The Hungry Soul

>> Saturday, December 27, 2014

I look at some books and think of how I came to read them. Or the information they contained. Or things that happened while I was reading it.

But not this book.

No, when I look at the cover of this book, all I can think about how long it took me to try and finish this thing, which included multiple attempts. I can't think of when a book has ever taken so long and so many attempts for me to finish it.

If I remember correctly, I bought this book twelve--almost thirteen--years ago after I finished reading The Fat Fallacy.  I was intrigued by what the author of that book had mentioned about this one, so I ordered a copy and began reading it. I actually got pretty far, more than half way. And then I stopped. Can't remember why. It might have been because I was reading another book at the time, and I couldn't successfully read more than one at a time even though I tried.  So I shelved it.

I tried reading it again a few years afterwards and got nowhere. I tried again last year starting all the way back at the beginning because, hey, I could hardly remember anything that I had read ten years ago. I didn't get very far, just ten, fifteen, or perhaps twenty pages in. Gave up again and then started to read something else more interesting.

I started again later this fall. I didn't get very far until I was stuck sitting in my chair at work the day after Thanksgiving with nothing to do but read. I got pretty far, more than half way. When the only saving grace of reading a particular book is that it kept you from complete and total boredom for eight hours--and that includes deleting old emails and surfing the internet--it doesn't make for a great recommendation. Because after reading so many pages, I was actually getting into it, yet never compelled to continue and finish.

The subtitle of this book is "Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature." I think it should be reworded as "A Day Trip Through Meaningless Minutia." 'Meaningless minutia' is probably the most key phrase for this book. Yes, it's well written and argued, but for a collection of essays, I could never make out what the author was driving at. I was left at a bunch of "yeah, that's interesting but what of it?" The only real bit of information I thought was interesting was when the author was pointing out some moments from Homer's Odyssey and how they related to a philosophy of eating. Then it was back to more meaningless minutia.

And I never even finished this. Last week I put this up for sale on Amazon because I didn't want to keep it. I even gave myself one week to finish it before I allowed my listing to become active. I figured if I was ever going to finish it, then it would be when I had an actual deadline. Nope. Still had at least 40 pages left to read when it sold yesterday. But I didn't hesitate to put it in the mail.

I am so relieved that book is out of my life.


So true

>> Friday, November 28, 2014

During the eighteenth century, deists rejected traditional Western Christianity largely because it had become so conspicuously cruel and intolerant. The same will hold good today. All too often, conventional believers, who are not fundamentalists, share their aggressive righteousness. They use "God" to prop up their own loves and hates, which they attribute to God himself. But Jews, Christians and Muslims who punctiliously attend divine services yet denigrate people who belong to different ethnic and ideological camps deny one of the basic truths of their religion. It is equally inappropriate for people who call themselves Jews, Christians and Muslims to condone an inequitable social system. The God of historical monotheism demands mercy not sacrifice, compassion rather than decorous liturgy.
~Karen Armstrong, A History of God, p. 392



>> Thursday, November 27, 2014

How nice it is to finish a book within a week! It's like I can actually remember what I read!

I'm pretty sure I added this book to my reading list after I finished The Hundred-Year Lie, which is kind of an unremarkable collection of health information, about a year and a half ago.  I say "I'm pretty sure" because I know I had heard of this book--and definitely the word 'affluenza'--long before that. Once I started reading, I was surprised to learn that this was a documentary miniseries once upon a time on PBS back in 1999. The publication date on the copy I picked up at a library sale is 2002. (I basically got this book for less than a dollar.)

When reading a book on current events that is almost fifteen years old, it's always interesting to see what still rings true in 2014 and what doesn't. Like having one of your chapters start with a quote by Ted Haggard. Yes, THAT Ted Haggard. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I came upon it.
There is a tension between materialism and family values. -Ted Haggard, Pastor, New Life Church, Colorado Springs
It's quite unfortunate to be quoting a man who years later is ousted from his church as a fraud and public relations nightmare. I have no doubt it was something that was corrected in the updated edition of this book, Affluenza: Reality Bites Back.

Overall, I think this book still is at least 95% on the mark. I didn't think there were many glaring out-of-date assumptions mentioned until I reached the third section of the book on "treating" affluenza. Much of that is what I would almost describe as overly simplistic optimism that inroads were being made against consumer capitalism and materialism. Sure, the examples they have of some small communities are great, but aside from the one they describe in Portland, Oregon, I had never heard or read about such a community until I read it in this book. (And considering it's in the Portland area, well, it just seems like a Pacific Northwest thing.)

