Reviews of the books I've read
A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:
|burn||Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.|
|mock||This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.|
|don't||Don't read this book.|
|desert||If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.|
|fan||If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.|
|worth||This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.|
|strongly||I strongly recommend this book|
|amazing||OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.|
The Convenience Store WomanBook Notes Posted by kitt at 15:07 on 7 December 2022
This was a cute, short book recommended to me by Moazam. It is the tale of Keiko, a 36 year old woman who works in a convenience store in Japan. That she is a high functioning autistic is revealed very quickly in the book, so I don't believe I am giving much away by mentioning that part away. She is content with her life, but feels society's influence by the small jabs and comments made by her family and friends.
Not quite understanding society, Keiko is dependent on the actions of others to navigate the world, copying their styles and behaviours to fit in. When pushed in one direction, she goes. Pushed in another direction, she goes that way. As a result, rather than defining her life with what makes her happy, she follows others to fit in. One can guess where this story goes.
When reading it, I became more annoyed at Moazam for even suggesting this book. The sign of a good book, actually: that I became annoyed at some of the characters.
The ending, however, totally explained why Moazam recommended the book, and redeemed the book completely. Adorable tale, worth the hour or so it'll take to read it.
FeedBook Notes Yeah, kitt finished writing this at 23:11 on 22 May 2021
This book, by Anderson not Grant, was indirectly recommended in the XOXO slack, after a fellow attendee, community member, slacker posted about how his kid was setting up a large number of privacy-focused technologies in the home, and how either proud or nervous the parent should be. The consensus was proud, but, hey, was the kid inspired (terrified?) by Feed by M. T. Anderson into being more privacy conscious? Something that could inspire a kid to be more privacy focused? Yes, I will read this book.
The book follows Titus and his friends as they venture off to the moon for a weekend jaunt. Without explaining the various technologies (they just are), Titus and his friends go to a big party, where their neurological connections to the internet, their feeds, are infected. There are repercussions from the infection (gosh, five of them go a whole week without constant distractions), mostly surrounding Violet who is the awkward social outcast of the tale.
While Titus's family is rich and privileged, Violet's is not. The book does a great job contrasting the two of them while exploring privilege, the obliviousness of the privileged, the exploitation of corporations for our attention, the abuses by corporations of the data we provide, the potential disaster of media with the suppression of journalism, the dumbing down of society as a whole even as technology progresses, and the absurdity of mindless consumerism. Violet is the breath of fresh air, the voice of reason in the disaster that is this American culture (and let's be real, a completely believable prediction given the us vs them mentality and anti-science rhetoric that pervades our current culture). As a result, we know that Violet shall be the tragic character in this tale.
Oh, look, she is.
But with that tragedy, Anderson does a great job also of portraying just how we deal with death, bad luck, depression, anything negative: we flinch, we run away from it. While I can't say I'd recommend this book to many people, that lack of recommendation is more because I don't know of many people in the target audience for this book. However, for the juxtaposition of the surprisingly deep topics portrayed amongst the inane characters, this book is worth reading.
Diary of a BooksellerBook Notes Written with a loving hand by kitt some time around 19:20 on 21 May 2021
This is the second Books on Books Book Club book that I read. The book is a diary / blog / FB posting collection of experiences of Shaun Bythell, the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. Having worked in bookstores in high school and all through college, I would like to say, oh good lord, I am having flashbacks with this book. The people that come into the stores, wow. "You had a book out front two, maybe three years ago, it was blue, do you still have it?" Why, yes, YES WE DO, and actually, after a couple years, I did know which book they meant. I worked in bookstores pre-Amazon, and pre-Internet, so, of course my experience was different than Bythell's, but, wow, so yes the same.
I love bookstores. I'm the customer who always buys a book when I visit a bookstore. I'm the customer that straightens the shelves when I browse. I'm the customer who, indeed, enters the bookstore and declares, "I am in my element!" Fortunately, I declare that quietly, so as not to disturb others.
