27 August 2015

Favorites #2: Summer 2015

sources: Lumosity, IMBD, Steam, personal pictures

Some of you seem to have enjoyed the first round-up of random favorites, so I have decided to make a sort of series of it, just because some finds are worth sharing. This round-up is mostly cultural, after all summer calls for long reading afternoons and binge-watching series when it's too hot outside.

An App: Lumosity

Lumosity is a cerebral training programme put together by neuroscientists and based on the science of neuroplasticity, meaning the fact that the brain can improve when trained. Long story short: they offer daily mini-games to improve your brain capacities. Focus, speed, memory, divided attention... I have registered for one year and I find these little games fun and actually useful. I suspect the neuroscientists in question to use the data from Lumosity users for their research, but that's fine for me.

What I liked: Getting 10 minutes of fun everyday, either on PC or tablet/phone. Feeling like I'm actually improving over the weeks. Feeling like I keep growing, despite being an adult out of school.

A Book: Daniel Gilbert | Stumbling on Happiness

Contrary to what you may think, this isn't self help, but a psychology book. I already mentioned Dan Gilbert through the amazlingly informative TED talks he has given over the years - about the science of happiness, predicting our future needs and taste etc. Many of these topics are gathered in Stumbling on Happiness, where he broaches the subjects of the many brain biases that make us see the world the way we do. With a light, tongue-in-cheek writing style, he makes the subject not only interesting but actually fun to read.

What I liked: Understanding how my own mind works to try and make better choices in the future - even though it seems knowing about these biases does nothing to remove them. Gilbert's writing style is very entertaining too, and I probably missed many jokes by my lack of knowledge of US pop culture.

Another Book: Isaac Asimov | Foundation

I have made my mission to read as many science-fiction classics as I could these days, starting with Ender's Game at the end of last year. The latest one in my reading list is the Foundation series by Asimov, a space sci-fi series about the rise and fall of galactic civilisations. It may sound dull, but it isn't.

The concept: a famous pyschohistorian, Hari Seldon, has been able to take psychology to a new level and predict the actions of large human populations thanks to mathematics and statistics. And he predicts the fall of the Galactic Empire, followed by 30.000 years of chaos and war. Gathering a group of top class scientists, he creates the Foundation, a small organization tasked to create an Encyclopedia of all human knowledge, in order to preserve the science and allow the rise of a new Empire in only a thousand years. From there, Asimov takes us through the centuries and predicted crises, showing how the Empire falls, and the Foundation grows.

What I liked: Well, first, Asimov thought of the science of Big Data 60 years ago, basically. That's impressive. Then, I liked the narrative - each part of several chapters follows a key character of that generation, who helps nudging the Foundation toward the direction predicted by the psychohistorian, showing at the same time some basic properties of human societies and minds. Fascinating.

A Game: Borderlands 2

I received Borderlands, the Handsome Collection as a birthday present earlier this year: a PlayStation 4 remastered version of Borderlands 2 and the Pre-sequel. These games are co-op based role-playing game shooters, with a system of classes and skills, and tons of different guns to blast the face of enemies. The graphics are very "comics-like" with a drawing feeling (cell shading), the universe is a bit off-the-wall and quite fun, in a Mad Max like post apocalyptic way, and I loved the shooter/RPG blend.

What I liked: The fun post-apocalyptic universe, the RPG mechanics, the weird characters (special mention for Tiny Tina).

A beauty product: the solid soap

Not much to day about this, I didn't quite discover the most innovative product ever. I tried out some hand-made solid soap from small artisan Carnets de Savon, and I was conquered. Zero waste, natural, leaving both my skin and hair healthy, what else? Of course, this particular brand isn't quite easy to get if you don't live in France - or in Lyon to be precise - , but I'm sure there are tons of artisans making this type of soap all around the world.

A TV series: The Bridge

The Bridge ("Bron/Broen", 2011) is a Swedish/Danish dark crime series starting with the murder of a Swedish woman, left on the bridge connecting Copenhagen to Malmö, right at the border between the two countries. Inspectors Saga Noren from Malmö police, and Martin Rohde from Copenhagen police, have to collaborate to find this killer, who is only getting started...