I think my main takeaway from reading this was how much I was in agreement with it. I didn't have any eureka! moments while reading it, but I often thought about two things: one of my friends and Mr. Money Mustache. I thought about one of my friends who just recently completed a trip around the continental U.S. I only thought about her in relation to this book because she had a six-figure income and lived in San Francisco and accrued a bunch of debt because she likes to spend a lot of her money going out to eat and drinking high-quality beer. I've never had a six-figure income like that, and it somewhat enrages me to watch someone piss it all away because she want to enjoy the high life yet can't seem to connect that she wouldn't have accrued so much debt if she would learn to stay home and cook a little more. (Or perhaps have only one expensive beer rather than three when she goes out.) Needless to say, I'm planning on sending her a used copy of Your Money or Your Life for her birthday. (She says she has a library card, but I doubt she ever uses it.) That's a book which receives it's own chapter in Affluenza. It's one chapter in the "treatment" section that is still rock solid.

Which brings me to Mr. Money Mustache. My sister introduced me to him last Christmas, and my life has been better for it. Some of what he does are things I've been working on financially, so his lifestyle doesn't come as a huge shock to me as it does to other people. But he is undoubtedly anti-affluenza and can illustrate the benefits of why easily. He has written about many of the problems noted in this book in a different way. I thought it was particularly timely that he just had a post titled "If You Think This is About Extreme Frugality, You’re Missing The Point." He doesn't use the word "affluenza," but if you know the concept, you can spot it in the post. In fact, if someone didn't want to read Affluenza, I think you could get a lot of the same concepts from just this post and by listening to The Disciplined Investor podcast he links to and refers to in that post. I did just this week, and it made reading this book a little bit better.


How "creation" came to be

Since Newton, creation had been central to much Western understanding of God, and people had lost sight of the fact that the biblical story had never been intended as a literal account of the physical origins of the universe. Indeed, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo had long been problematic and had entered Judaism and Christianity relatively late; in Islam the creation of the world by al-Lah is taken for granted, but there is no detailed discussion of how this happened. Like all other Koranic speech about God, the doctrine of creation is only a "parable," a sign or a symbol. Monotheists in all three religions had regarded the creation as a myth, in the most positive sense of the word: it was a symbolic account which helped men and women to cultivate a particular religious attitude. Some Jews and Muslims had deliberately created imaginative interpretations of the creation story that departed radically from any literal sense. But in the West there had been a tendency to regard the Bible as factually true in every detail. Many people had come to see God as literally and physically responsible for everything that happens on earth, in rather the same way as we ourselves make things or set events in motion.
~Karen Armstrong, A History of God, p. 355


A History of God

>> Saturday, November 22, 2014

I think I first attempted reading this back in 2000 or 2001. I can't remember which, but I do remember that I checked this out of the Tacoma library, a nice hardcover that I only got perhaps 30 or 50 pages into. Then before I left Tacoma, I bought this used paperback copy at Kings Books. Apparently sometime between then and 2014 I was able to make it to page 130 before I stopped. Which brings me to this past spring, when I started reading it again (from the beginning) until I finished.

My god, I cannot believe how long it took me to finish this book. The first few chapters flew by. I was making progress and destined to finish before the beginning (or was it the middle?) of the summer. And then my crappy work place took over my mind with stress, and I was unable to make any headway on it until this fall when I changed jobs. (I don't think relaxation reading is supposed to work this way.)

Anyhow, there is so much in this book that I don't know how to summarize it. I'm glad I read Karen Armstrong's small book on Islam last year because it definitely helped while reading the couple chapters solely devoted to Islam. I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about religion and religious history, and I had a harder time not falling asleep on the chapter--or chapter and a half--that was solely devoted to Islam. It was just harder to follow since I'm not well-versed in its philosophy and doctrines. (But I learned a lot! Most of which I probably won't remember though.)
[Isaac] Newton does not mention the Bible: we know God only by contemplating the world. Hitherto the doctrine of the creation had expressed a spiritual truth: it had entered both Judaism and Christianity late and had always been somewhat problematic. Now the science had moved the creation to center stage and made a literal and mechanical understanding of the doctrine crucial to the conception of God. When people deny the existence of God today they are often rejecting the God of Newton, the origin and sustainer of the universe whom scientists can no longer accommodate. (p. 304)
Now points like these are what I picked this book up for in the first place. How things came to be is why I like reading history. How things are today isn't how they were 3,000 years ago, which most fundamentalists never seem to think about. I've read quite a bit about the history of Christianity, which also tends to involve Judaism, but never as much about Islam. I don't think I could have ever imagined some of the philosophical and doctrinal overlap that Armstrong describes at various points. I had no idea of some of the (crazier) history like the Shabbetai Zevi episode in Judaism. Reading that, it's like, "Holy hell, this actually happened?!?"

