Category Archives: Uncategorized

Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up by Tom Phillips

Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All UpHumans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up by Tom Phillips

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, the title grabbed me and Smith’s writing kept me.

He says, “There are lots of books about humanity’s finest achievements— the great leaders, the genius inventors, the indomitable human spirit. There are also lots of books about mistakes we’ve made: both individual screw-ups and society-wide errors. But there aren’t quite so many about how we manage to get things profoundly, catastrophically wrong over and over again.” Yep.

First chapter nails it with the root of all the upf*cking…our brains. From availability heuristics to pareidolia to confirmations biases, Smith condenses a host of our problems into an informative and sardonic yet still funny package.

He’ll probably be dismissed by many for his cavalier relation of the topics, but the source material is there under, around and over his wonderful sense of humor. On pareidolia, he says he used to think confirmation bias was the real culprit, and everything he’d read, uh … confirmed that. (See where he’s going with that?) Continue reading

Advertisements

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate ReadingSo Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was nice, quick read on a three hour flight from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas on Monday, even with a fever starting to bake my brain. A List, with life fillers, candid and sometimes vulnerable. Ms. Nelson read many things I wouldn’t, gave me a few suggestions for things I want to check out, didn’t read some things, didn’t finish some (more on that…) Some of her quest was a touch of regret, touch of nostalgia, touch even of guilt, as well as desire to read some things that had been avoided, ignored, and set aside.

With respect to nostalgia, she says

It’s always dangerous to reread the pivotal books of your youth. Like discovering poetry or journals you wrote as a teenager, revisiting your adolescent feelings about books can be at best embarrassing and often excruciating.

I might be the oddball, but I only have a few “pivotal” books, and only one author is embarrassing. Okay, I’ll admit it here…Ayn Rand…but like most intelligent adults, I outgrew her (sorry, certain political party.) I rather still like Herbert, Tolkien, Chalker, Asimov. Even Jay Williams doesn’t embarrass me. I’ll sometimes run across and download books from Open Library for the Nostalgic Re-Read. None embarrass me.

On not finishing books, and James McBride’s Miracle at St. Anna

It’s an amalgam of history, myth, and politics—and it just doesn’t work. I kept trying, because I liked McBride so much. I didn’t know him personally, but his memoir was so powerful and rich that I, along with 1.3 million other readers, felt as if I did. Saturday: an hour in bed telling myself that lots of great books start off slow (The Corrections, anyone?) and that I owed it to him to keep trying. So after a perfect winter lunch of soup and bread, I tried again. By page 60, I still hadn’t latched on to any of the characters. By page 70, my mind wandered to the words of that song in A Chorus Line: “I feel nothing.”
So I did something I have only in my maturity learned how to do: I stopped reading. Right there, on page 71, right after the hero, a brain-damaged soldier, encounters the little boy who will change his life. I might pick it up again, I told myself. And I might. But I doubt it.

Some seven years ago, I was bemoaning to a friend both my inability to slog through yet another atrocious Heinlein novel and my doggedly trying to finish a leadership book by Kouzes and Posner. His wisdom is still a challenge for me: “If I’ve gotten enough out of a book, I’ll stop reading.” I struggle with that, even if the book has little value to offer. Or, in the case of Heinlein, “Why keep reading crap?” “Because I’m stubborn.” “But it’s crap.”

He was right. But I still have a hard time not finishing a book. Sometimes, I have a hard time starting a book. Ms. Nelson relates

I’m like an animal off its feed. I can’t get into a novel to save my life. Biographies bore me. I’ve left so many open books, belly down, on the green bedroom rug that the whole place is starting to look like an aerial view of a town full of Swiss chalets. I’m out of sorts. I’m off my game. I’m irregular.

Boy, do I know that feeling! I call it “reader’s block”. Turns out, a week later (this was more or less a weekly diary), she used the same term.

She’s honest when a popular book doesn’t cut it.

Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, a 1996 novel that may have been inspired by the same historical crime. When I read that much-praised book, I felt as though I were reading about issues and symbols rather than people. I was not a fan.

“Issues and symbols rather than people”…yeah…sometimes.

I really liked her part on the great opening lines of novels that grab you…one she noted grabbed me (and I’m going to find the book): The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall. The opening lines? “If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head. As formative events go, nothing else comes close.” How could that not grab your attention?

View all my reviews

Support and defend…Veterans Day 2017

wethepeopleWhen I enlisted on January 4th, 1984, I took an oath…
“I…do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

And when I later became an officer on May 8th, 1992, a slightly different oath…
“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. ”

I didn’t always agree with the officers appointed over me…nor the presidents…and I feel that the Founders couldn’t predict the post-Enlightenment decline and made a few things too vague and not explicit enough, but I always obeyed the orders and always well and faithfully discharged the duties of my office.

The services have different Core Values and the People should see what we held each other to:

  • Navy and Marines – Honor, courage, commitment.
  • Army – Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage.
  • Air Force – Integrity, service and excellence.
  • Coast Guard – Honor, respect, devotion to duty.

And…I always supported and defended the Constitution. I read it. I understand it. I embraced it.

To all who have served, are serving, and will serve…

Happy Veterans Day, comrades!

Voyager … and a Motion Picture

On September 5th, 1977, Voyager 1 was launched on an interplanetary exploration mission that passed Jupiter and Saturn on its way out to and through the heliopause.

Voyager1_spacecraft

1965-delta-88-1Two years later, on Friday, December 7th, 1979 a dorm mate and I hopped in the 1965 Oldsmobile Delta 88, nicknamed the bg4Battlestar, of another dorm mate at around 11 am and headed into downtown Rochester, New York so we could catch the first showing of a movie that unbeknownst to us would link Voyager and a beloved not-yet franchise. That movie is, and always shall be, the BEST Star Trek movie ever! Oh, Wrath of Khan was better, yes, but Star Trek the Motion Picture is the best and here’s why:

Without it and all its flaws, there would be no Wrath or any of the other four sequels, no Next Generation or any of its four films, no other spinoffs. There were a handful of post-Original Series novels that might have spawned more, but odds are that avenue would have dwindled.  There might have been fanfictions and hackneyed attempts at “new” episodes, and given Hollywood’s propensity for short/under-cutting creativity by remaking old stuff, that is more probable than not.

Still, despite its cheesiness, the visuals were awesome and Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack, especially the sequence of the slightly re-imagined Enterprise leaving spacedock to Goldsmith’s epic score? Still gives me chills.

Voyager became V’ger, and Star Trek burst open. Voyager is still projected to continue to operate until 2025… Amazing engineering for the 1960-70s. And Star Trek is getting a new series. Continuing missions. Fantastic!