When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

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When’s the best time to have surgery? What can you do if you want to get back on track with the New Year’s Resolutions you’ve forgotten about? What is the importance of “middles”? Dan Pink answers all these questions and more in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.  Pink packs in a lot of research and shares in an entertaining way.

After reading When, I’ve learned that healthcare workers tend to get tired as the day wears on and are apt to make more mistakes in the afternoon, but if they stop before performing a task and go through a checklist for readiness, the number of errors decreases. The same is true of students. Often they’ll do worse on tests in the afternoon and if you give them breaks and a go through a checklist that more or less wakes them up and cues them into the need to be extra careful, then their performance will be on par to their morning results.

The chapter on syncing describes the benefits of working in unison. If you run with others the health benefits are greater than if you run alone. More surprising, if you join a choir and regularly sing with others the benefits equal those of exercising. Most likely you’ll have better blood pressure and other positives.

I learned that there breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day. Lunch is. There’s no research that proves that breakfast is more important than other meals. Your results may vary.

The book goes into detail on expected subjects like napping, beginnings, midpoints, and endings, but in all the sections, I learned something new. I read the audiobook narrated by Pink. His voice was friendly and energized. The book came with PDF files so you get all the files that are in the book and help you figure out whether you’re a lark or night owl, etc. I’ve come away with a greater understanding of managing my energy levels, but it’s still hard for me to manage a daily nappuccino.

The Radium Girls

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The Radium Girls by Kate Moore tells the story of the young women who worked in factories painting iridescent numbers on watch and clock dials. In New Jersey and Illinois after WWI, girls were hired to use paint made with radium to make the dials glow in the dark. The technique they were required to use was to lick the tip of the brush, dip it in the paint and paint the numbers. Then they were to repeat. No step to clean the brush.

At the time radium was believed to be an ultra-healthy substance. No safety precautions were taken.

These girls were proud to earn good wages and had a good lifestyle. Proud of their work, when they would go out dancing, they would take the radium dust rub it on their eyelids and skin, which made them glow.

As you can imagine, the women started to get ill. One woman had awful jaw pain, and when she went to the dentist her jaw fell out, which was the first of many ailments that inflicted her and her colleagues. One after another, the girls began to experience horrific health issues. The radium would attack their bones. Others, as you’d guess, got rare, devastating cancers.

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Statue of a Radium Girl, Ottawa, Illinois

The girls began to take legal action and the two radium companies fought them tooth and nail. The story soon turns to one of courage and tenacity as these women fight for their lives and fight for justice in the courts against two Goliath companies.

In many ways the story is hard to take, but because these women banded together and had great resilience and remained strong in spirit and clung to hope, The Radium Girls was not a depressing story. My only critique is that the author’s scope covering two factories which weren’t that connected, made the book confusing at times. Yet I understand her desire to tell the full story. I think it would have been better if Moore had focused on fewer girls and added an epilogue about the others. I highly recommend reading The Radium Girls.

(Janice, thanks for recommending this compelling, yet sad book.)

Tip for Writers

A friend posted this tip on Facebook and I thought I’d share it. My friend, who’s been a screenwriting for years and has been paid as a script doctor, advises writers to keep their notes and information used in a writing project. In addition to a Writers’ Guild registration or copyright document, these notes are good evidence should you run into the problem of someone plagiarizing your work.

Harry Courlander sued Alex Haley for infringing on his copyright and won. Presenting  his notes and outlines as evidence helped him prevail in this case.

Of course, we hope no one steals our work, it’s important have good evidence if we need it. Such documentation probably only takes up a few files in a cabinet or you could keep online documents, though I fear they can get lost easily.

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 3.09.01 PMScott Adams’ book How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life feels like a friendly mentor sharing tips for success and life experiences. The tone is conversational and the content wise and helpful.

Adams describes how he formed habits that aided his success. He didn’t grow up with parents who had stellar professional careers. In fact, no one in his hometown did. He didn’t have a checklist of goals for year 5, 10, 15. Actually, Adams asserts that “goals are for losers.” Instead, he advocates systems. When you have a goal, most of the time you’re dissatisfied as you’re not there yet. For a short time you glory in achieving a goal or are bummed about failing. Then you’ll probably find a new goal and will return to feeling insufficient. Most of the time, you sure aren’t riding high.

