A Story of Karma by Michael Schauch

Book Summary: In 2012, Michael Schauch and his wife, Chantal, undertook an expedition deep in the Himalaya of northern Nepal, into a remote valley that had been closed off to outsiders for decades. They led a team of artists (a photographer, a musician, and a painter), with the objective of capturing a moment in time through their unique lenses. As a mountaineering fanatic, Michael had a second (and less conspicuous) goal to climb an unknown mountain he had only identified through a photograph. What unfolded in the mountains forced him to question his values and his own identity, and eventually resulted in meeting a little girl, which was the most profound encounter of his life. Little did either know that from that moment they would completely change the trajectory of each other’s life. A Story of Karma recounts this journey, and the years that follow as Karma (the little girl), and Michael and Chantal grow their lives together amidst the confusing dichotomies and backdrop of Karma’s 17th-century Himalayan village; the impoverished and polluted Kathmandu; and the modern world of Vancouver, Canada. Amazon Link – https://amzn.to/3l1KS2F


Each word ushers you deeper into an external journey to the Himalayas and an internal journey to the heart. Schauch’s masterful storytelling transports you to a healing realm where external and internal distinctions dissolve in the beauty of embodied love. Not only is this a tale of transformation for Schauch, the reader too is transformed. – Paula Arai, Ph.D., author of Painting Enlightenment, Bringing Zen Home, and Women Living Zen
A man’s mission to climb a mountain in the Himalayas turns into providing education for children in the most remote region of Nepal. A Story of Karma is a heartfelt and inspiring story about nature and human connection, and the amazing things that happen when you open your heart and mind to the unknown world. – Dorje Dolma, author of Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal
Schauch writes a moving story of personal growth and transformation in his encounter with the indigenous peoples of the remote highlands of Upper Manang, Nepal. The desire to climb a peak drew him there, but what changed him forever was the unexpected and extraordinary creation of family ties in Nar-Phu and the role that Tibetan Buddhism played in helping him transcend differences of culture to nurture that family. Read his story with an open heart and mind – it will touch you deeply. – Mark Aldenderfer, distinguished professor of anthropology at University of California Merced, and National Geographic Explorer
Michael Schauch’s vividly descriptive writing will transport you to a remote Himalayan village and leave you with the taste of yak butter tea on your tongue and the odour of dung-fuelled fires in your clothing. A Story of Karma is a thoughtful and passionate meditation on privilege and poverty, consumerism and spirituality, fate and chance, individualism and community. Above all else, this story is a testament to the power each and every one of us has to generate meaningful and lasting change in our beleaguered world. – Jan Redford, author of End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood
In this book, Michael Schauch shares the words of the Dalai Lama when describing the Beyul – the sacred, hidden valleys of the Himalaya – as places of multiple dimensions where the physical and spiritual worlds coalesce. ‘From a Buddhist perspective [these] sacred environments… are not places to escape the world, but to enter it more deeply… Such places often have a power that we cannot easily describe or explain….’ Schauch’s story introduces us to many hidden places and the people who inhabit them. It is a fine example of how the human spirit can face even the toughest challenges, and by overcoming them, change the lives of ourselves and others in a profound way. – Martin Parnell, author of Marathon Quest, Running to the Edge, and The Secret Marathon: Empowering Women and Girls in Afghanistan through Sport
A Story of Karma speaks to an inward journey of purpose, a quest for meaning and connection – something to which we may all aspire. What began as a test of strength, determination and grit, a monumental goal by any measure, became an invitation to an awakening of the heart, a softening of the human spirit. There is that rare combination of lyricism and raw honesty throughout. This book is a must read!” – Peter McCoppin, international orchestral conductor and national host/broadcaster
About the Author: Michael Schauch is a mountaineer, entrepreneur and storyteller who lives to explore remote places around the world and to share the depth and beauty of human connection he discovers along the way. With early success as an entrepreneur at age 15, and over 20 years of global financial investment experience, Schauch brings his business acumen and altruistic heart to lead and support local and international mentorship, fundraising and educational initiatives. These include the education of girls and student mentorship in Nepal, outdoor youth leadership for those facing barriers to access nature and holistic Indigenous leadership development in British Columbia. He holds an MBA from Queen’s University and is a member of the Explorers Club. He and his partner in adventure Chantal make their base camp in Squamish, nestled in BC’s rugged Coast Mountains and temperate rainforests. https://www.michaelschauch.com/astoryofkarma

Ballet Orphans by Terez Mertes Rose

Book Summary:

It’s 1990, and New York soloist April Manning is trying to rebalance her world in the aftermath of her parents’ deaths. An offer to join the struggling West Coast Ballet Theatre as a principal dancer seems like the perfect opportunity for a fresh start—a new life in San Francisco, an exciting step up in her career, and the hope of a redefined sense of family. But the other dancers are wary, clannish and tight-lipped, particularly about an incident that hastened the departure of their beloved artistic director, leading to the arrival of his replacement, the young, inexperienced Anders Gunst. And no one wants to talk about Jana, a former company member who defiantly walked out rather than work under Anders. It is Jana herself who offers April hints, and even friendship, where she reveals a loneliness and hunger to belong that newly orphaned April well understands. But there is something troubling about Jana, and what April doesn’t know could prove deadly.

