Book Review: Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday LivesBetter Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not quite as good as her first book, but well worth the read. I probably should have gotten the abridged version, because as usual I got tired of the anecdotes.

I find her types interesting – there are upholders, obligers, questioners, and rebels. Apparently most people are questioners or obligers (I think – I may be wrong about the obligers). (I’m a questioner, so for once in my life I’m not weird.) Then she classifies people in additional ways, like abstainers or moderators and so on. In fact, there seems to be some sort of classification or label in nearly every chapter!

Anyway, the information in the book is useful, and I am already using it in analyzing my own habits and improving them. Rubin’s reading voice is fairly pleasant (I listened to the Audible version), so I don’t hesitate to recommend the book.

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Review: LG Tone Infinim Headset

I purchased the LG TONE INFINIM Bluetooth Stereo Headset on Amazon to use with my iPhone 6+. I was so excited! From the reviews and description, it sounded like exactly what I wanted for listening to music while working out and still being able to take calls.

LG TONE INFINIM Bluetooth Stereo Headset

When I got it, I immediately paired it up and could hear my music with beautiful clarity. Great balance, nice highs and lows. I hate most earbuds, but these fit in my ears very well. There was just one problem – I couldn’t hear anyone on phone calls, and callers couldn’t hear me. Hmm.

Thinking it was a problem with the headset, I exchanged it. Amazon is great about that kind of thing, you know? I got the new one, paired it, tested it – and had the same problem.

So I tested this one with the boyfriend’s (Android) phone – it worked just fine. I erased my phone completely and set it up as new, and still had the same problem. I sought advice from co-workers (I mean, come on, I do work for Apple) and checked out all the suggestions. No joy. I Googled and could find nothing about problems between this headset and iPhones. In fact, there were reports of it working nicely with the 5 and 5s models.

I went to the Apple store and they swapped out my phone. Same problem. Then we got the bright idea to try the headset with the tech’s iPhone 6, and found that we couldn’t hear calls on it, either.

Finally I did what I should have done originally, and called LG. After finally getting the idea across to a man who didn’t have a firm grasp of the English language, and didn’t even ask what model iPhone I was using, or what version of iOS it was running. He just put me on hold and went away for a bit, then come back and said, “The HBS-900 is not compatible with iPhone.”

I said, “With any iPhone, or just my iPhone?”

“We have not tested with latest,” he said. “You have latest, yes?”

“Yes, the iPhone 6+ running iOS 8.4,” I replied.

“We have not tested,” he said again.

Now that seems a major oversight on LG’s part, and while the product description mentions an Android app for easy pairing, it also says there’s a manual pairing mode (which I used) for other devices. That’s nothing like saying, “This won’t work with iPhones” and it is misleading marketing. I am very unhappy that LG has overlooked such a huge market segment with this poor decision, and that I have wasted so much time on this thing as a result. I’ve had decent experiences with LG products in the past, but I’ll think twice before buying anything from them in the future.

Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital AgeHow to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a teenager when my father recommended Mr. Carnegie’s original book to me, and at 48 I finally got around to reading this version. I’m glad that I did, as it was well worth the time. I would recommend this book to absolutely anyone who deals with other humans in any capacity at all. And yes, I’ll be suggesting it to my own daughter right away.

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Review: Attack the Geek by Michael R. Underwood

Attack the Geek (Ree Reyes, #2.5)Attack the Geek by Michael R. Underwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excuse me, but SQUEE! More Ree Reyes! More Drake! More Eastwood and Grognard! Yes, more Geekomancy!

Michael Underwood is back with a delightful novella and if I have ANY complaints, it’s that this is a novella instead of a novel. That’s just because I am a greedy fangirl reader. The story itself is fully developed, and the novella is exactly the right format for it.

Attack the Geek definitely isn’t the place to start in the series, as it relies on previous knowledge of the characters and the universe, but if you’ve read the previous novels, you will NOT want to miss this installment when it is released on April 9.

Now I’m left hungry for Ree Reyes #3, though!

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Review: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and SexBonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating stuff! Vast amounts of sheer geekery about sex, science, and the intersection thereof. If you’re looking for sex tips or salacious reading, look elsewhere. If you’re looking to howl with laughter without being able to explain WHY to most people, this is your book.

Okay, one might glean the occasional sex tip, but I don’t think they’re anything that common sense couldn’t tell you. And you’ll have to wait for the very last chapter for the best bit.

I’ll be adding more of Roach’s diverse works to my to-be-read stack soon!