While my bookstore experience was from an employee, not an owner, I relate to this book in ways I wasn't expecting. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
The Eyre AffairBook Notes Yeah, kitt finished writing this at 19:22 on 16 May 2021
Book one of the Thursday Next series, I don't think I will be reading the rest of the series. The book is a book about books, in as much as the plot revolves around a fictional England, mid-1980s, where time travel is a thing, and everyone is a book lover. I mean, let's start there with the difficulty of suspending disbelief, really.
The plot goes along the lines of Next being called to a secret service who is trying to apprehend Acheron Hades, who is immune to bullets, can waft through glass, and can control weak minds. Next is called up because she took a class from Hades in college. We learn of Next's history fighting in the Crimean War between England and Russian, of how her brother died in the war, and she went back for him after leaving him. Next's uncle is an inventor who has developed book worms who create worlds based on the words they consume (read: poetry and prose, fictional worlds made alive). Hades uses this invention to rewrite fictional characters, using the original manuscripts and the worms to make the fictional characters real. His rewrite of Jane Eyre would have had a large impact with me if I had actually, you know, read Jane Eyre and knew the original plot. I didn't, so I didn't have the same gut punch that other people may have.
Because of her personality (do the right thing, follow through, strong willed, etc.), Next helps a number of people in the story, which leads to the revelation needed to defeat Hades. Because, let's face it, the man was pretty much unbeatable.
I enjoyed the book, but not enough to continue reading the series.
ROARBook Notes Posted by kitt at 12:37 on 13 May 2021
I picked this book up on the casual recommendation of a number of mountaineering women talking about being women on the mountains. The challenges women face on the mountain include most of the challenges men face, and them some different ones: menstruation, peeing, nutrition that isn't designed for a women's body because all of the research is historically done on fit, young men. Research on women is "too messy," which is EXACTLY THE REASON TO DO THE RESEARCH, but, you know, men.
Right, the book.
The recommendation was spot on. Whether the guidelines and suggestions in the book help me has yet to be determined, as I'll need to try them out and see if they work for me. However, if nothing else comes from the book, the repeated statement, "Women are not small men" (and here's how) is worth the book. There are a number of diet, nutrition, and recovery recommendations that are worth trying. I appreciated the insights, and the (let's be honest, currently imaginary) connection I have to other women (mountain) athletes as a result of the recommendation and reading.
Strongly recommend the book for female athletes (and maybe coaches of female athletes, but am unsure on that latter recommendation. couldn't hurt?).
Math Without NumbersBook Notes Yeah, kitt finished writing this at 11:19 on 6 May 2021
This book was recommended by another micro.blog reader as a book that describes math without weighing the reader down with, well, numbers. I agree: it was a lovely read. Even some of the book reviews are lovely reads, for goodness' sake!
I mean, start at the beginning with shapes and manifolds. Who knows of manifolds? Ask me about manifolds and I'm going to start telling you about intake manifolds and possibly exhaust manifolds, not mathematical manifolds. And yet, here we are talking about manifolds and shapes and different dimensions, and the whole of me swoons.
And then infinity comes into the story, along with "what's bigger than infinity?" and hooboy. I want to sit Jonathan's boys down and read this book with them, explore the nature of math and show just how amazingly beautiful it is, and how amazingly big it is.
I, too, strongly recommend this delightful, fun read, especially to anyone who thinks (or was told) they suck at math. You likely don't suck, you more likely had an uninteresting, detached teacher who failed to demonstrate the joy of math.
WinteringBook Notes Written with a loving hand by kitt some time around 10:46 on 5 May 2021
This book came to me circuitously via reader responses to Austin Kleon's post I'm not languishing, I'm dormant.. The two posts were mentioned in S's RSS feed, and I rather enjoy S's article curation, so I read Austin's post, and checked May's book out from the library.
Wow, this is such a lovely book. The story isn't as it seems. It seems to be the tale of a woman with stomach cancer suddenly needing to slow down, because, well, stomach cancer. Isn't that at all, though the misdirection fits so amazingly well, and there are a lot of health issues involved in the telling. The book is about slowing down, but also about growth. I was a little uncomfortable with just how much anxiety May has in certain situations that I either don't have anxiety in or about, or have learned to jump in feet first, the depth be damned. I recognize that discomfort is entirely mine, and I loved noticing it as I read the book.
