"Dodging Satan" cover page (book review)

“Dodging Satan” or How Not To Raise a Catholic (Book Review)

Dodging Satan: My Irish/Italian, Sometimes Awesome, But Mostly Creepy, Childhood by Kathleen Zamboni McCormick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If we could open up a contest about the world’s most Catholic family, Bridget’s Italian-Irish concoction would definitely top up the rating. The clever girl is raised by the tight glove of religion from both sides of the large family, grows up to become the perfect Catholic and evade Satan’s calling who takes various shapes in her life as a child and young teenager: imaginary snakes coming out of the closet at night, her flirty and cheeky friend Lucy, and the non-avoidable puberty sex drive.

Her parents are not great fans of logic and prefer to keep up the pretense even when strong beliefs are brought into serious question, such as when they pretend to sip the Holy water that seems disgusting because everyone puts their finger in it or when her father refuses to buy her a two-wheeler only because she can fall off it and lose her virginity.

But we all know that Satan can not be easily dodged as he is the other face of God, which becomes increasingly clear for Bridget as time goes by. You couldn’t feel anything less than sympathy for the awesome Bridey, as her mother calls her, who asks some damn good questions about the ridiculousness of Bible passages when reality strikes – two dead family members in Vietnam although they had their crosses on the chest and wives that get beaten but stay in marriage only because they need to play the role of a good Christian wife.

This is a wonderful story of humor but also sadness and harsh truths. I am very happy that, in the end, Bridget decides to stay friends with Satan who, compared to God she has met, might not be so bad after all! This is a story of how not to raise a Catholic!

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Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay

Why Every Writer Should Read “The Artist’s Way” By Julia Cameron (Book Review)

Rather than following the usual format of book reviews (if there is such a thing) I like sharing the personal journey of how reading a book affected my life. I read “The Artist’s Way” a long time ago – I believe it was over a decade ago when I had to face some deep personal issues. I didn’t read the book for writing purposes. It was recommended by a friend who, at the time, had no idea about my writing aspirations which dwelled in some slow-burning parts of mine since I was a child. But since I was happy to embrace and practice many different identities, they all helped me become the person I am now. Today, I like to call myself a writer. 

Somewhere around the time this book got into my hands, I became vested in psychology, for reasons that were more or less obvious to me. However, I wasn’t quite so aware of the deeply rooted psychological causes of the writer’s block. Yet thanks to “The Artist’s Way” to a great extent, I managed to turn writing into a lucrative career. The greatest benefit for me was not just the financial reward. That followed years after I read the book. I am able to earn money from my writing for another reason, which will be more obvious to anyone who has been happily immersed in the flow of writing

Writing Flow: The Most Desired Writer’s State

Csikszentmihalyi’s genius about what makes people happy is about this state of flow. Flow is a psychological state with which you are so fully enmeshed that you would do it for the sake of it, expecting no additional reward. Rather than expecting external incentives, flow gives intrinsic rewards by itself. 

This certainly doesn’t mean writing for free unless that makes you happy. Ultimately, other needs will win the state of flow and you will have to go to grab something to eat, drink, or hug. But it does mean that if you are in the flow, you will write substantially easier, and better, to that matter, because the ability to surrender to the thoughts on paper will help you become best friends with your writer’s block rather than consider it an arch-nemesis. 

The flow is something you can connect to the middle mode of the self in gestalt therapy. Middle mode is the space of creativity and spontaneity, one that emerges when you get rid of self-imposed restrictions, limiting beliefs, unfriendly internal voices,  and literary critics that get to you.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron book review 2

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

The middle mode enables finding solutions to problems you may have never thought of.  Being in the middle mode is calling upon the creative child within before it was submerged under layers of insecurity ignited by a second-grade teacher who told you your writing lacks something, whatever that something may be. Although it is mainly used in the therapeutic process, once you get the feel of it, you can access that sweet spot where your creativity bursts with more ease. 

This doesn’t mean that the middle mode is always pleasant. It often involves hard work – those pages won’t fill out by themselves. But it does help you with understanding why and for whom you write, as well as to find your place in the global audience. 

Working in the middle mode is possible only if you engage both your brain hemispheres and work with your emotions, your senses, and your ratio, so that you come up with a piece of yourself sculpted in a uniquely personal yet somehow so shareable and relatable at the same time. 

