Why do teachers cheat? Why do real estate agents not sell your house for the best price? Why did crime rates suddenly dive-bomb in the 90s? These questions and more can be answered in Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. By looking at things as an economist and having large data sets, you can answer practically any question out there. Just be prepared to get answers you were no expected to reach. What does economics have to do with this? It’s about money, right? Actually, economists try to figure out why people do what they do: their incentive to do something.
I found this book really fascinating and got me to think about things in ways that I never had before about sine situations. It sounds utterly absurd at times, but as the authors dive deep into things, it makes complete sense, and you wonder why you never thought about it before. One word of caution when reading this book: abortion is a topic in this book. The authors speak on this in a historical context do not take a side in the debate. If you feel especially strong on the issue, I suggest skipping those sections. It is not necessary for the entire book. From the chapter titles, you can probably figure out where it is discussed.
Since it is still the beginning of the year, and I am still convinced that I need to be a better me, I have found another book on habits that I sat down and read. The thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the varying narratives that were found throughout. If you want exciting ways to look at habits, I would suggest The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.
What I enjoy from reading this was both the personal aspects of habit-making and breaking and how businesses can use that information against us. One example is how Target can say if you are pregnant or not. The data behind that crazy story is revealed in this book. How did Febreze take over the world of cleaning supplies? That answer is here as well. By working through the various cues in our lives, we can figure out how to find the best places and get into new habits and weed out the bad. The stories are attention-grabbing and fascinating reads on how patterns make up our entire world, whether we realized it or not.
I decided that I needed a break from all of the heavy reading. I decided to go with a classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Like most movie remakes of books, the book had a lot more going on that could not fit into a feature length film. The movie also wholly misunderstands Oz as a country, and the book has a lot more blood in it.
Let me begin by saying that Oz isn’t a dream world. It’s a real place where multiple types of these supernatural creatures reside. Also, Dorothy is not a grown woman. In fact, I would say that she is no more than ten. For the most part, forget everything you know about the land of Oz from the movie because it’s completely wrong. The ruby slippers aren’t even ruby; they’re silver.
Now, there are 15 books in the Wizard of Oz series. I counted. I plan on going through every book in giving my thoughts on it and see how the world revolves as it goes on. I know that there a couple more movies out there that take place and Oz, and I want to see how those fit into the storyline. I have watched a Disney version based on the fourth book, and so far, that seems to be the most accurate to the series. I can’t wait to see what I’ve been missing by only watching one movie.
As we look toward the future, we must also look to that past to make sure that we do no back the same mistakes, especially when we talk about it from an ethical perspective. We do not want to cause harm, but we also want people to understand what we are saying as scientists, or at least that is what I was always told. Then I bumbled my way into reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
This is one of the stories of science going wrong. As someone involved in science, I believe that these are things that must be discussed to not happen again. The story starts with how the first-ever human cell line was discovered and then is a train wreck from there. This book goes into the African American population’s distrust of the health care system, which stems from racism and lack of science literacy. It takes this abstract idea that most people have about the ethics behind science and then makes it much more real by adding a face. If you are interested in science in any way, I would consider this a must-read. We have to learn from the past mistakes to make significant innovations in the future.
I feel pretty comfortable saying that this past month has been crazy, specifically in the United States, and fraught with tension. Whenever I’m confused about things, I try to turn to books because what else is there to do. I turned to social psychology to maybe explain some things to me. That lead to me reading The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo. If this name sounds familiar, he was the principal investigator of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment.
This book goes through every step of the prison experiment from opening day to when Zimbardo was convinced to close the doors. Not only this, Zimbardo discusses every step in the slow descent of his guards and prisoners in playing their roles. It also walked through the real-world example of abuses in American prisons across the world built for the War on Terror. Instead of just blaming the “bad apples,” this book accuses the barrel those “apples” are found in, blaming the system that sets the rules in place and gives no actual oversight. In other words, this book does a great job of explaining what is going on in today’s world and how to prevent oneself from being brainwashed by these systems. But before reading, I must warn you of trigger warnings, and I must say every single trigger warning imaginable. If you get offended by anything, this might not be the book for you, no matter how important I feel reading it is.
