sexta-feira, 25 de março de 2011

The Last Lecture

On a rainy day I walked into a little magazine store. As an avid book reader the first thing that caught both my eye and attention was a bottom little shelf with covered with books. I crouched down and must have spent the next half an hour there skimming through that wonderful world of pages, ink and letters. At last I left with three new books in my bag and a large smile on my face. Honestly, I don't even know why I bought Pausch's book. I had never even heard about him and didn't have a clue of who he was. But as soon as I started reading his book I knew that he had something important to say and I would be doing myself a favor to learn with his words.
The fact that he was a fellow teacher must also have been something that made me "bond" with the book. This first book of his is nothing more than snippets of his "Last Lecture" which he delivered at Carnegie Hall. He was asked what wisdom he would try to impart to the world if he knew it was his last chance. And last chance it surely was, because a month before giving the lecture, Pausch had received a prognosis that the pancreatic cancer with which he had been diagnosed a year earlier was terminal.
Despite knowing he only had a few short months to live he continued upbeat, making the most out of life, enjoying its simple joys to the full and giving, giving, giving. Always making of life a giving experience.

A beautiful chapter of the book - I think one of my favorites - is where he speaks in the meaning of helping others achieve their dreams. Rather than achieving only our own personal dreams, what will give you even more pleasure and satisfaction is helping others achieve their own dreams. Potential is there in every being, but a true leader makes you realize how you can achieve your dreams with your potential. And that's what distinguishes a leader from everyone else.

Many things in my own personal life were put in focus and I took a chance to stop and choose what it is that I want to be the meaning in my life. 
What were my childhood dreams? Did I still want to achieve them? My answer was a loud and clear: YES! I still wanted to travel to India (one of my first childhood dreams - this dream developed after seeing a benefit dance concer for the blind which occured there), I still had the deep desire to write a book on my life (another MAJOR childhood dream), I still imagined myself speaking French fluently, and I still dreamt in building a charity work for children. I wrote all my childhood dreams on paper and then defined clear, concrete goals to start from that moment on. And so, after tapping into my childhood dreams I am now starting to set those dreams in motion!
How about you? Dig deep, re-discover your childood desires and make them come true!!!

Here is a little about Randy Pausch and his book "The Last Lecture":

Each year at a series known as The Last Lecture, a Carnegie Mellon University faculty member is asked to deliver what would hypothetically be a final speech to their students before dying. It is a wonderful tradition in which both speaker and listeners take a moment to reflect upon what matters most in this life. In September 2007, the speaker, 47-year-old computer science professor and father of three, Randy Pausch, didn't have to imagine that he was confronting his imminent demise because, in fact, he was. Pausch had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, at the time of his Last Lecture, had only been given three to six months to live. Pausch's speech, entitled "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," was every bit as upbeat and inspirational as the man himself. Rather than focusing on dying, it was a speech about living, about achieving one's dreams and enabling the dreams of others, about truly living each day as though it were your last.
As of this writing, Randy Pausch's Last Lecture has been downloaded by over 10 million viewers. If you haven't watched the Last Lecture, let me recommend it as an excellent investment of one hour of your day today. You'll find various methods of doing so

So far Randy Pausch has beaten the odds, and he continues to inspire his audience. The Last Lecture, published April 2008 by Hyperion, resulted from collaboration with Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. With a desire to elaborate on his ideas in print form, but not wanting to take precious time away from his children, Pausch, a self-avowed efficiency nut, spent fifty-three daily bike rides on his cellphone headset conveying his thoughts to Zaslow who helped shape the stories into book form.
The Last Lecture is a slender book that can be read in just a few sittings. It is full of stories and aphorisms, many of which are familiar from its video progenitor. We revisit Randy Pausch's fulfillment of his childhood dreams and the principles he learned along the way. These gems include Pausch's view that "life's brick walls are there to show us how badly we really want something," the notion that "experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted," and a quotation from the Roman philosopher Seneca who said that "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