But when some of the themes begin to repeat themselves in the history Armstrong is recounting, I was reminded of the Mayan baktuns where certain sections of time are thematically about this or that in addition to things being involved in a cycle where it'll repeat at a certain point in time. Reading about some of the different strains like the Sufis or mystics in general, I feel a bit disappointed since as Armstrong mentions that western Christianity lost its acquaintance with mysticism a long time ago in its emphasis on literal interpretations. I can't help but feel that something like that leaves a real void culturally since either literalists (like fundamentalists) or abstainers only remain.
The mystics have long insisted that God is not an-Other Being; they have claimed that he does not really exist and that it is better to call him Nothing. This God is in tune with the atheistic mood of our secular society, with its distrust of inadequate images of the Absolute. Instead of seeing God as an objective Fact, which can be demonstrated by means of scientific proof, mystics have claimed that he is a subjective experience, mysteriously experienced in the ground of being. This God is to be approached through the imagination and can be seen as a kind of art form, akin to the other great artistic symbols that have expressed the ineffable mystery, beauty and value of life. Mystics have used music, dancing, poetry, fiction, stories, painting, sculpture and architecture to express this Reality that goes beyond concepts. Like all art, however, mysticism requires intelligence, discipline and self-criticism as a safeguard against indulgent emotionalism and projection. (p. 396)



I would just say don't go in expecting The Dark Knight. Rather, go in expecting The Dark Knight Rises, instead, if you know what I mean.
My sister on seeing Interstellar.

Can't say I disagree with her.  There's a lot of things I liked about Interstellar: the space travel, the photography, the demonstration of relativity, the robots. And hey--let's be honest--TARS is the best character in the movie. In the things-I-didn't-like column, you can definitely put that "ghost" story line right there. Didn't like it nor the portion in the "tesseract" at the end. 'Cause when that happenen in the movie I was like, "Really?!? This moment I just can't buy." It was worse than watching Talia wait around to nuke Gotham.

This is movie is proof that Christopher Nolan just doesn't do fun. The only reason he and his brother could come up with to go on an interstellar space travel mission is because we've trashed the earth so badly we're all going to die. I totally agree with everything that George Monbiot stated, and I'm not going to regurgitate it here.
But why couldn't he have done a space travel movie without the pretense of saving the earth? Was it SO hard to conceive of a reason for interstellar travel? I don't find the end result where humans are leaving the earth in mass very satisfying. As Matt Atchity pointed out, leaving the earth wouldn't have solved the blight problem because it would have followed them along into space! Ugh. Like Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "Can't imagine a future where escaping Earth via wormhole is a better plan than just fixing Earth."


Why not conceive a story about fun space explorers who then encounter the emotional after-effects of relativity and etc.? Like, try fitting some substance into something like that and then it might have been a smart movie. Ugh.

I did kind of like the organ music though.


Gone Girl

>> Sunday, October 12, 2014

I didn't read the book, and for that I'm really glad since I can hardly ever make it through fiction books, but it allowed me to enjoy the movie SO much more easily than if I knew what this whack-a-doodle chick was thinking.

There was a moment--or perhaps a few moments--where I thought that Nick did do it, but then I thought no way since what would be the point of this movie, right? It had to be that she was still alive, somewhere. (I remember hearing faint traces about the plot back when the book was released, but I didn't pay much attention to it since I knew there would be a movie coming out.)

Anyway, I liked the movie; although, it definitely will never be one of my favorites. The best parts are how a certain strain of media is skewered for all the right reasons. I liked watching this movie more than I like thinking about it, and the reason for that is its titular character, Amy.

I'm not so enthralled by Amy as some others are. She's so "Amazing" in pulling off a scam and screwing her husband, but, let's be honest here, why is that supposed to be winning? She doesn't have the balls to walk away from her marriage. She doesn't have the cajones to live on her own. Just saying she's an anti-hero doesn't really cut it for me. Using Walter White, the Joker, Jax Teller, or the Corleones as examples of glorified anti-heroes isn't the same. Those are all men engaging, however ruthlessly, in outside activities. Amy is just ruthless in her marriage. Like, she just can't walk away and leave Nick in the dust. It's too hard. All of that reminded me of the exchange between Anna and Elsa in Frozen:
Anna: "I can't LIVE like this anymore."
Elsa: "Then leave."
Nope, not Amy. She has a marriage she just can't live without. I'm almost to the point of pity for those who admire Amy. I don't understand what they admire. The "cool girl" speech? Plenty of undergrads could have come up with that. I don't know that it's such a novel thought, unless you've been so wrapped up into having a relationship that you can't see where you've done that. (Or I'm lucky in that most--if not all--of my friends aren't like that.)
Nick Dunne: "You fucking cunt!"
Amy Dunne: "I'm the cunt you married. The only time you liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this cunt might like. I'm not a quitter, I'm that cunt. I killed for you; who else can say that? You think you'd be happy with a nice Midwestern girl? No way, baby! I'm it."
Nick Dunne: "Fuck. You're delusional. I mean, you're insane, why would you even want this? Yes, I loved you and then all we did was resent each other, try to control each other. We caused each other pain."
Amy Dunne: "That's marriage."
And there were a bunch of understandable laughs in the theater after that exchange. I can totally understand, even though I'm not married (and have a hard time imagining that I'll ever be). But it made me wonder, what caused those other people to laugh? Were they already married for 50 years? Divorced? Widowed? I grew up not wanting to be married and could never really relate to those who said they couldn't wait to be married with children. Like, why? I could never really understand until I heard this sentence in Princess Mononoke: "You know, that boy wanted to share his life with you."

