books · english · review

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

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I nodded many times when I read this book, as this book is a kind of self-affirmation reading for me (and my husband). Both of us are introverts, but often take the opposite sides of introversion. As Susan Cain writes, there are a lot of sides of introversion, in which different people may have some but not the other traits.

It’s interesting how Susan explains how ‘the culture of personality’ takes over human interaction in the 20th century, where people are expected not only to sell product or service, but also ‘themselves’. “We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal – the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.” (page 4).

Here are several notes I take from this book:

  1. the excessive collaboration and open-office systems happening right now are not always the better ways to improve creativity and achieve goals.
  2. both introvert and extrovert leaders can produce the same effective results, if only they recognize the character of their teams.
  3. the ‘rubber band theory’ and ‘free trait theory’: we are elastic and can stretch our personality, but only until a certain point. A lot of introverts act as pseudo-extroverts if they think it will beneficial for things that matter to them (their job, people they love, etc.). But still, they need their solitude to calm their mind at the end of the day.
  4. several cases on how to deal with extrovert-introvert conflict, as well as how to nurture the potency of our introvert children.

Susan also argues about the correlation of genetic make-up (short allele of SERT gene) with high-reactivity and introvert people. However, I think it’s still a very early conclusion as there is no research paper directly prove the correlation of SERT and introvertness. We still need more effort to prove the biological correlation between genetic make-up and human traits (if any).

Reading this book makes me realize some reasons underlying my actions. After an intense and happy vacation with family or friends, I need a day or two to ‘take a breath’. My husband and I find that the maximum time we should go out in a week is three (attending events, dinner or lunch with our friend). In addition to the conversation during dinner time, our quality time is when we lay beside each other, he watches some youtube videos (about game strategy, or news, or cute kitten) while I read a good book. We enjoy our solitudes! Lucky me that we understand each other the importance of this kind of solitude 🙂

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books

Option B [Book Review]

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Sheryl Sandberg might be a role model for a lot of so-called modern women: smart, owns a good career and portfolio, beautiful, and a very good writer (the last one is my impression after reading her book). She also has a great family until a tragedy happened, the sudden death of her husband. In this book, Sandberg writes about how she deals with hardships after that tragedy. This book is also co-written by Adam Grant, who provides various psychology theories and experiments that are relevant to Sandberg’s effort to build her resilience.

While I don’t suffer from any tragedy in my life recently, I think this book provides several interesting lines that apply to our daily lives. We all need “option B” to deal with a lot of daily problems and enjoy our lives. Here are some of my notes:

  • The amount of our resilience isn’t fixed, so we need to put effort on how to become resilient. Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity, and we can build it. (page 10)
  • 3 P’s theory from Martin Seligman: personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence. We could speed up our recovery from any hardships by: (1) realize that not all bad things happened are our faults (intrinsic factor), but are also affected by external factors; (2) our hardships will not affect our entire aspect of life, and will not last forever. (page 16)
  • We often avoid painful conversation with people who suffer from hardships (serious illness, family’s death, etc.), sometimes we even avoid to talk to those people since we don’t know what to ask and we don’t want to hurt those people by asking some ‘dumb’ questions. Actually, we need to talk to them. It’s more hurtful to suffer from cancer and everyone around you avoid talking about cancer. Sanberg elaborates this topic in the chapter “kicking the elephant out of the room”, and I really like this topic as I found myself as the one who often avoided difficult conversation :(. “Instead of making assumptions about whether or not someone wants to talk, it’s best to offer an opening and see if they take it.” (page 40)
  • When people are in pain, they need a “button” (page 47). A button here is an emergency moral support they can rely on, which surprisingly could improve people’s resilience even though they don’t really use this emergency button. Just thinking about this kind of button makes people more assured and secure.
  • Labeling negative emotions makes them easier to deal with (page 63). Keeping a journal or record ourselves could be ways to shed our emotions.
  • A traumatic experience could trigger post-traumatic growth in 5 different forms: finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationship, discovering more meaning in life, and seeing new possibilities (page 79).
  • When we look for joy, we often focus on the big moments (graduating from school, having a child, getting a job, etc.). But happiness is the frequency of positive experiences, not the intensity. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Rather than waiting until we’re happy to enjoy small things, we should go and do the small things that make us happy (page 100). These are my favorite self-reminder lines!

