Saturday, December 31, 2011

127 Hours; Between A Rock and A Hard Place

Book: 127 Hours; Between A Rock and A Hard Place
Author: Aron Ralston
Edition: Paperback
Read: Sept 2011
347 pages
Rated: 4½  out of 5

Aron Ralston is famous for cutting off his own hand and then climbing out of  one of Utah's slot canyon. The book talks about how he got trapped by a boulder, his travels and history. Recounting this tale would be an interesting enough book, but Ralston also talks about his background, his dream of climbing Colorado's 14,000'ers, in Winter, solo.  But what makes this book more than just a story of blood and rescue is that he also talks a lot about what motivates him and his history in the mountains, and his philosophies.

I would like to read more on Robbers Roost area, from a history aspect.
  • Ralston asks some suprisingly good questions. Such as what will remain in 5,000 years of our civilization? (3) Will any of our artwork? Our technology? What made us tick? He is a bit pessimistic about this as he does not think anything will be as we spend our time in from of the TV set.
  • What is our place in the cosmos? The question gets asked, are we grand because we are the top of the food chain?  Or we can change or surroundings? Ralston feels that everything else in nature will outlast us. We are bold because we can exercise our will. (7). The answer which we as Christians give is we are significant because God imparts to us his own image.
  • There is an unspoken acknowledgment among the voluntarily impoverished dues-payers... that it is better to be fiscally poor yet rich in experience—living the dream—than to be traditionally wealthy but live separate from one's passions. (11) How true is that statement? Does wealth naturally deaden your experience? Does poverty make you more in tune with life? My take is that both the wealthy and the poor spend more time either gaining wealth or trying to live than to experience what they are living.
  • Ralston talks about his happy place (16)--music, solitude, wilderness, empty mind.   He then goes on saying that hiking alone, moving at his own pace, clears out his thoughts. There is a sense of mindless happiness—not because of something, but because being happy, he is happy. I can understand the sense of hiking alone, being free to your thoughts. But I do not understand the empty mind, the mindless happiness. That says to me a state of non-existence. That is not why I hike. The reasons why I hike is the become fuller, bigger than myself. To be filled with the creation of God.
  • Just a note, Ralston points out that with the twistiness-my word-of the canyons, you have to check your maps constantly to figure out where you are going.
  • Stars. (43) Ralston talks about how he had a bit of personal discovered that the sky is not flat, but three-dimensional. This occurs on a night raft trip where he can see the stars through a clear sky. It seems to me that clear skies also gives a clarity of mind as well. We are able to see and ponder. While this does not always lead us to a correct conclusion, it helps us by not obscuring the view.
  • Control-Ralston could not control much in his predicament. One of the few things he could control was how clean he kept his injured arm. It seems to me that is one of the things we all have to do to survive, control what we can, and hope on the rest. (64)
  1. Ralston says that he does not live for the adrenaline caused by living on the edge of doom, but the control of his adrenaline. (150)
  2. As his ordeal is about to end, he realizes he is not in control (247)
  3. As Ralston is conveyed by the helicopter, which was waiting, he starts to wonder about the timing—why was the helicopter there, when he was there? If it had been an hour later, he probably would have died. (321)
  • What significance does Ralston place on the Crow flying overhead at the same time every morning? Also when he gets out, there is a pool at the bottom of the drop. One of the rescuers finds a dead crow in the pool—Ralston does not see the crow when he drinks out of the pool. Ralston does place significance to the crow, just because of the placement of the crow in the story. It is a sign of hope for him, a sign that he needs to move on when the crow does not show up. A sign that the story has come to an end when the crow is dead. (69)
  • Ralston  quotes Chris McCandless (73), Into The Wild, as what he was turned on by—the new experience is what creates joy for McCandless. This resonated with Ralston.  But so much of human life is the same—we sleep, we eat. Even going to the mountains, there is a sameness—even with different passes. There is more to finding joy than new experience. This will eventually lead to bitterness. Joy needs to be from something inside of you.
  1. (75) My awareness was heightened and in that awareness I felt more deeply alive.
  2. In another place (86), Ralston talks about how on a certain date, when he climbed a 14,000er in the middle of winter, he probably was highest person on the continent. He was trying to become the first person to climb all of Colorado's 14,000'ers in the Winter. Sort of talks about his motivations, at least in part. He strives to be unique. Not like the rest of humanity.
  3. (94) As Ralston goes on into the book, the meaning in his climbing is reduced even further. From the joy which he can experience in doing something new, to the uniqueness of his experience, to only the experience. He says that suffering or joy does not matter—only the experience does.
  4. He then goes on and quotes Mark Twaight in Confessions of a Serial Climber, It doesn't have to be fun to be fun.  While this is true—such as a day Sherri and I got caught in a rain storm at Zion, getting soaking wet and pounded by stones. But it was something which we were not seeking, but which came. If each day at Zion was this, it would not be my idea of fun. But as it was, it was fun. Maybe that is a difference between Ralston and myself.
  5. Climbing the 14,000'ers in winter was not just an activity, but it was Ralston.
  •  Into Thin Air (74) inspires Ralston to question himself—what kind of person am I? Would I leave someone on Everest to die? Or would I give up my goals to save someone and overcome the circumstances to help others? This is a good question. After listening to a person who was on Everest at that time, I think another question is how would I react to a person whom I cannot help and who will die on the mountain? Or even more so, what person would I become after experiencing something like that.
  1. Later on, Ralston is faced with his own personal choices and understands a bit more how people on Everest react.
  • To go even farther with Ralston's thinking, after all, why else do you write an autobiography, except to explore yourself and have others explore you? Ralston describes one scene in his climbs (95) where he almost stumbles on a snow-white ptarmigan. He pictures this moment where it is just him and this bird. He says that he is closer to the bird who shared the wintery landscape than he would be to most humans. Is Ralston saying that this is so because he is alone in the winter wilderness like the bird? Or that he is becoming less human?
  • He then follows this up by talking about how the photo's he took does not capture what he felt. They only show the world, they do not impart the sense of the soul. I have always felt the same with my pictures. They show the beauty of the mountains, but they do not show life and depth.
  • It is interesting how Ralston, when trapped with the boulder goes between action and thoughts of death. (99) I have got to believe this is normal—whatever normal would be like in a situation such as his. He attacks the problem with a well trained, logical, intelligent mind—probably better than I could have done. And yet, there is no results for it. When the options do not work, that is when he goes from being ready for action to thinking of death.
  • Because of another near death situation—where he triggered an avalanche which came close to killing two of his friends, he starts to realize he is not invincible. [He] states that he came to understand that [his] attitudes were not intrinsically safe.  Discomfort is a sign to evaluate the risks.
  • There are places in the book where Ralston “tries” religion. He asks for a sign, release from his imprisonment. None is given. He gives up hope rather quickly on that and turns to the devil –no sign there either. Ralston is willing to sell his soul for release.  While most of this is in jest, it shows the shallowness of his ability to look beyond the physical. This is portrayed in how he lives his life, as well as in this segment of the book. (155). Later on his Mom turns to her church for help. The church comes through with resources and people. Later on, as the end becomes nearer, he becomes more serious about his plea (210).
  1. Ralston feels like he has gotten a taste of heaven and hell(238). As he goes in and out of reality, his trances are his escape from the miseries of the canyon. At night, the canyon becomes cold—that to him is hell.
  2. (247) As he goes on in his ordeal, he discovers a great truth—that there is something else in control and has been all along.
  3. (327) In a casual acknowledgment, he says that his Mother's prayers have been answered.
  • Ralston has a friend who is willing to be a friend for Ralston's sake—because of who Ralston is, not what he is doing. Ralston tries to impress him with accomplishments. (156). He takes up this theme later on (169) where he realizes that he did not enjoy people's company because of the people, but only to the extent which they would be demoted in his mind as he sought experience.
  • He talks about waiting and being done waiting. I can touch the face of infinity in these doldrums. (277) It is while we wait do we see most clearly-Gary's thought, not Ralston's.
  • Ralston still holds a thought of action. After his surgeries, he realizes that he did not survive just to be a vegetable. (337). He continues on with his life. This includes climbing 14,000'ers.

