I’ve just gotten a copy of Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova which came out earlier this week.

Simple white book cover of Remember by Lisa Genova featuring a piece of red string tied into a knotted bow

I’ve thumbed through it quickly and done some targeted searches of the text. From all appearances, it looks like she’s approaching the topic of memory from a neuroscientist’s perspective and talking about broad psychology and culture.

There are a few references to the method of loci and a tangential reference to the phonetic major system in chapter 5. She approaches these briefly with a mention of Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein and his PAO system (without using the word Person-Action-Object), but dismisses all too quickly.

But you would have to do a lot of memorizing before you can actually use these techniques (and others like them) to remember the stuff you’re interested in remembering. If the thought of doing this kind of mental labor sounds exhausting, I’m right there with you. I don’t have the dedication or time. Unless you’re motivated to become an elite memory athlete or your life’s dream is to memorize 111,700 digits of pi, I suspect you don’t, either. Most of us will never want or need to memorize that kind or that amount of information. But many of us would like to be better at memorizing the ten things on our to-do list, our Wi-Fi password, or the six things we need at the grocery store.

Sadly she doesn’t bring up the much easier to use phonetic major system, but blows right by it.

I’ll try to delve into the rest of the text shortly, but I was really hoping for more on the mnemonics front. I mnemonists won’t get much out of it on the techniques front, but might find it useful for an overview of the neuroscience or psychology fronts from Hermann Ebbinghaus onwards.

Read - Want to Read: Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark (Knopf Publishing Group)

"Finally, the biography that Sylvia Plath deserves . . . A spectacular achievement." --Ruth Franklin, author of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

The highly anticipated new biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman behind the long-held myths about her life and art. With a wealth of never-before-accessed materials--including unpublished letters and manuscripts; court, police, and psychiatric records; and new interviews--Heather Clark brings to life the brilliant daughter of Wellesley, Massachusetts who had poetic ambition from a very young age and was an accomplished, published writer of poems and stories even before she became a star English student at Smith College in the early 1950s. Determined not to read Plath's work as if her every act, from childhood on, was a harbinger of her tragic fate, Clark evokes a culture in transition, in the shadow of the atom bomb and the Holocaust, as she explores Plath's world: her early relationships and determination not to become a conventional woman and wife; her conflicted ties to her well-meaning, widowed mother; her troubles at the hands of an unenlightened mental-health industry; her Cambridge years and thunderclap meeting with Ted Hughes, a marriage of true minds that would change the course of poetry in English; and much more.

Clark's clear-eyed portraits of Hughes, his lover Assia Wevill, and other demonized players in the arena of Plath's suicide promotes a deeper understanding of her final days, with their outpouring of first-rate poems. Along with illuminating readings of the poems themselves, Clark's meticulous, compassionate research brings us closer than ever to the spirited woman and visionary artist who blazed a trail that still lights the way for women poets the world over.

Greg O’Dea in “@themeghanodea @rachsyme The latest, by @Plathbiography Heather Clark, is far and away the best Plath biography. It is also a model for all biographies in its critical balance and deep erudition. Even at about 900 pages it reads like a literary dream.” / Twitter ()

