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There is actually a chapter in A Brief History of Vice about the evolutionary purposes served by "overconfidence" and "trash talking," or toxic masculinity writ large.

The first causes us to attempt things otherwise precluded by rational risk assessment. The second, done in person, gives overconfident young people a theoretically non-violent outlet for their egos.

Okay, it made more sense while I was listening to it.
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Link to an excerpt from A (Brief) History of Vice, to which I am currently listening.
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Okay, everyone should read this-solace if you're old, hope if you're middle aged and if you're young? Rebounders by Rick Newman explains how plans work out in life and what you can do about that. 😉

I'm a little over halfway through listening, and there are several examples of people catching clues that (insert plan or life choice here) is not really working out for them and, to a certain extent, how they figured out what would. There have been businessmen, athletes, that pandora guy, a musician and an urban renewal person so far, so the field is varied.

I say "to a certain extent" because a couple of times, it looks like blind luck these people stumbled on the thing that worked out, which sort of is and isn't the point. The point is that they all kept going until something worked and that they all had a specific set of traits that the author came to associate with very resilient people ... or, rebounders. Knowing when to quit is actually one of those traits, which may come as a surprise to people who think "quitters never win."
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I believe it was on Wil Wheaton's recommendation that I downloaded Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art" (amazon, audible) and am really pleased that I did. On the surface, it's a book intended as motivation for artists and is entirely framed around creative pursuits. Underneath, it's a book of motivation for anyone who does anything.

cut for the kind of spoilers I don't mind but you might )

Short version:
because it summarizes the book, it sort of personifies spoiler )
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I quite enjoyed The City & the City. Not just because of the conceit, but because of the mystery.
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(Paraphrased because no one has put it up on Goodreads yet and I have been listening to the book.)

There is a gathering of four people.
Our Scientist: I'm calling this Project Elrond.
Press Lady: Eh?
Scientist 1: That's why we're meeting in secret?
Press lady: No, really...eh?
Scientist 2: To make a momentous decision?
Press lady: WTF?
Our Scientist: (explains Council of Elrond)
Press lady: NONE of you got laid in high school, did you?
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I am listening to a most delightful book, summed up by one reviewer as a cross between "The Martian Chronicles" and "Castaway," in which an astronaut gets marooned on Mars because reasons.

So far, my favorite quote is as follows:
Cut for spoilers )

My impression is old school astronaut sci fi with a pop culture update. If you haven't read it yet (and I am apparently behind the curve by about a year on this) I can highly recommend it.
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`. . . anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment." -- Robert Benchley, in Chips off the Old Benchley, 1949,

...then there is a book you need to get around to reading/listening to and that is The Art of Procrastination by John Perry.

It's a two hour listen, so presumably a quick read. (For reference, most popular novels are between 10 and 15 hours and the non-fiction I listen to starts around 20 hours and I think 39 hours is the longest in my audible.com library.) The book is all about identifying oneself as a "structured procrastinator" and leveraging that brain quirk to advantage.

Read the essay that became the first chapter here. I really can't come up with better reasons to read/listen to the book that aren't made abundantly clear (to the right people, though there's certainly not much shame in not being a procrastinator if that's the way your brain rolls) in that essay.
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I feel like I owe reviews on "The Righteous Mind" and "The Gifts of Imperfection," but do not currently have the bandwidth for the full, gushing positive reviews they deserve.

"The Righteous Mind" -- my takeaway was that the need to be right sits next to some very old survival wiring. You're going to have a hard time persuading people from beliefs that far from the rational centers of the brain, but if try you must, start with common ground. Yes, we all have some common ground with all other carbon based life forms. The away we're all supposed to take had to do with going from "can't we all just get along?" to "can't we all just disagree more productively?" with tools to do that. Useful book in the current political climate. Also contained an explanation and the author's critique of The New Atheists.