 The book can be summed up from a single day—when Ralston was in the Grand Canyon. He ended up getting cactus spines in his crouch and then going on and almost drowning. His comment was, it seemed like a good idea at the time. (81) How he got himself in trouble was by going alone, not telling anyone of his plans (113) and then having an accident. 99% of the time, going alone, you are ok. But there is no safety chute by doing so. This book shows that Ralston has a pattern of getting himself into trouble. But he also had a lot of ability to get himself out of trouble as well.

Even more so, as the book continued on, it seemed like Ralston revealed himself to be less and less of a person and more of a body consumed with an idea. The idea of doing all of the 14,000ers in Colorado, during the winter, solo. That he was able to superhuman things without taking the consequences. The Utah accident does slow him down, but he still is able to climb, but a bit wiser, and more introspective.

Notes from my book group:

The response was generally good and interested. They are not people who go up into the wild, but a lot of them enjoy the mountains.

New Words:
  • paucity (7):  The presence of something only in small or insufficient quantities or amounts; scarcity.
  • Chockstone (19):   a stone securely jammed in a crack. It may vary in size from a pebble to a large boulder
  • Prusik loops (102):  a friction hitch or knot used to put a loop of cord around a rope,
  • rime – as pertaining to snow(122):  rime is a white ice that forms when the water droplets in fog freeze to the outer surfaces of objects
  • miasma (188):   A noxious atmosphere or influence.
  • rocker knife (338):  Allows food to be cut with a "rocking motion" for those with the use of only one hand

Good Quotes:
  • The Mountains are the means, the man is the end.  The goal is not to reach the tops of mountains, but  to improve the man. Walter Bonatti, The Mountains of My Life
  • It doesn't have to be fun to be fun.  Mark Twaight, Confessions of a Serial Climber
  • Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, pg 20
  • Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as quoted on 249
  • There are many shapes to the thing that separates life from death. Pg 118
  • Discomfort with elevated risks was not a weakness to overcome, but a signal … to process a decision until I could either move forward safely or choose to come back another day. (141)
  • Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstance would have lain dormant. Horace, Satire Viii
  • Life moves on for the living. (276)
  • I'm no longer living, no longer surviving, I'm just waiting. (277)


Thursday, August 4, 2011


Book: Halftime
Author: Bob Buford
Edition: 1994 Hardback
Read: July 2011
166 pages
Rated: 3 out of 5

Bob Buford was a successful cable TV network executive. You would look at him and say that he was successful and had his act together—and he did. But around the age of 40-50, he started looking for something more than success, and he found significance. Buford shares his search and his insights of his search.


Peter Drucker in the forward indicates that he thought that successful people would be moving towards working with non-profits during their second career. But he has seen that many people do not want to leave what they are successful at, but that they do want to move towards significance.(13) Drucker says that this is a story of growing from knowledge to wisdom and should be read as an example.(16)

One of the basic thoughts which I have had as I have read this book and when I have been working is how will I be remembered. One of my favorite sayings has been, Who would I rather write my obituary? Me or my boss. In the same way, Buford quotes Augustine—I cannot find the source of the quote—What do I wish to be remembered for? This is one aspect of significance. Another is whom do I want to be remembered by?

This extends out on finishing well. That is what I worked at when I retired. To finish well—finish how I started. Finish so I have no regrets.(20)

Buford's friend and advisor, Mike Kami asked him, what is in the box? By this Kaimi says what is the important part of his life? This was in response to questions which Buford was asking of himself. Questions like:
  1. What should I do?
  2. How could I be the most useful?
  3. Where should I invest my own talents, time and treasure?
  4. What are the values that give purpose to my life?
  5. What is the overarching vision that shapes me?
  6. Who am I?
  7. Where am I?
  8. Where am I going?
  9. How do I get there?