There are so many beautiful parts to this book that I was recommending it after reading not even half of it. Mm immediately started reading it, and shortly began sending me beautiful quotes from the book. I loved that synergy.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is or has been wintering (the title of a Sylvia Plath's poem about bees). Resting is okay. Promise.
MultipliersBook Notes kitt decided around 14:22 on 30 April 2021 to publish this:
This book was a women-in-tech book club book that I read, and missed the discussion about. I am disappointed I missed the discussion, as I really did not like this book. The basic premise of the book being that people in power positions (not going to say leader, because a lot of managers manage, they don't lead, and a lot of leaders don't lead, they manage, so let's call a duck a duck, and say people in power) are either diminishers or multipliers, either you cut down and reduce the productivity and usefulness of your subordinates, or you multiple the productivity and networks of your people.
And the two broad categories just don't work. I came to the book wanting to believe in this simplistic view, and just can't.
The first inclination of "eh.... your facts are incorrect" came with a tale of Apple:
For example, when Apple Inc. needed to achieve rapid growth with flat resources in one division, they didn’t expand their sales force. Instead, they gathered the key players across the various job functions, took a week to study the problem, and collaboratively developed a solution. They changed the sales model to utilize competency centers and better leverage their best salespeople and deep industry experts in the sales cycle. They achieved year-over-year growth in the double digits with virtually flat resources.
This is, quite frankly, complete and utter bullshit. A basic tenet of Apple culture is Harvard's definition of stress: accountability without authority. You are literally taught this in the new employee training classes. You are responsible for getting things done above and beyond any sort of reasonable expectations, and you are not given the resources or authority to get these tasks done, and you do it anyway. The whole "took a week to study the problem, and collaboratively developed a solution" is so far away from Apple culture that the Gell-Man Amnesia Effect punches you in the face. Twice.
So, keep reading. Soon, we come across the Shackleton tale of the newspaper ad:
In 1914, Ernest Shackleton, the venerated British explorer, embarked on an expedition to traverse Antarctica. His recruitment advertisement in The Times (London) read: Men wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success. Surprisingly, hundreds of men applied. Shackleton, with the wisdom of an experienced captain, staffed his crew with men of a certain orientation—men who were attracted to adventure and recognition but who were also realistically prepared for the hardship they would face. No doubt Shackleton’s ability to attract the right team was one key factor in the survival of every member of the expedition.
The ad was never actually placed. It is a great element of the legend of Shackleton, widely told, and false.
So, if Wiseman is going to use this tall tale as an example of being a multiplier, and we refuse, again, to succumb to the Gell-Man Amnesia Effect, well, all of Wiseman's anecdotal evidence for the hypothesis of multipliers and diminishers becomes suspect.
Worse than either of these two tales, many of the examples of "diminishing" are actually full-on asshole behaviour. One doesn't need to think "diminisher" when experiencing assholes, one should think, "fuck off" and leave. In this case, The No Asshole Rule becomes a better book to recommend.
So, yeah, did not like this book, do not recommend this book. It is soft, it is impractical, and it is frustrating to read. A better read would be: "Be kind. Trust your people. Expect greatness. Have accountability. Don't borrow unhappiness."
The Hidden Habits of GeniusBook Notes Instead of being asleep at 15:59 on 28 April 2021, kitt created this:
Near the beginning of this book, Wright asks his students, "Would you like to be a genius?" Given the school he was teaching at, many of the students raised their hands indicating yes. After the class on genius, most people realize that to be a genius, defined as a world changer not merely smart or have some arbitrarily high IQ, you kinda need to suffer: you're an asshole, or socially incompetent, or mentally off to the point of dysfunction, or some such. So, while actually being a genius might not be a goal worth attempting, some elements and characteristics of genius are worth the effort. Wright tells us those in this book.