With systems, like being active or learning as much as one can, most of the time you’re in the zone you want to be in. Eventually, this sort of broader challenge will result in the success a goal promises, but along the way, it’s easier to stay positive.

Adams did not have an easy way to the top. No nepotism was available and he wasn’t stellar at any of his corporate jobs. In fact, he admits, he isn’t an excellent artist or masterful writer, but he is good enough. He advises acquiring as many skills as you can because the more skills you have that put you in the competent range, the better. (You need to be able to do these things in a job, but you don’t have to be among the 1% of those in your field.)

I found Adams’ suggestions made sense and are something I’ll apply. Also, I thought the chapters where he chronicles how he had a rare voice condition that made conversation impossible and thereby hurt his speech-giving career, authentic and helpful as far as coping and searching for a solution to a problem that experts say has none was illustrative and heroic.

The book addresses diet and fitness as well as career success. If you’ve got no energy or are sick are you really that successful? Adams is clear that he’s not a doctor or dietician and that his approach to systems rather than goals worked for him. He doesn’t tell you what you should eat or what activities you need to do. Instead he offers new ways of thinking about your daily diet and fitness routines.

Whether you’re starting out or midway through your career, Scott Adam’s How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life is worth a read.

The Big Short, The Book

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I really enjoyed Michael Lewis’ book The Big Short about the men who discovered that the bonds with lots of bad mortgages were destined to fail and hence bring on a financial crisis. While the topic is confusing and complex, Lewis does an admirable job of pulling you into the story and making you understand. I appreciated that there weren’t the scantily clad women or bimbos in bathtubs. That wasn’t necessary in the film. (You can see my film review here.)

Lewis did a better job of showing who these men were and what the nature of our financial mess is. I quite enjoyed learning how the two young guys of Cornwall Capital made their fortune and “sitting in” on Lewis’ lunch with his one-time boss whose earlier decision to take a financial firm public rather than a partnership (hence removing responsibility and consequences from a firm) led to the fiasco of 2008.

It’s a book I felt I should read and now want to recommend all my friends read. In fact, I had requests to share it and it’s in the hands of a friend right now.

The Film Snob’s Dictionary

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Written by David Kamp, The Film Snob’s Dictionary is a fun little reference book with a tongue-in-cheek tone that can help readers learn to b.s. their way through an erudite conversation on film or just help readers learn a little more about filmmakers and terms related to film.

Here are a few entries, chosen randomly, to give you a taste of the book:

Film Threat. Surprisingly buoyant, unsmug Web ‘zine (originally a print magazine) devoted to independent film. Where snobs go to read fulsome appreciations of Sam Raimi and interviews of such Queens of the B’s as Debbie Rochon and Tina Krause. (N.B. The website was bought and taken offline so where will we read these articles about people I never heard of?)

Mankiewicz, Herman. Gruff, whiskey-soaked, cigar chomping, old-school screenwriter par excellence (1807-1953)who bolted from his comfy perch at the Algonquin Round Table to write titles for silent films and screenplays for talkies, famously summoning his friend Ven Hecht west with te line “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition are idiots.” A dab hand at many genres–he wrote or cowrote Dinner at Eight, the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup and The Pride of the Yankees . . . .

Third Row, The. The only appropriate place for a true cinephile to sit, as per the dictum of  the late snob overlord and belle-lettrist Susan Sontag. Though the third row is said to provide the ideal perch from which to comfortably take in the MISE-EN-SCENE while unobstructed by fellow audience members, New York’s Anthology Film Archives, in 1970, catered to the socio-pathology of Film Snobs by opening its Invisible Cinema . . . .

Art from the 1893 World’s Fair

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I just finished reading Erik Larson‘s The Devil in the White City, the 2003 book that pairs the building of a dream, The 1893 Colombian Exposition with the nightmare of serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes crimes. Spurred by Larson’s impeccable research and description of the era I decided to dig around myself and found some images of the fair.

The First Ferris Wheel

People thought it would topple over or wind would cause disaster.

I wish I’d been there

I’ll add more tomorrow. “Make no little plans, Mr. Burnham, indeed.”