But Buford's thoughts about this evaluation is that it is no so much about beating yourself up and saying how short you have come as coming to terms with yourself and your history. Learning from the failures of life and accepting the grace given to you. (67)

What drives a person to seek out half time? Buford says that there becomes an unquenchable desire to move from success to significance. (83) This is the main theme of this book—moving to significance.

His good friend and advisor, Mike Kami, asked him what is in the box? The question is what is the one thing which you want to focus on, not the who group of opportunities which you can do. This will drive you in the evaluation during halftime.

To go far during the second half, you need to understand your life's mission or purpose. Put this into a sentence or two. It should answer things like, what is my passion? What have I achievd? What do I do well? What have I felt I left incomplete during the first half? (120)

Buford now looks at how his life is organized in terms of commitments rather than goals. In some terms, there is more flesh at stake with a commitment than a goal. (122)

We spend capital in pursuit of happiness. Buford says that it is the use of social capital which God has given us—time, talent and treasure—which we invest in people is where the happiness really occurs. (127) This is not through obligation, but through a spirit of which God has given us. Even the church can make us feel like we are missing out. The joy which should be there instead at times can make us feel like indentured servants. More like eating broccoli instead of a hot fudge sundae. (131)

Second half people are meant to be bassoonists, not trumpeters. A bassoonist fits in with the orchestra rather than being a stand alone soloist. Like a bassoonist, we need to be there to provide background and complement those who are more upfront. (153)

God is going to use the person which has been built during the first half. It will only be applied in a different venue. (160)

Principle of altruistic egoism: doing good to others does just as much good for you. (162)

Buford has a chapter on how it is through individual responsibility that will transform our communities through the church.

As part of this, you take stock of your life. Some of this involve:

  1. Making peace with your past
  2. Take time to evaluate and taking time to meditate on your purpose
  3. Be deliberate. To think, pray and play. Setting an agenda.
  4. Am I missing anything in my life right now that is important to me?
  5. What am I passionate about?
  6. Who am I?
  7. What do I value?
  8. What do I want to be doing in ten years?
  9. What gifts has God given to me that have been (or is being) perfected over time?
  10. What gifts has he given me that I am unable to use?
  11. What would I be willing to die for?
  12. What is it about my job what makes me feel trapped?
  13. What realistic changes can I make in my employment?
  14. Would I be willing to take a less stressful, and less paying, job in order to be happier—to be closer to my true self?
  15. What steps do I need to take tomorrow in order to have a second half that is better than my first half?
  16. Share the journey. When married, this involves both spouses
  17. Be honest. This is not a fantasy time, but a time of being realistic.
  18. Be patient. You have time to deal with change, take the time to do it right.
  19. Have faith.

Halftime evaluation questions:

  1. What do I want to be remembered for? Write a description of how your life would look if it turned out just the way you wished.
  2. What about money? How much is enough? If I have more than enough, what purpose do I serve with the excess? If I have less than enough, what am I willing to do to correct that?
  3. How am I feeling about my career now? Is this what I want to be doing with my life ten years from now?
  4. Am I living a balanced life? What are the important elements in my life that deserve more time?
  5. What is the primary loyalty in my life?
  6. Where do I look for inspiration, mentors, and working models for my second half?

Peter Drucker says that two important needs are self-realization and community. On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing in these areas?

Draw a line that describes the ups and downs of your life. Or draw three lines, one for personal like, one for family life and one for work life. Where do they interesect? Where do they diverge?

Which of the following transition options seems to fit my temperament and gifts best? (Evaluate each option on a scale of 1-10)

  1. Keep on doing what I already do well, but change the environment.
  2. Change the work, but stay in the same environment.
  3. Turn an avocation into a new career. 
  4. Double-track, or even triple-track, in parallel careers, not hobbies.
  5. Keep on doing what I'm doing, even past retirement age.What do I want for my children?

Some piratical habits to get into (132)
  1. Delegate—at work, at play, at home.
  2. Do what you do best; drop the rest
  3. Know when to say no.
  4. Set limits
  5. Protect your personal time by putting it on your calendar. Start the day slow-easier to protect the day when you start with a quiet time
  6. Work with people you like. I want to find all the people I like being with and find some beneficial work we can do together...I want to work with people who add energy to life-Karol Emmerich
  7. Set timetables
  8. Downsize—think Walden and what is extra in my life
  9. Play around a little. Play should be a big second half activity
  10. Take the phone off the hook-learn how to hide gracefully

Drucker's Advice (135)

  1. Build on the islands of health and strength
  2. Work only with those who are receptive to what you are trying to do
  3. Work only on things that will make a great deal of difference if you succeed.


Bufford has some good points, some good comments and good questions. This is not a book of uniform quality throughout. It is instructive and turns my attention to the word significance rather than meaning. He also reminded me that all things are not for me to engage in, even if they are good and significant. It was a worthwhile read for me.

Good Quotes:

  • The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him. Vaclav Havel, Disturbing the Peace, Chp 2, pg 72
  • Do you understand the difference between being called and driven? (47)
  • The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to find the idea for which I can live and die. Sorean Kierkegaard, Journal, Aug 1, 1835
  • Halftime is the perfect opportunity to shift from trying to understand God to learning to know him. (74)
  • The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing that we ought to do, we have no time for anything else—we are the busiest people in the world. Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), pg 156
  • Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things. Peter Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, pg 44
  • We need to be the change we wish to see in the world. Mohandas Ghandi (112)
  • What is good for his kingdom is usually better for us as individuals. (113)
  • The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, pg 8
  • I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience, Conclusion
  • What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. Søren Kierkegaard, Journals 1A
  • Man must have an idol- The amassing of wealth is one the worst species of idolatry. No idol more debasing than the worship of money. Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie, pg 158
  • Unless a person takes charge of them, both work and free time are likely to be disappointing. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: the psychology of optimal experience, pg 168
  • life becomes richer when we are students and narrows when we stop learning. (145)


Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Book: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
Author: Nicholas Carr
Edition: Hardback
Read: June 2011
256 pages
Rated: 4 1/2 out of 5

You read each book with a certain amount of prejudice going into it. There is the anticipation of learning something new, of being excited or challenges, or even confirmations, to your existing ideas. With Carr, it was a mixture. A few years back he wrote a book saying that information technology departments will become obsolete—if that comes, it will be over a decade away and more likely be trans-formative than revolution.

