugh
  • Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis
  • Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky
  • Leadership Development for the Gifted and Talented by Janet Farrall and Leonie Kromberg
  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
  • Galen’s Prophecy By Jerome Kagan
  • The Long Long Dances by Eric Malpass
  • Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Born to Be Good by Dacher Keltner
  • The Big Test By Nicholas Lemann
  • Personality and Assessment by Walter Mischel
  • The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman
  • Public Appearances, Private Realities by Mark Snyder
  • In an Uncertain World by Robert Rubin
  • The Audacity of Hope by President Barack Obama
  • Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion by Carol Tarvis
Good Quotes:
  • First Line: Montgomery, Alabama. December 1, 1955.
  • Last Line: And in memory of my grandfather, who spoke so eloquently the language of quiet.
  •  What does it mean to be quiet and have fortitude? (Chp INTRODUCTION: The North and South of Temperament)
  • We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.  (Chp 2. THE MYTH OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP: The Culture of Personality, a Hundred Years Later)
  • talking is not always a positive act. (Chp 8, SOFT POWER: Asian-Americans and the Extrovert Ideal)
  • Aggressive power beats you up; soft power wins you over. Spoke by Professor Preston Ni of Foothill College in Chp 8, SOFT POWER: Asian-Americans and the Extrovert Idea
  • All my life through, the very insistence on truth has taught me to appreciate the beauty of compromise.... But truth is hard as adamant and tender as a blossom. Quoted from Mahatma Gandhi in An Autobiography, pg 178
  • Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth.  (Chp 9 WHEN SHOULD YOU ACT MORE EXTROVERTED THAN YOU REALLY ARE?)
Table of Contents:
  • Author’s Note
  • INTRODUCTION: The North and South of Temperament
  • PART ONE: THE EXTROVERT IDEAL
    • 1. THE RISE OF THE “MIGHTY LIKEABLE FELLOW”: How Extroversion Became the Cultural Ideal
    • 2. THE MYTH OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP: The Culture of Personality, a Hundred Years Later
    • 3. WHEN COLLABORATION KILLS CREATIVITY: The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone
  • PART TWO: YOUR BIOLOGY, YOUR SELF?
    • 4. IS TEMPERAMENT DESTINY?: Nature, Nurture, and the Orchid Hypothesis
    • 5. BEYOND TEMPERAMENT: The Role of Free Will (and the Secret of Public Speaking for Introverts)
    • 6. “FRANKLIN WAS A POLITICIAN, BUT ELEANOR SPOKE OUT OF CONSCIENCE”: Why Cool Is Overrated
    • 7. WHY DID WALL STREET CRASH AND WARREN BUFFETT PROSPER?: How Introverts and Extroverts Think (and Process Dopamine) Differently
  • PART THREE: DO ALL CULTURES HAVE
    AN EXTROVERT IDEAL?
    • 8. SOFT POWER: Asian-Americans and the Extrovert
      Ideal
  • PART FOUR: HOW TO LOVE, HOW TO WORK
    • 9. WHEN SHOULD YOU ACT MORE EXTROVERTED
      THAN YOU REALLY ARE?
    • 10. THE COMMUNICATION GAP: How to Talk to Members of the Opposite Type
    • 11. ON COBBLERS AND GENERALS: How to Cultivate
    • Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them
  • CONCLUSION: Wonderland
  • A Note on the Dedication
  • A Note on the Words Introvert and Extrovert
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index

References:

Friday, February 3, 2017

Hidden Figures

Book: Hidden Figures
Basic Information : Synopsis : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : New Words : Book References :
: Table of Contents : References

Basic Information:
 Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Edition: eBook on a Nook
Read:February 3, 2017
289 pages
Genre:  History,  Biography, Science
Rated:   out of 5

Synopsis:
Why were black women even present at Langley field? There was a need during World War II for people who could work numbers. As there was a number of unemployed black females, the people at Langley were interested in getting help, no matter what the source.

