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Bookworm Q&A

I would like to thank my parents for my very early immersion in the wonder of books, which has helped to shape my interests and skills as an adult.  

The following self-interview is adapted from Short Stories and Sustenance, whose work I’d found as the featured blogger on 20sb, which was repeatedly mentioned in early commentary on my go-to source of hilarity and insight, Hyperbole and a Half.

What am I reading right now?

I just finished re-reading Swim, the short story appended to the trade paperback edition of The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner.  I think I’ve read everything that she’s published so far because her writing is smart, funny, relevant and immersive in the way that the books of my childhood had been.

Do I have any idea what I’ll read when I’m done with that?

I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the first book by Hyperbole and a Half blogger Allie Brosh but will need to find something else to fill in my time for the next six weeks.

What five books have I always wanted to read but haven’t gotten round to?

I don’t really keep a list like that.  I have a few non-fiction things waiting on my Kindle but I have to be in the right mood to explore them.

What magazines do I have in my bathroom/lounge right now?

Last year’s Ikea catalogue and the movie magazine from last month’s visit to the cinema.

What’s the worst book I’ve ever read?

Many of the titles that I was forced to read in high-school English. 

What book seemed really popular but I didn’t like it?

Lord of the Flies was considered popular and was generally well-written but it had one of the worst endings that I can vaguely recall.  I was so mad at the characters just rolling out to the beach and being ‘saved’ by the adults.  I wanted the kids to work things out for themselves.  I think I threw the book across the room at that point.

What books do I frequently recommend?

For its incredibly unique voice: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon).

For time-management skills that seem so desperately needed for victims of always-on culture: Eat that frog! (Brian Tracy) and The Myth of Multi-tasking: How “Doing it All” Gets Nothing Done (Dave Creshaw). 

For newbies to social media and learning Social media for trainers: techniques for enhancing and extending learning (Jane Bozarth)

For introverts and those who love us: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)

For ideas to counter complexity: Insanely Simple (Ken Segall)

What are my three favourite poems?

I was never that crazy about others’ poetry (again with the high-school impositions) even though I dabbled in writing some myself during my teenage angst. 

Where do I usually get my books?

Amazon (digital) or Chapters (print).

When I was little, did I have any particular reading habits?

Yes, I recall having a huge appetite for reading ‘anywhere’.  This included reading the back of cereral boxes or any other printed item at the breakfast table and wandering down the hall into the bathroom without missing a word of whatever book had me engrossed.

What’s the last thing I stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?

I get tired way too easily to do that but I often stay up an extra 15-20 minutes to finish a good chapter.

Have I ever “faked” reading a book?

As much as I was a ‘good student’ In high school, I definitely faked reading a few books, or at least faked finishing the whole thing.  I hated being forced to read what someone else expected me to read just to pass some quiz or exam.  As an adult, I’ve learned to put a book down and not finish it if I don’t want to (thanks, Gretchen Rubin!)

Have I ever bought a book just because I liked the cover?

Not that I can recall.

What was my favourite book when I was a child?

Ah, so many, often about some kind of adventure:

In my very early days, I loved Golden Books including The Pokey Little Puppy, Tootle the Train and Scuffy the TugBoat.  A little later, I enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, The Tootpaste Genie by Sandy Frances Duncan, various editions of Mrs. Piggly-Wiggle and Mrs. PepperPot, and Pippy Longstocking.  I was also a big fan of Judy Blume (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing), Gordon Kormon’s early work and Beverly Cleary (Ramona and Beezus, The Mouse and the Motorcycle).

What book changed my life?

Whatever was the first book I was able to read, at age two, according to my father.

What is my favourite passage from a book?

The one that helped me to find my beloved: “That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”
– Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Who are my favourite authors?

Fiction: Jennifer Weiner, Stuart McLean and all of the children’s authors above

Non-fiction: Brené Brown, Susan Cain, Gretchen Rubin, Ted Kerasote

For what book am I an “evangelist”?

I think everyone needs to read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain).

What are my favourite classic books?

Winnie the Pooh, Anne of Green Gables and The Little House on the Prairie series.

Five other notable mentions?

I couldn’t think of any others – feel free to note your own! :)

The introvert’s fatigue and the question I despise

Ah, the question that tires me most: “what’s new?”

ARGH.

That question is an immediate red flag, warning me of an extrovert who wants to make small talk and hasn’t remembered enough of my details to ask me a better question.  The person seems to forget how literally I take things.  I panic for a few seconds as my mental gears grind through which items to report as ‘new’ since the last time I saw my enquirer.  After all, I like to be precise and accurate, linear and focused.  I’m also a horrible story-teller in person so that doesn’t help things.

