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Book Review: The Confidence Code

I don’t even remember putting this book on hold at the library, but I’m glad I did. Confidence is an especially tricky issue for women. Obviously, taking an issue this big and generalizing to all women is problematic, but I found much of the book very helpful.

Through interviews with successful women, researchers, and sharing their own experiences, the authors work to define confidence, explain how women and men’s brains differ, the genetic aspects of confidence, and how we can build confidence, even if our genes aren’t helping.

It’s both a relief and sad that all women, even or especially very successful women, struggle with confidence. The prevailing opinion for a while was that women should act like men to project confidence. However, it’s often inauthentic and thus comes across as weak, the opposite effect.

Studies have shown that whether they are actually more competent, men project a greater level of confidence. If a man and a woman are looking at a job description, a man will apply even if he doesn’t meet all of the requirements, while a woman will not. Men are also routinely overconfident; they rate themselves higher than what their tested skills actually show. If men fail at something, they basically say, “Hey, it’s over. Time to move on,” while women will dwell on it forever.

Studies have also shown that companies should be promoting women to higher levels of management. Women are more able to see the global picture, while men are more task-oriented. Women are also more compassionate and understand the individuals on their team better than men do. Trying to act like a confident man often removes this behaviors from the workplace.

The SLC6A4 gene is the serotonin transporter gene. There are three variants: Two short strands (processes serotonin badly, magnifies risk of depression and anxiety), one long strand and one short strand (inefficient serotonin use), and one with two long strands (best use of the hormone).

Other research shows that the correlation between genes and confidence may be as high as 50%. Some researchers disagree, and leave it at 25% (still an incredibly high amount).

The OXTR gene controls the delivery of oxytocin, which researchers feel is linked to confidence, because it acts in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the center of higher-order thinking skills and executive function. It also keeps the amygdala in check.

Dopamine affects the brain – without it, we are passive, bored, and depressed. It encourages curiosity and risk-taking. Two genes control dopamine: DRD4 and COMT. Variants of these genes encourage “dramatic risk-taking” (DRD4) or cause us to fall to warrior or worrier mode (COMT).

While this all seems crappy if you caught the short end of the stick genetically, environment (nurture) can affect the expression of the genes – whether they’re switched on or off. In a study of monkeys, if a monkey who caught the short end of the stick was nurtured by a great mother, they did exceedingly well as they grew older, more so than the monkeys with “better” genes. That led the researcher to conclude that rather than the genes being determinative, it was more about sensitivity to the environment, rather than vulnerability.

Research also shows that the we can essentially rewire our brains for positivity. Every time we do a an act, our brain creates shortcuts, to operate more efficiently. The more we do the act, the stronger the connection. This can be used to stop negative thoughts from being automatic thoughts. If we focus on consciously drawing the positive, those will become our automatic thoughts.

Ultimately, the authors define confidence as “the stuff that makes us take action.” Confidence is about doing. Nike’s slogan is appropriate here: Just do it. If something goes wrong, use it as an opportunity to grow, rather than a tool to beat yourself up. Just taking action will build confidence. Starting small is a good way to go. As you progress in tasks you can take on things that get increasingly more challenging. Challenge is necessary for confidence-building. It’s conquering something new or gaining mastery that brings about the feeling of confidence.

The biggest takeaway from the book is that there are things we can do to build confidence. Some of us have genes that don’t assist us in the process, but we can overcome those as long as we are committed to working consistently to build confidence.

To get started on the path to building confidence, the authors have a confidence quiz on their website.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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Movie Review: Black Panther

Oh holy shit. Black Panther is, without question, my favorite superhero movie.

  1. The actors are amazing. It was a pleasure to watch.
  2. The cinematography and effects are just totally bad ass.
  3. The General is one of the scariest and most powerful women I’ve seen in a general role. She’s amazing.
  4. The music is catchy and suits the movie well.
  5. The story is fantastic. Lots of growth opportunities for all of the characters.
  6. The action scenes are very well done. They don’t take up the whole movie and they’re important when they do happen.
  7. Just, fuck yes.
  8. There are very attractive shirtless men.
  9. There are tons of strong, awesome women.

