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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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Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is listed by amazon.com a literary fiction, "family saga." However, what interests me the most about the story is that it's told against the backdrop of half a century of Ethiopian history (according to the blurb.)

Is there a specific genre or search term for "books set amid modern events?"
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1.  The end of the world novel I'm reading got to the end of the world, and Neal Stephenson is excessively effective at describing it.
2. Our regular trainer at work for 4G in Plain English is out today and the guy who stood in had maybe a millisecond of notice so, yeah. That was two hours none of us will ever get back.
3. It's time to enter our midyear accomplishments on our performance appraisals and I'm stuck between. "Still not on a perfomance improvement plan" and "no interdepartmental flame wars can conclusively be traced to justalurkr," both of which sound better than "trained the people who are most likely to take over this department's fuction."
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Links to a post on tumblr that embeds an article from HuffPo where a guy is taking a picture every time he sees someone reading a book on a subway. This leads to some histrionics in the responses about "oooh technology is scary" and some heartfelt defensiveness on behalf of Millennials who can't have or keep paper books for various reasons.

When did reading paper over pixel become the moral high ground? I think the more pointed pursuit would be to snap a picture every time you see someone reading anything as opposed to playing the latest twitch game or mangling language in a tweet.

My tumblr response was as follows:
This makes me want to photograph people reading e-readers next time I’m on MARTA. Reading is reading, I thought? Yes, I fought e-readers until they roped my aging eyes in with adjustable fonts. I’ve since internalized that it’s the words, not the conveyance, that embodies reading and no longer understand the fuss about moving from one medium (paper) to another (pixels.) I’ll patronize Millennials ruthlessly for many things, but not about how they read.
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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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Books on my iPod:
The Art of War for Women
Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown
Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius Sylvia Nasar
The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization by Jonathon Lyons
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain
Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt (CURRENTLY LISTENING)
The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet by Robert M. Hazen
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
Thieftaker by D.B.Jackson
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters and What You Can do To Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

edited to add links to the latest additions to my audible library:

The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea by Callum Roberts
Air by William Bryant Logan

Tyson's book was so good, I've been on a bit of a science kick. :D After The Righteous Mind, I'm actually leaning toward Bourdain's bloody valentine (snarkier version of Cooked?) or The Swerve, because I dig the notion of getting my history back on. Air and Oceans of Life would round out the elemental nature of the science kick, though.
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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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Valerie Hansen's Silk Road, A New History is available:

$34.95 in person at Books-a-Million
$23.07 online at amazon.com
$13.74 in ebook form at amazon (Kindle) OR Barnes & Noble (Nook)

The reader doesn't have to own a Kindle, Nook or even a tablet computer like an Ipad or my Nexus 7. Any web-enabled PC with some software that doesn't necessarily have to come from amazon.com or www.bn.com can get it done for you these days.

Note: a kind person would completely fail to notice that I'm still researching the novel from last November's NaNoWriMo. :P
justalurkr: (Default)
One of the many, many tenets of my version of Geek Orthodoxy is that Vampires Don't Sparkle.

Imagine my chagrin, then, to make it about 2/3rds of the way through the audio version of The Passage by Justin Cronin only to realize that I am enjoying the bejeezus out of a story involving vampires who glow. In the dark. Bio-luminescently, but still. They GLOW.

At least none of them wear pettable boots. (ducks, flees)

justalurkr: (Default)
Part of the reason I resisted an e-reader for so long had nothing to do with age related Luddite-ism (though cloud computing still makes me whack the geezer cane at those kids on my lawn calling what amounts to wireless distributed processing (or, What Geezers Did With Wires Before Desktop PCs) cloud computing like they're some kinda hippy dippy potheads) and everything to do with the Kindle Swindle. No links, because the Kindle Swindle apparently means LOTS of different things to different people. Tsk, amazon.com. That's a lot of restless natives customer and supplier dissatisfaction. Google Kindle Swindle for yourself and see.

tl;dr )

Still, the whole no-books-for-free-or-really-cheap kind of bugs me still. Why were used bookstores and libraries and swap meets and tape decks and VCRs okay in their day but DRM-free file swapping is OMG SO TOTALLY EBIL? Unless people at the publishing source are stripping files and hoisting them up with the Jolly Roger on torrent sites, someone paid for that book/movie/show/mp3 at some point, much like the books and tapes of old. I get that for-profit publishers have a duty to their paychecks to collect as much revenue as possible, but where was all this hysteria about piracy when books existed in the real world? Or did I just miss it?


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