“It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you live.” Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove, 1985
I moved to Texas less than a year ago, and, not knowing how long I would stay, one of my goals was to learn as much as I could about the Lone Star State before I moved again. There are a number of ways one can learn about a state, and I tried a handful of these.
Some of this learning comes natural: frequenting local BBQ joints and restaurants, trying out churches, visiting local landmarks or museums, talking to co-workers who grew up in the area etc. However, some learning requires dedication. As detailed in my previous post, I read a fair amount of the local and state news to keep updated on current events, but I’ve also picked up a few books to help me in this process.
The first book I bought was a friend-recommended review of Texas History. It spoke to the historical events (8,000 B.C. to 2001 AD) that shaped Texas into the present day Lone Star State. I learned a lot from this book, but it was still just a history book. It taught me about humans in Texas, what they did, etc., but less about Texans, who they were. This is what I was interested in—the heart of the Texan.
In search for this, I was lead to the Pulitzer prize winning novel, Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry. This novel is described by many as the Great Texas Novel. At 850 pages, this novel has much to say about Texas, and even more to say about Texans. Although set nearly 140 years ago, the cowboy culture presented in this novel continues to glow in my interactions with many present-day Texans. It has given me an appreciation of Texans’ attitude, and Texas’ soul. Throughout the Comanche killing, the whiskey drinking, the cattle corralling, and the gun slinging, the culture of Texas shines through. This is a novel about human life and Texas, and how the two interact. This interaction is quaintly summarized by the author in the final statement of the novel’s preface:
“Life ain’t for sisses.”
Most mornings, after I grab a cup of coffee, I’ll sit down at my computer and see what’s going on in Texas. My tour usually takes around 25 minutes and 3 cups of coffee to complete. The purpose of the tour is to review the major metropolitan news outlets and periodicals, read shorter articles, and identify longer articles that I would like to read later in the day.
I use Google Chrome for my browsing pleasure, and the Chrome Readability.com widget for longer articles that I plan on reading on my kindle fire. Chrome is fast and has excellent hotkeys so that you can spend more time reading rather than clicking and mouse-ing around. I’ve noticed that I can shave off about 10-12 minutes(40%-45%) by using the chrome hotkeys in conjunction with a specific routine for reading. The purpose of the routine is to separate the content selection process and the reading process, as well as sustain reading momentum and attention.
The routine looks a little something like this. First, I’ll load my chrome browser and my favorites will appear on my home page. Then I’ll hold Ctrl +left click each of the items in my list that I plan on reading that morning. This puts them in tabs to the right of the bookmark page. After each of the sources are open, I press Ctrl+W to close my bookmark tab and switch to my first source page (e.g. chron.com). This is when I browse headlines and Ctrl+left click each article that I plan on reading or browsing. As soon as I finish selecting the articles, I Ctrl+W out of the source and begin reading, Crtl+W’ing articles that I finish or find dull. If an article is too long to read during the morning tour, or would be more pleasurable to read on my kindle fire, I press Ctrl+Shift+K to tell the Readability.com widget to send the article I’m viewing to my kindle in .mobi format. It will magically appear on my kindle in a couple minutes. For articles that I may read, but want to see the others first and come back to, I Ctrl+Tab (instead of Ctrl+W), which keeps the tab open so that I can go back to it if there is time.
Here is my list of sources that I’ll check in the Texas tour:
Here is a video of the routine in action.
We all argue at some point in our life, some more than others. Most of the time we argue with others when we disagree with them on trivial decisions or differences in opinion. For example, we’ll argue with our spouses over which movie to see or how much to spend on a house. But other times, we argue with people when we want them to change something about themselves, either what they do regularly or who they are. For example, we may want them to drink less, stop smoking, be more active, work harder, complain less, change their world-view, etc.
Think about the last time you argued with someone, whether you were on the defensive or offensive. Were you more or less likely to believe what you argued for after the argument? Was your relationship with that person better or worse after the argument? Was the other party more or less likely to change their behavior or point of view after the argument? More often than not, after arguing, we are less likely to change our behavior or beliefs, more likely to resist future change, and more likely to have hostile feelings towards the person we argued with.
When we argue with people we threaten their freedom of choice and force them to argue against change, rather than for change. We push people away, both relationally and motivationally, when we argue with them. There are forms of persuasion that do promote change, but these are complex, take time, and would require another post. However, if you are currently concerned about someone’s behavior or beliefs and would like to promote, rather than impede, change, start by not arguing with them.
This past month my wife and I moved 900 miles from our former home to Texas. My wife and her mother drove in the same car and I followed my dad, who drove a 16 foot Budget truck. The move was dreadful. Driving 900 miles behind my father, who is—like myself—a very poor driver, was grisly. Flat tire, frightening locals, road exhaustion, and moving stress made the trip all but a nightmare.
At one point near the end of the trip we ran into a serious summer thunderstorm in a large city. Approaching the storm from 10 miles away made it appear as if midnight had descended on the city at 4:00 in the afternoon. Torrents of rain splashed my windshield, break lights were hidden by blinding bursts of lightening, and thunder rattled the windows of my CRV. Sweat gushed from my hands and dripped down my forearms as I white-knuckle gripped the steering wheel. Without GPS, map, or the ability to use my cellphone while I drive, I followed my dad at uncomfortably close distances. A deluge of water drowned my windshield with every puddle. I was dizzy with stress and certain tragedy would ensue. We later found out that the front right tire of the Budget truck had been punctured by a roadside nail during this storm. Mercifully, the tire did not deflate until after we had arrived at our hotel.
However, excluding the flat tire, a couple arguments between traveling parties, and and a few bouts of panic, the road trip ended without incident. My mother-in-law and Dad left shortly after we got the apartment settled. So we’re here now, in an unfamiliar place, without familiar people. Though it was hard to leave everyone, my wife and I have found that the distance from others brings us closer together. We anticipate the adventures to come, the visits to and from friends and family, and more Tex-Mex.
Ever wonder how some people tend to remember ‘everything’ they read, when others have trouble remembering something they have just read? When I was younger, teachers would laud certain students for having ‘photographic’ memories, despite substantial evidence suggesting that there really is no such thing, at least as traditionally understood.
A recent paper published in Science tested several theories of memory in recalling expository reading. Think of expository reading as what you do when you read newspapers, text books, commentaries, etc. The purpose of the study was to put to rest a longstanding controversy on how people remember what they read. The paper reported 2 tightly controlled randomized studies that tested several competing theories against one another.
The results of the study provided a clear conclusion. The best, and most efficient, way to remember what you read is to practice retrieving what you read. When the retrieval practice method was used, in comparison to other methods, the magnitude of memory increase was large, with the retrieval practice readers consistently remembering almost twice as much as the other readers.
But, you may ask, what’s the catch? Well, there really isn’t one. Each of the conditions held the amount of time spent studying constant, and people in the retrieval practice condition actually spent less time reading the text than others did.
Want to increase your memory of things you read? Practice retrieving what you read shortly after you have read. Simply put the book/news/magazine/blog away for a minute or two and recall the information in a word document, with pen and paper, or in conversation with a friend. Check your accuracy after you have practiced recalling, and then try and recall again.