It was so, so good. I may even go see it again. It reminds a little of how I felt after watching Wonder Woman. Totally motivated for change and seeing it happen.

Go see this movie. Maybe twice.

 

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Book Review: Loose Ends by Caroline Taylor

Price: $13.99

In the midst of Bicentennial celebrations, Carson Mahoney narrowly escapes a home invasion that reduces her house to rubble. In a West Virginia commune, her sister Cam kills the commune leader. Now both sisters must flee. Already a suspect in her secretive husband’s murder, Carson fears the police will suspect her of arson and put her in jail. It happened before, back when the two sisters were teenagers, imprisoned in a foreign country. It cannot happen again. But running away is also not an option. Cam needs to find the innocent whose life she has saved. Carson must find the thugs who destroyed her home and her livelihood. All too soon, the sisters learn how impossible it is to hide and how difficult it is to trust those who offer help. Will they survive long enough to clear their names?

This story is a fun ride through the life of a woman with a history she’s afraid will catch up with her and a present that’s after her too. Carson and Cameron are likable characters. We get a good feel for who they are, why they behave the way we do. More importantly we see how they grew differently after a shared tragedy. Once reunited, Carson develops personally, which I like. I can’t stand when a character has no development.

Carson is a little quirky and the author conveys it well without just throwing a description at us. There is nothing worse than slogging through an author’s description of a character.

The flashbacks to El Salvador are a little jarring at first, but you quickly see that the tense switch signifies their capture and torture in their teens.

It’s a fairly fast-paced story. I wouldn’t call it white knuckle, it’s not serious enough for that. But, Carson has no time to rest as she tries to clear her name and figure out whether her past is catching up to her.

The supporting character Rusty was a trip. I really dug him and wish the author would write a book just about him. He had depth, an interesting character, and the most heart of all the characters.

I very much loved that there was no romantic subplot to the main character’s story. It would have been out of place and just thrown in to appease some people. The story wasn’t about that

The plot was a little thin in places, but I don’t generally expect much for a book in this genre. What did bother me were some loose ends in the story. A big deal is made about where Carson’s husband was getting his “trust fund” from. They figure out the name of the alleged law firm is really someone’s name backwards, but nothing comes of it.I don’t know if it was just forgotten or if it was never intended to be anything. We also don’t hear much about what happened to the religious commune. The wrap-up after the climax is quick, but I don’t see any reason for it to be drawn out.

I don’t see this hitting bestseller lists, but I don’t believe that’s what it was written to do. I think this is meant as a fun book with some serious detours. If given the opportunity to read another of Caroline Taylor’s books, I would probably do so.

I received an ARC from Netgalley for my unbiased review.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Transformers: The Last Knight: A review

 

I’ll be honest, I’m not really a fan of this series of movies. I was okay with the first one, but they lost me with the second one. I was shocked to see that there were any others.

However, Mr. Lyndsy enjoys them so I said I would go. Ugh.

1. The story was more interesting than I thought it would be.

2. Does Michael Bay have something against casting women who aren’t basically models? Men are going to go see this movie anyway, it’s unnecessary.

3. I’m guessing the length of the movie is directly proportional to the size of Michael Bay’s ego and inversely propositional to the size of his penis.

4. They left open the possibility that there would be another film. My guess is that as long as this one makes money, we’re stuck with it.

5. I’m not sure which movie did it, but at some point this series became about making money rather than producing something for quality.

I hope to avoid the next one and will probably do what I can to skip seeing it. I may not have to do too much to avoid it. Mr. Lyndsy wasn’t particularly enthralled with this one. Fingers crossed.

Wonder Woman: A review

I know I’m late to this party (there are reasons – I did not intentionally delay seeing it).

HOLY SHIT.

1. I love the lack of female nudity and getting to see Chris Pine in the buff.

2. There was THIGH JIGGLE. I read about this online because people were stoked to see it and I get why. Thigh jiggle happens, even when it’s muscle. That’s just life. It’s nice to see that pop up on the big screen.