Your Brain on Writing

If you haven’t looked at “The Artist’s Way” closer, here is a short description of the workbook: it is a set of exercises and accompanying guidance on how they work with the ultimate goal to befriend the writer in you. 

The exercises ask for complete surrender, especially the one where you have to write the first gibberish that comes to the top of your mind first thing in the morning. You basically need to open your eyes and start filling out those pages with the noise in your head. And, if I remember correctly, you need to do it for a month or so, repeating the same exercise each morning without stopping yourself. There is a recollection finale to wrap up the exercise, but if you ever decide to delve in, you’d better go through it yourself. 

Introducing the Healing Powers of Writing

If you think that my pages were full of incomprehensible blabber, you are right. I was also aware they incorporated a lot of the emotional stuff I was processing at the moment. But I didn’t really care. I was determined to follow through, possibly because the pages were doing their magic. You can call the magic writing therapy in conventional psychotherapeutic circles or writing workshops and retreats in shamanic, alternative, spiritual, or “whatever-you-like-to-call” circles that don’t carry the preliminary stamp of mainstream healing techniques. 

Their common point is that writing heals. Writing heals because it makes you whole, helping you get in touch with less-known aspects of the self and connecting you to the whole of humanity. 

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron book review 3

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

Whether you believe in a strong ego concept or are more in favor of global unity, you won’t be able to deny the boundaries that connect us all on an archetypal and collective level. 

As I went through the exercise, which was admittedly a painful process, I came up better equipped to dwell in the uncomfortable space of working together with the problematic self aspects and using them to the benefit of my writing. Thanks to “The Artist’s Way” I became capable of seating with hours at the desk and enjoying the process. I also learned how important wellbeing is and that nothing should be at the sacrifice of feeling safe. Whenever I get too safe, I challenge myself with a writing experiment. It is the best way for me at the moment to stretch out and connect. 

Writing with honesty and integrity is what keeps readers awake with open books late into the night. There is plenty of travel to reach such a destination and it is not for everyone. Without a doubt, Julia Cameron got me closer to the natural feel of the writing flow and if this is where you want to be, I strongly recommend persisting with the exercises.   

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.
The Inconceivable Truth: A gutsy memoir about defining and surviving childless womanhood in the 21st century book review

“The Inconceivable Truth: A Gutsy Memoir about Defining and Surviving Childless Womanhood in the 21st Century” by Nicki Fenthum (Book Review)

There was a moment in time when I didn’t quite understand why people decide to share their stories in so many personal details. I thought – why would someone want to expose to the bare bones to random strangers? Then it dawned on me – they are not doing it for themselves or, rather, they are not doing it only for themselves. They are doing it for the benefit of others.

That said, having and raising children is a deeply personal story. No one can truly live the life of another and feel it in the same way. That is why it is difficult to share on such a touchy subject. At the same time, challenges with pregnancy, fertility, and offspring are common for many parents.

Precisely because almost no one likes to meddle into people’s intimate affairs, we rarely see the real struggle and joy behind becoming or not becoming a parent.

This book is something else.

Nicki Fenthum offers the gift of an amazing personal story told with candor and shared with bravery. Although people interested in having children might have the greatest benefit from “The Inconceivable Truth: A Gutsy Memoir about Defining and Surviving Childless Womanhood in the 21st Century,” I believe aspiring mothers-to-be would get the most nutritious meat and potatoes from this book.

I don’t want to tell you much about Nicki’s story because I would produce spoilers. And although this is not a fiction book but a memoir, I think the impact of the message will be lost if you know the turn of events upfront.  

Why do you need to read this book? Above all, because it will give you a first-person experience of female fertility, a highly personal and intimate issue about which many mothers and fathers don’t like sharing much.

Having difficulties with conceiving can be traumatic. Sometimes, overt sharing can increase rather than heal the trauma. Here we see a different approach – someone who bares it all – the light and the dark stuff. 

Nicki Fenthum opens ups to the world not only from her role of a mother, but also as a wholesome human being that is a lover, a creator, a friend, a wife, a businesswoman, and, first and foremost, a vulnerable human soul with an inspirational will for life.

She touches the highs and the lows of human existence and approaches each life challenge with an incredible zest for life – she has the same unwavering ambition for her personal, as well as for her professional life.

The author speaks with honesty about her desire for control, violent traits, and dark emotional places. She reveals her strengths and weaknesses, and her passions and ambition.

You will get to learn about the effect of the city you live in on your physical health. Get ready for a lot of priceless details about what it is like to struggle with motherhood after you reach the age of forty.