What I can appreciate most about this book is the early chapter and direct callout of just how much women have been and are screwed in the areas of publishing, medicine, invention, politics, science, and, well, pretty much anything that isn't birthing babies and catering to the whims of men. Literally, the chapter is "Genius and Gender, the game is rigged." And it is. One can easily see that, "to be sure, the timeless stupidity of ignoring the intellectual potential of half of humanity is deeply embedded in our culture." Wright gives example after example of women screwed over by men. Just how stunningly fucked over Rosalind Franklin was by Watson and Crick and the "discovery" of the DNS helix, a discovery made by and with the research of Franklin, pisses me off stunningly even after reading the book. Like, because Franklin refused to be subservient to a less-gifted man, "Clearly Rosy had to go or be put in her place."
Yeah, so, the biggest habit one can adopt to being a genius is clearly "be a guy."
The other habits are a bit easier to do, including the cases when you weren't born with a penis:
- Work hard.
- Avoid being a prodigy (or at least letting that prodigy shit go to your head)
- Maintain a child-like wonder (imagination) of the world
- Stay Curious (develop a lust for learning)
- Find your missing peace (or the journey IS the destination)
- Leverage your difference (if you're weird, go with it)
- Recognize being different (rebel, misfit, troublemakers) is the hard road, take it anyway
- Think the opposite (sorta the diffferent way of approaching problems
- Fail often and frequently, but keep going
- JFC, get lucky
And a couple more habits. I have to say I found the FB references more than a little offputting. Zuck is a horrible person on a number of levels, his criminal acts included. The FB parts of this book did not dissuade that fact. If one can endure those parts, this is a great book. Strongly recommended.
The Midnight LibraryBook Notes kitt decided around 14:32 on 20 April 2021 to publish this:
I expected the Caltech Book Club to be pretty much all science and technology. So, imagine my surprise when I read this book, about death and the opportunity to live a life that undoes your biggest regrets. Start with the biggest and see where you end up in life with that correction. Holy shit, that reality sucks. Well, what about this second biggest regret, undo that one. Huh, this reality isn't what I expected it to be. Continue with this regression, and eventually you learn the lesson that every life has its downsides, disappointments, heartaches, choices, and losses. No life worth living is without some sacrifice. By looping through all the regret-fixes she can stand, Nora figures this out, and decides she wants to live.
The timing of this book for me was good. I strongly recommend this book.
The Eating InstinctBook Notes kitt decided around 12:32 on 15 April 2021 to publish this:
This book was mentioned in another book, though I don't recall which recently-read one it was. The book discusses just how detached we are from our normal hunger signals, to the point we all have some sort of eating dysfunction. From trauma-induced aversions (L's dislike of asparagus and bacon is a strong example similar to the ones listed in the book, where L ate too quickly and choked on both asparagus and bacon at different times, and now "doesn't like them"), to media-induced distorted body images inspire us into often-unhealthy restriction diets, the Eating instinct is a great starting point for "finding your food freedom," a Whole30 tagline.
I enjoyed the book, and immediately went to the freezer, pulled out a dozen cookies, and ate them without guilt.
CirceBook Notes Written with a loving hand by kitt some time around 21:32 on 10 April 2021
We, the Books on Books Book Club members, read this book as the third or fourth book, first for me. It was the first one in the book club that I read. Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed this book. I was, however, hit much harder with the dismissal of women's voices, opinions, and experiences portrayed in the book. It continued the trend of reading books that pissed me off, even as I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed the subsequent conversation with D about the womens' roles in the book, and the curse of Odysseus for his pride.
MediocreBook Notes Yeah, kitt finished writing this at 11:32 on 7 April 2021
Well, I keep reading books that piss me off. This book continues the trend.
Pretty much a glorious rant on how we as a collective are subjugated to the "leadership" of mediocre white men. No, not all leaders are mediocre, but one can give a very, very, very long list of mediocre men suppressing the more brilliant subordinates of all genders and races.
If you're interested in reading this book and can't a find a copy at your library, I will buy you a copy. If you read it and see yourself in the book, be better.
Lost In ThoughtBook Notes Yeah, kitt finished writing this at 21:26 on 2 April 2021
As a recommendation engine, the XOXO conference group slack books channel does not disappoint with this book. A lovely book about learning and reading for the sake of learning and reading, that the activities don't have to lead to increased wealth or better productivity or higher social status. One can read because she enjoys reading.