These women proved to be talented and showed that black women were an underutilized resource. The books talks about some of the segregation these women encountered, along with the presidential orders which allowed them to work.

Once the war ended, the question became, what do you do with these women? The Cold War started soon after, with its accompanying need for smart, mathematically inclined personnel. Then the space program.

The book follows the stories of several of these women through the years, showing what they accomplished, their struggles and their successes.


Thoughts:

Prologue
The author was raised in Hamptom where Langley was. Shetterly notes that when she was growing up that the face of science was brown. Interesting that to me this would not be how I would picture science. But that is more of my problem. But it would be sort of interesting that our perspective, no matter what we are, is shaped by our upbringing. It is up to us to change our perspective to match reality.

A door opens
Shetterly notes that civil rights are linked to economic rights. This is a modern observation, not that it is a wrong it. It is just putting things into perspective.

It is observed that NACA, the forerunning was all about practical solutions.

Mobilization
Ideals without practical solutions were empty promises. Some politicians could use this line.


The double V

The blacks during World War II were asking themselves the question: Is the kind of America I know worth defending? This is a question which each generation should ask. It is a question which is needs to be asked today.  Shetterly notes that it was their own pride, their patriotism, their deep and abiding belief in the possibility of democracy that inspired the Negro people. It is the hope for something better which drives us to continue even if we are struggling now. Take away hope and you end progress. But Shetterly also notes that it was a failure to secure the promises of democracy is what defines the black habitation in this country.

Turbulence

Katherine Globe/Johnson treated her male engineers as equals to her in there curiosity and intellect.



What a difference a day makes

Ideas is what drive people to do great things. Dorothy figures out in our to be part of the party (this is the Mercury Project and the question was how to do it.), she needs to be where the ideas are created. That is when the engineers get together and go through problems, she needed to get in there. But females were not allowed. Dorothy pretty much got in because she was persistant. That is what will make or break you as a person who gets to be part of the party.

I had never correlated the demise of the Jim Crow laws with the Russians threat of Sputnik. The US needed the type of war drive it got during World War II. This allowed blacks to serve, to work and build up resumes which were impressive. The Russians did the same thing during peaceful times.


Outer space
This is the one place which Shetterly approaches a Chestertonish type of phrase. They had to get over the high hurdle of low expectation. This is so true. You get what you expect.


Model behavior
black people frequently disqualified themselves. Shetterly notes this that they would not be competitive because that is what they were brought up with. A black is not as smart as a white, a black is not capable. If anything in this book is a point, it is that blacks can do anything that a white can do. The other point is that anybody needs to have realistic understanding of their own capabilities and act on it. Either increase their capabilities where they are weak, or capitalize on their strengths.

She earned her engineering title through hard work, talent and drive,...
I am not sure there is anything special in this statement. Unless you are given a title because they are mistaken or do not know any better, that is the usual course for promotion.
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Out of the past, the future
  • America is for everybody
  • To boldly go.

Epilogue
The power of the history of NASA’s black computers is that even the Firsts weren’t the Onlies. In others words, we were seeing a continuing phenomenon. If there was a few black women who could do this work, that would say NACA/NASA was getting the cream of the crop. But there was many of these people who did the work, This would cause a change in policy.

As much as Katherine Johnson’s technical brilliance, it’s her personal story and her character that shine on us like a beacon. I suspect that in many cases the person who uses their abilities to a great extent at work also is a person who will go the extra mile outside of work. They will be involved in many things, gathering fulfillment from those outlets in the community.

The women seem to be happy doing that, so that’s just what they do. This is the quote from when Christine Darden asked her boss, why she was not getting put into the engineering pools/groups. This speaks more to his frame of reference than to an innate prejudice. Once this was brought up she was promoted. In many ways this is a common occurrence with supervisors. It is assumed that those who want something will make their desires known. In some ways, a supervisor is in an awkward position. If he promotes someone who does not want it, that leads to dissatisfaction. If the person remains silent, but does want the promotion, how does the supervisor know? The way is for the supervisor to know their people. But that at times is hard to do when staff wants to keep their distance.

