• Tag Archives books
  • E-Readers in Ghana Increase Access to Books

    Kindle_textOne of the main benefits of living a simpler lifestyle is the time it frees up for giving back in some way.

    Readers of this blog will know I am passionate about books in general and e-readers in particular.  I believe the e-reader technology can be used both for personal enjoyment and for the greater good.

    Which is a long lead-up to say that lately I have had the good fortune to do some pro bono freelancing for a wonderful organization called Worldreader.org.  Their goal is to help improve the lives of individuals and families in developing countries by giving greater access to books via e-reader technology.  They are currently running pilot studies at schools in Ghana to test the feasibility of using e-readers to increase access to books as a means of increasing literacy and, ultimately, well-being.

    I recently wrote a guest blog post for Worldreader.org, which you can see here. But, more importantly, I hope you will take a minute to watch some of the short videos on the site.  The joy and excitement of the students with their Kindles is sure to brighten your day!


  • “The Not So Big Life” — Book Review

    Not So Big BookcoverWhen I am reading a book and am inspired by the author’s words and ideas, I want to remember all of their insights and pearls of wisdom. I highlight sentences and make notes in the margins and add sticky tabs to the pages. One indication of just how much I’ve enjoyed/benefited from a book is how many colored  sticky tabs I have used by the end of the book.

    Tabs of not so big life
    Based on that assessment, it should be clear that I loved The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters (you can click on the image to enlarge).

    Author/Architect Sarah Susanka takes  the principles she first discussed in her best-selling The Not So Big House and applies them to the larger experience of life.  The result is a terrific book which discusses how to live a rich, fulfilling, and authentic life.

    Susanka calls for a shift in thinking about well, everything.  For instance, when working on a project, she emphasizes that

    Although it seems that the point lies in the successful completion of the project, in fact the only reason for doing it is to be fully engaged in the experience, so that we can learn more about who we truly are.

    On the value of slowing down:

    It’s the slowing down that allows the ineffable to seep in when we least expect it and that gives our life meaning.

    I love her description of creativity:

    There’s no separation between creativity and you. That’s why the vibrancy of another person’s creative act can inspire our own. It’s the state in which the object was made that is contagious.

    Regarding our urge to accumulate things, she suggests that

    Our love affair with stuff is a surrogate concocted by our heads to obscure the real longings of our hearts.

    She then asks two compelling questions:
    1. “When do we know we have enough?”
    2. “What could we do with our lives if we weren’t so focused on acquiring more?

    The second half of the book looks at the importance of being present, of really showing up to life.

    Susanka describes the value of presence:

    But presence is not something you decide to experience when you have time.  Presence is.  Presence is now, and now is eternal, without boundary.  You have to show up, however, to really be here, to experience it.

    She talks about the importance of mindfulness, and of establishing a daily time and place to be still (meditation).

    One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is the deft use of personal examples Susanka uses to illustrate her points.  She also provides exercises at the end of each chapter to help the reader apply the principles to his or her own life. The book flows easily and has the quality of a conversation with a good friend. To learn more, you can visit her website.

    I highly recommend this book and would love to hear your thoughts about this book or the ideas Susanka presents.


  • Food and Climate Change Seminar

    Portlandia, Portland Building, PortlandOn Sunday, my good friend Kevin and I attended a terrific and very topical panel discussion in Portland. (The image on the left is the famous “Portlandia” statue on the Portland Building, the venue for the discussion.  You can watch her dramatic delivery in 1985 through the streets of Portland and get a size of her gigantic-ness in this video).

    The subject of the discussion was: Food and the Climate Challenge:  What You Can Do About It. The stellar group of panelists included Scott Givot, President, International Association of Culinary Professionals; Chris Schreiner, Executive Director, Oregon Tilth; Allison Hensey, Oregon Environmental Council; Kumar Venkat, President, CleanMetrics, and Anna Lappé, television host and author.

    The 90-minute session was both hopeful and challenging. Overall, the panelists emphasized two main points:

    1. Our personal food choices matter; and
    2. Our personal food choices are not in themselves enough to bring about the change necessary to solve the climate crisis. Rather, public policy is the largest factor and it is up to citizens to elect officials who are willing to address the intimate connection between food and climate change.

    One of the panelists, Anna Lappé, has just written a new book, Diet for a Hot Planet. As she states in her book,

    If we are serious about addressing climate change we have to talk about food.