There are plenty of things that your doctors might not tell you. And Nicki will tell you about all of them in full, in a beautiful exploration of what it means to live in the grey areas of life and what motherhood is all about.

The issue of children is complex – we all know it is personal yet it touches upon the social matrix.

This book might help you find your stance about children in the brevity of a lifetime when facing multiple conflicting opinions and advice from family, friends, and doctors.

It is a truly admiring memoir with a great example of how to use retrospection and self-reflection to gain valuable life lessons.    

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.
Mating in Captivity book review married couple

9 Lessons About Love I Picked Up from “Mating in Captivity” by Esther Perel (Book Review)

Lust and love. Safety and risk. Trust and curiosity. Boredom and novelty. Monogamy and polyamory. Familiarity and excitement. Picking up dirty laundry and sex binge weekends. 24 hours in pajamas and wild nights out for months. Three children and rock climbing. Unpaid bills and erotic lingerie. If you associate the first words in the above sentences with marriage and the second with dating or hookups, welcome aboard. You are one of the millions of humans who struggle with the mess of modern-day relationships. 

Our (Somewhat) Broken View of Love

It is almost impossible never to have come across Esther Perel’s “Mating in Captivity since it is a widely popular book and highly acclaimed by leading newspaper book clubs and bestseller lists. It is a bestseller because it touches upon an important aspect of modern life in which expectancies from marriage grow and spouses are no longer seen as mere partners in the economics of a household and family. 

True, nowadays we want a lot more from a partner, for two reasons mostly. One is the brainwashing done by the mainstream media with the romanticized idealism of the “happily ever after” and the other is our own incapability to love as adults because we simply don’t know how to. We love as we have been taught in our families. Most adults, with rare exceptions, have more or less kept aspects of their small child persona when they show up as adult partners in a relationship. But regardless of the distorted stories about love we have been told or accepted, the hookup culture, the inability to articulate what we want unless we text message,  true love has a bit of that magical quality which is difficult to describe yet keeps bits of the romanticism and the deservingness of a small child inside. 

How to Rekindle a Relationship or a Stale Marriage 

“Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence” is a book about all of this. Many problems in marriages or long-term  “serious” relationships come out from one of both partner’s inability to comprehend in themselves and the other, and manage and communicate their needs, wishes, and desires. 

But a huge part of the issues modern couples struggle with is down to pointing the mirror to the partner rather than turning it inwards for self-reflection. We expect from the partner to be our everything – we give them an impossible task which no one can fulfill. We want them to tick all the boxes in our expectation minds. We want them to act in a way, and when they don’t, we take that for a fault of character. 

Mating in Captivity book review old couple

Image by ArtTower from Pixabay

We all have our narrative of how to love. No two people have the same. Often, partners in marriage share a crime – they both have a dysfunctional pattern for bonding which attracts the other and glues to them like a fly to honey. Sometimes, marriage failure is due to accepting societal spousal roles without questioning whether they fit.

There is plenty to be said about the skyrocketing divorce rates and the declining marriage wows that marked the noughties and beyond. Happiness seems to remain an illusory quality for many marriages that involve an affair and fail in overcoming it. 

Can You Survive the Betrayal of the Affair?

What Esther Perel is talking about in “Mating in Captivity” is not the subject of serial affairs, a more complex problem, although it can fit in the context of this book partially. What she talks about is the affair that rocks an otherwise stable marriage. For some people, when the excitement of the novelty wears out, the easiest way to look for fun is outside of their marriage. Having an affair seems like a wonderful solution – there is someone new who can stir your juices, make your trip, entice you to look forward to meeting them, and, simultaneously – overwhelm you with guilt. 

An affair is not the only exit. Here is what other exits I took for myself and what you can from this book: 

  1. You CAN develop excitement within marriage. You just need to get creative. 
  2. When your partner has an affair it is never about you. It is never about you in the similar sense that nothing that anyone else does is about you. People have a subjective worldview and are driven by selfish reasons. Selfish doesn’t necessarily have to mean bad in this context. It can simply be related to the personal, the self. But in a way, it can mean selfish in the “bad way”, too, because it doesn’t take care of the relationship as a whole. An affair is a betrayal to the relationship more than it is a betrayal to the betrayed.  
  3. The more we know someone, or think we know someone, the less attracted we are to them.
  4. You can bring in novelty into our relationship or marriage by doing something new yourself or for yourself.
  5. The new thing that sparks erotic novelty doesn’t have to be sexual. 
  6. Your relationship is a whole with two parts. You don’t need to change the other for someone else to revive the relationship. 
  7. Not all relationships are meant to last. Sometimes the affair is the final red flag for the love that is long over. 
  8. You don’t need to feel obligated and continue the relationship after an affair. But it will do you an immense amount of good to know what went wrong and use those insights into a new relationship. 
  9. Some relationships have overcome the trauma of an affair. They are those that have grown stronger. It is possible. 