Before reading this book, I saw mix reviews in Goodreads and Amazon about this book. A lot of readers point Sandberg’s advice would not work for a majority of people without any privilege as Sanberg has. But, I found that this book contents could be applied generally to any situation other than losing someone. One of my friends also says: “The right time to read a self-help book (like this one) is before the real tragedy happens, to prepare ourselves. Because, once a tragedy happens, it’s natural that we couldn’t think clearly to digest any book.” Well, I couldn’t agree more.

books

Back to my (not-so) old love: books

 

 

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Every time I have a chance to write down my hobbies, reading is always at the top of the list. I used to be an avid reader. Bookstore and library are my favorite places in the world. Have you ever felt a calming feeling steps in your heart whenever you see rows of bookshelves or piles of books? That happens to me.

But, I almost forgot my love to books in the past 3-4 years. I used my ‘busy’ life as an excuse to run away from real books. Honestly, I felt it was difficult and focus to read an entire book. I got bored after some pages of reading. This was so strange as when I was a child until teenage, I used to read hundred of pages a night (for some books!).

But, from the beginning of this year until June, finally I made a quiet great achievement for myself: found my way back to reading books. Hurray!

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I found my love back to books. Honestly, I push myself to enjoy reading book again. There’re 2 reasons that drive me to read: a cool library near my house and my effort to stay away from screens. Early on this year, I did a small literature research about how screens, internet, and technology affect our brain. The result blew my mind (I might write about that in this blog later). Further, I read “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, who campaigns the importance of build a healthy relationship between technology and ourselves. Hence, I need to find a way to stay away from screens, and book is still the best option for me (I tried several handcrafts, turns out it did not work well 😦 ).

As I am such a forgetful person, I also try to review and write some key points of the books I read here. So, welcome back my love 🙂

 

books · review

Letters to a Young Muslim [Book Review]

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This is an interesting book written by the former ambassador of UEA to Russia, Omar Saif Ghobash, as collection of letters to his son. Ghobash himself owns a strong background story to invite his son (and other young muslims) to reflect how we should practice Islamic value in this modern world. Ghobash’s father was shooted by another muslim when Ghobash was a child. Furthermore, Ghobash’s mother is a Russian, which introduce him as well to culture other than only arabic muslim.

In most parts of his book, he suggests us to think any Islamic rule and value not only in ‘black vs white’ sides. There’re a lot of aspects on this life, especially in this modern day, and a lot of those aspects lays on grey areas. There’re several arguments and narrations from Ghobash that trigger me to think more about myself as a Muslim, such as:

  • There was no reason to hate anyone. There is no reason to react to the world around you with hatred. You have to understand that someone has made the choice for you when they say you have to hate. The choice is yours and the only way you can make the world a better place is by doing the opposite of hating. It is by loving.” (page 3). He writes these sentences to counter the hatred idealism and action by some of the so-called radical muslim.
  • “What is the essence of Islam? What is it that distinguishes Islam? What is it that makes you a Muslim or something else?” (page 29)
  • Islamic interpretations coming out of the Arabian peninsula are dry and relatively harsh, a reflection of perhaps of the desert environment. Life in the desert was tough and literally a place of black and white.” (page 39). This passage explain a bit why Islam that can be found in Indonesia is on the more moderate side, just my two cents.
  • “What I am saying to you is that you need to make sure that you understand that those with plausible authority (i.e. clergy) are also human beings like you and me. They are human beiings, who can and will be distracted by the traditional human temptations of power, money, and sex.” (page 71). I found this is ridiculous, but to certain extent is exactly a reality.
  • “Rather than thinking in black and white, we should think with all the colors of the rainbow (muslim diversity) and see Islam as a moreally ad ethically rich faith. The blac-an-white approach is one that sets Muslims in conflict with one another neddlessly and robs us all of our humanity.” (page 76)
  • “It is not enough to chant in public that Islam is not violent or radical or angry – that Islam is a religion of peace. We need to take responsibility for the Islam of peace. We need to demonstrate how it is expressed in our lives and the lives of those in our community.” (page 103)
  • Being an outsider is humbling. It makes you realize the humanity of all outsiders. It is often the outsider who has the most interesting view of what life is and can become.” (page 110)
  • “If you want to be a true to your Muslim heritage, then you need to explore its history properly.” (page 147). Furthermore, Ghobash pushes us to find a role model in Islam, aside from ‘warrior or jihadist’ role models. Why don’t we make Avicenna or Al-Khawarizmi as our role models, with their achievements in science and medicine?

Honestly, I enjoy this kind of book and I like the way Ghobash writes this book. His writing flows smoothly, especially as he writes this book as a series of personal letters. He asks the readers to think, instead of pushes his arguments. However, I feel like I need other complementary books about Islamic value in our modern life. Please kindly tell me you have any recommendation 🙂

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 🙂

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.