Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The President is Missing, But Not For Long

Well, I finished The President is Missing, just shy of deadline.

Our local library offers the most popular new titles as "Lucky Day" books, available for a non-renewable 7 day loan.

Have you read it?

James Patterson Book #1

This was the first of James Patterson's books that I've read. Go figure. 

According to the most reliable source I have (the book jacket) Patterson holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 NYT best sellers. 

Clearly, I was feeling optimistic on that trip to the library:  in addition to The President is Missing I snagged 5 other books, including Zoo and The Store, also by Patterson. 

Having digested the very engaging but somewhat formulaic Missing, I'm willing to crack open those other two novels, but I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed. Based on Patterson's reputation and obvious success, I'd hoped to find him a suitable replacement for Michael Creighton. Alas, he is not.

James Patterson Book # 2

Stay tuned... and as always, I welcome guest posts on this blog. If you'd like to review your favorite James Patterson book, or argue that he really is equal to or better than Michael Creighton, reach out here in the comments or connect with me through my Dumb Facebook Page devoted to dogs and books and other things I can't live without. 

Here's to Happy Endings! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Two American Tales: Shoe Dog and Americanah

Shoe Dog, A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Phil Knight) and Americanah, a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have little in common on the surface of things.

We can assume Shoe Dog is (mostly) non-fiction; Americanah, a work of fiction.

But we know the line is always blurred.


Adichie grew up in Nigeria, and divides her time between the U.S. and her home country; without that background, how could she create main character Ifemelu? Americanah follows Ifemelu though several serious relationships, with other characters, certainly - but Adichie just as carefully develops her relationships with cultures, institutions, and traditions. 

Shoe Dog

Knight's experience in America is wildly different from Adichie's (or Ifemelu's) but to the title's credit, while Shoe Dog documents the-building-of-an-iconic-American-business, it also takes a rather thoughtful look at Asian business practices, world economics, and complicated personal and professional relationships.

Ah, I love reading.

What books have been keeping you awake lately? Please share with your fellow page-turners

Friday, December 22, 2017

Where Did I Leave My Glasses? A Book to Remember

Martha Weinman Lear's lamentations on memory failings - normal memory failings - are somewhat long-winded, but her conversational style is engaging and her book is packed with enough well-researched findings to make it worth the reading time.

Book about Normal Memory LossOn its surface, the 2008 release Where Did I Leave My Glasses? is reassuring. Most of the frustrations we experience are "normal." Nagging questions like,  what's his name, when did I find out about that, and where did I leave my glasses? are to be expected as we age.

Sorry, the truth hurts.

And (spoiler alert!) Lear includes no surefire remedies and frankly, her advice is anything but sexy: There's no magic bullet, not even Ginko biloba, and the best diet advice is this: A heart-healthy diet is also a brain-healthy diet." See? Ho-hum, boring stuff - we know that. (Why most of us eschew the advice is another matter.)

The bottom line: human memory is a strange and wondrous thing. Understanding the difference between procedural, semantic and episodic memory* and realizing most of your "where are my glasses" moments are episodic means you don't have much to worry about. Well, no more than the rest of us do.

Happy reading, whateveryournameis.
_ __ __ _ _ __ __ __ __ _ __
Memory primer

Procedural memory = remembering how to walk

Semantic memory = remembering what walking is

Episodic memory = who was I walking with, and what was her name? 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What R U Reading and Do You Know Who Wrote It? Ghostwriters, Probably

A lot of titles and professions in the business world are misunderstood. Most of them, I would argue. That said, if you ever meet a copywriter with a big chip on his or her shoulder, I hope you'll cut him or her (OK, me) some slack.

Most copywriters can also be called "ghostwriters," and although neither is a particularly lofty title, in our information-laden world, writers of all ilks* deserve some extra... consideration, for starters. (More compensation, too - but I'll leave that topic for another day.)

This post appeared earlier this year on my blog about business writing.

What Do Copywriters Write? Everything

In the past six months or so, I've written about employment placement services, OSHA regulations,
e-parking apps, replacement windows, agricultural dust control products, hand-crafted jewelry
landscaping services and bulk mulch products, mobile pet grooming services, PeopleSoft implementations, escape room games, marketing automation, keratin hair straightening processes,
online accounting services, floral arrangements, appointment-setting software, lead paint remediation products, snow plowing and ice management techniques and a variety of medical conditions, surgeries and treatments, and reimbursement systems affecting both patients and providers.

Over approximately the same time period, my work has also appeared in three Forbes blogs, The Huffington Post, and a couple of other places I just can't mention.

I've written policies and procedural manuals for employees of companies where I've never been employed - and not just written, as in wrangled someone else's words, but written as in created and developed the policy (after discussions with several company principles or department head) and then written, for stakeholder approval. I have not written public policy but, many a hired-gun copywriter has. Sorry if that ruins your romantic notion about politicians and other public servants but hey, they're busy people. (Do you have any idea how much time it takes to raise enough money to run for office?)