If you are struggling with keeping your marriage alive, if you want to redeem it after an affair, or if you are on the verge of committing one and in a desperate need of a quick solution, then you should get this book. It is one of the best investments I have made in my life. 

Things that are kept stale, stagnant, without new energy – wither. It is so easy to do that when you get into the role of a long-term partner, parent, or breadwinner in a marriage. Recollecting the initial excitement and looking at our partner with new eyes is helpful. But nurturing the excitement within us by getting out of our comfort zone and, in turn, igniting the fires in the relationship, as well, is a rare find for modern companionships who want to rekindle the same love all over again, and many times in the future. 

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.
The art of cyber conflict by h sienkiewicz book review chinese text

“The Art of Cyber Conflict” by H. Sienkiewicz (Book Review)

No war can be raised to a state-of-the-art level. Art must be beautiful, in the sense of producing a renewed faith of acceptance and I’m not sure war could ever do that. “The Art of Cyber Conflict” is about the new types of wars being led in the digital sphere.

Yet despite the absence of face-to-face combat or maybe exactly because of that, the author Henry Sienkiewicz points out that cyber conflicts can indeed have devastating consequences. 

The main purpose of the author is to make a parallel to another well-known book about fighting strategy – “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu and reinforce the new meaning of war in cyberspace. 

As a slight digression from the main point of this review, I found it curious that the author’s name resembles the name of another favorite writer of mine, the Polish Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz, whose “Quo Vadis” is among my top 30 best novels of all time. 

Except for the warlike state in the era of Christ, there are no other major similarities between these two books. If you are interested in a book that will feed your soul, the pick “Quo Vadis”, I highly recommend it.

But if you want to digest a few unpalatable truths about how wars are planned and executed, you might as well get the one by Henry, not the one by Henryk.

the art of cyber conflict book review chinese dragon

Image by Booth Kates from Pixabay

How Well Do You Know Your Adversaries?

“The Art of Cyber Conflict” features a modern theme, a link to a popular “enemy” – China, and a comparison to war wisdom that stays evergreen across centuries and cultures. The author Henry Sienkiewicz is (or used to be?) a member of the U.S. military. So the fact that he wants to understand his adversaries through the prism of an ancient Chinese military strategist is not a huge surprise. 

The most striking revelation for me, or anyone else reading this book presumably, was the notion about how much of the fight happens in the mental realm.

The six principles explained in Sun Tzu’s book “The Art of War” are not about direct conflict and can be applied to the cybersphere: “know yourself, know your enemy, know the environment, use all of your advantages, exploit the enemy’s weaknesses, be deceptive and attack along unexpected lines.”

I guess that there is no better way to defeat an enemy than knowing their strategy and always being one step ahead. Fighting in the elusive space of electronics assumes difficulties in identifying an enemy.

The art of war, including the art of cyber conflict, must be based on deep penetration into the enemy’s mind. But when your enemy is ghostlike as it is the case in the cyberspace, different rules apply. 

the art of cyber conflict book review get-me-out

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

There is a parallel to be drawn between the age described in the Sun Tzu’s military strategy book and current China. Both Chinas are characterized by unprecedented growth. What was happening in the era of Sun Tzu is very similar to what is happening in modern China. 

Can You Create Enemies with a Fearful Mindset?

One thing that made a lasting impression – the Chinese believed that people are inherently bad or predetermined to be evil without control. Evil is in the human nature in the sense of the old Latin proverb “Homo homini lupus est”.

Chinese accepted that humans are predisposed to act like wolves, which is just another proof of the ignorance about the true wolf nature. And I’d like to hope so – human nature, too.   

Such a stance creates a warlike mindset. Talking so much about how to lead a war encourages fear and warmongering. I don’t like calling war art, but I guess that’s one way to rationalize it and dehumanize it when it’s imminent and inevitable. 