But then I still think that wanting to be married before who you know you want to be married to is like putting the cart before the horse.


Record daily highs

>> Thursday, March 20, 2014

Technically, if the Earth's temperature was not increasing, you would expect that the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year should be about even. But that is far from the case. For the period from January 1, 2000, to December 20, 2009, the continental United States set 294,276 record highs and only 145,498 record lows. And if you look back over the past sixty years, that picture is reinforced. The ratio of record daily high to record daily low temperatures was almost one to one in the 1950s but has been rising steadily since the 1980s.
~ The Weather of the Future, Heidi Cullen, p. 274


Kate Remembered

>> Sunday, March 16, 2014

I bought this shortly after Katharine Hepburn died back in 2003. It was a bit of a shock when she passed because after a while you begin to think that certain people really might live forever. I started this and read certain sections all the way back then, like the Michael Jackson segment. I never finished and only got one-third the way through.

Ten plus years later I finally finished, reading the whole thing in less than one week. The small fact that I was out sick for a day and a half probably helped, but this really is a quick read even though its not far from 400 pages.

I've known the general gist of her life before this book from tv interviews and magazine pieces when she was alive. I don't know that this book does more than that since it is partly an autobiography of A. Scott Berg as well. But I did get a better sense of who she was in her later years when the author knew her. I think it's a little bit hard knowing that we don't really have an equivalent celebrity of her stature in the public eye. The closest I can think of offhand is Meryl Streep.

Knowing she's gone, I miss her calling-it-as-it-is statements that were my favorite moments in the book, such as this one:
That night, as rain pelted the windows at Fenwick, I asked Miss Hepburn if she regretted not having children of her own. "I would have been a terrible mother," she said point-blank, "because I'm basically a very selfish human being. Not that that has stopped most people from going off and having children."
Too true! And a statement I can totally relate too!

And then she totally calls out those actors who are just whiners.
While she sought the limelight all her life, Hepburn believed actors received too much attention and respect. "Let's face it," she said once, "we're prostitutes. I've spent my life selling myself--my face, my body, the way I walk and talk. Actors say, 'You can look at me, but you must pay me for it.'" I said that may be true, but actors also offer a unique service--the best of them please by inspiring, by becoming the agents for our emotional catharses. "It's no small thing to move people," I said, "and perhaps to get people to think differently, maybe even behave differently." I pointed out to Hepburn that she had used her celebrity over the years for numerous causes--whether it was marching in parades for women's equality or campaigning for Roosevelt, speaking out against McCarthyism, or supporting Planned Parenthood. "Not much, really," Kate said. "I could've done more. A lot more....It really doesn't take all that much to show up for a dinner with the President or to accept an award from an organization so it can receive some publicity. Oh, the hardship! Oh, the inconvenience! Oh, honestly!"
And when I finished reading that paragraph, I have to admit that my first thought was that Angelina Jolie is probably the only celebrity of our time that, at least that I can think of, who may be up to Hepburn's standards. I certainly wouldn't consider Mia Farrow a possibility.
"I never really cared for Frank (Sinatra)," Kate later told me, "and you must never ask me about the girl." I later learned that she considered Mia Farrow's father, an Australian-born writer-director named John, so "depraved" that there was "no way that girl could have any moral structure to her life."
Besides all that, I think her attitude as a working woman is still--and probably always--one to emulate.
Hepburn never completely understood why there were so few women directing; there were, after all, many women writing scenarios and editing film. For that, she did not blame the men who ran the studios so much as the women who chose not to challenge them. "It never occurred to me that I was a second-class citizen in Hollywood," Hepburn later recounted, "--nor that women had to be."


So Good They Can't Ignore You

>> Saturday, March 15, 2014

I can't remember where I first came across this book. I think I came across it via the author's Study Hacks blog while I was looking at his books, thinking I might find a good Christmas gift for two of my nephews. I probably did find a good gift for them; I just didn't buy it for them this year. I should probably send them each a paperback copy of this for Christmas 2014.

I did find this to be a good book even for me. Still feeling like a rut in my current job, I kept thinking about this book and decided to check it out of my local library. I kind of admit that I feel fortunate they even had this book since another book I'd like to read they don't have, which means I'll have to fill out an inter-library loan request.