My point? Information is a tricky thing. Regardless of the expert's name on an article or the name of the publication, it's quite possible the piece you're reading was written by a copywriter with a basic journalism degree in his (or her) back pocket, a fairly small balance in his (or her) bank account, and a whole lot of secrets.

Ghostwriters are not in the Fake News Business

This is absolutely not intended to be a jab at journalism, public relations, corporate information, business blogs or any other form of writing. Quite the contrary. Journalists are trained to research, investigate, interview and quickly disseminate information - real, helpful information. Not "just the facts," but the facts plus context.

As always, I highly recommend reading a lot, and thinking even more. And hey, tip your bartenders and copywriters. They're both generally undervalued in the professional world.

*Like copywriters, ilk is a word that doesn't get a lot of respect.       In fact, many modern spell-check programs don't recognize it. (Merriam-Webster does.) I love how internet retailer Woot uses ilk in an ad for a bag that's definitely not elk.
As long as I'm rambling, I should point out that Woot is a company that appears to "get" copywriting and all that other mumbo-jumbo. Again, that's probably fodder for a whole different post. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fun with Words: Thanks, CJR and TSA

I'm a word-lover, so two articles from Columbia Journalism Review made me smile this week -

What do 'recombobulation' and 'binary' have in common? Well, at first you might think, not much, other than the fact that CJR recently wrote about both.

On further review, however, there may be a little more to the relationship. I've been discombobulated and I have to say, I believe it is a binary thing. Either you're combobulated or discombobulated. Based on personal experience (and a poor grasp of chemistry), I think it's something like being either solid or liquid. Frankly, I find it nearly impossible to be in both states at the same time.

Apparently, the Transportation Safety Administration now recognizes that collecting your carry-ons, shoes, and other assorted atoms and grouping them into a tighter bundle takes some time. And space. So there.
TSA Recombobulation area in airport

Recombobulation Takes Time. And Space. And Good Reporting. 

So, for shedding light on the under-appreciated word combobulation, I thank CJR (and TSA).

Now, back to binary. It seems a little odd that there can be so many meanings, don't you think? Does that mean two really isn't enough?

Think about it. And if you like words and wonderful writing (reporting, too) maybe consider supporting CJR.

Speaking of words to love, remember sniglets? Since they appeared in the 1980s, they've been upgraded.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Three Fun Fiction Picks

When it comes to reading quirks, I have a few.

I like to read nonfiction during the day, and fiction at night. I like to read lighter fare during the warmer months; there's something really nice about reading deeper stories curled up on my couch under a blanket.

Oh, and I like dead characters.

Below, three fictional diversions I've enjoyed in the past few weeks. (It's been hot, so these books are on the lighter side.) What about you? What are YOU reading? And won't you share a few titles and your opinions? Contact me using the comments below or leave a message on my Facebook Page about dogs and books and stuff.

Be Frank with Me 

When a smart and dear teacher-friend mentioned how much she enjoyed this title, I immediately requested it from library. (Hi, Tracy!) The 2016 release is built on some lovable and looney characters and I loved the dialog. The story wasn't nearly as strong as the people author Julia Clairborne Johnson created, but hey, it was fun spending time with them.

The Whole Town's Talking

Another 2016 release, and similarly full-of-good-characters-but-light-on-plot book that I heartily recommend. Especially if you like dead characters. This one's by Fannie Flagg; the author who was responsible for Fried Green Tomatoes. As you'd expect, then, good characters and great conversation. Even from the grave.


My dad recommended this; how could I not read it? From Robert Harris, whom the Irish Times says "out-camps" Dan Brown, comes an intriguing (but I remind you, fictional) look inside the Vatican during a Conclave in the not-too-distant future. I saw one plot twist coming...but the other took me quite by surprise. Fictional, yes; campy? I'm not sure. I like to think the author was sending a message. I'd love to hear your interpretation!

And if you don't want to interpret, how about a full-on review? I'm ALWAYS open to guest posts! Get in touch by commenting below or leave a message on my Facebook Page about dogs and other stuff that makes me happy. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Is Too Much from a Good Author a Bad Thing?

Maybe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I loved The Secret Life of Bees; liked The Invention of Wings very much, and ... enjoyed The Mermaid Chair.  While I'd call each a good book by a solid author (Sue Monk Kidd), I'm ready for a different flavor at this point.

There's still a title or two from Barbara Kingsolver I haven't read, but I think I need a different voice, a different sort of book entirely. Maybe it's time for me to heft a real Hemingway. Or phone a friend...

Looking for Fiction Recommendations

I"m working my way through three or four nonfiction titles at the moment.  (OK; always.) What I need is the escape/relaxation read.

I tend to read nonfiction in the daytime, and fiction (to unwind) at night.

So fellow page-turners, what recommendations would you share?

Have a suggestion but don't want to reply here? Please post on my Facebook page. Thanks!