Read - Want to Read: Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America by Martha S. Jones (Cambridge University Press)
Before the Civil War, colonization schemes and black laws threatened to deport former slaves born in the United States. Birthright Citizens recovers the story of how African American activists remade national belonging through battles in legislatures, conventions, and courthouses. They faced formidable opposition, most notoriously from the US Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott. Still, Martha S. Jones explains, no single case defined their status. Former slaves studied law, secured allies, and conducted themselves like citizens, establishing their status through local, everyday claims. All along they argued that birth guaranteed their rights. With fresh archival sources and an ambitious reframing of constitutional law-making before the Civil War, Jones shows how the Fourteenth Amendment constitutionalized the birthright principle, and black Americans' aspirations were realized. Birthright Citizens tells how African American activists radically transformed the terms of citizenship for all Americans.
Read - Want to Read: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.
"As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power--which groups have it and which do not."
In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people's lives and behavior and the nation's fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people--including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball's Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others--she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.
Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.
Read - Want to Read: A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Crown Publishing Group)
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency--a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation's highest office. Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune's Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.
A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective--the story of one man's bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of "hope and change," and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible. This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama's conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.
Read - Want to Read: How to Argue with a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don't) Say about Human Difference by Adam Rutherford (Experiment)
Race is not a biological reality.
Racism thrives on our not knowing this.
Racist pseudoscience has become so commonplace that it can be hard to spot. But its toxic effects on society are plain to see--feeding nationalism, fueling hatred, endangering lives, and corroding our discourse on everything from sports to intelligence. Even well-intentioned people repeat stereotypes based on "science," because cutting-edge genetics are hard to grasp--and all too easy to distort. Paradoxically, these misconceptions are multiplying even as scientists make unprecedented discoveries in human genetics--findings that, when accurately understood, are powerful evidence against racism. We've never had clearer answers about who we are and where we come from, but this knowledge is sorely needed in our casual conversations about race.
How to Argue With a Racist emphatically dismantles outdated notions of race by illuminating what modern genetics actually can and can't tell us about human difference. We now know that the racial categories still dividing us do not align with observable genetic differences. In fact, our differences are so minute that, most of all, they serve as evidence of our shared humanity.
Read - Want to Read: Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova (Harmony)
A fascinating exploration of the intricacies of how we remember, why we forget, and what we can do to protect our memories, from the Harvard-trained neuroscientist and bestselling author of Still Alice.
Have you ever felt a crushing wave of panic when you can't for the life of you remember the name of that actor in the movie you saw last week, or you walk into a room only to forget why you went there in the first place? If you're over forty, you're probably not laughing. You might even be worried that these lapses in memory could be an early sign of Alzheimer's or dementia. In reality, for the vast majority of us, these examples of forgetting are completely normal. Why? Because while memory is amazing, it is far from perfect. Our brains aren't designed to remember every name we hear, plan we make, or day we experience. Just because your memory sometimes fails doesn't mean it's broken or succumbing to disease. Forgetting is actually part of being human.
In Remember, neuroscientist and acclaimed novelist Lisa Genova delves into how memories are made and how we retrieve them. You'll learn whether forgotten memories are temporarily inaccessible or erased forever and why some memories are built to exist for only a few seconds (like a passcode) while others can last a lifetime (your wedding day). You'll come to appreciate the clear distinction between normal forgetting (where you parked your car) and forgetting due to Alzheimer's (that you own a car). And you'll see how memory is profoundly impacted by meaning, emotion, sleep, stress, and context. Once you understand the language of memory and how it functions, its incredible strengths and maddening weaknesses, its natural vulnerabilities and potential superpowers, you can both vastly improve your ability to remember and feel less rattled when you inevitably forget. You can set educated expectations for your memory, and in doing so, create a better relationship with it. You don't have to fear it anymore. And that can be life-changing.
Read - Want to Read: Unplugged by Gordon Korman (Balzer & Bray/Harperteen)
From New York Times bestselling author Gordon Korman comes a hilarious middle grade novel about a group of kids forced to "unplug" at a wellness camp--where they instead find intrigue, adventure, and a whole lot of chaos. Perfect for fans of Korman's The Unteachables and Masterminds series, as well as Carl Hiaasen's eco mysteries.
As the son of the world's most famous tech billionaire, spoiled Jett Baranov has always gotten what he wanted. So when his father's private jet drops him in the middle of a place called the Oasis, Jett can't believe it. He's forced to hand over his cell phone, eat grainy veggie patties, and participate in wholesome activities with the other kids whom he has absolutely no interest in hanging out with.
As the weeks go on, Jett starts to get used to the unplugged life and even bonds with the other kids over their discovery of a baby-lizard-turned-pet, Needles. But he can't help noticing that the adults at the Oasis are acting really strange. Could it be all those suspicious "meditation" sessions?
Jett is determined to get to the bottom of things, but can he convince the other kids that he is no longer just a spoiled brat making trouble?
