Momotaro:Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway

I started reading this book because I saw its relation to the Japanese Momotaro story, which I have used myself. I enjoyed this middle grade fantasy adventure about Xander grade six student in California who discovers he has special powers his Japanese father had not told him about before being captured by demons. It incorporates many different Japanese mythological elements, including _tsukumogami_, objects that turn into monsters, which I only heard about this summer in a talk by Japanese folklore guy Zack Davisson at the Powell Street Festival. I still find it surprising to see stories that involve Nikkei characters.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

My brother had a picture of Steve Martin in his trademark white three-piece suit with a fish sticking out of his vest. This memoir shares fascinating insights into comedy as an art form. Apparently, he wore the suit to be more visible on huge stages. The former wild and crazy guy reflects on how he melded his interests in banjo playing, magic, and comedy to consciously push the originality of his act. He intentionally made himself look absurd to be less offensive. His overwhelming success led to his disillusionment and abrupt departure. I'll try to keep that in mind.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I enjoyed this story about a young designer after she notices a large robotic-looking statue on a street in New York. Contemporary in its depiction of social media, in particular YouTube and Twitter, it illustrates the benefits and drawbacks of fame, and the beauty of social problem solving. The mysteries that drove the plot reminded me of digital puzzle games I like to play. It is an thoughtful exploration of contrasting world views, of how to behave when faced with the unknown, — whether it is a powerful alien intelligence or I suppose life in general — with love or fear?

#ThreeBillboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The movie begins with three derelict billboards on a rural road fallen into disuse because of a freeway. A woman named Mildred played by Frances McDormand has a plan for them. I'm glad I knew nothing about it before watching because I enjoyed how the characters transformed and how played with my expectations. It explores the aftermath of a horrible event and other horrible events and how people in an imaginary small southern town respond. Seems to reflect the frustration and rage of so many people these days. Yet some hope for humanity lingers. Or maybe that is just my hope.

Zettelkasten (Note taking approach)

I have been working on this idea of collecting notes on things after reading about a German sociologist Luhmann who kept slips of paper in boxes (zettelkasten) with an elaborate coding system that allowed him to figure out where the different cards were. So he would have reference material information and cards that were indexes of ideas and so on apparently. Some people are trying to resurrect this method with digital approaches. In some cases they have created new apps. I could have used the version of Notational Velocity which I’ve had for a long time and wondered how I might use. Of the others, I might try these, but if this approach works, it will need to be something that lasts, and so I wanted something that has some proven reliability and effectiveness. At the moment I am using Tinderbox because I already had it. So other apps would work also. It kind of bugs me to pay as much as I do for it every year, but in a way this makes me look for more ways to use it. It is easy to create notes and move them around and include attributes. I might have used Devonthink, but I use that for archiving whole documents and emails and I kind of have to store it in one location it seems. So I am making an effort to take notes on interesting things I read and watch and hear and put them in this. I am concerned about it slowing down as it gets larger but having notes has been kind of fun. The thing that got me hooked was the idea that it makes writing easier if you already have notes to work with. This perhaps applies more to academic or nonfiction writing, but it is kind of stimulating. Given that anything could really be a seed for a cartoon or a story, I think it makes sense to build it. I had been bothered by all the the ideas I consume but do not really make use of. When I had been writing blog posts for Science World, I was saving documents in separate files of Tinderbox or Scrivener or Evernote or Devonthink. I saw this point about the illusion of gathering information when you are just copying it. So you have to make it in your own notes. So that is what I am attempting to do and keeping the notes all together so that they might be reused in the future for other things. So let’s see how it goes. I have not been directly linking the notes together, but relying on tags so they they could be searched later if I needed. In the original conception the sequential linking was apparently a useful thing, but I don’t know about that. Tinderbox also has this ability to lay notes out in a map to rearrange them. I might do that for subsets I am working on. But the general input is in a outline list form. It is a all text based this approach, but to loosen things up a little, I have been adding icons. Maybe I should be using emojis if I end up changing formats later. Maybe not critical. It is kind of weirdly fun to build this collection of ideas.

Mathematics of Weight Loss

in his Tedx talk, Ruben Meerman said he was overweight and so he simply ate less and exercised more, and voila, he lost weight. He noticed that most people do not know where the weight goes when you lose it. He said it was all about converting existing body fat to carbon dioxide and water and some heat energy. He uses some marginally relevant demonstrations with dry ice and liquid nitrogen to illustrate this. So you breathe away weight. I don’t know how this is supposed to help me lose weight, but it was interesting to think about scientifically.

My doctor told me I need to lose weight or else I’m going to have to start taking various medications. But I am not interested in fad diets or spending time weighing out portions. Even though Brian Wansink got in trouble because he didn’t know how to do statistics or something, some of the ideas behind Mindless Eating made sense to me. So I have been limiting myself to one bowl per meal. So far it seems to be helping, but we’ll see.

Vancouver Election

My mother told me that Japanese Canadians didn’t always have the right to vote, so I should never take that for granted.

This year, the Vancouver Election seemed especially complicated with so many independents and new parties.

So I actually read through the blurbs of each candidate. Now I wasn’t that meticulous or thorough but I was looking for impressions.

On my first pass, I eliminated people who supported things I was not so keen on.

Then of those, I jotted down points they made that I agreed with and I sorted them by the number of points I agreed with.

If they were tied, I would review the points and decide which ones I preferred.

So I had a list of people I was at comfortable voting for.

It turned out they were from a variety of parties.

I thank all the candidates for participating.

Congratulations to whomever gets in. I don’t know what they should do, so I hope they can figure that out.

When life gives you grapes

A friend gave me grapes she said were for wine making.

Some were purple and some were green.

They were small and had seeds.

So they weren’t good for eating.

So I decided to squeeze them out with a garlic press.

I had the juice with soda water and it was pleasant.

But a lot of work.

Paper Towns by John Green

An amusing and moving, coming-of-age, romantic mystery adventure. It follows the narrator's pursuit of the mysterious dream girl next door, who is beautiful (of course), socially connected, highly intelligent, and perhaps most distinctively, brave. Maybe I am too old to read about nerdy teens finding themselves and each other, but I really enjoyed this. Isn't the point of reading to crawl inside the heads of others? Or maybe it is just arrested development to imagine an alternative high school life. Maybe I miss the excitement, though not the anxiety, of facing the world when it felt brand new.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

This book was a fascinating look at life during World War II. In the audiobook, three different voice actors read the sections associated with the three main characters. The primary story follows a young woman struggling against the world in so many ways. She has a hard life but remains persistent. I enjoyed the unpredictability of this novel. Diving before SCUBA equipment with the heavy gear and hoses. The double lives of a gangster. Surviving at sea on a raft. Also I’d just heard a Malcolm Gladwell podcast on “pulling the goalie” as survival tactic which seemed to apply here.

Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

I listened to this story as an audiobook from the library, so I don’t know how the names are spelled. The protagonist is a masterful game player in the Culture, but he’s getting a little bored with life. He ends up in another world built around a complex game. They unpleasant hierarchical society resembles our own. The importance of a game to a civilization reminded me a little of Magister Ludi. Banks referred to and yet remained vague about the details of this game. It contrasts with Reality is Broken, in which McGonigal advocates for making life itself a game.