After finishing the first series, as soon as I found out there was a sequel, I had to read it. Unfortunately, Modotte! Mamotte! Lollipop by Michiyo Kikuta, the sequel to Mamotte! Lollipop, fell into the trap that many sequels do. It would have been an exciting continuation of the story. All the characters being older had it not been the same story. And I mean exact—all of the plot points were the same. The only difference was that the characters weren’t gradually introduced. Since there are not any new characters, they all start at the same time.
Overall, it is a simple read and quick to go through. There’s just the added romance element that doesn’t really add to anything since the love-triangle has been resolved. It wasn’t bad; it just didn’t add anything to the story.
Want to know why you do something eagerly but drag your feet on other things? It’s because you have specific motivation themes that guide what you do. In fact, everyone has 27 different themes of motivation in a particular order. To find out all about yours, I suggest reading The Motivation Code: Discover the Hidden Forces That Drive Your Best Work by Todd Henry after taking the assessment. The assessment is completely free, and it will tell you your top three themes in order. This assessment will take about 30 minutes to complete, so be prepared to take the time to fill it out. After that, you can pay for a more in-depth analysis of your results and all your themes in order. I am also thinking about making a small “cheat sheet” for those who do not want to read the entire book with each theme’s main takeaways.
Going to read this book, I had no clue what the book would tell me, which I feel is the best way to read this book. After finding my motivation themes, I felt ultimately attacked. Besides telling you just how you work under your motivation theme, it suggests ways of working with other motivation themes and giving both sides of the coin. This is an excellent resource for just a personal assessment or figuring out ways to get the most out of your team. The information is expansive and very useful, no matter what you do.
In continuing to be somewhat helpful in keeping to your New Year Resolution, I would suggest reading Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport. If you read my reflection on my first semester in grad school, you’ll know that I was not the biggest fan of his writing style because it came across as elitist. This go around, there are inserts from a lot of different everyday people, which I appreciated. It was easier to connect with Newport as a reader.
Why am I suggesting this book? Unfortunately, if we spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling through our phones, we will not get the things we want to get done. It isn’t that surprising when social media companies engineer their platforms to be as addicting as possible. I have, in fact, implemented some of Newport’s techniques. Other than messaging applications, I have taken all social media off of my phone. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Reddit. The only way I can get on these websites, per my rules, is on my personal computer. When there are times where I don’t need to be on my phone, I usually put it away (such as waiting in grocery lines) and put it on “Do Not Disturb” and get to work. The only time that I get on my phone during that time is to take photos of something or change whatever I’m listening to on Spotify. The one thing that keeps me from completely separating myself from my phone a lot of the time is mobile games. I have this thing with merging and idle games for whatever reason. I love them. I’m currently trying to choose between my favorites and only keeping those on my phone. It’s taking a bit, but I’m doing it.
If you have any tips for staying off your phone at different times, I would appreciate reading them, and I’m sure others would as well.
“New Year, New Me” is a common sentiment that you hear every single year, and that lasts for about a week before they disappear. From the gym, from their budget. As this new year is followed by what should objectively be considered the worst year ever, instead of just focusing on goals, we should focus on habits. Why do you not go to the gym after a week? You’re of the habit of not going to the gym. And making habits is hard.
That’s where Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. This book outlines the four steps to make good habits more comfortable to obtain and bad habits harder to get. Instead of just saying what practices you should add to your life (because it’s effortless to admit that you should do something), this book lays out the foundation you need to actually do things. Want to go to the gym? Here’s how you do it. Overall, start small and don’t punish yourself too much. Even if you do not want to read this book, I recommend listening to some interviews with James Clear. Listening to those are what actually got me into wanting to read the book. As we start this new year, maybe this will keep you on track to obtaining all of your new year’s resolutions.