A prequel to the Ballet Theatre Chronicles, BALLET ORPHANS explores the work and sacrifices required to arrive at the highest tiers of the professional ballet world, coupled with the primal, universal desire to belong, to love and be loved, and the lengths we’ll go to protect those we call family.

Amazon Link – https://amzn.to/3aMriWH

Good Reads giveaway – https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/315791


Rivalries and power plays roil a San Francisco ballet troupe in this romance.

As a 24-year-old soloist at New York City’s dazzling American Ballet Theatre, April Manning is near the top of the ballerina heap when suddenly she loses everything: Her mother dies, and a Bolshoi-trained phenomenon steals her role and her boyfriend, Vincent, a handsome ABT dancer. April decamps to the seemingly friendlier climes of San Francisco’s West Coast Ballet Theatre, where her pal Anders Gunst, the brilliant new artistic director, makes her a principal. Alas, WCBT proves to be a snake pit. Anders faces a mutiny led by the domineering, Machiavellian dancer Dmitri Petrenko. Meanwhile, April struggles—the crowd boos her after one performance—and feels that she’s in cutthroat competition with everyone from the senior ballerinas to the company’s 16-year-old prodigy; in addition, she becomes the obsession of a sinister ex–WCBT ballerina fallen on hard times. The one bright spot is her romance with Russell, a nerdy childhood friend from Omaha who’s become the attractive director of a hot Silicon Valley startup. That relationship becomes complicated, though, when Vincent arrives to dance with April in Romeo and Juliet; he’s a superlative partner who makes her shine onstage but also a possessive, egomaniacal jerk. In this prequel to her Ballet Theatre Chronicles novels, Rose paints a vivid portrait of life in a cloistered dance company—one that’s seething with insecurities and antagonisms yet also capable of pulling together when the chips are down. April endures both the physical pain and social sacrifices required by her devotion to her craft, but she also basks in the sensual exhilaration of sublime performances, which Rose conveys in sharply observed but also exuberant prose: “See how you’re making my heart pound? I pantomimed, and took his hand, laying it on my chest….He lifted me and I draped myself over his shoulder with wanton abandon, every move imparting a feeling of joyous euphoria, absolute infatuation.”

A stimulating and entertaining tale in which passion and art intermingle.


Author Bio:

Terez Mertes Rose is the author of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles (OFF BALANCE, OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT, BALLET ORPHANS) and A DANCER’S GUIDE TO AFRICA. A former ballet dancer, her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Crab Orchard Review, Women Who Eat (Seal Press), A Woman’s Europe (Travelers’ Tales), Literary Mama and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She reviews dance performances for Bachtrack.com and blogs about ballet and classical music at The Classical Girl. (www.theclassicalgirl.com). She makes her home in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband and son.

The Black Market: A Guide to Art Collecting by Charles Moore

Book Summary:

Art collecting can be time-consuming, complicated and confusing for the beginner…

…but it doesn’t have to be.

In this clear and easy-to-follow guide, learn the necessary knowledge and skills to begin building your own art collection.

Art is the purest form of hope, dreams, and sentiments. A single image can reveal long-held secrets, spark the imagination, offer a sense of belonging and home.

Art conveys the words the artist often might not have been able to speak aloud. In, The Black Market: A guide to art collecting, Charles, a long-time art collector and art historian, introduces novice collectors and would be collectors to the art world, its deep roots, its connections to our pasts, and its hopes for our future.

In the first part of the book, you’ll discover the history of African American art and will find essays born in the decades between 1900 – 1990; fascinating lecture reviews on books and exhibition catalogs that invite art enthusiasts to explore the culture, the storied lives, the simplicity, and the everyday struggles and triumphs of the African American experience.

The final sections of the book offer insights and tips about the business side of becoming an art collector. You’ll find an overview of storage, collection management, a glossary of terms, and the all-important guide to insurance for your collection and interviews featuring prominent art advisors and collectors like Hill Harper and Keith Rivers.

If you ever wanted to become a collector, wanted to learn more about the African American art, or want to deepen your knowledge, The Black Market: A guide to art collecting is a fascinating, immersive, and essential guide to developing a meaningful and awe-inspiring collection.

Amazon Link – https://amzn.to/2J8w3Ol


“Such an unique book that guides you on how to collect art from Black artists and takes you on an enriching journey through museums, galleries, etc. Minority arts specially that of African American have long been restricted in American museums. This book helps you recognise and appreciate them. The testimonials and peek into the history keeps you engaged. The author himself is an art historian and his impeccable hold over the subject was visible in each page. The insights were really helpful, easy and practical. The author’s understanding and experience helped him break for the process and present it in utter lucidity. And as he says at the very beginning, that the first step yearning to collect art is to read. So go and get a copy of this book. Read it and learn the process. You’ll surely end up learning so much through it.” ~ Abby


From the Author:

Many people are interested in starting an art collection from Black artists, but don’t know where to start. Charles Moore delivers an intriguing short history of Black artists in America and gives valuable insight into art collecting in his eye-opening book, The Black Market: A Guide to Art Collecting.