Read - Want to Read: Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else by Jordan Ellenberg (Penguin Press)
From the New York Times-bestselling author of How Not to Be Wrong, himself a world-class geometer, a far-ranging exploration of the power of geometry, which turns out to help us think better about practically everything
How should a democracy choose its representatives? How can you stop a pandemic from sweeping the world? How do computers learn to play chess, and why is learning chess so much easier for them than learning to read a sentence? Can ancient Greek proportions predict the stock market? (Sorry, no.) What should your kids learn in school if they really want to learn to think? All these are questions about geometry.
For real. If you're like most people, geometry is a sterile and dimly-remembered exercise you gladly left behind in the dust of 9th grade, along with your braces and active romantic interest in pop singers. If you recall any of it, it's plodding through a series of miniscule steps, only to prove some fact about triangles that was obvious to you in the first place. That's not geometry. OK, it is geometry, but only a tiny part, a border section that has as much to do with geometry in all its flush modern richness as conjugating a verb has to do with a great novel.
Shape reveals the geometry underneath some of the most important scientific, political, and philosophical problems we face. Geometry asks: where are things? Which things are near each other? How can you get from one thing to another thing? Those are important questions. The word geometry, from the Greek, has the rather grand meaning of measuring the world. If anything, that's an undersell. Geometry doesn't just measure the world - it explains it. Shape shows us how.
Read - Want to Read: Complexity and the Function of Mind in Nature by Peter Godfrey-Smith (Cambridge University Press)
This book is a further contribution to the series Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology. It is an ambitious attempt to explain the relationship between intelligence and environmental complexity, and in so doing to link philosophy of mind to more general issues about the relations between organisms and environments, and to the general pattern of "externalist" explanations. This is a highly original philosophical project that will appeal to a broad swath of philosophers, especially those working in the philosophy of biology, philosophy of mind, and epistemology.
Read - Want to Read: Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind by Peter Godfrey-Smith (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Dip below the ocean's surface and you are soon confronted by forms of life that could not seem more foreign to our own: sea sponges, soft corals, and serpulid worms, whose rooted bodies, intricate geometry, and flower-like appendages are more reminiscent of plant life or even architecture than anything recognizably animal. Yet these creatures are our cousins. As fellow members of the animal kingdom--the Metazoa--they can teach us much about the evolutionary origins of not only our bodies, but also our minds.
In his acclaimed 2016 book, Other Minds, the philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explored the mind of the octopus--the closest thing to an intelligent alien on Earth. In Metazoa, Godfrey-Smith expands his inquiry to animals at large, investigating the evolution of subjective experience with the assistance of far-flung species. As he delves into what it feels like to perceive and interact with the world as other life-forms do, Godfrey-Smith shows that the appearance of the animal body well over half a billion years ago was a profound innovation that set life upon a new path. In accessible, riveting prose, he charts the ways that subsequent evolutionary developments--eyes that track, for example, and bodies that move through and manipulate the environment--shaped the subjective lives of animals. Following the evolutionary paths of a glass sponge, soft coral, banded shrimp, octopus, and fish, then moving onto land and the world of insects, birds, and primates like ourselves, Metazoa gathers their stories together in a way that bridges the gap between mind and matter, addressing one of the most vexing philosophical problems: that of consciousness.
Combining vivid animal encounters with philosophical reflections and the latest news from biology, Metazoa reveals that even in our high-tech, AI-driven times, there is no understanding our minds without understanding nerves, muscles, and active bodies. The story that results is as rich and vibrant as life itself.
Read - Want to Read: Teaching Aboriginal Cultural Competence: Authentic Approaches by Barbara Hill (Springer)
This book examines a collaborative partnership model between academia and Indigenous peoples, the goal of which is to integrate Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum. It demonstrates how the authentic and creative approaches employed have led to an evolution of curriculum and pedagogy that facilitates cultural competence among Australian graduate and undergraduate students.
The book pursues an interdisciplinary approach based on highly practical examples, exemplars and methods that are currently being used to teach in this area. It focuses on facilitating student acquisition of knowledge, understanding, attitudes and skills, following Charles Sturt University's Cultural Competence Pedagogical Framework. Further, it provides insights into the use of reflective practice in this context, and practical ideas on embedding content and sharing practices, highlighting examples of potential "ways forward," both nationally and globally.
Read - Want to Read: The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford (Clarion Books)
Ghosts, a kidnapping, a crew of young detectives, and family secrets mix in this new standalone mystery set in the world of the best-selling Greenglass House, from a National Book Award nominee and Edgar Award-winning author.
Marzana and her best friend are bored. Even though they live in a notorious city where normal rules do not apply, nothing interesting ever happens to them. Nothing, that is, until Marzana's parents are recruited to help solve an odd crime, and she realizes that this could be the excitement she's been waiting for. She assembles a group of kid detectives with special skills--including the ghost of a ship captain's daughter--and together, they explore hidden passageways, navigate architecture that changes overnight, and try to unravel the puzzle of who the kidnappers are--and where they're hiding. But will they beat the deadline for a ransom that's impossible to pay?
Legendary smugglers, suspicious teachers, and some scary bad guys are just a few of the adults the crew must circumvent while discovering hidden truths about their families and themselves in this smart, richly imagined tale.
Bookmarked Independent Together: Building and Maintaining Values in a Distributed Web Infrastructure by Jack Jamieson (dissertation.jackjamieson.net)

This dissertation studies a community of web developers building the IndieWeb, a modular and decentralized social web infrastructure through which people can produce and share content and participate in online communities without being dependent on corporate platforms. The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate how developers’ values shape and are shaped by this infrastructure, including how concentrations of power and influence affect individuals’ capacity to participate in design-decisions related to values. Individuals’ design activities are situated in a sociotechnical system to address influence among individual software artifacts, peers in the community, mechanisms for interoperability, and broader internet infrastructures.

Multiple methods are combined to address design activities across individual, community, and infrastructural scales. I observed discussions and development activities in IndieWeb’s online chat and at in-person events, studied source-code and developer decision-making on GitHub, and conducted 15 in-depth interviews with IndieWeb contributors between April 2018 and June 2019. I engaged in critical making to reflect on and document the process of building software for this infrastructure. And I employed computational analyses including social network analysis and topic modelling to study the structure of developers’ online activities.

This dissertation identifies how values of import to IndieWeb’s community are employed in designing its material architectures as well as community policies. This includes an ongoing balance between supporting individuals’ agency over personal design decisions and a need to maintain commensurability for the sake of interoperability. In many cases, early decisions about this balance have contributed to barriers for certain types of participants. Yet, those who can cross those barriers experience a lack of stabilization in IndieWeb’s infrastructure as a means of achieving richer engagements with technology. By studying design activities as longitudinal and situated within broader infrastructures, this dissertation describes how changing situations and a variety of influences affect possibilities for articulating values through material engagement, offering insights about how to support positive and healthy relationships with technology.

Read - Want to Read: What Works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet (Belknap Press)
Gender equality is a moral and a business imperative. But unconscious bias holds us back, and de-biasing people's minds has proven to be difficult and expensive. By de-biasing organizations instead of individuals, we can make smart changes that have big impacts. Presenting research-based solutions, Iris Bohnet hands us the tools we need to move the needle in classrooms and boardrooms, in hiring and promotion, benefiting businesses, governments, and the lives of millions.
David Dylan Thomas at IndieWebCamp East Keynote (2)