A new year is starting, and what else is necessary when that comes around? A list of goals that I want to achieve. I don’t call them resolutions, but you can think about them in that way if it makes you happy. Many of these goals are achievable with diligent work throughout the year, and a couple are stretch goals. Something that might not happen this year, but something that I would definitely like to accomplish, and I can use this year to get closer to the goal. Now, since I’ve survived the terrible year 2020, here are the goals that I want to work on for 2021. Now, these goals are in any particular order, but I’m going to number them anyway.
- Read 50 books…at least
This is a goal that is on my list year after year. It’s also pretty easy to keep track of my progress using my Goodreads account. This approximates to about a book a year, but if I let life get in the way, I wouldn’t even do that. I do love reading, but it is something I have to think about doing. Now, 50 books aren’t the end goal. If I’m far from December and already have 50 books, I’ll usually add to the number by some interval I see fit. Fifty books are just my starting measure.
- Publish Every Week
For this blog, I’ve been relatively all over the place with my posting schedule. I started toward the end of the year because instead of trying to get two or three posts out a week, I’m focusing on only doing once a week. This has been a lot more manageable, and I don’t have to stress about what I’m going to put out every week and end up going on hiatus for months. If I’m having a good week or two of scheduling content ahead, if I have, for say, a test to study for, I don’t have to worry about this blog. I can entirely focus my energy on my test.
- Finish “One More Cloudy Day”
For this one, it is not really a measurable goal like many of the others. “One More Cloudy Day” is a text-based interactive fiction game that I have been working on. It has only been recently that I’ve really been pushing myself into writing the story. I’m still tinkering with my work style when working on this project, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. By finish, I want to have, at the very least, a rough draft of the game: having the story and some general coding done. From that, I’ll check the writing and grammar because I know that that’s going to be a hot mess when I get done, and make sure there is nothing too broken that makes the game unplayable. For now, that is my goal for this year. I do have some stretch goals associated with this project, but I am nowhere close to thinking about those in-depth right now.
- Complete a Cross Stitch
One thing that I got into this year was cross-stitching. I really like it, and I find it very relaxing, but I’m very slow at it, and I recently got a pretty large piece with lots of colors. It’s going to take a while; I just want to finish one work. I think that is manageable for me, considering all the other projects I’m doing and my skill level.
- Transfer Notebook Information
This isn’t really a goal that I feel the need to get on top of. It’s more along the lines that I want to get this stuff out of my apartment. I was the person who kept all of their notebooks and textbooks. Now I feel the need to keep all of my textbooks, but at the same time, I can’t get rid of my notebooks. I want them gone, but I can’t get rid of them. I’m hoping that transferring all of the information will let me let them go into the recycling bin. Got to be environmentally responsible.
- Begin Writing Project
I don’t know what writing project I was thinking of starting, but this goal depends on completing goal number 3. I am working on these projects by myself, and I want to do the best I can. Stay tuned.
- Continue to do well in grad school
I will admit that I should have thought about school a lot earlier on this list, but I didn’t. I am a student, and that should come first. Now that I got that nonsense out of the way, on to the next.
- Have a published manuscript
With the work I am doing in school, I would like to have a paper published. I don’t expect in any way to be the first author, but I think it would be really cool to have a paper with my name on it.
- Get Cells to 3 months
Part of my work in the lab includes cell culturing. By getting my cells to three months, I mean have a three-month cell culturing experiment. This is something that I really have to plan for, but it needs to be done. It will hopefully get me lots of information for my project.
Along with the many things that I have managed to get myself in this year, I began reading books and watching videos on minimalism. I am definitely of the opinion that I could own fewer things. I don’t know how less I will go, but definitely less. I’m not planning on having a huge trash day, sorry Marie Kondo. Still, I am definitely taking in the principles of minimalism. I’m not buying something until I’m out of it or am going to need a replacement really soon. I currently have duplicates of things, so I won’t buy a new one until all those duplicates are done. For example, I don’t know why I have a bunch of razors, but I do. I’m not going to buy a new one in a while. I’m only keeping something if I really want it and donate what I can. In that way, I will slowly but surely “downsize.” Many people may disagree with my plan, but that’s what I’m doing.