Good DrinksBook Notes kitt decided around 19:30 on 26 December 2020 to publish this:
Okay, so, the first question you may have is, "Did she really read a cookbook from the beginning to the end?"
Yes, yes, I did.
I read this book from cover to cover. I marked up recipes I had to try immediately, the ones I had to try soon, and pretty much just read the ones that were uninteresting. I pondered with a number of those if I could change the coffee out for chocolate, but figure I'll have enough joy with the previous two categories of recipes that modifying recipes can wait.
This book is a wonderfully delicious collection of make-at-home non-alcoholic drinks. One doesn't need to be a recovering alcoholic to decide not to drink, one can simply decide one is done drinking for the day, week, month, year, decade. When one decides it, having a collection of recipes that make drinks that can be sipped over a conversation, that have a heavy-enough mouth feel to be pleasant, that aren't just a flavored simple syrup with soda water, is a fantastic way to keep to that decision.
I adore this book. I like it so much that I will buy you a copy, it is amazing. I knew that you could have non-alcoholic drinks and be just fine, but this cookbook has so many delicious recipes without the alcohol, it'll make you see that mind-altering substance (read: drug) differently.
Invisible WomenBook Notes kitt decided around 22:07 on 20 December 2020 to publish this:
Okay, fundamentally, this is an incredibly difficult book to read. It starts with a smack upside the head with how women are historically dismissed, ignored, not believed, undercounted, gaslit, and written out of history. It continues with the data to support the claims, then examines the various areas and ways women are invisible through out history, today, and likely for a long time.
Despite being roughly half the population, women do not have the representation in government, access to opportunities, power, or resources that men do. Accomplishments by women are often ascribed to men, or dismissed as luck.
Worse, women are considered "inferior men," who should "just be more like men." Instead of recognizing that women are fundamentally different, we are dismissed as "too messy," told to "be less emotional," instructed to "not be a bitch" after asserting ourselves.
Truly, being a woman is a no-win situation.
This book should be required reading for any researcher, hard or soft sciences, that deals even remotely with people. This book should be required reading for EVERY machine learning researcher.
I want you to read this book. Buy one at your bookstore. Check your library. If they don't have a copy, let me know. I will buy you a copy I want for much for you to read this book
At the turn of the twentieth century, award-winning British engineer, physicist and inventor Hertha Ayrton remarked that while errors overall are ‘notoriously hard to kill [. . .] an error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat’. She was right. Textbooks still routinely name Thomas Hunt Morgan as the person who discovered that sex was determined by chromosomes rather than environment, despite the fact that it was Nettie Stevens’ experiments on mealworms that established this – and despite the existence of correspondence between them where Morgan writes to ask Stevens for details of her experiment.75
Starkey’s position rests on the assumption that what takes place in the private realm is unimportant. But is that a fact? The private life of Agnes Huntingdon (born after 1320) is revealed through snippets in public documents from the court cases concerning her two marriages.82 We discover that she was a victim of domestic abuse, and that her first marriage was disputed because her family disapproved of her choice. On the evening of 25 July 1345 she ran away from her second husband after he attacked her; later that night he turned up at her brother’s house with a knife. Is the abuse (and lack of freedom of choice) of a fourteenth-century woman private irrelevancies, or part of the history of female subjugation?
We lack consistent, sex-disaggregated data from every country, but the data we do have makes it clear that women are invariably more likely than men to walk and take public transport.1 In France, two-thirds of public transport passengers are women; in Philadelphia and Chicago in the US, the figure is 64%2 and 62%3 respectively. Meanwhile, men around the world are more likely to drive4 and if a household owns a car, it is the men who dominate access to it5 – even in the feminist utopia that is Sweden.
And the differences don’t stop at the mode of transport: it’s also about why men and women are travelling. Men are most likely to have a fairly simple travel pattern: a twice-daily commute in and out of town. But women’s travel patterns tend to be more complicated. Women do 75% of the world’s unpaid care work and this affects their travel needs.
