A Good Start on the Reading Year: Antifragile, You Are Not A Gadget, & More

good light comfy chair-2The tiny Boston Bull Terrier doorstop is a reminder of my late mother-in-law, Lois. She looked more  — much more — like a young Susan Sarandon than a terrier, but she loved her little Boston Bulls, the whole series of them. I believe there was Happy I, Happy II, and Happy III. By the time she and I met, in 1982, it was the era of Happy III, and he was old, fat, and deformed with skin growths. I can’t explain why, but I always pictured Happy III smoking a big cigar, á la Sir Winston Churchill.

The spraddle-legged sheep in the chair is a totem that keeps the soul of my late stepson, Darryl, ever-present in my memory. At the tender age of 45, Darryl died on a beautiful October day in 2005 from a massive heart attack. He was sitting in a chair, on a concrete patio, all by himself. He ate lunch, smoked a cigarette, and fell forward onto the concrete, finished. Buck and I had seen him that morning. He and I shared a pot of coffee. My last words to Darryl were: “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.” To this day, I don’t know what prompted me to say that.

Anyway. Darryl, the tow-headed, wayfaring boy, used to laugh in that self-deprecating way of his, and tell me that he was the black sheep of the family. My standard riposte was, “Oh, no, you’re not the black sheep — maybe a little gray — but not black.” And so, when I saw this stuffed, gray sheep, he became “The Gray Sheep,” and a totem for our desperado too soon gone.

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I moved furniture around in my study yesterday so that I would have a cozy spot near the fireplace with a good reading light.

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There’s even a chair for a guest to pull up and warm their feet, too. (See my old red slippers?)

If you look at my Goodreads “currently reading” shelf on the sidebar, you’ll discern what I’m thinking about here at the start of 2013 rather quickly. There’s You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier,  The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas G. Carr, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, by Sherry Turkle, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile: How to Live in a World We Don’t Understand,  (the “Black Swan theory” guy).

Pull up and chair and let’s talk.

4 thoughts on “A Good Start on the Reading Year: Antifragile, You Are Not A Gadget, & More

  1. I get skittish when I read about the “horrors” of the internet and technology. As a person who is a part of the online “disabled” community (parents of disabled children, the disabled themselves), I can confidently state that never have people been more connected — at least in our world — than now. When I think back on the sad early years of being the new mother to a child with a devastating disorder — how alone and isolated I felt and was — I wonder how I might be different today had I more people that “knew,” more “knowledge” and community. Then again, I’m not certain those who are new to the experience are any less frightened or alone despite the ability to connect.

    One thing I do know, though, is that adults with disabilities have lives transformed by technology, and that is almost NEVER discussed in all these articles and books about the nefarious internet.

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    1. Agreed. I’m certainly not interested in turning back the clock on technology. Good grief. I discovered the marvel of connectivity via blogging in 2003 and have never looked back. Were it not for an on-line community of folks who have been touched by bladder cancer, I would never have known how to help my younger brother get medical help when he was diagnosed. (He’s doing well now, by the way.) The folks at BCAN (Bladder Cancer Awareness Network) held my hand through many desperate nights and days. Were it not for the internet, my own writing life would be much more narrow or more likely have simply withered away and died. I could go on and on.

      You say, “One thing I do know, though, is that adults with disabilities have lives transformed by technology, and that is almost NEVER discussed in all these articles and books about the nefarious internet.” This is one of the books for YOU to write. No one has more experience, more passion, more love, or more ability to do it.

      I’ll get back to you after I’ve finished Shallows, Gadget, and Alone, with my thoughts on the authors’ concerns and perspectives. I don’t believe any of them propone dismantling or avoiding the internet, but I could be wrong — got to read the books before I know. Taleb’s Antifragile, is something different altogether. It’s about volatility in markets, and public and private life — fascinating read so far. He’s an interesting character, and the person who wrote Black Swan is worth listening to.

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  2. A rather timely subject. Whether due to a fever that won’t go away or the several medications I’m mixing trying to chase this flu away, last night was filled with nightmares. These were mostly the “waking” kind as I don’t think I really slept any. As I lay in the bed, a computer display was omnipresent in the room (we have no monitor in that room) and seemed so real at times that I reached out to touch it, only to grasp air. The items being displayed were pretty generic, non-descript stuff you normally encounter when wandering the world wide web. Mostly commercials and heavy handed use of personal information to assure you your life can’t go on without such-and-such. As the night wore on, the display became more pervasive and I swore I was actually making entries on a hidden keyboard (mostly trying to delete the dancing colors in front of my tired eyes). I finally gave up shortly after sunrise and heated some apple cider which I sipped while watching an old British ghost story.

    I totally agree with Elizabeth about what a wonderful tool the internet can be! I just wish it would let me sleep!

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  3. Rabid heathen though I am, totems have inestimable value.

    And whatever social dislocation the internet has purportedly brought about, it’s drawn many of us together and enabled us to share accounts of what we’re doing in our real, day-to-day, in-the-flesh lives. Good thing!

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