But what drew me to the book was an Atlantic Monthly article called, Is Google Making Me Stupid? This was the forerunner to The Shallows. Carr starts with how his ability to do deep thinking is deteriorating. He traces this with three threads: how our brains function, how various technology innovations affect our thinking and how the Internet works.

As we have gone from oral to writing to the printing press to newspapers, each has made a difference in how we process our information. With each advance, we have generally advanced our ways of thinking. With writing, we can develop thoughts; with the printing press, we are able to distributed our thinking—and make it widely knows. But we also lost the need to keep thoughts in memory; we lost the personal connections.

Carr talks extensively about how the brain functions. He emphasizes how dynamically the connections are made and easy the brain re-connects itself. Also, how the brain stores and processes what comes to it. As situations occurs, the brain either makes new connections or-and strengthens old ones. This is the crux of Carr's concern. What types of are being made and is it good for us—good for us in that we can be broader and deeper?

This brings us to the third thread. The Internet, and Google is the representative here, thrives not so much on content, but on how quickly we can jump from place to place to place. The hyper-linking of pages leads us not to assimilate a page as a whole, but to jump and be sure to do it soon. This jumping is not from point to point to point, but from document to document to document. This leads not to understanding and comprehension, and not even to breadth of subject matter, but to a disjointed view of the material.

You take all three threads together and you get a picture of modern man's brain, being rewired to be focused on short, intense bursts of information. But then not being able to correlate the information into a coherent structure. This is the demise of deep thinking which Carr started the book with.

Somethings Carr talks about are:
  • Our society loves the thought we can multi-task, but can we really? He quotes  Grafman and points out that as you become busy multiple tasking, you become more dependent on conventional or suggested solutions and ideas than looking at original ideas or challenging the solutions as being the solution for the problem. I can say this was true for me. The busier which I got, the less likely which I to be able to figure out solutions. Carr also quotes a couple of people, Clifford Nass and Michael Merzenich—they both indicate that mutli-taskers are trained to pay attention to “crap” and  that they are “suckers for irrelevancy.”
  • There is an interesting contrast where Carr references Steven Johnson's book, Everything Bad is Good for You. Johnson points out the computer users brains are more stimulated than book readers. Johnson interpretation is that reading books under-stimulates the senses. Carr says that is the wrong interpretation—it should be that book readers use that extra capacity to enjoy their activity. I am not sure that Carr is right on this as it would make more sense that up to a point, an active brain is one which is”in the game.”
  • One of Carr's main points is that the Web is designed to break our concentration. Hyper-links are the main culprits. Each time which we click on a linnk, it creates a break in concentration, which disrupts our thinking. He points out that Google gets paid more when we click through. The statement Carr makes is that Google is literally in the business of disruption. (157)
  • Carr continues on with this thought with online reading of books. While the words are the same, the context is not. With a book, the words are surrounded by the whiteness of the page border. But when reading a book online, there are all kinds of distractions surrounding the page. Carr states, to make a book discoverable and searchable online is also to dismember it. The cohesion of its test, the linearity of its argument... is sacrificed.
  • Erasmus had his students keep a list of quotes which was really a notebook of memorable quotations. These became commonplace books for readers to have. They aided in recording the writer's thoughts to memory. It was a stimulus to the imagination. As we have progressed, educators have decided they were a hindrance rather than a help. Today, why have the aide to memory when you can Google what you want to get everything without the effort?
  • When we recall our memories, it brings our thoughts back into a short term memory. This very act will give the memory/thought a new set of contexts and meanings. Consequently, there is a deepening of the thought.  Having the Internet cannot be a substitute for our memories according to Carr. But isn't this a round-about argument for having an external source for our memories? That the mere act of bringing in our memories causes the memory to change. This means our memory is no longer fact, but context. Carr references Sheila Crowell where she indicated that the very act of remembering appears to modify our brains to make it easier to learn future ideas and skills.
  • Our technologies not enable us, but they mold us. Both Nietzsche and TS Elliot's writings were enhanced, but also changed by the use of the typewriter-Nietzsche only used it a few months before it became unusable. Both for good and to some extent, a lessening of the quality. Elliot noted that his sentences became shorter, more staccato rather than thoughtful and doted upon. Carr points out that our technologies amplify certain aspects of our capabilities. But the very act of amplification, makes us oblivious to other parts of our being. The speed our current technologies give us numbs things like our reasoning, perception, memory and emotion.
  • Can our software be too helpful? Carr works through what Christof van Nimwegen had found out. Van Nimwegen found out that while helpful software did assist users and made their experience better within the bounds of the software. But if there was issues outside of what the software could help the user on, then the users of the helpful software was less able to deal with the more complex issues.
  • Towards the last of the book, Carr talks about things which can help us regain our ability to do deep thinking. He looks at a study by Marc Berman which shows that going for a walk in a park can do much to deepen our thinking patterns.

Several questions occur to me. I assume the biology is correct. But the questions would include:
  • Is the impact to us undesirable? When you look at the examples Carr gives, each development cited brought us to where we are today.   But if I was in the age of starting the printing press, I might say the same thing. The suspicion is raised that what is being experienced is not enhancing us, but putting us dependent on our machines and software.
  • Do we need to read in depth? Or is this something which we can relegate to specialists?
  • How can we link around, get the benefits of being able to retrieve reference materials?

 I think that individually, you can quibble with the points Carr makes. But overall, his argument is impressive. The biggest question which he does not prove is, the direction which we are going, bad for humans, both individually an collectively. Is this a transitory state which we are in? Or are we now on the back side of our evolution?  Which ever way, Carr issues the warning which we should all heed.