Christine had already done the work; Langley just needed someone who could help it see the hidden figures. This is in reference that Christine Darden had been a very good worker and was bumping against a dual ceiling based upon race and gender. Once Gloria Champine assembled the data that others with similar background and achievement had gotten promotions, then Darden was recognized and promoted.

The question which I keep coming up with is, is the reason for lack of promotion due to gender and race, or because others have a better sense of promotion? I am reading another book called Quiet! The Power of Introverts. In there it talked about how introverts do not tend to be noticed, consequently, they are not promoted.  Is this a similar phenomena with females and African-Americans? (On the African-Americans, that may not be totally true.) What I have noticed in fields such as programming and mathematics, many of the people in those fields tend to be more content to let their work speak for them rather than being self-promoting. This is not 100% true. There are some people when I was a supervisor which in retrospect should have gotten promoted but they were not self-promoting.



A sister(cousin?) installation to Langley was Ames Labs at Moffett Field. This is close to where I grew up at and have visited it some in my youth.

Samuel P Langley is talked about in the book The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. He did do a heavier than air structure. But they kept crashing

The Langston Hughes poem, Harlem I think encapsulates what the author is trying to say:
What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


Biographies
  • Gloria Rhodes Champine
  • Katherine Johnson
  • Ed Dwight
  • Christine Darden



Evaluation:
I suspect this book will elicit different views depending on what your experience has been. If you see a lot of decisions based upon a person's outward features, even if it is subconscious, you will be offended by what these women went through. If it was something which you recognize that a person has to work to be recognized, then you might be more willing to see how the story plays out. Even with the later, you also see that these women would not have been given the opportunity without World War II and the labor shortages.

The book is about the black women who staffed the Langley NACA/NASA center starting during World War II. First what part they played in the aeronotic development of planes during this war. Then later on, how they were used to get an American into space and eventually to the moon.

Shetterly falls into this story from a standpoint of personal interest. She grew up with these women without realizing their struggles nor their importance. I do not know why, but I do not get the feeling of personal tie-in with which the author should have in the story. After reading their histories I know their accomplishments, but not them.  I am also left with questions of, is their a tie-in with these women and the civil rights movement of the 60's? Or are these women isolated?

All in all, I am glad I read the book, just wished the stories would have been told better, deeper than an 8th grade history book.

 
Notes from my book group:


New Words:
  • eponymous (chp Prologue):  giving their name to something or named after a particular person.
  • shibboleth (chp A door opens):  a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.
  • anodyne (chp Manifest Destiny): not likely to provoke dissent or offense; inoffensive, often deliberately so.
  • Schlieren photograph (chp Model behavior): a visual process that is used to photograph the flow of fluids of varying density
  • pericynthion altitudes (chp America is for everybody): As used in the space program, this refers not to the orbit of the Moon about the Earth, but to orbits by various manned or unmanned spacecraft around the Moon. The altitude at apoapsis (point farthest from the surface) for a lunar orbit is known as apolune, apocynthion or aposelene, while the periapsis (point closest to the surface) is known as perilune, pericynthion or periselene, from names or epithets of the moon goddess.
  • grise (chp Epilogue):  a powerful decision-maker or adviser who operates "behind the scenes" or in a non-public or unofficial capacity
Book References:
  • W.E.B. DuBois The Souls of Black Folk
  • Langston Hughes’ poem Harlem

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: “Mrs. Land worked as a computer out at Langley.”my father said.
  • Last Line:  The greatest part of her legacy-Christine Darden and the generation of younger women who were standing on the shoulders of the West Computers-was still in the office.
  • Ideals without practical solutions were empty promises. Chp Mobilization
  • Present your case, build it, sell it so they believe it. Chp Outer Space
Table of Contents:
  • A door opens
  • Mobilization
  • Past is prologue
  • The double V
  • Manifest destiny
  • War birds
  • The duration
  • Those who move forward
  • Breaking barriers
  • Home by the sea
  • The area rule
  • Serendipity
  • Turbulence
  • Angle of attack
  • Young, gifted, and black
  • What a difference a day makes
  • Outer space
  • With all deliberate speed
  • Model behavior
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Out of the past, the future
  • America is for everybody
  • To boldly go.