Anyhow, I found this to be such a simple and easy-to-read book that I'd recommend it to anyone. It made me realize why I hate my current job, even though I've never really liked it to begin with, and what to look for in another job while I bide my time in this state. One of the most salient points he makes is in the point that Steve Jobs never followed his passion right out of school. If he had, he likely wouldn't have ever founded Apple Computer.
I shared the details of Steve Jobs's story, because when it comes to finding fulfilling work, the details matter. If a young Steve Jobs had taken his own advice and decided to only pursue work he loved, we would probably find him today as one of the Los Altos Zen Center's most popular teachers. But he didn't follow this simple advice. Apple Computer was decidedly not born out of passion, but instead was the result of a lucky break--a "small-time" scheme that unexpectedly took off. (p.10)
I'd probably summarize the book this way:
  1. Keep an open mind
  2. Always work on your skills
  3. Find ways to track your improvements, which include your skills
  4. Find ways to have some control over your work
  5. Find work that has some meaning for you
I say the above because not everyone is going to end up doing "great work" of some distinction. But this book is very helpful in eliminating the "follow your passion" advice that permeates our current culture.

I particularly took note of one list of his that made me realize how I could quantify my dislike with my current job.
...I ended up devising a list of three traits that disqualify a job as providing a good foundation for building work you love:
1. The job presents few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing relevant skills that are rare and valuable.
2. The job focuses on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world.
3. The job forces you to work with people you really dislike.
My current job definitely has numbers 1 and 3 down pat. Ugh.

I still think I'll try and re-read this in a year or two, just to see if I absorbed everything I wanted to absorb.


How quaint

>> Sunday, March 9, 2014

It is not necessary to recognise a ball-room acquaintance the next day, unless you choose to do so. The introduction is for a dance, and not for future acquaintanceship. To act on it afterwards depends entirely on the will of the lady; and she is not ill-bred if she ignores her partner's existence the next day.
~Daily Duties of a House Mother, 1872

Found this quote in The Age of Innocence: A Portrait of the Film Based on the Novel by Edith Wharton. Don't think you could act like that today.


2013 Books

>> Saturday, March 1, 2014

Here was my starting point at the beginning of 2013:

Only 13 books finished in 2012. A bit of a disappointment considering that I started the beginning of the year so well. I sped through The Diana Chronicles and then was able to finish that behemoth called Good Calories, Bad Calories. Finished a few other books quite easily in the spring like The Shock Doctrine (another massive book) and Where Men Win Glory. Plodded on through a other few books through the summer and then hardly finished anything after September. Ugh. Only 13 books.

And I had so many that I planned on reading and finishing.
Look at Andre Agassi's face right there in the top, left-hand corner. It's been sitting there for years, saying to me, "Please read!" That and so many other books like Glenn Greenwald's How Would a Patriot Act? I've only had it since it was published, and it's not huge. (sigh) Not getting through books is how my mind reacts to the troubles at work. I have a hard time unwinding and concentrating on books that I'd like to read. It almost feels like a double punishment. 

But I made much more progress in 2013! 25 books read! I think that's a new personal best. Although, once again I did slow down in the last two months of the year and not get as much read as I did in the spring. Seems kind of odd that I wouldn't be able to get much material read when the weather outside isn't great. Go figure.

Anyhow, my accomplishment for 2013 is that the first page of books on my bookshelf is almost entirely made up of books that I read in a single year, which makes me quite happy.

Finally a bookshelf that I'm proud of.

The Operators by Michael Hastings: My Christmas gift for 2012. This was a good read. I missed his original Rolling Stone article that caused Stanley McChrystal to get fired, but I became a subscriber immediately after that. I still think that good journalism needs to be supported. That's exactly what this book is for me. Truth to power; telling it like it is. An important book that may not seem like it. I wish more people would read it since they would probably get a better picture of how the upper echelon of our military operates.

A Billion Wicked Thoughts: I found this title in Powell's 2012 staff picks. Would never have heard of it otherwise. This was a good quick read. I finished it in a week. I'd highly recommend it to anyone; although, it's definitely not for kids.

Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me: Not as funny as I hoped. And not entirely about dumping either. Some essays I really enjoyed like Patton Oswalt and Will Forte's. Others were just...boring. I much preferred "Modern Love" over this. I think I'll have an eternal soft spot for Will Forte after reading his essay.

Blackwater by Jeremy Scahill: It was a long slog but well worth it. There's much a that I've read about Blackwater since this book was published. Even still, it was interesting to find out how the company started and gained its influence so quickly. There were several portions that reminded me of "The Shock Doctrine;" although, that doesn't seem to be a coincidence. I'm definitely going to read his next book Dirty Wars sometime after I finish watching the documentary on Netflix. I missed seeing it at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. I started watching it on Netflix on an evening I was too tired to finish it. Will finish it soon.