Good Quotes:
  • The more you multitask, the less deliberative you become; the less able to think and reason out a problem. Jordan Grafman, quoted in Growing Up Digital. (141)
  • To be everywhere is to be nowhere. Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, 33
  • With writing online, we're still able to decode text quickly...but we're no longer guided toward a deep, personally constructed understanding of the text's connotations. (186)
  • The best rule of reading will be a method from nature, and not a mechanical one of hours and pages.  Let him read what is proper to him, and not waste his memory on a crowd of mediocrities. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Atlantic Monthly, January 1858, “Books”
  • 1. Never read any book that is not a year old. 2. Never read any but famed books. 3. Never read any but what you like; or, in Shakespeare's phrase,   "No profit goes where is no pleasure ta'en;   In brief, Sir, study what you most affect."  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Atlantic Monthly, January 1858, “Books”
  • In Google's world, which is the world we enter when we go online, there's little place for the pensive stillness of deep reading or the fuzzy indirection of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight, but a big to be fixed. (173)
  • It [the principle of appropriateness] requires that the student digest or internalize what he learns and reflect rather than slavishly reproduce the desirable qualities of the model author. Such a process requires creativeness and judgment. Erika Rummel, Philosophy of Education: An Encyclopedia, article on Desiderius Erasmus
  • The Web is a technology of forgetfulness. (193)
  • learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. David Foster Wallace, Kenyon Commencement Speech 2005
  • Even as our technologies become extensions of ourselves, we become extensions of our technologies. (209)

  1. Amazon 
  2. Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer
    New York Time
    The Guardian - Note: Carr used to write columns for the Guardian
  3. Slate
  4. Gartner

Monday, July 4, 2011

How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free

Book: How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free
Author: Ernie J. Zelinski
Edition: Paperback, 2004
Read: June 2011
229 pages
Rated: 2 out of 5

Talks about what you need to retire. Not just in terms of financial, but also in terms of well-being. He talks about how you should be active and what kinds of activities, considerations on where to live, as well how living healthy.

  • Breadth of interest is important. Retirement will fell empty if the interests are not varied.
  • Purpose of your life and living it is an important part of the book. He has a list of questions to help you figure out things:
  1. What is extremely important to me?
  2. What makes me happy
  3. What made me happy in childhood and my teens that I would do again?
  4. What made me happy in my career that I would like to continue doing?
  5. What would make me a much happier person? Having a lot of money or beoming famous cannot be one of them.
  6. What talents or skills am I most proud of?
  7. What field of endeavor invariably challendes me in new and exciting ways?
  8. What makes me feel creative?
  9. What special talent have I neglected while putting in long and hard hours in my career?
  10. What would I like to do that I have always wanted to do, but never got aorund to doing?
  11. What sort of legacy would I like to leave?
  • The author talks about what a fun job is. He says that it is an opportunity to work at something for personal satisfaction of doing it well. I would also say that it should have significance and meaning as well.
  • You can slow down the aging process by living a good life.
  • He suggests that you go on a two day a week fast and donate the saved money to charity which helps hungry people, if you have problems losing weight.
  • He thinks that TV watching is a waste of time.
  • He advocates learning—taking classes, being out and about as a means to keep your mind fresh and active.
  • Learning in Retirement Institute
  1. Elderhostel
  2. Elder travel
  3. Eldertreks
  7. work vacations: Earthwatch Institute in Maynard, Massachusetts
  • Travel Advice
  1. Choose destinations wisely—chose spending time with people which you enjoy more than exotic places with those whom you do not.
  2. What is your passion in life? Incorporate
  3. Enjoy the journal, you no longer are goal oriented.
  4. Free time—spontaneity.
  5. Look for points of historical interesting
  6. Plans are meant to be changed.
  7. Use a trip to scout out a change in location if you are thinking of moving
  8. Eat and stay at local places—you will find things of more interest.
  9. Use apartments, villa and cottages to save money
  10. Take a vacation to places of special interestingFantasie about a vacation
  11. Go for off the beaten track destinations
  • Happiness
  1. Am I in control of my lifestyle?
  2. Do I make the most of my money to give me the best quality life?
  3. What can I achieve which would make me proud?
  4. What can I do which is truly unique?
  5. Do I have great friends?
  6. Do I see see my close friends?
  7. Do I watch too much TV?
  8. Does my lifestyle complement my partner's?
  9. Do I travel like how I want to?
  10. Do my time commitments allow me to contribute to a better world?
  11. Do my time commitments allow me to be creative?
  12. Am I developing spiritually?
  13. Do I exercise enough?
  14. Do I complain too much?
  15. Am I grateful?
  16. Do I continually learn?
  17. Do I do something special for myself each day?
  18. What will make me feel better?
  19. Do I have everything which I need to make me happy?

 This book would have been pretty good. He has some good quotes, humorous cartoons, as well as good advice.  There are good lists of questions. The problem is that the book could have said the same thing if it had been about a third of the length. Consequently, you feel like you are having to wade through the book, rather than taking away nuggets.

