Monthly Archives: January 2012

31 ways to get smarter

I read an interesting article in Newsweek recently that I would like to share: “31 Ways to Get Smarter in 2012.” (Looks like the full version is only in the print mag.) Some things I was already doing, others, I would like to start. Check it out:

1) Play Words with Friends (or Scrabble, I assume)

2) Eat turmeric (other herbs and spices couldn’t hurt)

3) Play sports or dance

4) Get news from Al Jazeera

5) Toss your smartphone (which would mean no more Words With Friends)

6) Sleep a lot

7) Download the Ted app (if you tossed your smartphone, go here)

8) Go to a literary festival

9) Build a memory palace

10) Learn a new language (I want to learn Latin!)

11) Eat dark chocolate (yes please!)

12) Try knitting (or another hands-on craft)

13) Frown (okay, that’s lame)

14) Play violent video games (also lame, IMO; a live game of paintball or capture the flag could be cool, however)

15) Follow interesting/intellectual people on Twitter

16) Eat yogurt (but please get the pure kind with probiotics)

17) Install supermemo

18) See a Shakespeare play (or read one!)

19) Refine your thinking

20) Hydrate

21) Listen to lectures on iTunesU

22) Visit museums and art galleries

23) Play an instrument (I need a piano — miss playing!)

24) Write by hand (don’t do this often!)

25) Use the pomodoro technique

26) Zone out (love to do this while taking long walks or floating in the ocean alone, and get great ideas when I do)

27) Delay gratification

28) Become an expert

29) Write online reviews (or, blog!)

30) Get out of town (love to!)

Living off the grid

My dream is to own land in Central America and/or Europe and to build a self-sufficient property. The house would be small, as green as possible, and be outfitted with solar panels and natural materials. I would have an organic garden and a water well, and ideally trade with other nearby farms for other necessities.

I began thinking about this in the past year or so, and I assumed that it was a somewhat novel, radical idea, or at least very uncommon. It turns out that there are a lot of people who live like this and love it. I recently joined World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms (WWOOF), specifically WWOOF Italia, and they sent me 72 pages of amazing farms all around Italy where I could go stay at (and learn how to do a variety of outdoor tasks while getting free lodging, delicious food and wine and a priceless cultural experience). Some have goats and cows and so get raw milk, butters and cheese. Many have beehives. Others have herbs, rose and lavender gardens, animals, fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, vineyards, fields, etc. They are inhabited by families who love the natural, outdoor lifestyle and sound like cultured, interesting people. Many have websites, and the photos match the descriptions: utterly beautiful and impressive.

I also just found a video on Youtube that shows people how to build a home and have no mortgage and no utility bills. Which means you wouldn’t be a slave to the system; you would be free.

Besides allowing you to have healthy food, fresh air and clean water; to be financially sound; to be in touch with the natural world and to be active and independent; this lifestyle is a safeguard against rising oil prices, wars, economic catastrophes and future food and water shortages. I think I would be happy if I was in a beautiful natural environment, was able to access a village or town at times, could travel, and had access to books and the internet.

I know that many people, however, would prefer a two-car garage McMansion in a master-planned suburban community. Well, to each his own!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: A True Romantic Heroine*

Beyond the piercings, the ink, the leather jacket, the street bike, the hyper intelligence, and the fact that she can kick the asses of boys, men, serial killers and high-profile white collar criminals, what’s so cool about Lisbeth Salander?

Her autonomy. Her social worker, at the beginning of the movie, is a certain personality type: self-important, pathetic, and on a delusional power trip. While she does suffer at his hands temporarily, she uses intelligence and premeditation to assert herself when the time is right.

Basically, she is able to stand up for herself, by herself. She uses her calculating smarts in justified situations — for self-defense — and as a hacker/researcher. But she is also capable of immediate, physical counteraction, as seen when she chases her would-be mugger in the subway, punches him in the face, grabs her bag back and escapes. Also when she effectively rescues Daniel Craig’s character by grabbing the gun and pursuing the villain to annihilation, a role often reserved for the male protagonist.

At the end of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you feel bad for her. After her devastating childhood and everything she goes through, she begins to have feelings for Craig; to get attached. She, of course, is human (or rather a fictional representation of one, but suspend your disbelief for a moment), and all humans, male and female, have emotions, weaknesses, tendencies and vulnerabilities. At the closing scene, after she buys him an expensive coat as a gift, she sees him with his former lover and walks away — probably heartbroken, but on to her next adventure. No tears. No Ben ‘n’ Jerry binges. No begging.

To be a strong, independent woman doesn’t mean that you can’t fall in love and that you can’t be taken advantage of, abused, taken for granted, beaten, abandoned, and hurt in manifold ways. People can leave you and bad things do happen. But what’s so awesome about Lisbeth is that she doesn’t really need anyone. She can feel the pangs of hurt and move on, always true to the self. She can feel affection and love, but she is never dependent or needy. She doesn’t chase, doesn’t wallow in self-pity. She walks away a complete, solitary, self-assured, assertive, unafraid, competent, indomitable individual; a badass postmodern warrior.

*The Romantic hero is a literary archetype referring to a character that rejects established norms and conventions and has been rejected by society. Literary critic Northrop Frye noted that the Romantic hero is often “placed outside the structure of civilization and therefore represents the force of physical nature, amoral or ruthless, yet with a sense of power, and often leadership, that society has impoverished itself by rejecting”.[1] Other characteristics of the romantic hero include introspection, the triumph of the individual over the “restraints of theological and social conventions”[1]wanderlustmelancholymisanthropy, alienation, and isolation.[2] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romantic_hero)