Therefore, the balance of this post isn’t just ‘what’s new’.  Ask me what I’ve read today, what I found compelling, relevant, relatable and interesting. 

The answer contains three good reads on self-identifying as introverts, what makes us tired, and what makes us feel good when we are understood by those who love us, work with us and spend time with us. 

Introvert is me

Six things you thought wrong about introverts

Caring for your introvert

Enjoy and please share your reflections, if you wish. :)

How I work

Saw this post from Clark Quinn, based on a Lifehacker series, and felt compelled to join in.

One word that best describes how you work: focused!

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

  1. Electronic calendar reminders
  2. Desktop sharing software
  3. Google
  4. Email
  5. SharePoint for work
  6. Skype and iPhoto for life
  7. Zebra Sarasa gel pens, post-it notes and paper

What’s your favourite to-do-list manager?

At work, I rely 100% on Outlook reminders.  I put everything in the Calendar so that I can make time for it and I don’t use Tasks at all.  At home, I rely on my electronic calendar to remember upcoming events and I use pen and paper: one for groceries, one for all the other running around.

What’s your workspace like?

At work: fairly tidy, 99% electronic.  At home: about 50% electronic/50% paper and the paper side will often become cluttered if I don’t stay on top of it.  I hate all those little bits of paper that need to be filed or shredded.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

  1. Schedule time in my Outlook Calendar for preparation before and after meetings.
  2. Stay on top of email, always, always, always.
  3. If you can do it in less than a minute, do it now.
  4. If it’s not worth $0.50/minute to do something, ask yourself if it’s really worth doing (e.g., returning a very inexpensive item to a store will take more time, gas and effort than simply giving the item to someone else or throwing it out).  I thank a family member for this wisdom.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

My digital camera.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Synthesizing notes during live virtual meetings.  I can type almost as fast as I think so letting others see my notes through desktop sharing helps us all to stay focused on the discussion.  My virtual meetings show no mercy for people being distracted by email, crackberries, etc.

What do you listen to while you work?

Other people nannering on the phone, which makes me wish I could work full time from home.   Like Clark, I can’t listen to music while working because it’s too distracting for me.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Way more introverted than extraverted.

What’s your sleep routine like?

A bit of reading and then lights out around 10:45.  Up around 6:30, much to my dislike.  I’m very jealous of Phil Libin’s abilities in this domain.

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see _______ answer these same questions.

My co-workers.  I’d much rather talk about how we work than what we work on.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

  1. The most powerful word in the English language: choose. (From the film “Dangerous Minds”)
  2. Own the advice, not the decision.
  3. Treat job applications like a sport and apply for ones you don’t care about just so that you can get used to the process.

Games worth paying for

I’m an amateur gamer from way back in the days of Atari, pong and Duck Hunter.  I’m not the biggest app fanatic, though.  I think I’ve bought two dozen at most over the past two years?  Among them are a handful of games (some socially connected) that offer a combination of gorgeous, high-def graphics, simple and compelling challenges that keep me up past my bedtime, a sweet spot between struggle and success and user interfaces so straight forward that instructions aren’t necessary.

Here are my favourite finds, for Fridays or for any idle time in the week (as of July 26, 2013):

  1. Candy Crush Saga – like Bejeweled but more strategic than time-pressured.  Gorgeous colours, simple premise, fun for the whole family (free).  Good thing my socially-networked friends are able to supply me with more lives!
  2. Scrabble HD – the paid version, played with a handful of friends.
  3. Bejeweled – particularly the Blitz, Lightning and Diamond Mine flavours.  On Blitz, the best value for coins is 2x multiplier gem and the Phoenix.
  4. Vacation Quest – The Hawaiian Islands  – did anyone else grew up loving the Hidden Pictures in Highlights magazines?  All that and more in glossy colour.

These two are great games and were favourites in the winter but I grew more enchanted with the other four above over time:

  1. Song Pop – ridiculous how many songs of the 80s and 90s come back to me in two seconds or less.  Somehow, I won a challenge on Professional Wrestling themes one night ?!
  2. Draw Something – I have a streak of over 200 correctly-guessed drawings going with someone in another country whom I’ve never met in person.

What are your favourite games and why?

Side note: this post was originally written in week 16 of my Friday’s Favourite Finds practice and I was finding that the weekly commitment was becoming more of a chore than a joy.  From now on, I’m just going to issue an F3 when it makes sense to do so.

Something tells me that Gretchen Rubin would get this. :)

My change of practice is directly proprotional to how little time I’ve been spending with external resources over the past few months.  My work has become very internally focused, and for good reasons, but that doesn’t give me much to share externally.  