Black artists in the United States have a remarkable history that often is not as deeply understood as it should be. This carries over into the art collecting world, with existing potential collectors of Black artists that don’t quite know what direction to take. Charles Moore, an art expert and enthusiast for Black artists, is stepping up to help. Answering a clear need, Moore’s book dives into these subjects providing insight on Black art history and a blueprint for starting a collection. Not surprisingly, the interest surrounding The Black Market: A Guide to Art Collecting is in high demand.

“Before you begin collecting art, I recommend collecting books–about art, and learn to develop your taste,” commented Moore. “I think The Black Market would be a good addition to your reading and I’ve done my best to give some valuable guidance.”

According to Moore, the book is a guide to helping those interested in art collecting to learn more about the subject. It gives a brief art history lesson about Black artists born between 1900 to 1990, and then moves on to recommending literature to read about Black culture and Black artists. The Black Market also touches on museums and their exhibitions, galleries and art shows, and auctions, with the interesting results they can deliver. A number of interviews are highlighted that range from an artist who collects Black art, to a top art school revealing their secrets to readers, in hopes of building an understanding of the role they play in the growing art world.

The Black Market also features a collection of Moore’s essays on his interactions with art collectors from all walks of life, such collectors who started a year ago, to collectors with years of experience. To assist the new collector with an all-encompassing guide, the book includes a glossary of common terms, notes on art insurance, and art storage and maintenance complete the offerings.


The Twelve Realms by A.D. Sloane

Book Summary:

There are messages told through language.

There are messages told through symbols.

And there are messages told through terror.

Nabii Akachi, a young Moorish royal, unveils a series of cryptic messages and discovers her dreams are linked to an ages-old mystical prophecy with global implications.

The Twelve Realms is a historical re imagining that links kings and paupers, priests and soldiers, and shaman and witches in an epic adventure. Nabii is the key within a tapestry of intertwined people from Western Africa to the Far East and the British Isles who must join forces and find a weapon that will defeat the shadows prophesied to rise from the deep.

Amazon Link – https://amzn.to/2USXkHd


Manhattan Book Review

The Twelve Realms by A.D. Sloane is a thrilling fantasy that carries readers on an epic quest to save humanity before time runs out and all of life is destroyed. From the very first page, Sloane creates such anticipation and a sense of urgency with her opening words: “In the mysterious tongue of my homeland/ Three words spoken, so pure, so sublime. Continuous whispers haunt me night after night/ Ni wakati wa. It is time. It is time. It is time.” Her writing is accessible and entertaining from the first to last page.

A.D. Sloane brings readers on a heroic adventure through numerous kingdoms and various explorations that are exciting and incredibly engaging. On this expedition, readers will meet an all-star cast of powerful heroes, crafty heroines, malevolent villains, and wicked scoundrels, all stocked with a litany of abilities. These capabilities appear in an array of situations that encourage the characters to grow or confront a deep sentiment once hidden or unknown. Sloane’s characters, which are well-rounded and diverse, are also filled with depth, and are relatable to readers across age groups and personal backgrounds. Some folks appear dangerous from their introduction but demonstrate true courage and valor when the need arises, whereas others that were at first perceived as champions will prove to have ulterior motives in time. The map and chart of clan members of the Twelve Realms at the beginning of the book provides readers with a visual reference of the domains and a clear outline of noteworthy individuals. Moreover, Sloane also includes a charming sketch of the Kingdom of Karacen for guidance and context to the narrative. This kingdom, in addition to many other stops along the way, will cleverly impress themselves upon the hearts of all those along for the ride. Readers will thoroughly enjoy traveling through the territories with Sloane’s characters, discovering the assorted differences and endowments between dominions.

Given the length of the text, an older reader will likely more appreciate the content and plot, although the frequent skirmishes and deep revelations in each chapter will hold the attention of any reader. In addition, the chapters are rather short and quickly move the narrative along. Readers familiar with texts such as The Lord of The Rings and other prominent action fantasy stories will thoroughly appreciate the fascinating tale Sloane has constructed. A.D. Sloane’s The Twelve Realms easily earns 5 stars and will quickly become a household favorite. Readers will anxiously await her next publication, eager to devour more by this mesmerizing author.

About the Author:

A.D. Sloane attended the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she earned her B.S. in Occupational Therapy and DePaul University, where she earned her MPA. She has enjoyed a career as a development officer for nonprofits and universities where she focused on student advancement and K-14 outreach. She lives near Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two children.