The Cautionary Tale of Ubiquitous Cyber Dangers

Living in fear never helped anyone but living in caution does help occasionally. I’d rather be a pacifist and crucify war wisdom proponents altogether but, in today’s growing cyber volatility and angst, I risk being labeled as crazy. 

Let’s keep it real and admit that, sometimes, there are dangerous people on the web that do commit cybercrimes, the least of which are stolen credit card passwords. This is a chance to spot those rotten apples more easily.

I’d rather not think about cybercrime intelligence, but this book was great to alert me that it is not only in the realm of Netflix series.

The perfect use of this book is to enhance your skills in spotting vulnerabilities in the ever-expanding IoT network which looms on the horizon. Otherwise, too much high-level military strategizing, which I’m sure I won’t be using, ever.

I hope that others won’t be using it to fight endless senseless wars or to be “crucified again”, as the risen Jesus relentlessly continued to walk his path when Peter asked him “Quo vadis?” (Whither goest thou?) at the gates of Rome. 

the art of cyber conflict book review quo vadis

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.
make your own neural network in python synapses

I Dare You to “Make Your Own Neural Network in Python” (Book Review)

If you’re a developer and expect deep expert insights about machine learning and neural networks, this “Make Your Own Neural Network in Python” review is not for you.

But if you are a tech addict and like reading and learning about new software applications, then this will most likely hit a spot. If you like to improve general knowledge on the matter, then you may find this reading experience useful as well. 

The Special Spot for Neural Networks in Machine Learning

Alongside developments in the complex field of AI in recent years, machine learning (ML) went from an emerging to mainstream technology. It will become even more essential as the years go by.

In parallel, I’ve asked myself many questions about what machine learning is and what is all the fuss about it – will computers truly be able to learn as humans do? Can they replicate learning from an example? Are we looking at a doomsday where machines take over?

I was sure that this last scenario is not likely to take place, but I was still curious about the essential differences between machine learning (ML) algorithms and existing code. 

Although conventional algorithms are not that simple, they can be packed into neat boxes for classification purposes.

How Are ML Algorithms Different Than the Rest of Computer Code

But a machine learning algorithm is one of a kind. It doesn’t require continuous instructions by the coder – it is rather capable of instructing itself on the principle of learning from example by trial and error.

And as the machine goes through the process of making sense of the input data, it improves by one sort of a sieving process, leaving the coarse mistakes behind, and making fewer and tinier mistakes as it goes forward and generates the desired output.

This is, of course, an analogy and not an expert elaboration of how machines learn. It is an aspect that relates to neural networks, as well. 

make your own neural network in python review brain

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

With visual aids, sketches, and diagrams, the authors Michael Taylor and Mark Koning explain a substantial segment of machine learning – neural networks, which is a sub-segment of deep learning. If you don’t have some programming background (and I don’t) it won’t be as easy to delve into the details.

Nevertheless, this is not only a coding book, but a text that ventures into the math and the logic of neural networks and can be interesting for someone with a mathematical or data science background.

Neural Networks Architecture

Again, if you are not a Python developer or don’t have another experience with creating algorithms, you will still find the book useful, but maybe only partially.

However, you do need to have some knowledge of high-level math – matrices and complex functions, and statistics – regression principles, for instance, to be able to decipher the logic of neural networks explained in this text.

make your own neural network review artificial synapses

Image by Ahmed Gad from Pixabay

Here is what I gained from this book:

  • Understanding of the concentric circles around neural networks, with them being the center-most, while AI being the outermost layer, with deep learning and machine learning positioned in-between.
  • Key terminology about neural networks, for example – nodes, synapses, connections, layers, and the ability to identify synonyms, for example, node=neuron.
  • Why deep learning is called “deep” and what are hidden, input, and output layers.
  • What is supervised, unsupervised, and semi-supervised machine learning
  • The critical value of partial derivatives and why you need to understand them before reaching out for this book to build upon that knowledge and make your own network.

Thanks to my neverending interest in psychology, the last point was intriguing for me. Neural networks are structurally set to correspond to the neuron synapses in the human brain, thus the similar technology. I haven’t seen many visual presentations of how neural networks work, but I like this one. 

Once I was done with the reading, it became clear that this field has only scratched the surface and that there are many new insights skilled experts need to make before we have a better grasp of it.

Now, will I be able to make my own neural network? Absolutely not. But will I read about technology development and innovations with a bit more confidence and acumen behind me? A definite yes.