Good Quotes:
  • Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.  Seneca (17)
  • The key to a happy retirement is to have enough money to live on, but not enough to worry about.  Unknown Wise Person   (31)
  • When People Are Free To Do As They Please, They Usually Imitate Each Other. Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind, pg 33
  • The best intelligence test is what we do with our leisure. Laurence J. Peter , 43
  • The happiest people are those who think the most interesting thoughts. Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good company, good conversation, are the happiest people in the world. And they are not only happy in themselves, they are the cause of happiness in others. William Lyon Phelps, 44
  • If the soul has food for study and learning, nothing is more delightful than an old age of leisure.  Marcus Tullius Cicero, 44
  • The great and glorius masterpiece of man is to know how to live to purpose. Michel de Montaigne, The Ecelectic magazine of foreign literature, science and art, Volume 111, 1888
  • Nothing contributes to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose. Mary Shelley, 53
  • Leisure is time for doing something useful. Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth, pg 45
  • Every moment comes to you pregnant with divine purpose. Fulton J. Sheen, Preface to Religon
  • Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things. Denis Diderot, Diderot, pg 77
  • Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight. Thomas Carlyle, 96
  • I made a pact with myself a long time ago. Never watch anything stupider than you. It helped me a lot. Bette Midler, 127
  • In a disordered mind, as in a disordered body, soundness of health is impossible, Marcus Tullius Cicero, 127
  • Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity. Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, My Two Countries, pg 75
  • Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience. This is the ideal life. Mark Twain, “More Maxims of Mark:, Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches and Essays, 1890-1910, pg 943
  • The more people who truly care whether you get up in the morning, the richer you will feel. 142
  • The one who never asks you what you are working on; who never inquires as to the success of your latest project; who never uses the word career as a noun—he is your friend. Roger Rosenblatt, Rules for Aging: A Wry and Witty Guide to Life, pg 26
  • Books and friends should be few but good. Greek proverb, 147
  • A friend is someone who sees through you and still enjoys the view. Wilma Askinas, 147
  • The only way to have a friend, is to be one. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friendship, Essays and English Traits, pg 121
  • It is only after you can establish a meaningful relationship with yourself that you can build strong, healty and lasting relationships with other people. 163
  • The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only a page. Saint Augustine, 175
  • A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours. JB Priestley, Delight, pg 132
  • Retirement is not a time to sleep, but a time to awaken to the beauty of the world around you and the joy that comes when you cast out all the negative elements that cause confusion and turmoil in your mind and allow serenity to prevail. Howard Salzman, 192
  • To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its bestm night and day, to make you like everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. e.e. Cummings, a miscellany, pg 13
  • Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Rosa Luxemberg, The Russian Revolution, ch 6
  • There is nothing in its nature [money] to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one. Benjamin Franklin, 202
  • I have the greatest of riches: that of not desiring them. Eleonore Duse, 205
  • I look at what I have not and think myself unhappy; others look at what I have and think me happy. Joesph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, xxxviiii
  • Be happy while you are alive because you are a long time dead. Scottish proverb, 209
  • A good folly is worth whatever you pay for it. George Ade, 215
  • He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressures of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition you and age are equally a burden. Plato, The Dialogues of Plato, Book I, pg 147
  • In the end these things matter most, How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go? Buddha, 225
  • Consider each day you haven't laughed, played, and celebrated your life to be a wasted day. You were given three special gifts when you were born: the gift of life, love and laughter. Learn to share these gifts with the rest of the world. And the rest of the world will play happily with you. 228


Friday, May 20, 2011

Alone in the Sierra

Book: Alone In The Sierra
Author: Marcel 'Pete' Fraser
Edition:  Fithian Press, 1991
Read: May 2011
75 pages
Rated: 2 out of 5

I saw this book in the library and decided the title looked inviting. Fraser hikes the Sierra's originally with his family, but now by himself. Not really a journal, but a collections of his own musings based upon his trail journal.

Fraser is around my age, 57, when he wrote this book.  As far as I can tell, this is his first and only book he wrote. Also, this is self-published through Fithian Press. As such, he could have used some editing to sharpen his writing. There is a tendency for him to wander, not only in the Sierra's, but also on these pages.

The book is based on a collection of his journal writings. He does not identify places or times/dates. This leads to a sense of displacement. There is a natural sense of loneliness occurring in these writings. Fraser talks about this. His journal is how he copes with the loneliness. But there is also a sense where the ramblings he makes during this time does not have any check on the reasonableness of his thoughts.

It is this last part which the book reaches for depth, but only skins the surface. Fraser has some interesting thoughts, but only blurts them out in a sentence or two and then moves on. For examples of these, see below. This book can be depressing. He is a modern man, alone with his thoughts. He sees the beauty of the mountains and he sees no more. There is no reaching beyond him only the question, is this all there is?

 The quality of this book is  along the lines or even better than what what I would do. That is both the thing which attracts me and repels me. The attraction is that there is comradeship in what Fraser is trying to do. But what I look for in a book is something beyond me, not something which I would do. So the rating of a two is because it is about what I would be doing.