But women don’t report these behaviours, because who could they report them to? Until the emergence of groups like ‘EverydaySexism’ and ‘Hollaback’, which give women a space in which they can talk about the intimidating-but-just-short-of-criminal behaviours they face in public spaces on a daily basis, public awareness of this behaviour was more or less non-existent. When police in Nottingham started recording misogynistic behaviour (everything from indecent exposure, to groping, to upskirting) as a hate crime (or if the behaviour was not strictly criminal, a hate incident), they found reports shot up – not because men had suddenly got much worse, but because women felt that they would be taken seriously.
The invisibility of the threatening behaviour women face in public is compounded by the reality that men don’t do this to women who are accompanied by other men – who are in any case also much less likely to experience this kind of behaviour.
So men who didn’t do it and didn’t experience it simply didn’t know it was going on. And they all too often dismissed women who told them about it with an airy ‘Well I’ve never seen it.’
The type of security transport agencies install also matters – and there is also a mismatch here. Transit agencies, possibly for cost reasons, vastly prefer technological solutions to hiring security officers. There is little available data on what impact CCTV has on harassment, but certainly repeated studies have found that women are deeply sceptical of its use, vastly preferring the presence of a conductor or security guard (that is, a preventative solution) as opposed to a blinking light in the corner which may or may not be monitored miles away.72 Interestingly, men prefer technological solutions to the presence of guards – perhaps because the types of crime they are more likely to experience are less personally violating.
When planners fail to account for gender, public spaces become male spaces by default. The reality is that half the global population has a female body. Half the global population has to deal on a daily basis with the sexualised menace that is visited on that body. The entire global population needs the care that, currently, is mainly carried out, unpaid, by women. These are not niche concerns, and if public spaces are truly to be for everyone, we have to start accounting for the lives of the other half of the world. And, as we’ve seen, this isn’t just a matter of justice: it’s also a matter of simple economics.
Iceland has also been named by The Economist as the best country to be a working woman.6 And while this is of course something to celebrate, there is also reason to take issue with The Economist’s phrasing, because if Iceland’s strike does anything it is surely to expose the term ‘working woman’ as a tautology. There is no such thing as a woman who doesn’t work. There is only a woman who isn’t paid for her work.
And as women have increasingly joined the paid labour force men have not matched this shift with a comparative increase in their unpaid work: women have simply increased their total work time, with numerous studies over the past twenty years finding that women do the majority of unpaid work irrespective of the proportion of household income they bring in.
This observation may go some way to explaining why a Finnish study26 found that single women recovered better from heart attacks than married women – particularly when put alongside a University of Michigan study27 which found that husbands create an extra seven hours of housework a week for women. An Australian study similarly found that housework time is most equal by gender for single men and women; when women start to cohabit, ‘their housework time goes up while men’s goes down, regardless of their employment status’.
In any case, fifty year’s worth of US census data46 has proven that when women join an industry in high numbers, that industry attracts lower pay and loses ‘prestige’,47 suggesting that low-paid work chooses women rather than the other way around.
A recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study found that the gender pay gap in hourly wages is substantially higher in countries where women spend a large amount of time on unpaid care compared to men.
Women are also asked to do more undervalued admin work than their male colleagues
and they say yes, because they are penalised for being ‘unlikeable’ if they say no. (This is a problem across a range of workplaces: women, and in particular ethnic minority women, do the ‘housekeeping’ – taking notes, getting the coffee, cleaning up after everyone – in the office as well as at home.33) Women’s ability to publish is also impacted by their being more likely than their male colleagues to get loaded with extra teaching hours,34 and, like ‘honorary’ admin posts, teaching is viewed as less important, less serious, less valuable, than research. And we run into another vicious circle here: women’s teaching load prevents them from publishing enough, which results in more teaching hours, and so on.
The inequity of women being loaded with less valued work is compounded by the system for evaluating this work, because it is itself systematically biased against women.