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.
Chasing Mercury book review black ballerina

“Chasing Mercury” by September Williams: Why Most Collective Victories Begin with a Brave Personal Fight

“Chasing Mercury” ticked all the right boxes of what I consider an amazing book deserving of a high rating. It has everything that I want from a good read – memorable characters, a plot that edges on the personal, the collective, and the political, and a curious take on what seems like usual human destinies, yet with enough distinctive elements to separate it from the most of new editions, and keep it readable at the same time. 

It has a down-to-earth, yet intelligent dialogue with past pace. Written mostly in the present tense it is as exciting, as it is palpable and nourishing.

September Willams knows how to work with exquisite character-shaping and entice readers to develop a crush, even fall in love with them, not in the conventional romantic way, but in an inquisitive and reader-friendly way. 

Sentences draw you in deliberately, just like a book is supposed to, transferring you in another world, turning you into a close mute observer of a touching intimate story. The reading hugs you slowly until it overwhelms you and you find yourself rooting for the characters, despite their imperfections. 

chasing mercury book review powwow-dance

Image by IAS from Pixabay

This is a story about two strong-willed and ambitious dancers, a 5’ 9” tall African American ballerina named Sicily and a Native American Powwows dance artist named Foster. Sicily and Foster are powerful leads, young, smart, energetic, attractive, ambitious and headstrong.

Their love starts with an instant attraction and, as expected, develops not without its problems. It is a love story with integrity, and without mush or lovey-dovey elements typical for romance novels. 

Although there are romance and erotica, it is not the only thread of the plot, as Willimas throws in a bit of history and politics into the concoction with the mercury poisoning narrative.

Mercury poisoning is no laughing matter and this book is a clever way to raise awareness about a persistent global problem that now intertwines with the character destinies. 

You will witness Sicily’s incessant effort to make it in the ballet world – a necessary ingredient for anyone wishing to survive in the merciless world of ballet (Misty Copeland, anyone?) and Foster’s struggle with the inherited piece of land which he later sells, challenging the story exactly because of the mercury included. 

“Chasing Mercury” jumps out from a standard linear narrative but that’s precisely why I enjoyed this book so much. I hope you do, too. To wrap it up, this was one of the best first novels I’ve read in a while, and I vividly remember its individuality despite reading it more than two years ago.

As promised by the author, two more sequels are in the making.

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.
Jobs for Robots by Jason Schenker review

“Jobs for Robots” by Jason Schenker: How to Make Yourself Irreplaceable in the Age of Robotics

Informed in one way or another, we all await for the faraway future to welcome robots on a grand scale. But robots are coming faster than we can tell. In fact, robots are already here and now it’s the best time to start preparing yourself for what once seemed only a distant possibility on the horizon. 

We had a poignant but necessary history lesson about the first time machines took over jobs from people. Similarly, a new lesson won’t be pleasant for the unprepared worker. Therefore, if you want to think middle and long-term, it’s time to train your coping skills about the age of the fourth industrial revolution when robots take a stronger hold on our lives. Despite this murky start, this is not an apocalyptic review, we’ll get to more of the bright side at the end.

In case you were wondering when will that be, don’t hold your breath for too long. It’s beginning now. 

I see it everywhere – the buzz about robots, artificial intelligence, Universal Basic Income (UBI), and the accompanying job changes. If you are just a bit like me and read entrepreneurial, business, tech or finance magazines then you can make use of the book “Jobs for Robots” in more than one way. Even if your common literature is mainstream lifestyle magazines, you probably haven’t missed an article or two about robotics and automation. I guess you’ve used a kiosk or talked to Alexa – in that case, you’ve interacted with a robot. 

Ever used a self-service checkout machine? Have you considered that behind the simple DIY cashier is a human who has lost a job? The latter may be or may not be true. After all, many cashiers are now customer service agents in a different way, focusing more on the human interaction aspect of the job.

But for many jobs of the current present, the science of robotics is working on their replacements or improvements. Many jobs are forever lost at the same time while new ones are being created. Some jobs will thrive and others won’t survive at all. What’s Schenker’s stance on the doomy-gloomy vs. the utopian outlook on robots?

It is somewhere in-between Robocalypse and Robotopia, and he seems to know what he is talking about. 