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Review: Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino

Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open RelationshipsOpening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to be honest. When I initially heard about Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, it was in association with someone I can’t stand, and I childishly let that association color my impression of the book. I didn’t really consider reading it. I finally got around to reading (okay, listening to) it this past week, and I’m sorry I didn’t do so sooner. It’s so good that I’m considering purchasing a print copy to have on hand in my lending library, and maybe even an ebook copy so that I might easily reference passages from time to time.

None of the information is new to me, exactly, but it is put together very well. The sections on issues to consider/issues that might arise in each style of responsible non-monogamy were especially appreciated. I was disappointed that there isn’t a section in her web site for readers, but perhaps the print copy has reproducible checklists.

The chapter on STIs was very good, although I think that a list of specific STIs for which non-monogamous people should request testing would have been helpful.

In any case, I do recommend this book. It’s replacing Love Without Limits as my go-to recommendation for new polyfolk to read.

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Review: Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo by Vanessa Woods

Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the CongoBonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo by Vanessa Woods
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I nearly put this book down after the first chapter, because I wanted to learn about Bonobos, not atrocities in the Congo. I stuck with it because it was the most interesting of the audiobooks that were already on my phone when I was making a long drive, and I got halfway through it during that drive. I was hooked by then, and needed to know what happened to these particular Bonobos and the humans around them.

Now, I still don’t feel that I needed the explicit descriptions of violence. I could have understood what was going on without that. But then, I’m particularly sensitive to such things, and I did already have a pretty good idea of what was going on in that part of the world. I suppose some readers may have needed those descriptions to “get it.”

I really loved the relationships that developed between Woods and the various Bonobos, and how her network of friends and family grew over time. I am envious of the connection she has with her husband, Brian Hare. The information shared about the experiments is truly fascinating, and the competition/cooperation theme that runs through the book is vital to understanding not just chimpanzees and Bonobos, but humans.

I was listening to the book in the car the other day, and heard the following at the end of chapter 34. It caused me to cry.
“If there are those you love, whoever or wherever you are, hold them. Find them and hold them as tightly as you can. Resist their squirming and impatience and uncomfortable laughter, and just feel their heart throbbing against yours. Give thanks that for this moment, for this one precious moment, they are here, they are with you, and they know they are utterly, completely, entirely loved.”

All in all, yes, I recommend the book. Just be warned about those descriptions, and if you choose the audiobook version, don’t listen with little ones around.

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Belated Windows 8 Review

I’ve told a few people that I don’t really see any advantage to Windows 8 over Windows 7. I have to eat my words now.

Before I put Windows 8 on my four-year-old HP laptop, I checked with HP to make sure that it was 8-compatible, and they said it was. AFTER I did the upgrade, I learned that they aren’t putting any Windows 8 drivers out for it! So some of the hardware functions don’t work properly. The hardware manufacturers say, “We only deal with HP, go to them.” Now, I was dual booting with 7 anyway, but hadn’t actually booted into 7 on the system until this week. And dang, it’s slow in comparison, even with the proper drivers. I thought that maybe dual booting was partly to blame – not likely, but maybe.

Because of issues with my employer’s software, I’ve decided to dedicate the laptop as a work-only computer, and that means it has to run Windows 7. I’m finishing up a clean install of 7, then I’ll image it, and every time the work stuff causes a problem, I can recover and move on quickly. Anyway – I was right. Before I blew away the 8 partition (recently upgraded to 8.1), I timed how long it took to boot. And I just timed the boot on the clean 7 install. Even though I had been using 8 for maybe six months, without all the proper drivers, it boots three times as quickly as 7. (Both OSs are Pro-64 bit versions.) For what it’s worth, I am booting from an SSD with both – that, of course, makes more of a difference than ANY other upgrade.

So yes, Windows 8 IS a positive difference on a system that can handle it. I haven’t found anything that I can’t do compared to Windows 7 (except access my employer’s VPN, and that’s due to their restrictions). I do find the lack of the start menu to be a nuisance, but it’s easily fixed with the addition of Classic Shell or one of the many other utilities designed to fix that problem. I am told that 8 does not play well with virtual machines, if that’s important to you.

I don’t have a touch screen and haven’t missed it. I never use the Metro interface for anything, and I’m wholly unimpressed with the native Win8 applications. I don’t like the app store. I don’t need my computer to be like a phone or tablet, but it seems that’s where things are converging.

Big Surprise – Rich Guys Say Rich People Are All-Around Better Than Poor People!

A friend, Katherine Shecora, posted a link to an article on Dave Ramsay’s site about 20 Things the Rich Do Every Day along with her own excellent commentary. I started to comment on her post, but my remarks got so long that Facebook wouldn’t let me post the comment. Then I was going to write my own Facebook post, but as I was doing it, I realize that it has been far too long since I posted anything to my own blog, and this would really be better here anyway.