Unless search committees specifically asked department heads for names of outstanding female candidates, they may not put women forward. Many women who were eventually hired when special efforts were made to specifically find female candidates would not have applied for the job without encouragement. In line with the LSE findings, the paper also found that standards were not lowered during periods when special effort was made to hire women: in fact, if anything, the women that were hired ‘are somewhat more successful than their male peers
Worker health should be a public health priority if only because ‘workers are acting as a canary for society as a whole’. If women’s breast-cancer rates in the plastics industry were documented and recognised, ‘if we cared enough to look at what’s going on in the health of workers that use these substances every day’, it would have a ‘tremendous effect on these substances being allowed to enter into the mainstream commerce’. It would have a ‘tremendous effect on public health’.
But the disparity in the relative female-friendliness of plough versus shifting agriculture is also a result of gendered social roles. Hoeing can be easily started and stopped, meaning that it can be combined with childcare. The same cannot be said for a heavy tool drawn by a powerful animal. Hoeing is also labour intensive, whereas ploughing is capital intensive,10 and women are more likely to have access to time rather than money as a resource. As result, argued Boserup, where the plough was used, men dominated agriculture and this resulted in unequal societies in which men had the power and the privilege.
Despite what academics, NGOs and expatriate technicians seem to think, the problem is not the women. It is the stoves: developers have consistently prioritised technical parameters such as fuel efficiency over the needs of the stove user, frequently leading users to reject them, explains Crewe.49 And although the low adoption rate is a problem going back decades, development agencies have yet to crack the problem,50 for the very simple reason that they still haven’t got the hang of consulting women and then designing a product rather than enforcing a centralised design on them from above.
Speaking to people informally, he said, the ‘standard response’ was that phones were no longer designed for one-handed use. He’s also been told that actually many women opt for larger phones, a trend that was ‘usually attributed to handbags’. And look, handbags are all well and good, but one of the reasons women carry them in the first place is because our clothes lack adequate pockets.
it’s rather odd to claim that phones are designed for women to carry in their handbags when so many passive-tracking apps clearly assume your phone will be either in your hands or in your pockets at all times, rather than sitting in your handbag on your office desk.
What women need, he said, was ‘lengthy training’ – if only women ‘were willing’ to submit to it. Which, sighs Schalk, they just aren’t. Just like the wilful women buying the wrong stoves in Bangladesh, women buying cars are unreasonably expecting voice-recognition software developers to design a product that works for them when it’s obvious that the problem needing fixing is the women themselves. Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
studies have found that women have ‘significantly higher speech intelligibility’,27 perhaps because women tend to produce longer vowel sounds28 and tend to speak slightly more slowly than men.29 Meanwhile, men have ‘higher rates of disfluency, produce words with slightly shorter durations, and use more alternate (‘sloppy’) pronunciations’.30 With all this in mind, voice-recognition technology should, if anything, find it easier to recognise female rather than male voices – and indeed, Tatman writes that she has ‘trained classifiers on speech data from women and they worked just fine, thank you very much
Speech-recognition technology is trained on large databases of voice recordings, called corpora. And these corpora are dominated by recordings of male voices. As far as we can tell, anyway: most don’t provide a sex breakdown on the voices contained in their corpus, which in itself is a data gap of course.
Human eyes use two basic cues to determine depth: ‘motion parallax’ and ‘shape-from-shading’. Motion parallax refers to how an object seems bigger or smaller depending on how close you are to it, while shape-from-shading refers to the way the shading of a point changes as you move. And while 3D VR is pretty good at rendering motion parallax, it still does ‘a terrible job’ of emulating shape-from-shading. This discrepancy creates sex differences in how well VR works, because, as boyd discovered, men are ‘significantly more likely’ to rely on motion parallax for depth perception, while women rely on shape-from-shading. 3D environments are literally sending out information signals that benefit male over female depth perception. The question is: would we be so behind on recreating shape-from-shading if we had been testing 3D VR on equal numbers of men and women from the start?