Pausch is a fantastic storyteller, and recalls and distills the essentials of his life's anecdotes more than most of us would be able. The Last Lecture addresses more of his struggles with cancer than it did in video form, but always from the angle of a challenge requiring a creative solution, which is how Randy Pausch seems to have approached his entire life.
This book will be read by millions, but was written solely for Randy Pausch's three young children, Dylan, Logan, and Chloe, for whom Pausch is recording all of the fatherly advice he won't be around to give later on. It is because Pausch's advice is so universal in its wisdom and his voice so clear in its delivery, that we eavesdroppers can also benefit.

sexta-feira, 18 de março de 2011

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

An ironically ironic book. I gobbled this book down in one day. Yep, just like that. 
I didn't think much about it until I was done reading it and was able to stop down and ponder a bit on everything I had just taken in.
Books are amazing instruments. They have the power to make us stop, wonder, think and figure things out that we would have never given a second thought to if we hadn't taken the time to pick up that book, leaf through it, skim through it, delve into its pages head straight and find then yourself in a semi state of shock as you turn the last page. For me there is nothing more motivating - something that makes me want to change, transform myself, grow and accept new challenges in my life - than reading a book. And it doesn't have to be "THE book" - all it has to be able to do is mess in my mind and make me think when I am done reading it. I must agree with those that say that books are emotionally manipulative, because that is how I feel pretty much every time I finish reading a good book. This one was no exception.

Like many other books related to Jews, the holocaust, concentration camps, etc. that I read; it spoke to me a lot. But this time it spoke to me in a very different way. John Boyne makes very little mention of the horrors of war and shows a different angle of the story as we know it. 
The book is written in an easy and simple language; it's concise and makes you get the point in a very subtle way. Out of it all though, what I liked the most was the end. Why? Because it's an end that speaks the truth and makes you see the main picture; a picture that so many writers tried to pass to their readers yet failed. Yes, it's heartbreaking end but I couldn't think of a better way to finish it myself even if I tried. 

Book Review: Irish writer John Boyne's fourth novel is the first he has written for children. It's a touching tale of an odd friendship between two boys in horrendous circumstances and a reminder of man's capacity for inhumanity.
Bruno is a nine-year-old boy growing up in Berlin during World War II. He lives in a five-storey house with servants, his mother and father and 12-year-old sister, Gretel. His father wears a fancy uniform and they have just been visited by a very important personage called the Fury, a pun which adult readers should have no trouble deciphering. As a consequence of this visit, Bruno's father gets a new uniform, his title changes to Commandment and, to Bruno's chagrin, they find themselves moving to a new home at a place called Out-With.
When Bruno gets there he is immediately homesick. He has left his school, his three best friends, his house, his grandparents and the bustling street life of urban Berlin with its cafes, fruit and veg stalls, and Saturday jostle. His new home is smaller, full of soldiers and there is no one to play with. From his bedroom window, however, he notices a town of people dressed in striped pyjamas separated from him by a wire fence. When he asks his father who those people are, he responds that they aren't really people.
Bruno is forbidden to explore but boredom, isolation and sheer curiosity become too much for him. One day, he follows the wire fence cordoning off the area where these people live from his house. He spots a dot in the distance on the other side of the fence and as he gets closer, he sees it's a boy. Excited by the prospect of a friend, Bruno introduces himself. The Jewish boy's name is Shmuel. Almost every day, they meet at the same spot and talk. Eventually, for a variety of reasons, Bruno decides to climb under the fence and explore Shmuel's world.
After some initial tonal clunkiness where you can almost detect the author thinking "how do I write a child", the story is an effortless read that puts you directly into Bruno's worldview. It is elegant story-telling with emotional impact and an ending that in true fairytale style is grotesquely clever.
Bruno's friendship with Shmuel is rendered with neat awareness of the paradoxes between children's naive egocentricity, their innate concept of fairness, familial loyalty and obliviousness to the social conventions of discrimination. 

quarta-feira, 16 de março de 2011

People of the Book

People of the Book (Arabic: أهل الكتاب‎ ′Ahl al-Kitāb) is a term used to designate non-Muslim adherents to faiths which have a book of prayer. The plot of this book is all about that: the fictional story of the Haggadah. 