Let me just say right up front that I’ve never liked Dave Ramsay. I think he’s a self-righteous asshat. I know that lots of people swear by him, but I think his methods are too simplistic and dismiss many of the barriers to success that people who are truly poor or in abusive situations have to deal with, not to mention those with chronic illnesses and other issues.

So – on with these supposed habits of the rich. I have some questions Ramsay’s claims. Where did he get these figures? What sort of methodology was used? How many people were surveyed, by whom, and what are the credentials of the people doing the study? What is considered “wealthy” and “poor” for the purposes of this study? Where is this study published? Is it peer-reviewed?

Ah – Ramsay got his information from another “guru” making a living selling advice on how to get rich, Tom Corley. I didn’t find wherever it is that Corley makes all the claims that Ramsay cites, but I found SOME of them, thanks to someone else’s blog post. It’s possible that the rest of the claims are in Corley’s book, and I’m certainly not about to buy it to find out. Corley talks about “statistical data” and says, ” I spent five years studying the daily habits of over 200 wealthy people and over 100 poor people. I tracked over 200 activities that separate the wealthy from the poor.” The study supposedly resulted in his book, Rich Habits – The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.

So no, there’s no peer-reviewed data here. And he isn’t a scientist of any sort, nor does he have any training in doing sociological research. He’s a CPA. He doesn’t give any information that I could find on his methodology or definitions. Very sloppy. There were a total of approximately 300 people involved in the study, but it doesn’t say that they were all involved for five years – just that he was doing his “research” (I use that term loosely) for five years.

So, let’s get on with these habits that supposedly set the rich apart from the poor!