Onfido, the AI-based ID verification platform, raises $100M led by TPG

Contactless transactions have become a major priority at a time when people all around the world are minimising their contact with others outside their households to slow down the often-insidious spread of the novel coronavirus. But if a lot of the consumer focus lately has been on things like payments or deliveries, that’s overlooking the fact that the “contactless” paradigm has been a big trend for years already.

Today, a London-based startup building tools to enable virtual identity verification — that is, a way of verifying you without requiring in-person, face-to-face interactions — is announcing a big round of funding.

Onfido, which uses AI to “read” a person’s identity documents and then uses facial recognition and other datapoints to verify that a person is who she or he says they are online — customers for its tech include major banks, government bodies, and businesses doing recruitment: any organization running parts of its processes virtually — is today announcing that it has raised $100 million.

It plans to use the money in a few ways. First, to expand its existing business, which has been growing especially strong in the US. Second, to fill out its ambition of building an alternative “identity verification” layer of the internet to replace credit bureaus, Facebook logins and other established channels. And third, to work on a new set of use cases that are now being talked about even more because of the pandemic, ranging from virtual voting and passport/visa applications through to secure ways of carrying out contact tracing to track the spread of a virus without compromising user privacy.

Ultimately, across all three, the aim is to solve what it sees as a long-standing problem on the internet and digital platforms overall: verifying people are who they say they are, and doing so in a way that doesn’t compromise a user’s privacy and security.

“Identity is broken and needs fixing,” Husayn Kassai, the CEO and co-founder, said in an internet. “That’s been a large part of our focus, and as time goes on, our processes in digitisation, privacy and security have been proven out in parallel with how the world is shifting.”

The round is being led by TPG Growth, the deep-pocketed firm that has backed the likes of Airbnb and Uber (which both run the kinds of businesses that need the kind of identity verification services that Onfido builds) over the years with billions of dollars of investment.

Onfido is not disclosing its valuation with this round but Kassai confirmed that it is definitely an upround. Onfido has now raised $200 million in total, with its last round — $50 million almost exactly a year ago — including Microsoft, Salesforce and SBI (once a SoftBank affiliate, now apparently separate) among the investors.

Kassai said that he started raising this round in January, just as the novel coronavirus was kicking off in China and eventually everywhere else around the world. The final stages of this deal were all done virtually. Between then and now, he said that business — already growing at a healthy clip — has picked up a new, urgent set of verticals that need to consider faster and safer ways to identify and verify users.

Onfido’s business up to now had largely been focused on helping rapidly scaling businesses like transportation-on-demand companies to help add on more drivers to their books while making sure they pass all their safety and other checks. More recently, organizations in healthcare, remittance and payments and non-profits verifying people who want to volunteer in relief efforts have emerged as key customers. These have respectively spiked 4x, 1.3x and 6x in recent weeks. The idea is that organizations using Onfido can speed up the time it takes to identify people to get them enrolled into healthcare services, or sending money, or helping those in need.

“About 750,000 people have volunteered to help the NHS in the UK,” he said, referring to the effort that the UK government set up to get more people to deliver medications and food, and help out hospitals in non-clinical capacities. “That’s great, but why wait for weeks to be verified? If you can sign up for a bank in moments why do you have to wait a week [or more] to help in a health crisis?”

While Onfido continues to build out this aspect of its business — R&D based in London, with a lot of the business team in California — Kassai said it is also working on trials of new kinds of identity and verification services that are still in development.

In essence, these are concepts for verifying without physical presence that have been considered for a while now for other reasons — be they more convenience for users, or cost-cutting, or to keep better digital track records of a process — that have taken on a new sense of urgency during the current pandemic.

Specifically, there are trials underway for working on secure, virtual voting; helping to verify people for passport and visa applications remotely; and ways of doing contact tracing of users for those trying to track and contain outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, or whatever virus comes next on the horizon.

The idea with these, Kassai said, is that there needs to be a way of identifying users without requiring them to share personal or other sensitive details every time, and that’s where the company’s ambition in building an “identity layer” comes in: if a company like Onfido can verify a user once, and then discard the information, it can then simply have a record of the person and not require documents or other personal information each time.

This is the theory, at least. There will be a number of regulated industries that will still have to hold on to personal information. But at a time when security breaches have chipped away at our various personal details and led to a vast wave on online crime — identity fraud is the most commonly committed crime in the US, Onfido points out, and one of the fastest growing in the world, with $2 trillion of related money laundering resulting from that — this could be a compelling idea to consider.

“Onfido’s use of AI to develop market leading tech is extraordinary,” said Mike Zappert Partner of TPG Growth, in a statement. “There is enormous demand for secure and simple identity verification and authentication across major sectors and we see Onfido becoming the new standard for digital access. Their team has done a remarkable job in a relatively short period of time, and we look forward to partnering with them to continue their momentum into new use cases and geographies.”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/15/onfido-the-ai-based-id-verification-platform-raises-100m-led-by-tpg/

What Method?: The Different Ways An Actor Can Train by Jessie Fahay

Book Summary:
There are many methods an actor may choose to study. What do all of these methods really do for the actor’s instrument? Is there a method that works best for you? Which one speaks to you? Where should you look for instructors who teach these methods? This short and practical guidebook gives you the nuts and bolts of four pinnacle training methods, sample exercises for each method, examples of actors who have used these methods, the places where you can find these methods being taught, and further in-depth literature on each method. The next steps are up to you.

Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/2WxfHmj


“Fahay has a positive, forthright tone to her words of wisdom coming from experience. She acknowledges that acting and performing is hard work and takes a great deal of practise. At times it may even seem painful, but she says it isn’t, because “our work is something we love doing.” Fahay offers four major types of training that may fit in any combination for any type of performer. She also acknowledges what methods certain recognizeable actors have regularly used so that a prospecting actor can see where he or she may fit. Finally, Fahay has a composite of resources for aspiring actors to look into but never fails to recognize that constant practise and experimenting is the key to fulfillment. Bravo to her debut effort. This is an essential tool.”

Author Bio:
Jessie Fahay is a New York based actress, singer, producer who is out make a difference through artistic expression. With extensive experience in Personal and Professional growth, she is constantly researching and questioning human behavior. She has attained an MBA and MFA and is the proud founder of the award-winning performing arts company, RIPPLE EFFECT ARTISTS, which has been in existence for 10 years, employing Equity Actors and using the Arts to raise awareness and funds for Human Rights Initiatives. For project updates, visit www.jessiefahay.com or www.rippleeffectartists.com.

Now Is A Good Time To Relearn How To Play

The world is suddenly uncertain and a lot of us are just sitting at home watching the Coronavirus pandemic play out on our screens. For most of us, there’s nothing we can do to slow the spread of the virus so there is going to be a lot of downtime in our future. If you’re an American or a product of America’s culture (like me!) you’re probably noticing pressure to use this time to be “productive”. Maybe you even have a list of things you’d like to finish while you’re homebound. This is a post about how you should do that.

A few months ago I took up watercolor painting. I had dabbled in oil painting a few years ago but I really hadn’t even drawn or doodled since my high school art class days. Painting went about how you’d expect for a beginner: at first I was mediocre, and then I improved. Most days if I spend time painting, I notice how good it feels to slow down and enjoy how it feels to have a hobby you just do for leisure. There is no race to run, no one to grade my skills, no deadline for becoming a painting master. I just paint what I feel like painting, for the purpose of the pleasure I feel when I do it.

I didn’t expect that taking up a new hobby would accomplish anything. I was just looking for a way to fill my time. I started painting a lot of self-portraits and I’ve noticed it’s helped my body image get a lot healthier. When I’m trying to paint a realistic looking portrait, I have to look at lines and colors and shapes. I realize how differently shaped people’s faces, bodies, and features are. I’m not looking to judge what I see, I am curious about how to observe and transport it onto a sheet of paper.

My brain figured out a way to make my time productive without me having to do anything. I didn’t know I needed to work on my body image, or that painting self-portraits would help me do just that. When we do anything that challenges us and gives us time for reflection, we move forward. Unstructured ‘play’ time helps my mind relax and have time to think through stressors and problems I’m having in a way that more visually active activities like watching TV or scrolling through the internet do not allow. Things bubble up to the surface. I learn about my values and goals. I learn what I’m like under pressure and what causes me to give up on a challenge versus push through.

A few years ago I quit the gym. I was never a workout fanatic but I liked to go and take classes. I loved planning for the gym even more. The problem was that I had such an all or nothing approach to working out that it really wasn’t fun for me. Everything related to working out was about counting and burning calories and pushing myself to show up every day and meet all the goals I was tracking. I never just went and then did what I felt like doing. As I focused on recovery from an eating disorder, I realized I had to take a break from working out altogether as I was no longer capable of doing it without focusing on numbers or weight loss. I would have never thought that someone could go to the gym for pleasure. But humans thrive when we are challenged, even our bodies love that temporary stress of a challenging workout. Now that my brain is functioning a little better (thanks therapy!) I’ve been able to dip my toes into working out in a healthy way. I do what is pleasurable for me.

Most days what feels good for me is just walking my dog around the park near my house. Other times it’s doing a video on YouTube or walking up and down my stairs. I am always paying attention to how it makes me feel. By following what feels good to me I am learning to listen to my intuition. I have the space to listen to what my body is hungry for rather than having a need to do a prescribed workout every day because it happens to be part of a 30 day challenge or because it will burn the amount of calories I ate for dinner.

The more I slow down enough to do things like this — because I am curious about them or because it pleases me — the more I feel I am remembering a very human part of me that has become numbed by constant stimulation. I feel more confident because I’m trusting myself. I know now that I am an authority about what is good for me. I don’t need to follow someone else’s plan or have a goal. I don’t have to steer the river. Wherever my find myself, if I listen enough to take the next right step, I will get to where I want to go.

The global pandemic we are in right now is a challenge, to say the least, which means that it is also an opportunity. For most of us, we are being asked to slow down and stay home. I wonder if you can use this time to engage your curiosity and try to remember what it was like to be a kid and do things just because they felt good. What would it feel like to just idly play?