Radicals in Robes by Cass Sunstein: I think this book was more relevant when it was published back in 2005 than 2012 and 2013 when I read it. I felt like I learned quite a bit about legal philosophies, but was quite bored, partially because I was expecting a different book than I got. It's certainly dated in some sections given what has gone through SCOTUS in the past 5 to 6 years. Not sure I'd recommend it.

The Way of the World  by Ron Suskind

Bottlemania by Elizabeth Royte

How Would a Patriot Act? by Glenn Greenwald: A short book compared to his other books but always worthwhile if not solely for the reason that most of the issues are still ongoing, just under a different administration.

The Lone Samurai by William Scott Wilson: Having read this will definitely make reading "The Book of Five Rings" easier to understand/remember the next time I read it. I may have to read this again in a few years just because Musashi was such a great person. I wish the folks who are trying to make a Wonder Woman movie would examine him as a bit of a template for getting the character right in a movie, but it'll just have to remain a wish.

Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher: Somewhat dated but still very good. Some chapters really dragged for me, while others just flew by. Still a good read but I liked A Guide for the Perplexed better.

Columbine by Dave Cullen: Excellent. Engrossing. Has compassion for all the people involved in the tragedy while telling an extremely detailed story.

The Kensington Runestone by Alice Beck Kehoe: I still believe it's a genuine article.

The Return of Depression Economics by Paul Krugman: I bought this back in Tacoma about 6 years before I read it. Even though this is an edition from 2000, it's still valid considering the times we live in today.

Open by Andre Agassi: Better than I expected and quite the page turner! I let this sit unread for far too long, and once I got into it, it felt like such a huge mistake to let sit around unread. I think I have a much greater appreciation for Andre than I had before as a general tennis fan. I always thought that his sudden marriage to Steffi Graf came out of the blue, but since she is my favorite tennis player of all time, I think it's quite the ultimate pairing. I kept reading waiting for her to appear. Well, that and the tidbit about Pete Sampras being a cheapskate. I remember hearing about it from reading Lainey and had to wait until the very end to read it direct from Andre.

The Family by Jeff Sharlet: I picked this one up based purely on the scandal surrounding that U.S. Senator from Las Vegas who was having an affair with a member of his staff. Can't remember his name 'cause he doesn't really matter anymore. What does matter is the small society of religious freaks who turned the gospel truth of a world-famous, impoverished, pacifist hippie into a cult about war, money, power, and me, Me, ME! Ugh. Never have been more convinced that we need more ethical, egalitarian, pro-union secularists in government than after reading this book.

The Hundred-Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald: Much of what I read I had heard about before in the various news snippets that much of the book is compiled from. I probably would have enjoyed it more if this book wasn't preaching to my choir. Very well researched though.

The Mayan Prophecies: The Renewal of the World 2012-2072 by Kenneth Johnson: This is an e-book. Probably the simplest and most practical breakdown of "The Mayan Prophecy of 2012" that I've ever read, not that I've read many. I appreciate this book for what it really says about the time period after 2012. That the period between 2012 and 2032 will be a time of have's and have-not's. That the period between 2032 and 2052 will be a bunch of craziness, aka "the world turned upside down." And that between 2052 and 2072 will be when things will finally be a little bit more set right. This makes sense to me given the big conjunctions in Vedic Astrology that happen around 2019-2020. We're still in for a bit of a roller coaster ride for the next six to ten years.

Mansions of the Moon by Kenneth Johnson: Probably the best book I've read about the nakshatras. I particularly enjoyed the second half since it contained information that I hadn't heard about before. I actually wish that last section was longer.

Screwed by Thom Hartmann: Most of this I'd heard before on Hartmann's radio show, but reading some of his elaborations on certain points I really enjoyed more than I thought I would.

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong: Definitely a short history, but I'm not sure it was a very interesting one. I definitely understand the differences between Shi'a and Sunni much better, but I feel like she abbreviated so much that she reduced the interesting parts of history to...footnotes?

The Cosmological Origins of Myth and Symbol by Laird Scranton: I had high hopes for this book, but the author seems to me to be overwhelmed with the material. The first few chapters were so boring I almost fell asleep reading them. Then it perked up a bit when he finally got into the actual details. I do not place much faith in his use of Budge's dictionary comparing words from that to known Dogon words and stories. What he uses from the Dogon has context with stories and rituals; taking words out of Budge's dictionary gives no context for the words. Also, he uses the Egyptian word "Neter" over and over again in his Egyptian word section, yet never uses "Netrit." Why? I'll never be able to figure that out since they go together like yin and yang. He has some nice ideas, but he should really look into studying other cultures in full before writing something like this. It mostly appears as if he is trying to overlay what he knows about Dogon culture onto everything else that is ancient.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver: Very interesting but longer than I thought it would be. I'm already part of the choir that the book is preaching to, but I still learned some new things by reading this book such as heirloom animal breeds. Never knew that there were heirloom breeds before reading this book. I've seen heirloom tomatoes in my grocery store, but never knew there were heirloom breeds that we need to put some work in to make sure they survive.