  1. “70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.”
    How is “junk food” defined here? Convenience foods? Fast food? Anything other than the sort of organic, gluten-free, free range, non-GMO stuff you have to go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to buy for mucho dinero, then have the knowledge, resources, and time to prepare? (That’s assuming you can GET to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, since they aren’t in poor neighborhoods.) If you haven’t already done so, please go read Linda Tirado’s wonderful article, This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense. And let’s be honest here – by “gambling” we’re talking “buying lottery tickets” right? The only people I know who buy those regularly are at least middle class, but I don’t go around asking people about their gambling habits, to be honest. The one person I know who had an online gambling addiction would have been upper middle class. Poor people don’t usually have computers and internet access, and there aren’t that many legal ways to gamble in most of the country.
  2. “80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.”
    What constitutes a “single goal” here? Survival, as Katherine pointed out? Getting your kids raised safely? How about keeping a roof over your head, or keeping your job so you can do that? I guess the only things that count as “goals” by these guys’ standards are things like “make partner within X years” or “buy a vacation home”?
  3. “76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this.”
    The truly “wealthy” don’t have to work, so of course they have time to do aerobic exercise four times a week! They can afford personal trainers, too, not to mention gym memberships. Far more of the “poor” have physically demanding jobs, have to spend extra time getting to and from work because they don’t own their own vehicles, work more than one job, can’t afford ANY extra childcare in order to spend time at a gym IF they could afford a gym membership, and certainly can’t afford personal trainers!
  4. “63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people.”
    Audible is great! But how many of the poor can afford audiobooks? Borrow them from the library, you say. Well, more and more library branches are being closed everywhere – it isn’t as if libraries were the highest priority in most county budgets in the first place. Branches in poor areas are often closed first. Even when they aren’t closed outright, their acquisition budgets are sliced to ribbons. But let’s say our poor people are able to get access to a library that has audiobooks available. Okay, SOME of them have smartphones on which they could listen to audiobooks, if the books are the right kind – I don’t know about your library, but mine has a lot more of the older books on CD than Overdrive audiobooks that you can download to a smartphone. If you don’t have your own car, you can’t listen to those so easily. If you don’t have your own computer and technical know-how, you can’t rip them for listening on your phone (of course, doing that is of questionable legality anyway). That’s assuming you have a smartphone or other mobile device on which you can listen during a commute. Some people don’t have them, particularly poor people.
  5. “81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.”
    I call bullshit on this one. Seriously? I’m just not believing it. To-do lists, grocery lists, chore lists, you name it – I know plenty of people who certainly aren’t WEALTHY who make lists ALL the time. Does it only count if they’re on dead trees or something?
  6. “63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% of poor.”
    See above regarding libraries. Also – HA! I want to see proof that these rich kids actually READ two non-fiction books a month. Is this stuff actually required by their private schools? I am a BIG fan of reading, and the encouraging thereof, but I don’t think anybody can effectively “make” kids read anything and have it do any good.
  7. “70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% of poor.”
    I’m calling bullshit again. Was there any proof of this supposed volunteer work? Was it time spent at church, or some sort of actual service to the community? I can tell you how I was spending my hours – being forced to go to church every time the doors opened. Taking care of siblings. Housework. Going to my own jobs (multiple). How many of the rich kids have to work, or take care of younger siblings, or clean house?
  8. “80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls vs. 11% of poor.”
    Birthday calls, really? Did they count other forms of contact, or only phone calls – are those somehow magical? Did anybody consider that some of the poor DON’T HAVE PHONES??? Or that they might need to use asynchronous communication due to the difficult of making contact due to their work schedules?
  9. “67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% of poor.”
    How can the wealthy write down their goals, multiple, when item two says that 80% of them are working towards a SINGLE goal? Does writing a goal down invoke some kind of magic?
  10. “88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% of poor.”
    It’s a lot easier to find time to read if you have leisure time in which to do it, and access to relevant/interesting reading material! So we have the library/money issue again, in addition to the time issue. How many of those “wealthy” people are just spending time online, anyway – are they actually reading in a directed manner, or just surfing, like most people do? (Most of the poor don’t HAVE internet access.)
  11. “6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor.”
    This is one of the things that make me say “HA!” I just don’t believe it was a question on a survey. The wealthiest people I’ve known were VERY outspoken! The poorest were far more afraid to speak up! I think this item is supposed to imply that poor people are poor because they don’t know when to shut up, or when it’s appropriate to be outspoken, or how to use tact.
  12. “79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% of poor.”
    Again, the wealthy have far more time to devote to such things than the poor do – and they are generally in professions that benefit far more from doing so. If you’re doing menial work, networking doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. You don’t improve your work at the fast food joint by networking with other burger flippers or cashiers.
  13. “67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.”
    I bet they spend every bit as much or more screen time, though. The poor are just less likely to have computers and internet access.
  14. “6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of poor.”
    The wealthy have access to a greater variety of entertainment, so they aren’t stuck with the crap that’s broadcast. What percentage of what’s on broadcast television any more IS reality TV, anyway? The few times that I’m exposed to it, it all seems like reality shows. How much time are the wealthy spending using smartphones, tablets, computers, and other devices? How much time do they spend watching other things on television?
  15. “44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of poor.”
    How many jobs are the poor working? How many hours of sleep are they actually getting? Again, I refer to Linda Tirado’s article, in which she said, “Rest is a luxury for the rich.”
  16. “74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% of poor.”
    What kind of “good daily success habits” are we talking about here? How to make it to payday/the end of the month when there isn’t enough to eat? How to fix all the things that don’t work in the crappy place you can afford to live in, because the landlord sure as hell won’t do it? How to reduce your chances of being a victim of crime in the shitty neighborhood you have to live in? How to read transit maps and figure out how to get to school/work/the store/the clinic? How to take care of family members ranging in age from infancy to old age? How to do the budget dance to try to keep all the utilities turned on?
  17. “84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% of poor.”
    That isn’t even a sentence. I don’t know what they’re trying to say. They think their good habits created their opportunities/”luck” ? I think that in most cases, they inherited capital, or at least got a solid start and good education, that gave them those opportunities and “luck.” Yes, good habits can help – but nobody does it alone.
  18. “76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% of poor.”
    See above.
  19. “86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement vs. 5% of poor.”
    How many of the poor had a decent education to start with? How many of them were given any reason to think that education had ANY value? How many of them have had any real opportunity to get a good education? How many educational opportunities are available to the poor? They certainly have far less time than the wealthy do to spend in self-improvement, and a hell of a lot less money to spend on it.
  20. “86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.”
    I wonder how many of those poor are truly literate? I wonder what we would see if we compared the schools in which they were educated to the schools in which the wealthy were educated? I know, personally, that you CAN get a decent education in a shitty school – but you have to work at it harder, and you need SOME sort of support, somewhere. You also need some kind of encouragement to develop a love of reading. You need access to reading material at some point. You do realize, don’t you, that some schools don’t have libraries – things that many people take for granted in their schools? (I attended one of them.) How are the kids in those schools supposed to develop a love of reading with NOTHING TO READ? I’m also wondering how many of these people report that they “love to read” but haven’t actually picked up a book for leisure reading in years, or couldn’t discuss a book to save their lives (I find that’s often the case with people who claim that they “love to read”).

Overall, NO. Just no. The entire thing reeks of self-righteous bullshit, and a poorly-designed set of questions that doesn’t prove anything other than that the person who came up with this stuff doesn’t understand a bloody thing about science or statistics. But it certainly gives the people who want to do so lots of excuses to sprain a muscle while patting themselves on the back.