Some comments which Fraser makes and my thoughts on these.
  • Fraser talks about looking for order and symmetry in nature but finding only truth. He then asks if he has been mis-taught about truth. I am not sure how he came to these conclusions. I understand about the clutter you find in the mountains and finding beauty in that. But what does he mean by truth? No explanation on what he found. (17)
  • There is an excitement of going down a trail you have not been on before. He talks about the excitement being 'born of discovery'. I like the term to describe what he feels.  It is seeing new sights, going places which you have not been before to discover something new—mostly in you. (17)
  • 'Nameless he knows them [flowers] individually.' I find the opposite--better the name, the more individual which I know things. A bird is a bird until I know it as a Stellar Jay. Even that distinction there is too much of a group. It is when I address the bird as Mr. Jay or give it a name—food stealer—that I make the bird an individual. I think that is why God had Adam name the animals so that they would be known individually rather than as a blur. It is the same with us. We see only the teeming masses of people in a city until we know the person's name. (17)
  • Fraser talks about hiking and being able to ignore the surroundings—he is on a trail here. He says 'now I hike mechanically...My mind approaches overload as I delve into these matters of consciousness and the cosmos.' I understand. The first day of a trip, is the day which I sort things out. It is after wards which I can look around and understand; think great thoughts. (17) Later on he states a preference for cross-country routes. Each step you take is your own step, not someone else's. You concentrate on the step and the destination. It is up to you rather than the trail maker. (65)
  • With a backpack, you only can rely on what you have with you, around you and in you. (21)
  • When you are on the trail, you soon get into a rhythm where you think about things in time with your body—mostly the beat of your walk. (22)
  • Interesting assumption—'we use the world for our own purpose. Neither for good or ill.' Of course you have to consider the view we start with. If you start with that we are moral creatures—we have to have morals in order to live, then Fraser's statement becomes incorrect. How we live has moral consequences, so how we use the materials around us is an extension of that morality. (26)
  • When Fraser has a plane pass overhead, he observes that in a single minute that plan will travel further than he will in a day. The occupants will have cocktails, watch a movie do so many things. Yet, and this is my reading, in that minute, do they live more than a backpacker does? Do they get to experience the majesty, the wonder, the greatness of the space they are in? I do not think so. I think it goes back to, the closer we are to our own size, the more we experience. (32)
  • Of course, beauty is talked about. He comes across a place where nature is rejuvenating an area, an area were rock slides have taken down trees and brush. But there are signs of new life. He comments that most people understand what is being talked about by beauty and raises the question, have we been conditioned to accept what others call beauty? He does not say. I would say that we have it ingrained in us from the one who created us. (39)
  • I loved his description of trying to bear proof a food cache. I have done much the same thing, but not as well. (40)
  • Here is the real crux of where Fraser and I differ. He indicates that all of his life is meaningless.  He wants to savor his aloneness without the distractions of human company. But he does not want to examine himself too much, being afraid of that he will find.  Knowing too much will upset the balance of his existence. (45) There may be somethings which we ask the same, which we want the same. But the origins and results are different. I look time alone to explore myself, but being afraid what I will find. But at the end of the exploration, I know that there is a great good which loves me, which will take me in. Consequently, each pursuit I have means I need to find where I being lead to. In looking at Fraser's biography, he has explored several occupations and is currently selling real estate. I am guessing that he is only finding existence, not satisfaction. I wonder if he still backpacks, or does that pack too much meaning. In another place, Fraser, talks about man being nature's unsuccessful experiment. (69) On the other hand, I think of man as a work in progress by God. We just have not become what he wants us to be—or more particular, I am still becoming what He wants me to be.
  • 'The last day always comes. In all endeavors.' (71). So true, so true. Depends on the outlook. No matter how much I enjoy a trip, there is a feeling of wanting to return back to home. I wonder if that will be my feeling on my last day. It is time to go home.
  • Fraser states that he 'loves the life that is basic. And the self-sufficiency. And the solitude. But not the loneliness. ' (74). I can identify with this quote. The last part especially. When I experience something, the first thing which I want to do is to share it. Without the sharing, the experience is incomplete. Fraser later says the same thing. He has his journal and this is part of communicating. Is this why I keep a journal when I hike? To share out my experience? Or is it to say that I am somebody in this universe?

Good Quotes:
  • Life is wonder. (73)
  • Few trouble to track solitude, to seek places of absolute peace. … Seclusion can be bought cheaply with a few extra steps … are we afraid of solitude? (73)


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Help

Book: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Edition: Hardback
Read: Feb 2011
444 pages
Rated: 4 out of 5

This popular book takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60's when the Civil Rights movement was bringing the need to change race relations to the front. This book tells a fictional story of a young writer, writing her first book. When challenged to find something she has a passion about, she decides that she wants to write about the untold story of the black help in her town. The Help traces the lives and stories of the maids to white families.

If the story was written 45 years earlier, it would have been an earth-shaker, like To Kill A Mockingbird. Today, it is insightful. It is written by a white author who tries to see the world through the eyes of blacks and whites in the 60's. She sees the fear which is in the culture. She tells the story of when blacks worked for whites, but were never thought of as people with their own stories. The fictional white author is more interested, at least in the beginning in getting a book published than the actual ladies themselves. But she does start to take an in interest in the lives as she writes about them.

Reread Notes:
First, I think I would upgrade the rating to 4 of 5. There is a quality of storytelling which I did not account for earlier. Also

Rules for working with white people(42):
  1. It is nobody's business. White people are not your friends
  2. Do not let a White Lady find you sitting on her toliet
  3. Taste your cooking with a different spoon than what the white people use.
  4. Use the same cup, fork and plate every day. Keep it seperate
  5. You eat in the kitchen
  6. You don't hit white children
  7. No sass-mounting

Skeeter comments upon coming home from college, who is the different person, her best friend or me? (56) Your experience changes you, or at least it allows you to see things differently.

Skeeter figures that if the State of Mississippi has banned a book, it must be good. (71)

An editor with Harper&Row gives Skeeter advice: Write about what disturbs you, particularly if it bothers no one else. (71)

Skeeter gets the idea about writing about black help from something which a black maid of a friend said to her. That her son had read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and wanted to write a book about what it meant to be a black man in Mississippi.(84) This is followed by Skeeter passing by the invisible Pascagoula, her own maid. (87)

Hilly hands out lies like the Presbyterians hand out guilt. (86)

Upon the anniversary of her son's death, Abileen thinks that three years is not long enough. A hundred years aint gone be long enough. (95) Some things are meant to be with your soul for a long time.

Skeeter's Mom tries to find the common ground with people, usually in terms of relations. Such as Skeeter's brother's girlfriend, she will pick until she finds some common ancester. Reminds me of Sherri's relative. (109)

Place of prayer. Blacks only seem to have any in-depth religon. Whites are superficial or a cover for their lives. But then Skeeter, as she is watching her mother going through the dying process, turns to a form of religion. She finds herself praying, when she has never been a religious person. Whispering long, never-ending sentences to God, begging for Mother to feel some relief,... Often I catch myself prayering when I didn;t even know I was doing it. (340)

Truth. Stockett describes it as It feels cool, like water washing over my sticky-hot body. Cooling a heat that's been burning me up all my life. (123). This is Minnie speaking—the hot-blooded one. It is bottled up inside of her and she wants to see how truth will work out for her good friend Abileen. Correspondingly, there is shame. Abileen describes when she was young and her first acquaintance with shame occurred. She had made a mistake and was fired. She says, I understood what shame was and the color of it too. Shame ain't black, like dirt. .. Shame be the color of a new white uniform your mother ironed all night to pay for, white without a smudge or a speck a work-dirt on it. (141)

On the other hand, Skeeter uses the church to lie. She lies to her Mom about where she is going—to church in another town; about a date; about her relationship with her friends; …

Albileen is still careful with Skeeter, even after they had been together for awhile. Abileen says, These is white rules. I don't know which ones you following and which ones you ain't. (144) Skeeter's rpely is she is tired of rules. While “a good white”, she still is a child of her culture and Abileen is wise enough to know that there are places Skeeter has not developed yet. (144)

As Skeeter's writing project goes along, she becomes sensitized to things around her. Her friend's voice is a bit higher when speaking to the help. People whom she took for granted or looked down on, she sees from a different lens than before.