3. It was super well-paced. I never got bored.

4. I think a planet of only women is starting to look pretty damn amazing.

5. Wonder Woman is bad ass. There is no way around that.

6. I love the movie’s conclusion – that only love will ever trump hate. I totally agree with that. There isn’t another way for us to move forward.

7. I look forward to more films directed by Patty Jenkins.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword: A Review

How lucky are you that you get to read my review of a second movie this week. Not only that, it’s one that’s been out for AGES already. But anyway, King Arthur.

I was most definitely iffy about this one. But again, when you’re in a movie drought, you will take what you can get. It was certainly better than anything else there. (I refuse to see Aliens or whatever the hell it is). Also, I’m a big fan of the Arthur legends. Real talk for a minute? I’m also a fan of hot men, like Charlie Hunnam, taking off their shirts a lot on camera. They probably could have turned off the sound and I would have been fine with that too.

Anyway, this seemed like quite the different take than the other Arthur legends I’ve been aware of. I completely forgot that Uther Pendragon ever existed, despite watching the entire Merlin series, where Uther features most prominently. But I digress.

This tale starts with the takeover by Vortigern (I still hate Jude Law for some reason) as he kills his own wife (played by Katie McGrath who played Morgana in Merlin, I assumed she was going to have a real, evil role in this one, but no such luck) to gain power to eventually kill Uther. Arthur is a small boy and makes his way, not unlike the Disney Hercules, in a boat to be picked up by prostitutes. He’s raised in a brothel, knowing nothing of his true identity, and falls into the role of protector. Save the ladies, piss off the wrong guys, etc. As he’s trying to escape the Black Leg, he gets picked up and forced to try to withdraw the sword from the stone. (How is gets there is perhaps one of the coolest parts of the movie.)

SURPSIE AND AWE! HE DOES IT!

Then the rest of the movie is about Vortigern trying to kill Arthur to have all the power. Arthur gets assisted by a great cast of people, with awesome names like George, Wet Stick, Back Lack, Blue, and the Mage. Now, the Mage is just pure awesome. In another life it might be fun to be her.

The movie ends how you expect it to. No surprise there.

I had really low expectations going into it. The previews looked terrible, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I think a lot of it had to do with the film score. Sometimes that can make or a break a movie.

If you’re looking for a cool rental and you like the King Arthur legends, this one shouldn’t disappoint.

The Mummy: A Review

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a review of any kind, so why not now? We’re in a bit of a movie drought right now since they don’t generally bring new films during Ramadan. We got lucky though (sort of), because they launched The Mummy midway through. We went to see it, not because we were that excited about it, but because it was something new to watch.

I think I’d only seen one of the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies, so I didn’t really remember anything about them to think about whether I was supposed to be comparing one to the other. The most I’d done with that series is hit the ride at Universal Studios. I remember it being super cheesy and a “we won’t take ourselves too seriously” kind of movie.

I have no idea what the hell happened with this Mummy movie. Tom Cruise was… Tom Cruise. He plays basically the same character in all of his action movies. This time he was also a grave robber. It was one part super cheese, thank you Jake Johnson (best known in my world for New Girl). The other parts were an attempt at something deep and serious – Cruise’s relationship with Annabelle Wallis‘s character; the danger of looming evil through Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (honestly, it was so obvious and dull); and Tom Cruise’s asshole character having to come to grips with himself. [cue eye roll]

Speaking of eyes – the whole two irises in one eyeball was hella weird and gross.

The worst part? They have clearly left an opening for a sequel.

Movie Review: Allegiant (The Divergent Series)

Full disclosure: I read the book before seeing the movie. Sometimes that doesn’t make much of a difference. However, this time it did.

Going into the movie I expected some differences. It’s hard to take the complexities in a book like Allegiant and adapt them to the screen. What I did not expect was for them to largely ignore the depth of the book in favor of action. Huge parts of the book were left out – characters who had major roles in the book were reduced to tiny parts. Some of the heavy interpersonal relationships and tensions disappeared. We lost a lot of character development.

