My Review of The Book Thief

I’ve decided to start reviewing books here–at least for as long as it’s spring/summer and I have enough time to read whatever I darn well please. If you find yourself wondering what to read next, give Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief a spin. 

I bought my copy of The Book Thief at my favorite bookstore in the country–Village Books(Fairhaven, WA–an unfortunate location for me; I’m lucky if I make it there more than once in a year).

At once poetic and straightforward, hilarious and tragic, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief  (despite the desperate circumstances of its setting) is bound to bring about a strange and unexpected nostalgia for childhood; for those innocent years when you believed nothing truly horrible could ever happen to you, or your friends, or loved ones. This nostalgia does not lose its value even as the innocence of the book’s young characters begins to slowly unpeel.

The Book Thief tells the story of  Liesel Meminger who, at the story’s outset, is illiterate. Nevertheless, an inexplicable compulsion leads Liesel to steal a book left lying in the snow beside her younger brother’s fresh grave. As it happens, the book is entitled The Gravedigger’s Handbook, and from it, Liesel will learn to read.

Mastermind group: choose your own personal government

When I was a kid I had no imaginary friends; I have an imagi-Nation. The Sovereign Duchy of Borgonnia. You see I was born in Tenerife but lived in Gran Canaria. So what, you say? So there is an unhealthy rivalry between the two islands. Living in Gran Canaria I was always the chicharrero (”fish eater”) and when I went to my grandparents’ island on Tenerife I was the gofión (”gofio eater”) or even the traitor.

So I developed a strong distrust for anything that sounds like nationalism of any kind. And, I grew up without roots, nation wise. Now you know why I had an imaginary nation. You can guess its drawbacks. Let me share its benefit.

Thursday Haiku: Shadows by millions

I gave up my star

For sand, dust, pebbles, rocks, corn

Shadows by millions

You know one of the things kaizen is good for is increasing the quantity of your production. In my case I was quite concerned about two things: how much time I should run and how many posts I should publish.

Somehow, I was envisioning slowly raising both counts. Which is good. Problem is, where’s the limit? Kaizen is about continuous improvement, right? Yet does that mean a continuous increase in production? The question seemed a challenge to kaizen, indeed to any productivity method or system until I realized a simple truth:

It’s productivity, stupid, not production.

10 free subscriptions for Philosophers – Notes

Do you remember the first time you ate yogurt? I certainly do, because they came with a free toy. Yogurt and packed cereals were a novelty in Canary Islands back then. Something unknown they needed to present to reluctant parents and children alike.

Somehow it worked, because to this day I eat yogurt; toy or not toy. (As for cereal I quickly returned to the traditional gofio).

But the guys at Philosophers’ Notes are braver: they are giving a load of free yogurt, I mean, subscriptions.

So what are these PhilosophersNotes all about?

The great todoodlist experiment

Have you noticed I’m a todoodlist affiliate? Seen that withe and blue square box to the right? Some weeks ago I bought the ebook. My first impression? Well isn’t this nice?

Todoodlist = To-do list + Mindmap

That’s the todoodlist in a nutshell, and what captivated me in the first place. I knew mindmapping since my seminary years. Then I used the technique to help me understand Philosophy, Theology and prepare essays. Later as a high school teacher I used it to prepare classes, and even for presentations. At both tasks the mindmaps were successful.

So I liked it enough to choose it to be one of the firsts products I’d promote in my newbie blog.

Duh (but useful) Distraction Killer

Foto courtesy Naarna CC-by-sa

Foto courtesy Naarna CC-by-sa

You are probably aware of the keep it simple crowd that roams the internet. People like me who reasonably consider that many of the applications we use are far too complicated for our needs.

And yes, too much complication slows you; it’s distracting.

Most word processors, for example, how features that go unused even for the corporate user. And that is even truer for the home user. What should we do?

The blog, the novel and the blook

I made a critical mistake when I started writing Call it Freedom. And that was to publish it as a blog. Yet I’m everything but sad or angry; CiF has proved to be an invaluable experience in writing, publishing and the digital world. Now I can tell you what a blook should be about.

I know, you can write a novel and publish it online. Perfect, great, nothing wrong about it. I read many fiction ebooks both on my computer screen and on my PDA. Publishing a traditional novel on the web is absolutely great as long as you do it for the right reason. And that is any reason but you believe your work is not good enough to be published. If that’s the case look for real friends who can review it and help you. (Real friends = they tell you the truth).

My two big mistakes:

3 ways to never give up at school, 2.0

Do you know what’s great about school?

That you can’t quit.

And why is that any good?

Because it means you have one simple choice: either believe in yourself or be miserable for the rest of your school years.

Now, I’m saying this because every student feels stupid one day or another. And worse, some feel stupid all the time. So what they do is to sit as stones boring after boring day, just waiting for the day they will quit. Some times they do that in maths, hoping to catch up later, and then later and then… until they fail. (And then it’s English, French…)

Their common and fatal failure was not to believe in themselves. Everybody fails -at times-. That does not make you a failure. That is how you learn: you fail, you try again and then you succeed. Ever seen a baby learning to walk? They start by falling over and over again; they actually spend more time trying to stand up than walking.

Do you believe in Science?

We do, most of us anyway, yet not with the strength of our fathers. They saw the marvels of science transformed into technology: railroads, steamships, antibiotics, the airship, the plane, radio, television and last but not least, the Internet.

Yet at the same time, children are no longer safe roaming the streets, we are aware of every crime, villages that once had a vibrant cultural life are now transformed into TV watching drones and then plugged into the Internet. And let’s us not forget the atomic bomb, or even the conventional bombing that hit Guernika, Amsterdam, London and destroyed Hamburg and Dresden. Last but not least, an increasingly endangered nature.

Science is not really about that. Science is knowledge. But, the fact is, most of us judge science not by its capacity to predict anything, nor by being structured or follow any method, but by the cool things it brings to us.

Thursday Haiku: I will wake up before God

Sad desert night blooms
I will wake up before God
For He is faithful

A couple of years ago, full of hopes and anxieties, as most newbies, I entered a Catholic Diocesan Seminary. For those who might not know what I’m speaking about, that’s where you live and study for six or more years until you are ordained, first a deacon then a full priest. What I am going to share is a personal, neutral, non partisan view on how is life in a Catholic Seminary, and, also, why I am not going to be one.

A disclaimer: your mileage will vary

There is nothing like a standard Catholic Seminary. Anything that I am going to share can differ from your experience.