Jobs for Robots by Jason Schenker review robotic head

Image by DrSJS from Pixabay

Jason Schenker is an authoritative predictor of economic and social trends and comes with a long list of degrees, certifications, and references from reputable sources. Even if you don’t agree with him about everything – and I don’t, for example, I find his view on UBI too conservative and restrictive – you will reap a lot of benefits from listening to his tips about making yourself irreplaceable in the robotics era. 

Building on his past experience in predictive economics, the meaningful insights picked up in past work, and a comprehensive list of web resources on the topic at hand, Schenker gives several clues to help you sail to the other side of the robotics age. 

You will become more aware of how job trends are interdependent with tax policies, social security, debt, new technologies, as well as how past economic cycles repeat, and how to learn from them. Jobs with a human touch are not jeopardized. If you are in healthcare, you are most likely to thrive in the future. But many low-skill, low-income, and low-education jobs will disappear – so there is a risk if you belong to one of the occupations under these categories.

One example of substantial transformation is jobs in transportation, including a very well known robot – the driverless car. As another example of human-replacing machines, Schenker mentions kiosks – for cupcakes even – and positions them in the future work as machines people will be happy to use. 

jobs for robots: education to future-proof your job

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Finally, I’m not so happy with Schenker’s saying “Busy people are happy people” because he connects happiness to having something to do.

Many busy people are anxious people, using their jobs as anxiety drivers or curtains, and are very unhappy. I wouldn’t give someone a job only to keep that person so occupied as to not be able or have time to notice their misery!

Future automation jobs will require education and you need to prepare for a steep learning curve. In a nutshell, Schenker’s advice to survive in the automation era comes down to three elements: work in an evergreen industry, learn valuable skills, and keep moving from jobs, companies, and locations.

It’s a book that gives yes to novelty and alertness, and no to complacency, a proven tactic for growth and avoiding unpleasant circumstances such as getting fired or becoming redundant.   

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.
Call me Pomeroy book review

“Call Me Pomeroy” by James Hanna: How Much Can You Like an Anti-hero?

I found this book incredibly hilarious, at moments hysterical and riotous in more than one sense of the word. That’s the usual way of the book’s author. It is not the first book I’ve read by James Hanna, but I somehow ended up writing the first review about it. Hanna has a knack for writing satire stories and for prison stuff that’s no laughing matter.

You can get acquainted with more of his quirky satire wit in “A Second, Less Capable, Head: And Other Rogue Stories” and enjoy more of the serious stuff in “The Siege”. Therefore, I’m somewhat used to his style, which doesn’t mean I enjoyed it any less in this book. On the contrary, I enjoyed “Call me Pomeroy” as much as I did the previous reading, if not more. 

Seeing such brutal honesty from a criminal who tells his story through the lens of personal experience is refreshing. It’s completely different to see how the mind of an outlaw works in the first person. Such intricate delving into the criminal mind is rare probably because not many many criminals like Pomeroy become writers or not many writers engage in crime.

Through the pages of “Call me Pomeroy”, you get a chance to examine how the brain of a narcissistic, self-absorbed, and antisocial character with an inflated ego works first-hand, which is not an easy task to pull off unless you are either one of them or spend a lot of time around typical antisocialites – criminals. 

Since Hanna has genuinely experienced what is like to be working in the penitentiary system, you can taste his closeness to this type of character and prowess about the subject matter. Prison-related books are usually one-of-a-kind pleasure to read and this one is uniquely charismatic, as well.

Pomeroy is a parolee who believes he is very special. His confidence (read: overvaluation) of his abilities as a musician are remarkable to follow. Not a bit less entertaining and appalling are his beliefs that every woman should fall at her knees once she meets him and be grateful to have him end up in her panties. 

Another moment that adds up to Pomeroy’s troubling character is his name change. Pomeroy chooses this new name because he believes his old one is too plain and commonplace. Instead of Eddie Beasley, he turns into the dignified Pomeroy.

When he steps out of jail, Pomeroy (Eddie Beasley) has a detestable behavior but is weirdly likable when he showcases his anti-establishment views. He is politically incorrect to a deplorable level and this constant awful behavior makes him the right anti-hero. 

Call me Pomeroy book review 2

Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

However, I couldn’t help but think that I’d love to adopt a few of his rebellious attitudes and have the guts to deal with authorities the way Pomeroy does it. If you’re used to being agreeable and veer towards socially acceptable behavior, you may also secretly wish to borrow a couple of maneuvers from this anti-hero, just to serve justice when needed. His Occupy-Oakland pathway of resistance and anti-government worldview while he works his way to musical stardom after jail are questionable, even delusional in a way.

