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Two Sides of the Same Coin

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 EffectUnderstanding 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.

Discovering Magic Pt 2

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.

Why You Do What You Do

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.

Because You’re Always On That Phone

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.

Actually Doing the Resolutions

“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.

My 2021 Goals

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Downsize
    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.

Semester 1 Grad School Reflection

I have started writing this the day I finished my last final for the semester. Well, you could say it was my only final. Either way, it’s over with, and I can relax until late January. Now, I couldn’t say I have the most typical grad school experience with a pandemic and all. All of my classes were online, an experience I must say that I never had before. Also had meetings entirely online. Zoom was the entire way that we connected with others. Even though we were distant, I could still tell I was the only African American woman in my year. The only African American. At this point, I’m the only African American student in my department, from what I have seen, wandering around the halls whenever I was trying to figure out what I was doing with my life in between meetings.

I also felt very isolated semester. The halls were silent of people, and my main company were those from my lab and the pictures that joined me in my Zoom meetings. Even though I really only interacted with six or seven people in real life, I did have some fantastic groups that I really enjoyed: a graduate student and post-doc organization, an accountability group, and two book clubs.

First, let’s start with the organization. This was done through my home department and is a way for everyone to get together and talk about things. In a way, this felt like the only part that tried to still have get-togethers and lunch together. What we would do would be to get take-out lunch boxes and eat together over zoom. It wasn’t everything, but it felt that someone was trying to do something while in this pandemic.

The other two groups were more so based on an outside department in charge of all the graduates, aptly named the Graduate College. Anyway, this accountability group had me working for three hours at night with a couple of people every week. It is also where I learned the joy of the Pomodoro technique. 25 minutes on. 5 minutes off. It is now the only way I do work. It keeps my eyes from going wholly turned inside out. I wasn’t doing school work for three hours, but I did get a lot of work done on my personal projects. Not only that, but I’m probably going to keep it up through the next semester,

Also, I was part of two reading groups. This semester I read Degrees of Difference: Reflections of Women of Color on Graduate School by Kimberly D. McKee and Denise A. Delgado and Deep Work by Cal Newport. I personally enjoyed reading Degrees of Difference. It was a way of preparing myself for all the grad school might offer for me. This semester, I felt privileged that I did face any harassment based on my race or sex. I was also privileged to have a group filled with many people of color, a rarity from my science lab’s experience. It was a welcome change from what I was used to seeing and had prepared myself for.

Now, I’m going to get a lot of flake for my opinion on this, but I didn’t really enjoy reading Deep Work. I agree with some of the points that Newport made but hated reading the book. Often, it felt like he was coming from a privileged position and didn’t realize that others do not have the same luxury that others have. He relented somewhat to the social media front for socializing functions when friends or when it may be something necessary for work. There was so much I felt that he was overlooking. But that could easily be because he has never seen or experienced nor talked to someone who was in a situation much different from himself. He sure didn’t interview people much different from himself. In short, I agree with the idea but disagree highly with the execution.

Other than that, I’ve been working on a couple of projects in between classes and seminars (as of writing this, I have not yet gotten my final grades). It was fun. I’ve been learning many techniques around the lab and getting competent at doing experiments by myself. I also have spent tons of time reading journal articles. Honestly, I’m starting to understand some of what the people are saying. I still have to use a lot of brainpower to read the papers, but it is getting easier.

Other than that, I don’t really have anything to report. If anything happens, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Chao

Big Brother

I’ve spent that last couple of years swearing up and down, promising that I would eventually read the classic 1984 by George Orwell. Apparently, it took me getting into grad school to finally fulfill that promise. Like most people who read this book, I knew the general plotline and some key moments that are considered cliché in our modern society. Even with knowing all of that, I couldn’t help but get captured in every single page. I kept promising myself that I could go to sleep once I got to go breaks in the chapter; that didn’t happen. It also felt like the book was written a couple of years ago. It’s just so timeless. I would definitely call this a must-read. I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t warn you about discussions of sexual assault and torture, though.

Remember the Lost Souls Pt 3

I am back, finally finished with the Remember Me series. First, I would like to mention that the third book makes no sense without the second book. Second, I would like to say that you should only read the first book. This last book is a total deviation from the first in ways that make absolutely no sense. The protagonist’s characterization went entirely by the wayside, where she wasn’t the same person we were introduced to. Other characters appear, where the entire time they’re there, you just thinking “WTF?” the whole time—also, lizard people, for some reason. The book felt like a cash-grab, read like a cash-grab, and should never have been written. There is also a mixture of r/menwritingwomen that is more creepy than endearingly stupid or hilarious. I honestly wish that I could forget everything that I read. Stick with the first book, and no further. You’ll thank me.

Dating the Same Girl

I’m really late to the John Green bandwagon, but here I am. This is actually the first book of his I’ve read, but I don’t really know what I think about it. An Abundance of Katherines features our protagonist, Collin, who only dates people named Katherine. I’ve never heard of a name being a person’s type, but here you go. While Collin is a genius who drops random facts here and there, which I personally found interesting, other pieces of dialogue felt like inside jokes that went on for way too long. Every other sentence either included the word “fug,” mention of a “Jew-fro,” or what seemed to be an Arabic slur. It was bizarre, and I could have done without a lot of it. Other than that, it’s the typical “boy is broken up with an is super mopey for the majority of the story” story. If this sounds like your kind of thing, you may like it. Personally, with all the hype I’ve heard around John Green, especially with some of the books being turned into live-action media, I was not impressed. I just wanted it to be over as soon as possible.

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