Speaking of the action, some of the green screens were just terribly obvious. I get that there are limitations when trying to create the torn up landscape of a war-torn Chicago. But this was… poor. The fighting scenes were fairly well-done, but the larger placement shots were not good.

The pace of the movie is very fast. Two hours goes by in a whir. I assume some of that pace is because they skipped the character and story development. Those would definitely have slowed down the progress of the movie. I don’t know if it was worth the cuts, though. I suppose if I hadn’t read the book, I may not have noticed.

Overall, it comes across as very superficial, with so-so visual effects. I would probably still see the movie, just so I could feel that sense of completion. Just don’t expect a lot.

Book Review: United by Cory Booker – Must Read

I didn’t want to read this book. I’ve a general lack of interest in books by politicians. I feel most of them are disingenuous and I assume their books follow suit. However, I’ve been following Cory Booker on social media for probably two years now and done some research of my own on him because he’s a rising star. I thought I’d give his book a chance.

To say that I was impressed would be an huge understatement. First and foremost, the book is believable. I’ve never met Senator Booker in person, but he comes across as trustworthy. Human. Caring. In the Introduction he emphasizes that the book is less about what he’s achieved, and more about the people who helped him do it. Throughout the book he demonstrates just how true that is.

The book is divided into chapters that seem to focus on a particular person and part of his life/political process. His parents and their values feature prominently throughout the book. Lessons like not taking credit for a triple when you were born on 3rd base and reminding him that he was standing on the shoulders of a great many giants who made his life possible. He seems to never have forgotten that.

Each of the steps he’s taken politically, he did at the urging and with the support of Newark community members. He learned a lot of hard lessons on the way, readily admitting that he fell short of where he wanted to be. He asked for the forgiveness of those he harmed as it happened. They gave him that forgiveness and continued to stand by him.

His commitment to public service and the public was probably best exemplified by his 10-day fast to bring about changes at the low-income housing buildings where he lived. The residents in that community had been forgotten and left behind, but Senator Booker wouldn’t stand for it. He got the whole community involved during his fast, holding prayer meetings and strategy sessions. Finally, the mayor of Newark deigned to appear and tae with him. The promises made by the mayor at the time were forgotten, but not by Senator Booker.

Living in Newark, particularly as mayor, Senator Booker witnessed the destruction crime wreaks on the people who live around it. He literally watched people die. He went on ride alongs with the police to better understand the issues they face and the issues the community had with the police. He even tried to stop a fleeing criminal on his own once. Those events touched him deeply and through his words it’s easy to see that continue to affect him today.

Senator Booker never lost sign of the privileges he had and how they affected him as he interacted with the citizens of Newark. Sometimes it blindsided him, how different his world was growing up from those he served. He worked hard to keep that at the forefront of his mind and it prompted him to work to end the injustices faced by black and Hispanic men at the hands of the criminal justice system.

As senator, he’s reached across party lines to get things done. He remembers who elected him and who he serves, pushing him to overlook party politics to make sure the people he represents are taken care of. It may not make him popular among the party, but for him, that’s not what matters. He seems to reflect deeply on his actions and in order to sleep at night, he’s got to do what’s right.

The real reason to read this book is that Cory Booker IS a rising politician. It seems almost guaranteed that he will run for President of the United States one day. As interested as I have always been in politics, I never saw a candidate I was willing to attach myself to. That always bothered me greatly. I was always willing to serve on someone’s staff, but it had to be someone I could believe in. Someone I could trust. Someone I knew would do the right thing, even if it made him or her unpopular.

All that being said, Senator Booker IS someone I would work for. I believe he has the best interests of the American people at heart. I believe that he would stop at nothing to see the right thing done. He has compassion, empathy, and a deep understanding that not all of us have it so good. Those things are critical in a leader.

To Senator Booker, if you read this, I wish you the best of luck in a messy political world. I hope your heart and soul propel you to great things.