A student of mine reccomended me this book. She has a natural talent for arts so, as expected, she loved it. I thought I would like it more than I did though but it's an interesting book written by Geraldine Brooks.
The plot of the book traces the fictional history of the Haggadah by traveling forwards and backwards in place and time.In the present day, Hanna Heath, an Australian book restorer, goes to Sarajevo to do restoration and conservation on the book before it is put on display. As part of her conservation efforts, she tries to ascertain more about the book’s history. In parallel, the reader learns about the book’s travels and owners as it journeys back in time across Europe.
This book wasn't exactly my cup of tea but the the writer is real good and that keeps you going as you read the book. Spent my early Carnaval mornings reading this book.

Book Review:
When Hanna Heath, a manuscript conservator, first touches the centuries-old Hebrew codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, she feels a “strange and powerful” sensation, something “between brushing a live wire and stroking the back of a newborn baby’s head.” The manuscript is small, the binding soiled and scuffed, but its lavish illuminations — miniature scenes “as interpreted in the Midrash,” created “at a time when most Jews considered figurative art a violation of the commandments” — are stunning. It’s the spring of 1996 in Sarajevo, and Hanna has been called in to examine the book before it’s put on display.
To understand the work of the craftsmen who created the medieval texts she restores, Hanna has made her own gold leaf and created white pigment by covering lead bars with the dregs of old wine and animal dung. She’s familiar with “the intense red known as worm scarlet ... extracted from tree-dwelling insects” and the blue, “intense as a midsummer sky, obtained from grinding precious lapis lazuli.” Looking closely at the parchment of the Haggadah, she can tell it comes from “the skin of a now-extinct breed of thick-haired Spanish mountain sheep.” These lush details, at once celebratory and elegiac, will appeal to the sort of reader who picks up a book just for the feel of it.
Hanna is opposed to “chemical cleanups” and “heavy restorations,” believing that damage and wear reveal much about how and where a manuscript has been used. “To restore a book to the way it was when it was made is to lack respect for its history,” she tells Ozren Karaman, the Muslim librarian who risked his life to save the Haggadah while Sarajevo was being shelled. During her examination of the manuscript, Hanna finds a fragment of an insect’s wing and a small white hair, which she slips into glassine envelopes for later analysis. These clues and other oddities — where are the book’s clasps? — are the springboard for Geraldine Brooks’s panoramic third novel, “People of the Book.”
Brooks, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her previous novel, “March,” has drawn her inspiration from the real Sarajevo Haggadah. As she explains in an afterword, little is known about this book, except that it has been saved from destruction on at least three occasions: twice by Muslims and once by a Roman Catholic priest. Building on these fragments of information, Brooks has created a fictional history that moves to Sarajevo in 1940, then back to late-19th-century Vienna, 15th-century Venice, Catalonia during the Spanish Inquisition and finally Seville in 1480, the new home of the artist responsible for the Haggadah’s illuminations.
The history of this holy book is a bloody one, bound with brutality and humiliation. Families who protect it are torn apart; the book itself is plundered to pay for a questionable medical cure, then lost in a game of chance. A particularly disturbing scene occurs during the Inquisition in a grotesquely named “place of relaxation” where those accused of heresy by the Spanish authorities are tortured.
Brooks’s extensive research is evident throughout, but she occasionally chokes her storytelling with historical detail; her dialogue can also be heavy with exposition. The narrative works best when the burden of the past is borne more lightly, when Brooks burrows into her characters’ inner lives. In fin-de-siècle Vienna, for example, a syphilitic bookbinder, overcome by symptoms of dementia, forgets how to make tea or even pursue his craft. Terrified, he experiences his thoughts as “an army in retreat, ceding ever more territory to his enemy, the illness.”
An inscription in the real Sarajevo Haggadah reads Revisto per mi. Gio. Domenico Vistorini, 1609. Taken with the notion that a Catholic priest surveying the codex during the Inquisition might choose to save it, Brooks creates another memorable character, an erudite scholar with “an innate reverence for books.” Sometimes, he finds, “the beauty of the Saracens’ fluid calligraphy moved him. Other times, it was the elegant argument of a learned Jew that gave him pause.” This priest haunts the sacristy for draughts of unconsecrated communion wine, intent on obliterating painful memories from his childhood — “the blowing sand of that desolate town,” the secret niche within a carved Madonna — not to mention thoughts of all the texts he has sent to the fires in his 17 years as a censor.
In the intimate first-person narration of the captive artist who creates the book’s original illuminations, a longing for freedom — a theme echoed throughout the Haggadah’s account of the liberation of the Jews — is eloquently evoked. Imagining a walk to the coast, holding an enchanted staff, the artist believes that “the great sea would part, and I would cross it, and make my way, in slow stages, down all the dusty roads that lead toward home.”
These self-contained historical interludes shelter within the overarching and at times problematic story of Hanna Heath. An irreverent Aussie, she’s an appealing character, but as she travels to Vienna, Boston and London, meeting with experts who might help answer her questions about the Haggadah, the structure of the narrative works against her. A chapter that ends with Hanna wondering about the insect wing or the stain will be followed by a historical interlude solving that piece of the puzzle. Not only predictable, this back-and-forth scheme also creates a discrepancy: the reader learns far more than Hanna ever will.
Woven into the puzzle-solving is the account of Hanna’s romance with the Muslim librarian who has saved the book, as well as glimpses of her disastrous and at times melodramatic relationship with her mother. (“How is your latest tatty little book, anyway? Fixed all the dog-eared pages?”) Readers will eventually learn why Dr. Heath, an eminent neurosurgeon, is so dismissive, but this part of the plot has an artificial feel.
We are left wishing Brooks had found a less obtrusive way to gather up the many strands of her narrative. While peering through a microscope at a rime of salt crystals on the manuscript of the Haggadah, Hanna reflects that “the gold beaters, the stone grinders, the scribes, the binders” are “the people I feel most comfortable with. Sometimes in the quiet these people speak to me.” Though the reader’s sense of Hanna’s relationship with the Haggadah rarely deepens to such a level, Geraldine Brooks’s certainly has.
Lisa Fugard has written frequently for The Times’s Travel section and is the author of a novel, “Skinner’s Drift.”

