Europe on the Cheap

Finding where the numerous European discount airlines fly was a tedious task, until Tarom introduced RouteScout, a search engine that allows you to search by airline, airport, city or country for the route matching your needs, saving the frugal flyer both time and money. Now EasyJet has been added to the ever growing list of airlines served by them. EasyJet serves many cities in Europe including London, Athens, Paris, Malaga and Nice, among others. Many discount airlines allow you to book flights only solely through them, which can mean hours of searching individual web sites for coordinating routes. RouteScout allows you to search 31 different European discount airlines for routes matching your search criteria. No longer do you have to go to each of these airlines to find matching routes and also features other travel-lover features such as rich-text based travel journals and photo albums, and the ability to share their experiences with various airlines or get advice on the best places to stay using the message boards. Tarom is dedicated to making European travel affordable.

Believe it or Not...

This is, to my mind, not a bad thing if it radicalizes the center. In any case, this sort of “law enforcement” tactic is not only par for the course, I would expect it as fairly standard, especially since the rhetoric has ramped up over the past 8 years to lump a whole lot of people under the rubric of “environmental terrorists” (a laughable semantic trainwreck if ever there was one). Any truly inspired movement for radical change has to expect mass arrests, intimidation, every form of government / police oppression. In fact, if they don’t invite it, they’re probably doing something wrong. Otherwise it’s not radical change they are organizing towards, it’s just grandstanding and window-dressing. The worst thing the establishment could ever do to a movement is ignore it completely. The fact that a certain segment of the establishment is so completely agitated about environmental activists is in itself a victory not to be taken lightly. It is also a victory for which a great deal of payment will probably be made. When you’re trying to save the human race from extinction due to stupidity, don’t expect the forces of stupidity to not put up a fight. Especially since fighting is pretty much all they know how to do. As a postscript, it also cracks me up to read the statement “people have a right to demonstrate peacefully”. If you really have to think about why that statement is both ridiculous, frightening, depressing, maddening and in the end an invitation to rebellion, then you need to put down your venti caramel macchiato and read it again a few more times. And if you still don’t get it maybe you should punch yourself in the forehead a few times. (I recommend this, from personal experience).

Eyes Have Everything

Perhaps one of the greatest things is the human eye. Perhaps too great. They curious devils spy upon everything, looking, maybe trying to behold something worth the look. The eyes upon a girl's diary. Lovelorn, words deeper than what is put on paper. Even they look upon words struck out, slashed out with pen, but alas the ink is indelible. Even when you slash it out, but not so thoroughly, eyes can still look upon secrets written. They spy upon documents, shut away and forgotten years past. Words forbidden. Words literally not to be seen by them. But alas... It may be too late. The eyes spy upon something, as I've told you all before, forbidden. The secret is found. But if eyes had a mouth they would scream. Eyes can have everything. Perhaps too much of everything.

Book Review: Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell

Title: Shadowed Summer. Author: Saundra Mitchell. Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Mystery. Paperback: 192 pages. Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; First Edition (June 8, 2010). Description: Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared. His mother knew he ascended to heaven, the police believed he ran away, and his girlfriend thought he was murdered. Decades later, certain she saw his ghost in the town cemetery, fourteen-year-old Iris Rhame is determined to find out the truth behind "The Incident With the Landry Boy". Enlisting the help of her best friend Collette, and forced to endure the company of Collette's latest crush, Ben, Iris spends a summer digging into the past and stirring old ghosts, in search of a boy she never knew. What she doesn't realize is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret. My Review: I didn't hear much about this book, but the story sounded interesting and I happened to receive a free copy... 

So I read it. Fun, exciting personal story, right? Well, it is an understated reaction to an understated book. Despite the book being about ghosties I can't say it is all about the ghosties. The story is about friendship, growing up, healing  and all that good angsty stuff that coming of age stories should have. I think what I liked most about the book was the setting. Setting can become its own character, a behemoth presence in a story. The setting doesn't overwhelm the story itself, but it surly enhances all the good qualities. The small town stuff. Showcasing the dark secrets everyone seems to have and hide. And it is plain to see that past events still have an effect on the people of Ondine. I see this book as a read for a younger crowd, I wouldn't have a problem with my little sisters reading this (they are 9 and 11). The romance is sweet and light. An awakening to love, if you will (jeez, I can't believe I actually just used that if I were sixty and a college professor). The main relationship focus is family and friends. 