You only need a pen and paper to let your mind wander. Maybe you just need to journal or doodle. Maybe you used to knit and it’s time to explore that again. Try to be willing to trust yourself, that you don’t have to have a plan or an intention, it’s enough just to do something for leisure and pleasure. Maybe this is the right time to binge read all of John Douglas’ books and become an expert on the criminal mind. Whatever the most authentic part of you has been craving, I hope you indulge while you’re social distancing. You deserve to do things just because they feel good (you know, things that don’t harm yourself or others), and you’ll get a lot of useful information about your wants and needs in the process.


Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/christine-stockton/2020/03/now-is-a-good-time-to-relearn-how-to-play

Has the Coronavirus Killed the Techlash?

Hi, all, and welcome back to Plaintext. The dumbest thing that happened to me this week was that during an open Zoom session in which Sarah Frier and I were talking about our books, some retromingent troll took over screen sharing to bomb us with images that would turn the stomach of an 8chan-er. People, be kind. And turn off screen sharing in public meetings. Also, make sure you keep getting this newsletter by subscribing to WIRED. Even if you don’t, though, our deep coronavirus coverage is free. It’s our way of being kind.

The Plain View

Mark Zuckerberg sounded tired. Conducting a press call on Wednesday, Zuckerberg, who is normally chipper when announcing fixes to problems, seemed subdued when announcing a series of moves designed to provide coronavirus information and suppress misinformation, on his platform. I guess he’s entitled to exhaustion, leading a company of 45,000 employees, most of whom (including himself) are now WFH, and dealing with problems like a potential rise in toxic content because his contracted content moderators can’t do their jobs.

Despite his downbeat demeanor, Zuckerberg has at least one thing to celebrate: Facebook has gotten rare kudos for its responses to the pandemic, and perhaps even more significantly, more people are using it for the kinds of meaningful interactions that Zuckerberg has been promoting for a long time.

Could this be a turning point? For more than three years, Facebook has been unable to switch the narrative for some—namely, the press, Congress, regulatory bodies, and Sacha Baron Cohen—as being a toxic force in society. The company is the poster child for what is known as the “techlash,” or the reaction to the overoptimistic, and arguably naive, embrace of tech founders and their creations as idealistic digital revolutionaries. Now that our lives are dominated by these giants, we see them as greedy exploiters of personal data and anticompetitive behemoths who have generally degraded society. Before the pandemic, there was every expectation that those companies would be reined in, if not split apart.

But the deus ex machina of an overwhelming public health crisis has changed things. The pandemic may have the effect of a justifiable war waged by an embattled president with low popularity. While Big Tech’s misdeeds are still apparent, their actual deeds now matter more to us. We’re using Facebook to comfort ourselves while physically bunkered and social distancing. Google is being conscripted as the potential hub of one of our greatest needs—Covid-19 testing. Our personal supply chain—literally the only way many of us are getting food and vital supplies—is Amazon.


Who knew the techlash was susceptible to a virus?

The pandemic does not make any of the complaints about the tech giants less valid. They are still drivers of surveillance capitalism who duck their fair share of taxes and abuse their power in the marketplace. We in the press must still cover them aggressively and skeptically. And we still need a reckoning that protects the privacy of citizens, levels the competitive playing field, and holds these giants to account. But the momentum for that reckoning doesn’t seem sustainable at a moment when, to prop up our diminished lives, we are desperately dependent on what they've built. And glad that they built it.

Time Travel

In a rare 2013 interview with then-Google CEO Larry Page, he addressed regulation and how it could have potentially killed the company:

“Consider our own history. When we started Google, it wasn't really obvious that what we were doing wouldn't get regulated away. Remember, at the time, people were arguing that making a copy of a file in a computer's memory was a violation of copyright. We put the whole web on our servers, so if that were true, bye-bye search engines. The Internet's been pretty great for society, and I think that 10 or 20 years from now, we'll look back and say we were a millimeter away from regulating it out of existence.”

Ask Me One Thing

Shelly writes, “With Elon Musk's new brain chip coming out this year, what will be done regarding ethics, law, etc.? Are we prepared for this?”


Thanks, Shelly, and I’m sure you’re not asking this just because you’ve written a sci-fi thriller with this question at the heart of it. I think that the brain-machine interface is a genuine contender for the data platform of the future, though it may take a very long time. Look, we’re all kind of cyborgs already, with our omnipresent phones—they just haven’t been hooked up for the final mile. But I believe we should proceed with extreme caution when applying neural context to law, particularly criminal justice. I defer to Bob Dylan on this: “If my thought dreams could be seen/They’d probably put my head in a guillotine.” Spare me the blade!

You can submit questions to mail@wired.com. Write ASK LEVY in the subject line.

End Times Chronicle

I think this prize goes to the tweet sent by the governor of Utah on Wednesday, reporting that the coronavirus hotline was down because the state health lab was hit by a 5.7-magnitude earthquake outside of Salt Lake City.