quinta-feira, 10 de março de 2011

The Truth About Managing Your Career - Karen Otazo

A lot of truths. Many which we already know and have heard about pratically our whole lives but forget to put in practice (at least in my case). A lot of them seem so insignificant but when you mount them all up together they make a whole big difference. One of the most amazing things about this book is that you can be a student that has just graduated or a top business man and you will still find it extremely beneficial and useful. The chapters are clear, concise and enlightening.
Here are just a few of Karen's "truths" on:
How to make a great first impression
Working more smoothly with bosses and colleagues
Building a high-performance personal network
Managing workloads
Deciding who to trust (and distrust!)
Handling enemies and overcoming career setbacks
Getting noticed, getting ahead, getting to the top!
Ah, and one last thing...if you care about your career, you need to invest in this excellent, well-written book.

Book Review:
What do we know--really know--about achieving exceptional career success? What are the best ways to get on the fast track, and stay there? The Truth About Managing Your Career reveals what really works: 60 proven principles and easy career management techniques you can start using right now.

Written in an easy, down-to-earth style, this book has been endorsed by some of the best minds in business, including Lois Frankel, NYTimes bestselling author of Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office and Art Kleiner, Editor of Strategy+Business and author of Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Success.

From Lois Frankel, author of Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: "A cutting-edge pioneer in the field of business coaching, Dr. Karen Otazo knows--and speaks--the truth about how to get and keep the job you want. Regardless of your age or stage of your career, you'll find practical tips and tools to make your workplace journey smoother, more enjoyable, and potentially more profitable. The Truth about Managing Your Career is a must-have for your career library."