I was kinda hoping for something to happen before I read the book, before I knew the character ages. I probably would have been rolling my eyes if anything did happen between these young kids (was that a spoiler?). There is a mystery going on, but I never saw it as a "Let's solve a murder and find a killer!" It was more of a puzzler, for the characters, about why this ghost was coming to them for help (he does have a peachy way of asking... sheesh). And stuff just gets resolved (I suppose) in the end. Rating: 3.5/5. I enjoyed this book so I don't want to say that I feel like a younger audience would like this more. Maybe older audiences would find it a bit of a nice departure from all the stuff saturating the ya market now. This book is a nice quick read about a small town girl trying to solve a ghostly mystery, and boys, crushes and friends seep into mix. So if that sounds like something you may like then check this title out. I have to make a mention that I liked the mini twist at the end. It was kind of bittersweet... probably why I liked it.

More on The Subject of Leadership

Jesse Wendel at News Bite group blog hits on one of my pet subjects, how to tell a real leader from a fake leader: If you’ve got something even close to working, be appreciative. Don’t whine, don’t complain. Send postcards and thank you notes to the people helping you achieve your dreams. Stop bitching about how they’re not perfect or they should do it differently. If they ask for your help, give it unstintingly precisely how they ask for it. Don’t feel compelled to tell them all your good ideas about how they should be doing it better or differently. They’re doing their goddamnedests to feed you your gig on a fucking silver platter. If you simply are unable or not constituted to cut the boss a break or not complain and stir up shit, leave. You should be somewhere else doing something else, some where you can run your own shop. No harm, no foul. Sure, people will miss you for about ten minutes. And then they’ll get on with making their TV show, running their baseball team, building their software, or winning a Congressional Seat. The rest definitely bears a read, and a re-read.

Stop What You’re Doing and Read This - Book Review

What follows are ten essays written by writers, publishers, scientists and other reading advocates who tell their version of how reading can transform a reader’s brain, mind, and soul. I loved the idea of this book when the publisher offered me a copy because I cannot convince people to read. I wish I could, but I have no idea how to do it. I can simply speak my own experience. “Why  should you read?” I might say to a non-reader. “Well, because I  have read, and it’s gotten into me somehow. I feel connected to the booming life of history. I feel embedded in words that generations will read long after I’m gone, and generations have read long before I existed. I’m in the conversation now, and I want to remain plugged into it. I’m empathetic now. I’m calmer. I’m no longer a solitary mind steeping in self-doubt and fear and the longing for joy; I am one of a whole soul of people who feels just like me. That is why you should read. To be part of that.” This is what I say over and over when people ask me why they should read, and it never elicits transformation. It actually puzzles people who see literature as a waste of time and readers as self-gratifying “bookworms”.

And it seems so insubstantial. All of the essays in Stop What You’re Doing and Read This!, while told in different styles and from different points of view, ultimately support the final essay, which is highly technical and discusses how the brain works when one is reading, and what can happen to the brain if one does not exercise it by reading deeply enough, not to simply take in knowledge and spit it back out, but to analyze it, form a conclusion, and support that conclusion as an individual and newborn thought inspired by reading but created in the mind of the reader. This final essay warns readers that to fail to think deeply actually weakens the brain, and that technology which offers readers short-cuts in deep thinking will have grave effects on the minds of those new souls entering our 21st century who will form tomorrow’s leaders. The final essay seems to plea with all those who have read the prior essays and can say, “Yes, yes. I love literature too. I can see the point of reading.”
“You love literature? Then we need you. We need to figure out where to go in the 21st century: how to save literature, keep it vital, and retrain the human brain to receive it, not docilely, but richly. We need you to fight with us. Teach your children. Train your brains. Do not fade into technology. Do not become lazy readers. Literature is too rich to die this death, and it will not die if we refuse to become passive. If literature affects life as deeply as we have laid out in this book, then the changing dynamics of literature will deeply alter life. We must be prepared for this and face it intellectually.” (The above quote is me analyzing and paraphrasing.) Many of the essays in the collection offer personal anecdotes about the life of a reader which demonstrate the enriching power of literature. I enjoyed these but felt far more energized by the essays that discuss the effect of the tools of writing on the brain.

My favorite essay in the collection was by far “The Right Words in the Right Order” by Mark Haddon. He dissects how words and their placement creates effects within the mind of the reader. For example, “Sad.” What a small word for the depth that is true sadness. Writers, poets take that intense longing, and that tiny little word, and combine it with other words that create rhythms that pierce the very soul, and readers feel  what the word cannot truly demonstrate. We live it because it is universal. As a new-budding writer, I found this essay particularly fascinating. Haddon addresses how writers create an illusion of life with just the alphabet,  and why it works. He also compares literature to its more popular cousin these days, film: “Stop reading right now. Look around you. It doesn’t matter if you’re lying in bed or sitting in a crowded tube carriage. This is what film can’t do. The sense of being inside  looking out,  of seeing a world that belongs to everyone but is nevertheless yours alone.” Mark Haddon - “The Right Words in the Right Order” (Essay #5).