What I liked: With this series, you can find the typical dark and cold thriller the Scandinavians are so good at. In only one season, we get attached to characters, even the weird ones like Saga, who seems to have a serious lack of social skills. The plot is well thought and the finale... well, you'll see.

Another TV series: Residue

Residue (2015) is a British mini-series taking place in a futuristic UK metropolis, where an explosion has rendered a whole district contaminated by some strange sickness. Questioning the reality behind this quarantined zone or witness of paranormal phenomena, several survivors of the blast decide to find out more...

What I liked: First, I loved the cyberpunk-ish dark futuristic universe and aesthetic, the kind you encounter in some comicbooks. Then, I liked how the story unfolds, through the eyes of the photographer who has a eye for detail, the grieving cop, the member of the ministry... All of this with some doom and gloom-ish atmosphere, and a healthy dose of paranormal/fantastic.

That's it for this month's favorites. Do you know any of these, did you like them too? What did you discover and like this summer?


  1. Oh I love The Bridge! I'm so mad that season 2 isn't anywhere on Netflix, even though it aired so long ago.

    1. I didn't even know there was a season 2! I think season 1 ending is sufficient to me; I'm always wary of season 2 for this kind of series. Though I have to admit season 2 of Broadchurch was a brilliant success.

    2. Season 2 is brilliant. I also really liked the English/ French version of The Bridge. Culturally it was really interesting. I'm off to watch Residue. Thanks for the recommendation. This month I've been watching Damages, reading Girl on a Train (finished in about two days- so good) and exploring London. I love your blog. Hannah

    3. Thanks for all the recommendations Hannah :) I didn't even know they did a French/English version of the Bridge, it's crazy how many adaptations have been made of this series!

  2. I have been hunting for walking/everyday shoes all summer, and I finally found a great pair. Unfortunately style-wise this always means I look like I'm ready to run...which isn't as bad an image as I thought but I'm always looking more athletic than elegant.

    Not to say either is preferable over the other. Recently, however, comfort has taken a premium over style for me; I think that usually happens when one is too tired/busy/stressed to care. So any product that fits comfortably and doesn't add extra aggravation gets +infinity in my books.

    1. I'm happy that you found comfortable everyday shoes, these are harder to come by than we may think. I agree that comfort should prime over elegance, if the options force you to choose between the two. That's why I like oxfords and derbies so much though: I find they combine comfort and elegance, when they are well-made :)

  3. This reminds me that I need to use Lumosity more instead of screwing around on PvZ2 -- it's turning my brain into mush.

    Thanks for The Bridge recommendation! I've been looking for a TV show to get hooked on after finishing Broadchurch recently.

    This summer I discovered to let go of social media validation... but that's a different thing altogether :-)

    1. Well, Lumosity only takes 10-15 minutes per session so I'm sure you can go off shooting zombies with your plants afterwards :)
      If you liked Broadchurch you'll probably enjoy The Bridge, it's a similar genre and the mystery, personalities and all are really well made.
      Letting go of social media validation is a quite honorable summer projet, not easy though ;)

  4. Can't tell you how happy I am that you've fallen in love with handmade soap :D such an awesome product really needs more PR.

    1. Haha, I can only agree! I think most people are left with bad impressions from industrial solid soaps and never give a chance to the real, high quality thing. I know that was my case before I discovered Carnets de Savon. Even my hair love these soaps, they are more efficient than the organic liquid soap that spaced my shampoos in the first place :)

  5. I've been eyeing that Lumosity app for a while, so thanks for the review, I'll have to go try it out now! Also glad you like the foundation series, they're one of my favorites. I have hardback copies of the series and tend to re-read them every other year or so :) I feel like they've only gotten better with age.

    1. It's interesting, one of my board-game night friends told be exactly the same: he is re-reading the Foundation books regularly! I am currently devouring the fourth book and I can see how you'd want to read them again. Lumosity is really good, I can see the difference when I can't play for a few days, it's incredible to think mind training is a bit like body training: you can get rusty :)