Who Will Feed China? by Lester Russell Brown: Also known as China's huge population is going to cause it a shit load of problems relating to water, food, industrial production of anything, etc. The age of oil has made many things easy, but it has certainly made food production and import/export much easier than it was 100 years ago. People take this for granted, and the author illuminates all the way back in 1995 of why we are set up for a bunch of problems as China ascends the ranks of world industrial powers. I think a few quotes can illustrate this HUGE problem:
Estimating China's future food deficit is a scary exercise. Individuals doing the official grain supply projections at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., and within the Chinese government have been spared some of this trauma simply because they have overlooked the heavy loss of cropland that accompanies industrialization in a country that is already densely populated before the process begins. They have thus assumed that production would continue to climb, closely tracking the rise in consumption, leading to only modest future deficits.
Given the likely continuing growth in China's nonagricultural exports, importing 200 million or even 300 million tons of grain at current prices would be within economic range if the country's leaders were willing to use a share of export earnings for this purpose. Of course, this could mean cutting back on capital goods imports and possibly on oil imports, which in turn could diminish the inflow of technology and energy needed to sustain rapid economic growth. The more difficult question posed earlier is, Who could supply grain on this scale? The answer: no one. No one exporting country nor even all of them together can likely expand exports enough to cover more than a small part of this huge additional claim on the world's exportable grain surplus. In the real world, the price of grain would rise, reducing consumption and imports while stimulating production and exports until a new balance was reached.
Concern about food security runs deep in China. The current leaders, remembering all too clearly the Great Famine, are committed to self-sufficiency in food, at least in their public statements. They are also committed to industrialization--getting rich is now glorious. It is hard to imagine a government any more committed to industrialization, yet Beijing faces a dilemma. It cannot continue to industrialize and remain self-sufficient in food.
The Weather of the Future by Heidi Cullen: An interesting book, but one that elaborates on things I've already heard and suspected: that we're screwed when it comes to climate change, aka global warming. She does give a good explanation of how climatologists evaluate and predict climate data. For me the most interesting parts were the individual chapters on how climate change is and would affect changes around the world. I thought she was a little too optimistic in her predictions of societies making changes the help adapt, particularly for New York City and California's Central Valley. Her chapter on California's Central Valley and the San Joaquin Delta stood out for me since I was not aware of the huge levee system that is in place there. I mentioned it to my parents, and my father told me how in the early 80s (I think) that the state had a vote on how to handle the levee/water system and they've never been able to come to a workable decision on anything, which doesn't surprise me given California's political climate. (This is the state of Proposition 13 after all.) I thought this quote was particularly illuminating:
But what the scientists fear most is something called the "Big Gulp." The name itself sums up the scenario. If the levees break, salt water from San Francisco Bay will come rushing in, proving that nature abhors a vacuum. Lund does a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation: "It would take as little as twelve hours for the salt water to begin intruding into the Delta.
Yup. California is screwed.

And now for a look to the future, specifically books for 2014.

Plagues and Peoples: I've started this. Kind of. Am going to finish this probably right after I finish the Bepin Behari book. Or after I finish A. Scott Berg's Kate Remembered book since I want to sell that one and get rid of it.
Fundamentals of Vedic Astrology (vol. 1) by Bepin Behari: I am ALMOST done with this. I might even finish this weekend. Less than 50 pages to go.