Last but Not Least

This weekend, a tweet about a preprint on the use of the revolutionary gene-editing tool Crispr to fight coronavirus got my attention. When I looked into it I found a promising long-term approach, but no panacea.


Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant has been warning us about pandemics—in books, TED talks, and the movie Contagion—for decades. Here’s what he’s saying now that the nightmare has arrived.

Brilliant is optimistic that an antiviral might prove effective against Covid-19. The buzz in Silicon Valley is that chloroquine, which is used to treat malaria, might be the one. Adam Rogers explores.

That’s it for today. See you next week, though it will probably feel like a month has passed by then.

Don't miss future subscriber-only editions of this column. Subscribe to WIRED (50% off for Plaintext readers) today.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/plaintext-has-the-coronavirus-killed-the-techlash/

FBI asks for Yellowstone photos to help find Lori Vallow’s 2 missing kids

Read more: https://www.foxnews.com/us/fbi-asks-for-yellowstone-photos-to-help-find-lori-vallows-2-missing-kids

Learning to Quit by Suzanne Harris and Paul Brunetta

Book Summary:

Set yourself free from smoking. Strategy trumps willpower!

Personal stories paired with moving photographic portraits. Empathetic, non-judgmental advice to stop smoking for good.

Have you tried to quit smoking, only to find yourself reaching for a cigarette again and again? Tired of feeling bad about your health and making promises to the ones that love you? Set a “learning” mindset and reframe these past quit attempts as trial runs. It’s not your fault that you are a smoker. Nicotine is incredibly addictive, but you can beat it! Your amazing life as a non-smoker lies just around the corner.

This book provides the friendly, positive support you need on your quit smoking journey. Simply by reading this book, you’ll take an extremely important step to stop smoking cigarettes and end nicotine addiction. Every person’s journey is different, and yours is unique. The work that you’re embarking on is shared by the 24 people interviewed for Learning to Quit. Join millions of ex-smokers around the world who have broken free from tobacco.

What’s inside the newly expanded and updated second edition:

  • Frank and honest interviews with ex-smokers
    •Positive support to meet your quit smoking goals
    •Customizable and proven quit smoking plan
    •Strategies to survive your first week without cigarettes
    •Overview of smoking cessation medicines and quit aids
    •Information on vaping and eCig alternatives
    •Advice on how to get through your quit smoking detox
    •An easy explanation of how nicotine addiction takes control
    •Tips for dealing with urges
    •An extensive health information index
    •How to talk to loved ones about your quit smoking plans
    •Where to find a smoking support groups
    •A brand-new mindset for managing relapse
    •Moving portraits of ex-smokers by photographer John Harding
    Becoming a successful non-smoker is about strategy, not willpower. Maybe you tried Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking, but can’t make quitting stick. Trying to stop smoking cold turkey is one of most difficult and least effective ways to quit. Relying on willpower or piling on guilt doesn’t work. More than fear or negativity, clear and positive motivations for change move us toward freedom from smoking. This book gives you the best ways to quit smoking.

BONUS: You’ll not only learn how to quit smoking; the medical section will equip you with vital health information. Learn how smoking effects your lungs, heart, brain, mood, weight and pregnancy. Explore different smoking cessation medication options. Feel inspired learning how quickly your health and quality of life will improve after you smoke your last cigarette. Learn more about the vaping controversy, plus vaping dangers and health risks.

Suzanne Harris, RN, NCTTP and Paul Brunetta, MD cofounded the Fontana Tobacco Treatment Center and are both former smokers. They’ve offered assistance to over 1000 smokers seeking help. They specifically developed Learning to Quit share the action plan, knowledge and support you need to take control of your health.

This book is not just about becoming smoke-free, it’s also about change; it’s about radically changing your life by ending a huge relationship–your tobacco dependence.

This book includes access to an entire library of free resources, including quit plans, mindset exercises, nicotine dependence tests and more!

Book Link – https://amzn.to/2xq5VJd



Two experts on tobacco treatment—Harris, a nurse, and Brunetta (Pulmonary/Univ. of California, San Francisco), a doctor and lung cancer specialist—collect former smokers’ stories of how they quit and offer strategies for others who’d like to break the habit.

While working together at the San Francisco Medical Center’s Chest Clinic, Harris and Brunetta bonded over their passion for helping patients quit smoking. Together, they founded the UCSF Tobacco Education Center, which hosts a stop-smoking program and a weekly Freedom From Smoking Support Group, and they build on what they’ve learned from those experiences in this new edition of a 2018 book. They begin with brief profiles of former smokers they met through the support group, photographed by Harding (Streets of Discontent, 2018, etc.), then move on to 235 pages of engaging personal stories by members. Their former smokers had different reasons for quitting, so the accounts vary widely. Each story, however, explores an open-ended question like, “Who would you be without cigarettes?” or “What is your denial story?” in an effort to motivate and inspire readers. For example, one former smoker’s “denial story” was that she believed incorrectly that she could not have a heart attack because she didn’t smoke very much, remained active, and was a woman. The book subsequently asks readers to think about their own denial stories and provides space in which they can jot down their notes on the subject. The authors go on to explore how smoking relates to health, covering topics like the effects of smoking on lung function and of nicotine on the brain. There’s also a timely section on vaping and e-cigarettes. Throughout the book, there are helpful images by debut illustrator Marhofer and tables featuring such things as a comparison of the temporal cortexes of a smoker and nonsmoker and information on nicotine replacement therapies. Useful as that information is, the personal stories—told in former smokers’ own words—are what set this book apart from other guides to quitting smoking. Readers who would like to hear from real people who have successfully quit smoking will benefit from it.