Yet he seems to know himself well and if you want to get to know him better and discover a few surprises along the way, you might just go for the book. Otherwise, the title of his musical creation “Ants in my Pants” pretty much sums him up.

I enjoyed immensely his unbridled language and his lack of self-restraint. He may not be the greatest example of a moral character but that rarely makes good and fun reading.

Entertaining? Yes. Morally dubious? Yes, which is one more reason to get intrigued to get to know this wolf who is unlikely to ever change his character, but is also not very concerned about changing his coat, too.

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.

 

women who run with the wolves review

“Women Who Run with the Wolves” by C.P. Estés: Reclaiming Our Instinctual Nature

Wolves have a bit of a dire reputation following them. We see them as merciless predators, always hungry and at the feet of their next prey.

But as much as we don’t understand wolves, and for similar reasons maybe, we don’t understand women and we interpret them through a lens blemished with incomplete or poorly told fairytales across centuries. 

Wolves are ravenous only after a great famine, in wintertime, and kill with no intention to eat only when they are being driven by an instinct to survive as a remnant of past suffering. The same aggressive aspect can be seen in Estés‘s wild woman, the one who has been denied, said no to, squashed into a tiny space of being and welded to someone else’s wishes.

Almost every young girl knows the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, the tiny one who was forbidden to venture into the woods because she would be eaten by a hungry wolf. This fairytale, as well as many others told by the Brothers Grimm, carry only a grain of truth transmitted by oral narration over generations. In the book, Clarissa speaks of the harsh editing work the brothers needed to undertake when collecting the tales, mostly because of religious requirements at the time. Many of these edits removed obscene, sexual, or overly wild elements from the female psyche and behavior. 

In the cleaned-up story, Little Red Riding Hood manages to win in the meeting with the big bad wolf but only with the help of the hunter savior. And that’s the child-friendly version of the popular folktale because there are gruesome and creepy versions that are by no means something that a child should lay eyes onto. For that, we can thank the editors for doing a good job. But along with the bathwater went the baby, too. In one of the versions, Little Red Riding Hood manages to outwit the wolf by telling him she needs to take a poo in the woods. He releases her, trying to keep her at hand by tying a string to her but she puts the string around a branch and escapes. This Little Red Riding Hood is the epitome of the wild woman archetype as a young girl.

little red riding hood sculpture

Image by Leonie Schoppema from Pixabay

Clarissa Pinkola Estés brings us back to the story of the wild woman, a story about songs, bones, and wolves. A remarkable storyteller, Jungian analyst, and healer who integrated the wisdom roots of her Mexican and Hungarian ancestry and heritage into her healing work, the author clears ages of cobwebs and removes the debris of semi-truths and incomplete narratives about the wild woman archetype, connecting the reader with the feminine intuitive aspect. 

You don’t have to be a woman to read the book but you will feel it to the bones if you scrape against your feminine psyche aspects. And they do exist, whether you like it or not, whether you are aware of them or not. When searching for and exposing the wild woman archetype during her healing work, Clarissa Pinkola Estes uses the Jungian active imagination method heavily applied by Jung himself, the packer of archetypes. I call him the packer and not the creator because he only put ribbons to something that already existed in the collective psyche and its individual incarnations. 

Sound of Devotion, Dimitra Milan

Sound of Devotion by Dimitra Milan. Image Credit: Artist’s Page

What I found vividly expressive, nurturing, and wholesome in the book was the interconnectedness of the abandoned, rejected wild woman archetype and our own current missing connection from nature. It is a wake-up call to shed light on a long-lost or perhaps never by now found part of the self/selves, which reverberates with the echo of the wildness, instincts, and intuition that hides at the core of our bones. The book includes subtle and more direct nudges to reintegrate one’s voice with the voice of the wild woman archetype, craft new stories, and take a different type of action by peeling off layers from the forbidden. 

Slaughtered sheep herds are a sign of fear for survival – when wolves live in an optimal environment, their needs are met and they are quite the playful canines. Wolves and women bite and derail destructively when out of touch with who they’re supposed to be. Imbued with folklore sagacity, “Women Who Run with the Wolves” is a quite unique take on how to reclaim one’s power, by becoming aware of the fear that caused a trauma in the first place. A true analytical gem.

(I’ve listened to this book on Audible, which is a perk of its own since it is narrated by the author. )

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.