A Public Betrayed: I actually have this, so it shouldn't be too hard to pick up once I get around to it...
The Fluoride Deception: I have had this for 10 years. I got about half through it and then stopped. Can't remember why, but it was probably due to reading multiple books at one time. I'll have to start all over again. I'll probably take the dust cover off when I read it at the hospital. Don't need the wary eyes of doctors at me when they see the title.
Nixonland: I firmly intend on reading this after I read the author's Before the Storm book first. Unbeknownst to me when I purchased this, the author's book on Barry Goldwater was published first, and it would probably be best to go in chronological order.
The Poverty of Affluence: I have it. I started it six years ago and didn't get very far. Am going to finish this very soon, probably within the next three or four books I read.
The Hungry Soul: I actually almost finished this back in 2001, but I didn't. Now I'll have to start ALL over..(sigh)
The Lord of the Rings: Twelve years and counting. I'm about in the middle of The Two Towers. I might have to just forget this one since I KNOW what happens anyway.
Dark Age Ahead: Will have to check this out of the library.
The Silmarillion: I've started this years ago, but will probably finish it before I ever finish The Lord of the Rings, which will be made easier since I own it.
Bad Money by Kevin Phillips: I don't think I'll get to this one this year. I am planning on reading a different book of his this year instead.
Wealth and Democracy by Kevin Phillips: This is the book that I'm planning on reading shortly. I own it. It's sitting in my stack begging to be read given all the talk we have of the 1% and income inequality going on these days.
The Age of American Unreason: I actually was reading this last summer and got half way through until I started to read Mansions of the Moon instead. Since it's a library book, I needed to return it. I think I'm going to let this one sit on my list another year so that I can breeze through it when I pick it up next time.
The Bin Ladens: Um, probably next year unless I'm motivated to check it out of the library.
The Pentagon of Power by Lewis Mumford: I bought this at a used book store 15 years ago. I started it and obviously never finished. I actually have book two, so I'm going to find book one before I start on this again.
Regret the Error: Definitely on my mental list for this year.
Thank You For Smoking: Maybe this year.
Bonk by Mary Roach: Definitely this year.
The Elements of Murder: Definitely this year.
Condemned to Repeat?: This year if I can get it through inter-library loan.
The Great Unraveling by Paul Krugman: Definitely this year. Made easier that it is sitting in my book stack.
A History of God by Karen Armstrong: Also in my book stack. Likely for this year.
The End of Affluence: Not sure if I'm going to be able to find this through the library.
The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong: Well, I've read one Karen Armstrong book a year for at least the past two years. So it's this or something else.
Muhammad by Karen Armstrong: Sitting at the top of my book stack. I'd rate it a likely read for this year.
Emotional Intelligence: I found this book at work in a stack where someone was giving away their books. The psych major in me thought it was a nice, free pick since I had heard a bunch about the topic in the late 90s but never studied it. I picked up quite the battered edition.
Critical Condition: Maybe.
Dust Bowl: Just so I can read about California's future!
So Much Damn Money: Maybe.
Soul Made Flesh: Maybe.
Team of Rivals: Eh. I'm putting this off for another year, particularly since I don't own it.
The Friend Who Got Away: Definitely this year. It's in my stack.
Your Money or Your Life: Definitely this year. Will have to get it from the library.
Marie Antoinette: Definitely this year. Near the top of my stack. I have it in paperback, which is still a size-able tome of a book.
The Duchess (Georgiana): Definitely this year. Haven't seen the movie though, unlike Marie Antoinette.
The Wilderness Warrior: Would like to get to this one soon. Unfortunately it's huge, and I don't think I'll get to it soon.
Man's Unconquerable Mind: This is small. I should have it finished before June since it's the literal top of my book pile.
The Kid Stays in the Picture: At the bottom of my book pile. It's a maybe for this year.
One Fifth Avenue  by Candace Bushnell: I got this as a gift. I so rarely read fiction. I think I'll have to read this since I've had it for about five years.
The Last Lecture: Another book I got as a gift. It's small, and it's subject matter based on what I've read about it reminds me of email forwards that I used to get ten years ago.
Thomas Paine and the Promise of America: It's somewhere between definitely and likely this year.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers: Same.
The Lost City of Z: I really feel like I should read this before the movie comes out. Just because.
Collapse by Jared Diamond: Another big book. But will I get to it this year?
Ava Gardner: "Love is Nothing": I really might have to check this out of the library this year.
The Shack: Another gift. I'm actually not looking forward to reading that one, but I want to get rid of it.
Furious Love: I own it. It's in my stack. I am hoping I'll be able to breeze through it since it's about Burton and Taylor.
The Roth Revolution: I'm going to read some finance books this year. This one is on my mental list to check out of the library this spring.
The Panic Virus: Somewhere between likely and maybe.
The Invisible Gorilla: Same.
Kickboxing Geishas: I have it. It's not large. I think I'll be reading this one SOON.
The Management Myth: Because anyone who's ever worked is probably thinking the same thing.
The Great Tax Wars: I have it. It's in my stack. Probably the second half of the year.
Bottled Lighting: This year.
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy: This year.
Before the Storm: I have it in my stack. It's a paperback. It's still huge. I'm thinking summer.
Kate Remembered: I have it ready to start. Hoping to be finished by Easter.
Marley & Me: In my stack and it sounds like a quick read.
Death at SeaWorld: Almost checked it out of the library after I saw Blackfish, which I think makes it a must for this year.
Ninety Percent of Everything: I almost checked this out after watching Captain Phillips. How much we ship by boat over the world has really got to decrease in the next ten years.
Gold: The Race for the World's Most Seductive Metal: Really intrigued about reading this after listening to an interview with the author on NPR.

I'm aiming to read at least 25 books this year. Would like to make it to 30. We'll see how far I get.


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