READ SOMETHING  – LEARN ANYTHING 

 Facebook challenge – January 2010

Grab the book nearest you. Turn to page 56. Find the fifth sentence. Use that  sentence to update YOUR STATUS AND POST these instructions in a COMMENT to your status. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, or the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST book!!

A Droplet of Water Chemistry

What was on page 56 of the book next to me, in my office where I worked as Chemist in a Water Treatment Plant? Of course, a journal on Water Treatment. So here is the fifth sentence.

“The high AOB [ammonia-oxidizing bacteria] level observed in 1290 reservoir in August was, therefore, likely attributable to nonviable AOB cells that were inactivated as a result of the free chlorine residual in August 2007.”

Now what did you just read? I may remember enough from what I learned to explain the quote. These bacteria  (AOB) use up Dissolved Oxygen to oxidize Ammonia to Nitrates. Dissolved Oxygen is important because without this vital element water to stagnates. Not good for the reservoir, when these microbes are active, but the free chlorine left dead bodies (non-viable). In other words, they could be counted but not counted on to metabolize and use up oxygen.  More of the article must be exposed to comprehend its context.   I studied reports and books to understand somewhat that sentence – 5th sentence on page 56.

A Collection of Books

A student learns by reading all sorts of books. It is easier learning when you love reading. Libraries are the hallways to education. At The Pennsylvania State University, which I attended during the 1970s, the main library headlined this astonishing slogan: THE TRUE UNIVERSITY IS A COLLECTION OF BOOKS.  

This was Patee Library, which became a refuge of intensive and extensive  self-directed learning. I discovered a precious collection of publications in the “Stacks,” which became home for many hours each day. I read anything and learned many things.

Ten Thousand Hours

Whoever said that experts spend ten thousand hours to master their craft? If this is true, then starting with my sisters’ Collins Romance novels  I have certainly clocked enough hours to qualify as an expert. Love for reading accelerated like my prized 3-speed bike, a vehicle to the libraries around town, coasting down hill with a two-weeks supply of books. Serial hardbacks were in – Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tarzan, William – and my young literary friends stalked the shelves for the latest ones. Is that ten-thousand hours yet?

Did you know criminal  corporations burned books? Not in the fictional future depicted by Fahrenheit 451, the movie title derived from paper’s ignition point, but I recall books being dumped and burned every Friday evening in my hometown. We were 12 years old, best friends forever, and after school. at the end of the week, the group saddled bikes to salvage burning comic books from the Funny Book Dump. We were outraged that these trucks heaped with early editions of Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and all those Marvel superheroes, plus Superman, Batman, and others from the DC collection, and of course, Archie, Bugs Bunny, Coyote and the Road Runner, with so many more, glossy and new, but not the latest, pulled into this burning ground to destroy forever the same books, which, ironically, would become valued collections in our time. They were burned to create room for the newest edition, and the previous edition was dumped rather than donated. This was capitalism at it’s worst – maybe not as tertible as destroying food during the Great Depression – but they were burning books, for God’s same!

Forever scorched in my memory are the ashy feel and singed odor of those periodicals. But I read thousands of them, imagining scripts where soot had obliterated the captions. Also etched in my subconscious is the alarming dread of Daddy discovering those funny books – he would rip them up. WHY?  We should only be reading serious books. Maybe, this compares to contemporary concerns regarding our children’s obsession with Video Games. Not sure if this is true. In any case, I countered his censure by reading Classic Comics like Moby Dick, The Prince and the Pauper, and Treasure Island.  (Daddy, it’s a Classic, not a real Funny Book). Whatever the reason for this parental restriction, it only expanded my reading repertoire – even when accomplished through secrecy and manipulation.

I got to a new level when my sister bought home from university  Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Self-directed learning was launched with a focus toward African consciousness. The Literature fueling the Black Power movement was renegade in the 1960’s, and I became a renegade reader. Seize the Time by Bobby Seale and Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley was passed from friend to friend. African and African descended authors were my heroes, as they are today. Of this genre alone I surely clocked ten-thousand hours. In fact, this was the genre I dusted off and consumed in the Stacks at Penn State.

Of course, expensive college course texts had to be read and understood to pass exams and to write term papers. Such academic readings felt like it lasted tens of thousands of hours. These were the thick, hardback,  syllabus-required  Science, Mathematics, Political Science, Economics, and Literature books.

After completing college, reading really became leisure. The Beloved Toni Morrison and those other brilliant African American writers were acquired in soft paperback. At my church we started a book club – Terry McMillan and Waiting to Exhale made a great study. How many of you read Nathan McCall, Makes me Wanna Holler. During our reading of Mama Day by Gloria Naylor, I had made a friendship with a young woman who knew the author personally; this was a connection and a conversation piece. The book was about characters on a South Carolina  barrier island, disconnected from cultural influences on the mainland, marooned.   Imagine the interest, an almost indigenous African society surviving in contemporary America.

Should I go on without mentioning the Inspirational and Self-help authors who made best sellers, especially during the 1990’s decade. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, and The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck, were more  for study and application, not mere browsing.

Don’t let me go on, because here is a good place to pause as we have arrived at present tense.

A Blog full of Books

For the last fifteen years I burned candles and tablet batteries reading mostly  religious writers. Currently, in my home office is a bookcase full of paperbacks left behind by my Ministry School classmate. She passed a few years ago. God bless Etta. My Kindle account is ablaze. Faces in Books [not too original, I admit] is my startup Facebook group.   #Mybookofthemonth is posted for my friends to see and give comments. On the page you will experience diverse readings, beginning with Who Moved my Cheese, including Americanah by Nigerian author and feminist, Chimamama Ngozi Adichie, and currently trending The Origin of Others by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison.  I’m always reading something to learn anything.

I suppose all the books that passed under my spectacles cannot be counted … it would take blogs and blogs. BUT WHO’S COUNTING.  Yet that is not all.  The revolutionary millennial generation, my children, introduced to me an online media that is more than books – TED Talks, Podcasts, YouTube, etc.  Like, it has only just begun..

Next time we must explore how reading and writing is one conversation  … like listening and speaking. In the meanwhile, would you grab a book, or something worth reading?

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