Category Archives: books

Muddling Through Monday

When my father retired, I gave him a hard time as he still got up every Monday morning but instead of going to his office, he went to the church where he helped out with tracking attendance data from the day before. I told him that when I retired, I would most definitely not do anything resembling work at least until noon on Monday.

I have mostly stuck by that vow, puttering around in my pajamas, enjoying a second latte, doing some general weekly planning. Some Monday mornings, I even take that second latte back to bed with my current read. It feels deliciously decadent after decades of having to face the outside world much too early on Mondays. I apologize to those of you with real jobs who even now are looking forward to lunch time for triggering any envy or sadness. Your time will come. Meanwhile, feel free to live vicariously through me.

In my former life, Mondays were WORK days as I figured the more I got done that day, the easier the rest of the week would be. I still have that philosophy and right now am facing a pretty brutal grading deadline for one of my seven-week courses. My workload, however, is such that I can wait until the afternoon to get started. Truth be told, I was curious to see the projects from my class and have already graded two of the early postings. It didn’t really feel like work.

I made another book this weekend. It’s a pamphlet stitch journal that incorporates weaving into the long stitches that make up the binding. It is the October book project for Ali Manning’s Handmade Book Club. I attended the new member welcome meeting last week, and we were strongly encouraged to share our books no matter how inexperienced we were. So…I did. I am a bit out of my comfort zone in terms of both sharing the pictures with other more advanced bookmakers but also just generally getting involved in an online community. It seems like a safe place, however, and I have already learned a lot and created more than I have for a very long time.

I wanted to use materials I had around the house to complete the book. The back and front covers are made from some handmade paper I bought. I used coloring book pages for some of the signature covers. The ribbon and buttons were part of my stash. There is an option to add some kind of closure, but I think I like this the way it is.

Woven Pamphlet Stitch Book

It’s Been a Minute

Teaching online and face to face as well as developing a new seven-week course that starts next week has been keeping me busy. A bit of stress has been keeping me distracted. Both added up to a bit of writer’s block.

It may seem silly to talk about stress when you are semi-retired and living a simple life like I am, but it still happens. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news to you young people out there who are looking forward to all that stress-free living the retirement communities promise. Sure, they fix your plumbing but can they keep you from saying yes to a project without asking enough questions?

I have been, for the past 18 months, volunteering for a local project that has become a time and energy suck without making any progress. It is time to walk away. Actually , it WAS time to walk away in June, but I hate giving up so gave it a bit more time and effort. Hence, the stress. I am still conflicted as I respect the vision and the work of the organization. But, I’ve done as much for them as I can and need to pivot to other priorities.

One priority is to build my bookmaking skills. I participated in a second Vintage Page Designs challenge last week, learning to create a Coptic Stitch Gratitude Journal. I am pretty happy with how mine turned out.

I also created two other books: a hardcover Coptic stitch book from a kit that has been lurking around and a Washi tape journal via Vintage Page Designs.

Ali Manning, owner of Vintage Page Designs, hosts a private Handmade Book Club, and I accepted her recent invitation after being on the waiting list for awhile. The club holds a variety of events, provides access to a large library of tutorials, and gives general information about bookmaking including information for starting your own business.

I’m not sure I am ready to start a business, but I already have a stack of six completed books and plans to tackle a hardcover journal next. I’m going to have to do something with them make beyond gifting, I think. I have also been making greeting cards, and they are starting to pile up. Finally, I have a tub of completed crochet projects along with the usual works in progress and plans for future projects. At the least, a business would be an excuse to buy more stash for these various hobbies.

And, let’s not talk about the books that seem to be piling up all around me. I have *always* wanted to own a bookstore and I just might be able to do that.

As I daydream away, enjoy a few pictures of recent books and cards:

Washi Tape Journal

Blue Book

Coptic Binding

Go Read a Book

I am feeling quite unmotivated this morning. I taught last evening and enjoyed learning and laughing with my students, but I am too wound up to go right to bed when I get home. Add in an exciting tennis match and I was up way past my bedtime.

Woman Reading, Susan Macdowell Eakins, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

I had an extra latte this morning, poked a bit at the to do list, and then while surfing social media, discovered to my happy surprise that it is National Read a Book Day! I couldn’t find any history other than it started in the 2000s and is similar to Book Lover’s Day, which is an “unofficial” holiday but at least has a Wikipedia entry.

National Read a Book Day must be a bit more unofficial but nonetheless, a national holiday is a national holiday and must be observed. I have brewed a pot of teach and will be curling up with a good book: The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia.

Happy Birthday, LT!

LibraryThing appeared on the World Wide Web on August 29, 2005. They are celebrating their 18th birthday with a fun scavenger hunt that encourages you to explore the site. If you are a reader and book lover, it’s worth creating an account to play!

My own 18th anniversary is coming soon. I joined the site on October 13, 2005. According to LT practice, I am permitted to buy one book for each year and one to grow on. I better get started on my wishlist. LT came around at just the right moment when I was considering how to catalog my rapidly growing book collection. I had been tinkering with an Access database but it meant entering the books manually. LT solved that with a web-based search along with the offer of community of readers. I have written about my involvement in LT in the past including my participation in their 75 Books a Year group.

In 2005, I only entered one book: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I even wrote a short review. The next year I entered a few more and then began keeping my completed reading regularly in 2007. I have not yet catalogued my unread books but may devote some time this winter to working on it. LT sells a handy dandy scanner called the CueCat. They also offer a library management software program called TinyCat. It has a free version for individual users and low cost versions for small institutions.

I am grateful to creator Tim Spalding and the whole LT team for developing this readers’ retreat, demonstrating how to harness the Web for good.

Happy Birthday, LibraryThing!

Taking a Spiritual Path to AI

I teach edtech courses to K-12 educators each fall. We’ve talked about AI in a general sense but I know that this semester, we need to dig into what this new technology means for everyone, including educators. It just might be that transformational technology we’ve been promised.

I was just trying to figure out where to start when a new podcast from Dan Harris at Ten Percent Happier appeared: The Dharma of Artificial Intelligence. Harris started the podcast echoing my own sentiments: his team knew they had to tackle the subject but couldn’t figure out how. Until they found this book: What Makes Us Human: Artificial Intelligence Answers Life’s Biggest Questions. Its authors–Iain Thomas and Jasmine Wang–trained an AI on spiritual texts from the Bible to Maya Angelou and then asked all the big questions of life.

The answers form the bulk of the book, and they are surprisingly spiritual and inclusive. They focus on what connects us at the core as humans without concern for individual religious beliefs or practices. The writing is reminiscent of motivational and devotional texts. In the end, the Beatles may have had it right: all you need is love. Here is part of the answer to the question: What is the meaning of life? “The meaning of life is love. We have a tendency to think we are separate from the Universe. We are not separate. We are part of it, and it is part of us” (p. 37).

The authors are not oblivious to the issues of AI, with Wang especially expressing real fear at the power and potential for harm represented by this technology. The podcast was unsettling. We are grappling with something we don’t fully understand.