    Diet for a Hot Planet via http://takeabite.cc

    She makes the case that our food system is likely responsible for one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet the connection between food/agriculture and climate change is mainly ignored in the popular press. For instance, Johns Hopkins University reports that of four thousand articles on climate change published in sixteen leading U.S. newspapers, only 1 percent had a “substantial focus” on food and agriculture.

    Lappé then discusses Seven Principles of a Climate-Friendly Diet:

    1. Reach for real food
    2. Put plants on your plate
    3. Don’t panic, go organic
    4. Lean toward local
    5. Finish your peas…the ice caps are melting
    6. Send packaging packing
    7. DIY food

    As part of her national book tour, Lappé’s sponsors Eat Well Guide and Meatless Monday have put together a terrific reference list of sustainable restaurants and stores in the cities she will be visiting.  You can see a map and get the list of Portland places here and the other cities on her tour here.

    Food and climate change is an important topic and I am glad to see it beginning to get the attention it deserves.

    Your turn:

    Have you considered the connection between climate change and food?  Have you changed your eating habits in response to recent changes in our climate? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this important topic.


  • Book Giveaway: Autographed Copy of “Gristle”

    gristle bookcover
    image source:gristle-the-book.com

    I am happy to announce my first book giveaway. When I attended the talk/book signing by Moby and Miyun Park last week, I had not had a chance to read Gristle: from Factory Farms to Food Safety. Now, I have read the book and I found it so compelling that I want to give a copy of the book to one of my readers. So, I am offering an autographed copy to one lucky reader (instructions of the giveaway are at the end of this post).

    Gristle is a short book (140 pages) which is densely packed with facts and data that causes one to stop and consider the effects of factory farming on our world and its inhabitants (both animal and human). Factory farms directly and indirectly affect every body on the planet. For those seeking a simpler, more sustainable life, it is a particularly important subject.

    Here are some facts that I found especially disturbing:

    1. Fertilizer production for feed crops alone contributes some 41 million tons of carbon dioxide (C02) annually — the equivalent of that produced by nearly 7 million cars. Note: this is not fertilizer for crops being consumed by humans. This is fertilizer for crops being fed entirely to farm animals.
    2. In the post-World War II era, one-third of the world’s grain along with over 90 percent of soybeans, is going not to humans but is being fed — in an ironic twist — to animals in feedlots.
    3. Male dairy calves are used in the veal industry. (Of course, this is due to the fact that male dairy calves do not produce milk and are of no use to the dairy industry. I had not really put two and two together before. Even by choosing organic milk from “happy” cows, a consumer is indirectly supporting the veal industry).
    4. In meat-eating households, researchers have found more fecal bacteria in the kitchen — on sponges, dish towels,, the sink, and counter surfaces — than they found swabbing the rim of the toilet. (Note:  this is due to cross-contamination of viruses and bacteria from meat and poultry in the kitchen).

    To enter this book giveaway, please leave a comment below.

    The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday, April 7th.


  • What is an elegant simple life?

    clementines in silver bowl
    Clementines in Silver Bowl

    I’ve chosen to call this blog elegant simple life for several reasons:

    Elegant, because it focuses on the beauty and grace inherent in simplicity.

    Simple, because it does not have to be complicated.

    Life, because it encompasses the whole canvas of being, not just segments of existence.

    Elegant. Simple. Life. For me, this is both an affirmation and a goal. It is about living with less stuff and more joy in an atmosphere of tranquility and beauty.

    I’d like to focus on the concept of elegance for a moment because I have just finished reading  In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, by Matthew E. May.  I love May’s statement, “…not everything simple is elegant, but everything elegant is simple.”

    Elegance is not a matter of money or upbringing or education. Instead, it is a matter of attitude, a lens through which one views the world. Ultimately, elegance is a state of mind.

    This concept gets to the core of simple living and minimalism. Living a simple life is not about hardship and asceticism. It does not require doing without all the joys and simple pleasures that make life just a little bit sweeter.

    Rather, elegant simple living means identifying what is essential and releasing the rest. And that will look different for everyone.

    And that is what makes it feasible. There are no rules of right or wrong. What is elegant simplicity to one person may be the height of consumerism to another. Conversely, an elegantly simple choice for one individual may look like borderline poverty to somebody else.

    Thankfully, the world of simple living and minimalism is large enough to contain a wide range of attitudes. This keeps it interesting and fresh and available to everybody. The underlying premise is that we are consciously seeking to live fulfilling lives with less stuff and more room for the things that matter.  The rest is open to interpretation. And that, to me, is simply elegant.