A comment which Skeeter's book editor makes is they need to get her book completed before this civil-rights thing blows over. (149). Those in the middle of history never know that history is being made.

Skeeter realizes that she is writing about life, not civil-rights. (155) But that is where the action is. Everybody's small little lives, when by themselves may not seem important. But as they take on a pattern, are intertwined with others, they are important, they take on meaning.

Two people, just wondering why things are the way they are. (217) This is when Miss Celia has lost her baby. Minnie is trying to comfort her.

Second book in a row where it talks about silencing people by cutting out their tongues. (235) The first was The World According to Garp by John Irving.

White men will beat, rape or kill you. But a white women might do worse. (235)

The dichotomy of love and disdain living side-by-side is what surpises me. (237) How there can be the affection back and forth, but the enforced differences.

Is being scratched by Stuart's mother intentional? (241)

Minnie who has faced very little love from whites, comes face to face with this when her white women, Miss Celia, saves her from a would-be rapist. Minnie realizes that she can no longer just retreat into her protective shell and have disdain for whites. She thinks, this is a a brand new invention we've come up with. (283)

Minnie realizes that Abileen has the ability to cut straight to the heart of a problem and put it into simple terms. This is a gift. (287)

Stockett explores two mother daughter relationships. First Sketter's with her own Mom. Her Mom fired the maid which Sketter grew up wth, whom Sketter loved. There was no closer to this satory. Her Mom, nor anybody, would tell her why. One day she was told, what was know about the reason. When Skeeter confronts her mother, she is told about the second mother-daughter situation. Her maid had given her daughter up for adoption. When the daughter returned, the daughter was told one story by her mom. But the daughter was told the truth by Skeeter's mother. Skeeter understands that a child should never know this about her own mother—that is all the badness which a parent lives with. (331)

Minnie gets beaten by her husband—not a white man. Even though Celia has saved her from being beaten by one then. Her husband says, If I didn't beat you, Minny, who knows whagt you become. (373)

Skeeter realizes why she wrote the book (378), For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought.

When a person, like Minny, does something brave, like reveal her deep, dark secret, for the protection of others, we mustn't deprive them of any of the things that go along with being brave and good. (387) That is easy to do, even by making it easy for them. We all want to be herioc.

Mississippi is like my mother. I am allowed to complain about her all I want, but God help the person who raises an ill word about her around me, unless she is their mother too. (406) In the afterward by Stockett.

Stockett admits that she has pondered the Raines quote in connection with her own maid which she grew up with. The Help is the result of these reflections.

 There are some great writers which have come out of the deep South.--O'Connor, Faulkner, Lee, to name a few. Some are great because they can turn a phrase; others because they paused to promise the social condition of these times. Stockett tell her story well, just will not have the impact which Harper Lee's story had.

  • Crisco(12)-meaning something you can't dress up no matter how you try.
  • State Cheese (19)-A BIG, HARD MASS; A BLOCK OF ORANGE-YELLOW PROCESSED "USDA CHEESE FOOD" ISSUED BY "DA GUBMENT" United States GOVERNMENT to aid needy families by supplementing their food resources. Used for making Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Macaroni & Cheese but ALSO CAUSES severe, bowel obstructing constipation, silent but deadly stinky gas, and / or "the runs" diarrhea in those who are lactose intolerant.
  • Pawpaws(194):
  • Cracker(211)
  • Huaraches (379)

Books Referenced:
  • Ellison, Ralph: The Invisible Man
  • Lee, Harper: To Kill A Mocking Bird
  • : Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
  • DuBois, WEB: The Souls of Black Folk
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Thoreau, Henry David: Walden
  • It seems like at some point you'd just run out of awful. (284)
  • They say it's like true love, good help. You only get one in a lifetime. (336)
  • There is no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black person and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism (408) Howell Raines, Grady's Gift

Publisher's Questions:

1. Who was your favorite character? Why?
2. What do you think motivated Hilly? On the one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can’t control her. Yet she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother but, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?
3. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter— and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable; and most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?
4. How much of a person’s character would you say is shaped by the times in which they live?
5. Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuart’s faults so that she can get married, and that it’s not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?
6. Do you believe that Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?
7. Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?
8. From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of “beauty” changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?
9. The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?
10. Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white?
11.What did you think about Minny’s pie for Miss Hilly? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?

Gary's Questions for Book Group:

Briefly, give a description of this story.

  • What story is the author trying to tell? Why is she trying to tell this story?
  • How does Skeeter change through out this story? Why does she change? What does it say about us?
  • What presence is there of religon amongst the white? Blacks?How does Skeeter use her religion? Does she exhibit any hallmarks of Christian religon? Abileen uses written prayers to convey her messages to God. Others really believe she has a direct line to God. How does writing her prayers help her be clearer with her prayers? Forgiveness.
  • Describe the Worthington family. What makes the Senator tick? Do you think he was willing to change how segregation worked? Or was he someone who pushed it along? Why do you think Senator Worthington could not be his own man?
  • How about Stuart? Was he tied to his father's fortunes, so could not let go? Or was the attitude towards race too much inbred in him?What does this story tell about the power of stories?
  • Do you think this is an accurate representation of the South in the early 60's?
  • Do you think this is still true?
  • How Fresno had similar race relations?
  • Is there any society or race issues within 1st Pres today?