A smoking cessation guide with inspiring personal accounts by people who have stopped.

Author Bios:

Suzanne Harris in Her Own Words

When I first started smoking in my early teens, I felt grown up and powerful. Awkward, shy, and taller than all my classmates, I used cigarettes to mask my discomfort and find my place as a rebel. Years later as a nurse working in an inpatient cancer unit, I found that smoking had become a terrible burden and source of shame. I instinctively tried to abuse myself into stopping, berating myself for being stupid and weak; why else would I continue to do something that was in such conflict with being a good nurse and mother?

In finding my way to becoming a non-smoker, I developed some of the skills that are now in the pages of this book. Then, in 1984, I had the great good fortune to secure a position in an outpatient clinic in San Francisco, including working in the county hospital chest clinic for people with pulmonary diseases. There I saw the terrible toll smoking took on the health and psyche of our patients. I saw in my patients the same fear, defiance, and shame that I had felt as a smoker. So my experience first as a smoker and subsequently as a nurse has given me a dual perspective on tobacco dependence.

For me, stopping smoking involved developing a different relationship with myself, a relationship of love and respect rather than bullying and low self-esteem. And for the people I have worked with and learned from over more than 30 years of working in the field, a key for most has been to identify something they wanted more than a cigarette, and to go after that. In the process of that redirection, they came into a kinder relationship with themselves, just as I did.

Over the years, colleagues have expressed surprise that I would continue to find the work of a tobacco treatment specialist to be so engaging. In fact, the process of becoming non-smokers is rich with opportunities for transformation and empathy. Because smoking is interwoven with so many aspects of a smoker’s life, removing that thread opens a person to experiencing parts of themselves that have been ignored or unexplored. People discover strengths and gifts they did not know they had. I derive deep satisfaction supporting the single most important change a person can make to ensure a better future for themselves and the people they love: stopping smoking.

Paul Brunetta in His Own Words

My first cigarette at age nine was such a powerful experience that I can clearly remember it decades later. For kids, watching adults smoke creates a certain fascination with cigarettes and sends a strong signal that it’s what adults do. I remember Marlboro Man billboards and other positive images of smokers that were reinforced through TV and print advertising and movies in the 1970s as I grew up. In high school, I looked forward to smoking at beer-filled weekend parties. It strengthened a bond with one of my best friends, Brian, as something we shared that our other friends didn’t. Later, as an undergraduate in an intense pre-med program at Johns Hopkins University, I began to smoke regularly and realized that I was addicted. It took many attempts to stop, but with a high level of motivation I eventually did and developed a lifelong interest in nicotine addiction and tobacco related disease.

In my Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship at UCSF, I came across a kindred spirit in an amazingly talented and dedicated nurse named Suzanne Harris. Suzanne and I worked together in the Chest Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, and, together, we cared for a constant stream of patients with tobacco-related COPD and heart disease and lung cancer. This was mirrored in my rotations through the VA hospital taking care of great veterans who had survived battles for our country but were sickened by long-term tobacco use. Suzanne ran a Group at SFGH, and I asked to sit in. It was one of those moments when you realize you’re in the presence of a master doing something very difficult but making it seem effortless. As a former smoker, Suzanne was uniquely able to connect with people in Group with such profound and non-judgmental empathy, but was also able to guide them toward the next step in a quit plan. When I joined the faculty in the Thoracic Oncology Program focused on lung cancer, early detection, and tobacco education, we were able to find some limited funding from the Mt. Zion Health Fund to create the Tobacco Education Center and hire Suzanne part-time. I eventually left this position to work in biotechnology as Suzanne continued Group. And, years later, in 2009, a fantastic Group participant named Jeannie Fontana generously donated seed money that allowed for the creation and ongoing survival of the Fontana Tobacco Treatment Center.

Suzanne and I have been working on this book in one form or another for more than 10 years. We hope you gain a deep understanding of these people on their journey toward better health. And Part 2 of the book has health information and smoking cessation medication knowledge in clear language that can be critical on your own journey away from nicotine addiction. We hope this book is useful to anyone looking to improve their health or improve the lives of a loved one who is dealing with nicotine addiction.

More info: http://www.learningtoquit.com/about-the-authors/

You can start reading Learning to Quit for FREE at www.LearningToQuit.com/free