That being said, I am now taking part in a workshop on social learning in business throughout March 2013 that is bringing me more insights and inspiration than I’ve had in the last little while.  Hope to ‘see’ you there!

“Work for change or change your work” – Stephen Clarke


Blue morpho on green

F3.15 Friday’s Favourite Finds

Investing more time in reviewing the knowledge of my network has paid off this week! 

1. Every working day, I am reminded of the exhausting battle to simplify processes rather than give into the habits of complication and non-cooperation.  Even a process that seeks to simplify copyright can get a bit confusing.  Check out this great infographic on how to attribute Creative Commons photos if you’re still struggling with when-to-use-what.

2. Over the past year or so, I have enjoyed watching Harold Jarche continue to refine and redevelop his perspective on collaboration and cooperation.

3. Building on last week’s theme, I was pleased to find this piece from Harold about starting to work out loud, in which he gives very concrete and non-threatening ways to start participating in networked learning and narration.  I also appreciate Ross Dawson’s comments on why microblogging is so easily adopted:

“Most employees initially view social software as additional effort on top of heavy workloads, so have no interest in activities such as blogging that they think will be time-consuming. Contributing to a microblog takes minimal time so is an easy starting point, yet people can quickly see the benefits.”

4. I appreciate the effort part because I believe that’s the #1 hurdle that underlies resistance to networked knowledge practices in my organization.  What I don’t get, personally, is the benefits part.  I was going to start ranting about how disruptive I find MS Lync to be and then I thought, “wait a minute, that’s instant messaging.  What’s the difference between instant messaging and microblogging?”  Thankfully, the first hit to that question on Google led me to this nifty little chart.

Okay, so instant messaging is fairly private, two-way and not trackable or searchable.  If I had Yammer or a similar internal microblogging mechanism in my workplace, that might be helpful…but then I would have to build a following again, which may duplicate or be independent from my contact lists on email, LinkedIn, Twitter, SharePoint and my blog.  This is getting lame.  How many bloody accounts do I need to setup, password protect and monitor in a day?  Remember how much effort I’m putting into not getting overwhelmed by this stuff?

5. Working out loud on communication is harder than you might think.  Thanks to Julian Stodd for this piece.

6. I spent more time on Twitter last week than I have in a long time and was grateful to find Jarche rocking the foundations yet again:

“My perspective on budgets is that there should not be one for L&D to control. It creates false distinctions between learning and work. The 70:20:10 guideline is for the organization and those who control resources. If we have an L&D department we automatically think that we have to have L&D problems to solve. Training is too often a solution looking for a problem.”

Oh my, yes.  

“Work for change or change your work” – Stephen Clarke Blue morpho on green

F3.14 Friday’s Favourite Finds

Last week, a colleague and I recorded an informal webconference in which I demonstrated the actions that I take to keep my inbox clean on a daily basis.  It was quite enlightening for me to articulate those practices and to have my colleague point out other aspects of my behaviour that I had taken for granted, such as keeping nearly 20 tiny icons visible on my dashboard at all times for quick access. 

This week, I stumbled across a similar narration by Dan Pontefract, in which he described his process for culling one third of his Facebook contacts.  His post reminded me that it’s not enough to articulate the knowing-what (“I want to get my contacts down to a manageable number”) or to describe the knowing-how mechanics (“click here, click there”).  In my opinion, the value of Dan’s post comes from his ability to articulate the knowing-why and knowing-why-not, which are two of the many ways of knowing that Jay Cross has spoken of in the past.  I’m glad Dan made time to make his processes concrete for us. 

Dan also gave a nice summary of how he uses Twitter to express what he’s ‘professionally passionate about’.  I use Twitter in a similar professional manner, not a personal one. I strongly prefer face-to-face, telephone, email or FB interaction for that.

My last favourite find this week was the stunning long-exposure photography of Lincoln Harrison, who integrates technical expertise with considerable patience.  What a lovely outcome!  Hat tip to Guy Kawasaki for highlighting this.

 What has inspired you this week?

“Work for change or change your work” – Stephen Clarke Blue morpho on green

F3.13 Friday’s Favourite Finds

Better late than never!  My favourite find last week was a documentary called Craigslist Joe, the story of a young man who travelled across the United States for 31 days using only Craigslist to find food, shelter, transportation and companionship.  He did not take any credit cards, cash or known cell phone contacts with him.  His journey portrays the first-hand value of building trust and community through networked life.  An upbeat and enjoyable 90 minutes well spent.

Have a great week!

 “Work for change or change your work” – Stephen Clarke