References:

Monday, December 26, 2016

The 2 Oz. Backpacker: A Problem Solving Manual for Use in the Wilds

Book: The 2 Oz. Backpacker: A Problem Solving Manual for Use in the Wilds
Basic Information : Synopsis : Thoughts : EvaluationNew Words : Book References : Good Quotes
: Table of Contents : References

Basic Information:
 Author: Robert Snyder Wood
Edition:eBook from the Fresno Public Library
Read:December 26, 2016
153 pages
Genre:  Backpacking, Outdoor
Rated: 3  out of 5

Synopsis:
A collection, organized by five different subjects, of wisdom related to backpacking.


Thoughts:
This book is a reminder about reading older outdoors book. Times and techniques have changed. Ways of doing things 25 years ago which seemed OK have been superseded by better ways of doing things and definitely with better equipment.

Still, there is something to be said about older wisdom. Robert Wood does have knowledge and the more down to earth advice still hold true.

So this book is a reminder: all advice, whether old or new should be validated.

  • Walking
    • Wood reclaims the discovery of youth. Children which were dragging and you wonder how could you have ever inflicted such pain on them say things like, when can we go again? That is when you know you have done something right on the trip.
    • Footwear will be a great part of the determinate of how well you enjoyed your trip. He points out that the rule of thumb is an ounce on your foot is like five on your back. Wonder what he would think about going out in trail runners these days. He does allude that this is starting to taking off and seems in favor of it, depending on your hike.
    • He talks about how he splits up pack items with his partner. Basically trying to keep the same weight, unless there is a large difference in body size. This is the wisdom which my wife and I came up with. We balance out hiking speeds and endurance until they come out the same.
  • Cooking
    • Knowing how to set up the kithen for efficient operation and make the best use of the food you brought can make the difference between misery and a successful trip. You get agreement with me here. We have simplified this to being more of a boiling water event and wait 10 minutes for the food to be ready. Much more relaxing.
  • Navigating
    • He talks about estimating speeds. He has come up with the same parameters as I have: basic 2 mph on level ground with a “normal” pack. For each 1,000' climb, ad an hour; for a descent, add a half an hour. Pack weight will alter this equation.
    • The lost backpacker's ability to regain his sense of direction and rediscover his location... depends largely on his ability to control panic and fear so that logic and reason can prevail.
    • He says that precise compasses are generally not needed. A general direction is usually good enough for guidance.

Evaluation:
Lets begin with that this book is about 25 years old when I read it. Its purpose is to be an on the trail assistant to help a backpacker figure out what is the best thing to do in common situations. The 2 oz' comes because Wood wanted this book to be light enough that it could be carried by a weight conscious  person.

Does Wood accomplish his goal? It is a mixture. He is at his best when he describes things like how to select a camp site or getting into shape. But there is some things which are dated and should not be followed, such as wrapping your feet in plastic or choices of equipment or when to use a fire to cook.

My recommendation on this book is it is ok to read. But use with caution and double check his advice with more recent wisdom.



New Words:
Book References:
  • Freedom of the Hills from Mountaineers Books

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: Readers have asked for a featherweight source bok they can justify carrying along with them in the wilds, something that will provide a backup to their own experiences.
  • Last Line: Fifteen minutes spent making notes at the end of a trip will save two hours of preparation a month later.
Table of Contents:
  • Introduction
  • Walking
  • Keeping Fit
  • Camping
  • Cooking
  • Navigating
  • My Basic Checklist

References: