books · New York life

The best thing in New York: Public Library

People say New York is the capital of the world. We can find anything in New York: people and foods from all over the world, skyscrapers and various famous landmarks, world-renowned companies and organizations, some of the best universities in the world, the most complete and sophisticated museums, diverse art galleries and music clubs, etc. But, for me, the best thing I found in New York is its library system!

Since I was a child, I found that bookstore is my favorite shopping place, instead of the shopping malls or clothing stores. When I was in elementary school, every week or two, my father used to bring me and my sister to the “shopping” (which is a place to buy new or used books/magazines in my city; just realized that this is such a ridiculous name for a place :p). Books in “shopping” were a lot cheaper compared to an ordinary bookstore. It was a pleasure for me!

Luckily, now I happen to live nearby a public library, Queens Library in Elmhurst, which I found very cool! The library has a variety of books, even some Indonesian novels (well, there’re a lot of Indonesian people in my neighborhood). Here are some cool features I often use in this library.

  • Renting books

Well, of course I rent books from this library. The library here provides a self-service book renting and returning system for its member, which is very convenient. The book returning machines open 24/7; so, there’s no excuse to return the books late.

 

 

 

  • The library’s website to request book

Another feature I used often is the library’s website (http://www.queenslibrary.org) to request books I want to read. We can check the availability status of a book, then request  to pick the book up once it’s available. We can also request books that are available in other libraries inside Queens Library system, and pick them up in our prefered library. How convenient!

  • Work/computer station

I also often use the computer station in my library, which allows me to print up to 20 pages/day (well, that’s a quite enough number for my current profession as a housewife slash self-learner 🙂 ). There should be a scanner as well, but my library’s has never work. The work/reading room in my library is also comfortable with a lot of tables and chairs.

 

 

Actually, there are a lot more features I could explore in this library. They offer a lot of classes or clubs (knitting, english *but not intensive*, computer, chess, taichi). We could also rent DVDs (but, I don’t have any DVD player). The libraries here are also such a heaven for parents with toddler, as there are a lot of activities for kids in the library. Overall, I found that library here is like a community center where every people can join various activities based on their interest 🙂

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books · idea

Konmari and my husband (and a bit of book review)

“Japan has the highest level of civilization on our planet!”

That was my friend’s joke on how clean every part of Japan: street, river, (most of) public bathrooms, public transportations, train and bus stations, schools, you name it! Several days ago, Japanese went viral again with their immaculacy. Japan football’s supporter collected their own trash in the football stadion after Japan beat Colombia in the world cup. They even brought large trash bags on their own! Japanese have never failed me with their respectful attitude toward cleanliness. Hence, I’m not surprised that there’s even a cleaning and tidying “guru” from Japan.

Konmari is such a “hip” method of tidying and organizing home. Introduced by Marie Kondo of Japan, this method went viral in instagram or other social media (well, at least in my accounts). We can find lots of Kondo’s organizing principals on youtube, pinterest, or other blogs. Here is a short review video about Konmari method by Marie Kondo (with a nice Japanese-English interpreter). And here is her book: the life-changing magic of tidying up.

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Basically, there are 3 principals of Konmari:

  • Tidy in one shot, as quickly and completely as possible
  • Sort things by category, not location
  • Choose things to keep by asking ourselves: “Does it spark joy?”

Here is a great checklist on how to tidying using Konmari, step by step.

And, here are several interesting notes I take from this book.

  • To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. (page 61)
  • The point in deciding specific places to keep things is to designate a spot for every thing. (page 131)
  • Storage methods should be as simple as possible. (page 137)
  • Clutter has only 2 possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it’s unclear where things belong. (page 142)
  • Piling things is the worst organizing method. The things in the pile virtually disappear because we forget that they even exist. Hence, store things vertically. (page 145)
  • When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only 2: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. (page 181)

Ok. So then, what’s the relation of Konmari with my husband?

The more I read this book, the more I found that my husband has implemented this Konmari in his life before knowing anything about this method. Apparently, my husband is a long-lost sibling of Marie Kondo in term of organizing and tidying! He has special areas for each of his stuff. He always thinks twice before buying something: “can I use this in long-term?”. He unpacks his bag every evening after he comes home. He takes pity on his stuff and becomes sad when any of his worn out. Those traits are exactly what Kondo’s written in her book!

While for me, organizing and tidying home are my worst housewifery skill. Well, apparently, I have my personal tidying guru :))

 

books

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life [Book Review]

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Microbes show collaboration at its finest.

That’s the main thesis of this book. Ed Yong presents various researches showing that despite their tiny size and imperfect bodies, the microbes manage to exist for millions of years through their ability to adapt and collaborate with each other (unlike some other bigger living organisms!).

This book contains a lot of fascinating information about microbes and how they sculpt every other living organisms in this world. He presents various researches about how mother milk and vaginal delivery expose infants to the microbes that will shape the ecosystem of infant’s guts; how our current obsession with antiseptic products may trigger various allergies and inflammatory diseases; how tiny little microbes influence other organism’s behavior; etc.

Ed Yong is a marvelous storyteller. I love the way he describes science through anecdotes and metaphors. For instance, he describes our body as a garden, where different microbes occupy different “lands” depend on the nutrition on those lands. He also compares the “horizontal gene transfer” in bacterias with “a situation where people exchange personal information or ideas”.

While I used to work with a lot of microbes (or microbe-related materials) during my former research, I manage to respect microbe more by reading this book. Here are some parts of this book that I think interesting:

  • Germ-free mice are odd creatures with many physiological changes that could have impinged on their behavior, i.e. anxiety. But, after the mice ingested a bacteria strain, JB-1 of L. rhamnosus, they start to overcome the anxiety (page 73). This research is one of the fundamental argument about the correlation between autism and gut microbes. Read this review article to find more perspective on this matter.
  • Milk is one of the most astounding ways in which mammals control their microbes (page 92). Mother’s milk contains antibodies that control the microbial populations of adults, and babies get those “right” antibodies during breastfeeding. Here is the latest research on this topic. I wonder, if we give our kids cow’s milk when they were the infant, they will grow to contain cow’s microbes? 😦
  • Lean and obese individuals (people or mice) possess different gut microbes. If obese individual’s microbes are transplanted to the leaner individuals, the leaner one will gain up to 47% more fat (obesity can be transplanted!). Can then leaner individual’s microbes reverse obesity? Here is the research on this issue.
  • The citrus mealybug is a living matryoshka doll. It has bacteria living inside its cell (called Trembalaya), and those bacteria have more bacteria (called Moranella) living inside them (page 201).  Mealybug, Trembalayaor Moranella, can’t make phenylalanine (an important amino acid) by themselves alone. Each organism own different genes that when combined, can synthesize phenylalanine for themselves. Here is an example that microbes show collaboration at its finest.

There arere still more interesting information in this book. However, I wonder why Yong doesn’t review the current topic about how bacteria reform gene editing field, which will give a substantial impact on our healthcare system in the future. Nevertheless, I think this is a really good book that could blow our mind about how depending we’re on the microbes.

 

p.s.: Ed Yong is also such a great presenter! Watch the summary of his book in his presentation below.

 

books

A World without Islam [Book Review]

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This is not an easy read for me, but it does contain a lot of interesting argument by Graham Fuller. Graham Fuller was a vice president at a CIA department and had dealt with a lot of cases in the Middle East. From his own experiences and his research, he comes to an argument that the world without Islam will still be as chaotic as now. Islam, which now is often suspected as a violent religion, has little effect in most conflicts between the West and the East (especially middle east).

 

In this blog post, I would like to highlight some interesting arguments and facts from Fuller.

Continue reading “A World without Islam [Book Review]”