"The Gifts of Imperfection" -- totally not what I thought it was going to be. Nearly stopped listening after the intro, which made it sound way more touchy-feely, New Age shed-your-shame than my cerebral self is comfortable with. HOWEVER, the stories the author tells on herself to get the points across are worth the price of admission for other cerebral types and if you happen to be into touchy-feely, shed-your-shame kinds of things, this books is life affirmingly up your alley while remaining grounded in research as hard as sociology gets. Primarily about owning your story and living whole-heartedly, with 10 convenient guideposts for how to get there. Favorite quote (from memory, may not be exact) "Cruelty is cheap, easy and rampant; especially in our technological world." I have actually purchased the e-book to track my progress on the guideposts.
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Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandries read by the author, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is a collection of essays written for Nature Magazine on a variety of topics centering around astrophysics. They have one real recurring theme:


No, really. Tyson is having way too much fun with this stuff. The book is divided into sections with titles like "The Meaning of Life," in which we find out we're most likely of Martian extraction; and the one to which I am currently listening, "When the Universe Turns Bad." Yes, you may insert images of the universe skulking about in a goth leather coat with spiked hair and black lip gloss here. Not that Tyson said any such thing, but it's what came to mind when he went over colliding galaxies, because we're totally being stalked by Andromeda, the bitch, and the heat death of the universe. Oh, the angst and emptiness. Well, sulky goth adolescent or flat, disc-shaped, star devouring Cookie Monster. Starrie Monster? Just keep the suns coming and no galaxies get hurt.

I especially grooved on the explanation of how enormous gas clouds become solar systems. Before the nuclear fusion begins, the thing has to get cold enough for the atoms to stick together. I swear it made sense when he read it, as did the explanation of why it takes a million years for new light to get out of the sun.

Highly entertaining and informative, this one is definitely worth the ride.
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The Art of War for Women by Chin-Ning Chu
Published 2010 by Crown Business

For a book published in 2010, there was quite a bit of old school "I am Woman, hear me roar," feminism in this. I found that quite refreshing, personally. Also, it was balanced with shoe metaphor when discussing getting to know ourselves better. Yes, shoes in a book about women's success. That part was both charming and trenchant. (I'm one of the ones in sneakers, if you're curious.) The author also took a page out of John T. Malloy and gently reminded today's young women that how we dress really does affect perception of our seriousness about career.

The book both makes me want to read the actual Art of War while making me shy away from it. Sun Tzu apparently wrote it as a resume for a Warring States king in China, so it's intentionally obscure so that said king would need Sun to advise him on it. Clever boy, but abstruse.

"If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles."
Sun Tzu

The hows and wherefores of getting to know oneself and one's enemy that well are left as an exercise for the student. :D For extra credit, reconcile with:

"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
Sun Tzu

I'm starting to hear things from Mulan now.
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Quite unintentionally, I've listened to two books that treated vampirism as an object of scientific investigation, and they were both pretty good.

Robert Masello's Blood and Ice.

Penguins, the charge of the Light Brigade, sled dogs, Florence Nightingale and really mean seals (not the sexy military kind.)

Oh, and vampires.

Justin Cronin's The Passage (first of a trilogy.) I haven't actually finished listening to this one yet, so I can't give much of a precis. So far, we've got

nuns, Feds, death row inmates, viral shenanigans, Zero and the fact that this book exists because the author's daughter asked for a book about a girl who saves the world.

Oh, and vampires.

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Until August 6, 2012, Curses and Blessings for All Occasions is free on amazon.com, and presumably other e-book sellers, too, as the the banner ad at gocomics.com specified the e-book is downloadable without mentioning a specific vendor.

Did I mention "warped" as a prerequisite? )

edited to add:  I'm only on curse #28 and have consulted the Urban Dictionary twice. (once for "brazilian blowout" (which...ick. I prefer the family-friendly definition about hair straightening;) and again for "merkin."
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[livejournal.com profile] nialla42 with the phrase "I'd listen to (insert actor with fascinating accent here) read the phone book." No clue where she got it from, but it's one of my favorite fangirlism now as well as the reason my current listen is making me feel very, very dirty.

Niall Ferguson is a Scot. With an educated Brit accent that...slips...occasionally, making little shivers go up and down my otherwise-matronly spine. Listen to him here and know my shame. (hangs head)

(by the way? the book is about why it isn't Eurocentrism to say the West has taken over the world, but a statement of fact. He explained money pretty well in a different book, so I'm cutting some slack for at least another chapter.)
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I don't fritter away all my time on science fiction, romance, thrillers and mysteries. I try to have at least one "improving" book going on the MP3 or Kindle at any given time, some for longer amounts of time than others.

This is one I had no idea would be so improving: Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, and one of the reasons the "try a sample" function on the Kindle is a devil-born hole in my wallet. The title of the book dissimulates slightly: this isn't just any American mother, this is a middle class, neurotic, New York mother who knows where it's possible to shell out $600 for a Baby Bodyguard to babyproof your chichi loft. Part observation on French child rearing as contrasted to American, part memoir of expatriate life in Paris with children, the book is wholly entertaining and thought-provoking.

No, I do not now nor does it appear likely I will ever be raising actual human children who exist outside my head. I do, however, have an Inner Brat and two cats. (I suspect le cadre will work some better on Brat than cats, but anything is worth a try.) It didn't occur to me until a French mother told the author to say "no" like she meant it that we all have an Inner Brat to deal with, and how often do we mean no when saying it to ourselves? Plus, the fall-out from having no fixed schedule for meals and sleeping is as obvious in my own life as it is in the lives of American toddlers.

Which reminds me: I appear to be late for work. Oops.
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And still paying full list for the Kindle editions? Because in
Last Rites, David Wishart actually had the words "that's a hardware problem," coming out of the mouth of a minor character and it worked, in addition to being hysterically funny.

That is all.
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tl;dr )

The book being recommended is Ovid, by David Wishart.
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A bizarre, nearly macabre, twist in the drama that was vacation scheduling last year resulted in ONE WEEK ONLY BUY NOW...wait, this isn't an infomercial...a week opening up in December, which I used to visit the folks in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Dad: Read more... )

Mom: Read more... )

Tiger: Read more... )

Curves: Read more... )

The Litigators by John Grisham: Read more... )

So, I'd like to say I came back tanned, rested and ready for action, but it was December in the Sierra Nevada, for cryin' out loud. My dad is an artisan with Weight Watchers recipes (where can I find a younger, less related version? I might actually give up solitude for an in-house chef and cheering section;) my Mom is still totally a mom, and I missed being there by the time the plane hit the end of the Sacramento runway.
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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

According to the Kindle progress bar, I'm 41% of the way through this book and I already want to marry it and have its babies. Geeks of A Certain Age, UNITE! Whoever Ernest Cline is, gets us. Somewhere between The Matrix, War Games and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory lies this book. I'm sure there are dashes of Snow Crash rolling around, but it's been too long since I read that to get all the nuances.

I babble. If you're a gamer, this is a must read. If you're a comics fan, this is a must read. If you're a Pirates of Silicon Valley fan or hell, even a Family Ties fan! this is...you get the picture.
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Yes, I still suffer from that thing where when I try to speak French (3 years in high school and I was pretty good,) Spanish tries to come out and I revert gracelessly to English.

But I digress. I meant "I am inspired."

I've taken a notion to walk a half marathon on my 50th birthday (as posted yesterday)partly as an old-age defiance thing, and partly because the Weight Watcher's annual 5k Walk-It Challenge isn't all that challenging to me. It's meant to promote increased activity while training for it and I am already fit enough to hop on a treadmill at 3.7 mph until the little LED thing says 3.1 miles. Yeah, not challenging.

Also, I'm nearly done reading Christopher_McDougall's paean to barefoot running, Born to Run, available in paperback and Kindle and well summed up by this video, which I cannot figure out how to embed.

Additional inspiration provided by an unplanned trip to the doctor's yesterday for suspicious tightness of the chest, on of the better known symptoms of undiagnosed female heart attack as it is usually dismissed in ERs for what I actually had, which is newly discovered acid reflux (to which I will not link because...ew. Look it up yourself if you're curious and have a strong stomach.)

Note: No, I did not dial 911. Anyone who is in any doubt at all and has not yet educated themselves on the typically female heart attack symptoms should not pause prior to dialing 911 for tightness in the chest. I didn't do it because I'd read up on it in the past (and was not having any of the other symptoms) and am very well acquainted with my risk factors for heart attack (minimal: normal blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and lung function, plus my maternal survivor of a mild heart attack lives a less healthy life than I and waited to have hers on a hike in a Fijian rain forest in her mid-60s.) Yeah, it was still stupid to stop long enough to refresh my memory and decide to make an appointment instead. I would have been very, very chagrined (and possibly dead) had this actually been a cardiac event, so govern yourselves accordingly.

Good news: normal blood pressure, "excellent" EKG and an enormous load off my mind.
Bad news: Chocolate, caffeine, tomatoes and onions (all fave raves of mine) may very well be my triggers, as I'd consumed them all in larger than usual quantities last Sunday.

So with achieving wisdom, attaining a certain age, maturing like fine wine...whatever you call it, pushing 50 is now providing the real world reasons to eat right and exercise. Note to those younger than the Baby Boom: the real world motivation is always there, you just won't feel it until your dotage. :P


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