Medical practice that doesn’t account for female socialisation is a widespread issue in preventative efforts as well. The traditional advice of using condoms to avoid HIV infection is simply not practicable for many women who lack the social power to insist on their use. This also goes for Ebola, which can remain present in semen for up to six months. And although a gel has been developed to address this problem,43 it fails to account for the practice of ‘dry sex’ in certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa.44 A gel which also acts as a lubricant will not be acceptable in areas where women de-lubricate their vaginas with herbs in order to indicate that they are chaste. Failing to account for female socialisation can also lead to women living for decades with undiagnosed behavioural disorders. For years we have thought that autism is four times more common in boys than in girls, and that when girls have it, they are more seriously affected.45 But new research suggests that in fact female socialisation may help girls mask their symptoms better than boys and that there are far more girls living with autism than we previously realised.46 This historical failure is partly a result of the criteria for diagnosing autism having been based on data ‘derived almost entirely’ from studies of boys,47 with a 2016 Maltese study concluding that a significant cause of misdiagnosis in girls was ‘a general male-bias in diagnostic methods and clinical expectations
And excluding women does warp the figures. Coyle points to the post-war period up to about the mid-1970s. This ‘now looks like a kind of golden era of productivity growth’, Coyle says, but this was to some extent a chimera. A large aspect of what was actually happening was that women were going out to work, and the things that they used to do in the home – which weren’t counted – were now being substituted by market goods and services. ‘For example buying pre-prepared food from the supermarket rather than making it from scratch at home. Buying clothes rather than making clothes at home.’ Productivity hadn’t actually gone up. It had just shifted, from the invisibility of the feminised private sphere, to the sphere that counts: the male-dominated public sphere.
There is an easy fix to this problem. One study found that, with consistent childcare, mothers are twice as likely to keep their jobs. Another found that ‘government-funded preschool programs could increase the employment rate of mothers by 10 percent’.
Transferring childcare from a mainly unpaid feminised and invisible form of labour to the formal paid workplace is a virtuous circle: an increase of 300,000 more women with children under five working full-time would raise an estimated additional £1.5 billion in tax.
We like to think that the unpaid work women do is just about individual women caring for their individual family members to their own individual benefit. It isn’t. Women’s unpaid work is work that society depends on, and it is work from which society as a whole benefits. When the government cuts public services that we all pay for with our taxes, demand for those services doesn’t suddenly cease. The work is simply transferred onto women, with all the attendant negative impacts on female paid labour-participation rates, and GDP. And so the unpaid work that women do isn’t simply a matter of ‘choice’. It is built into the system we have created – and it could just as easily be built out of it. We just need the will to start collecting the data, and then designing our economy around reality rather than a male-biased confection.
Three of the recommendations in the Women and Equalities report concerned the implementation of quotas, and
it was not surprising that these were rejected: British governments have traditionally been opposed to such measures, seeing them as anti-democratic. But evidence from around the world shows that political gender quotas don’t lead to the monstrous regiment of incompetent women.28 In fact, in line with the LSE study on workplace quotas, studies on political quotas have found that if anything, they ‘increase the competence of the political class in general’. This being the case, gender quotas are nothing more than a corrective to a hidden male bias, and it is the current system that is anti-democratic.
But male politicians don’t have to escape to all-male safe spaces to sideline women. There are a variety of
manoeuvres they can and do employ to undercut their female colleagues in mixed-gender settings. Interrupting is one: ‘females are the more interrupted gender,’ concluded a 2015 study that found that men were on average more than twice as likely to interrupt women as women were to interrupt men.43 During a televised ninety-minute debate in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton fifty-one times, while she interrupted him seventeen times.44And it wasn’t just Trump: journalist Matt Lauer (since sacked after multiple allegations of sexual harassment45) was also found to have interrupted Clinton more often than he interrupted Trump. He also ‘questioned her statements more often’,46 although Clinton was found to be the most honest candidate running in the 2018 election.
Analysis of 182 peace agreements signed between 1989 and 2011 demonstrated that when women are included in peace processes there is a 20% increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least two years, and a 35% increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least fifteen years.14
This isn’t necessarily a matter of women being better at negotiating: it’s at least in part what they negotiate for. Clare Castillejo, the specialist in governance and rights in fragile states, points out that ‘women frequently bring important issues to the peace-building agenda that male elites tend to overlook’, such as the inclusivity and accessibility of processes and institutions and the importance of local and informal spheres.15 In other words, as ever, the presence of women fills in a data gap – and an important one: recent quantitive data analysis has found ‘compelling evidence’ that countries where women are kept out of positions of power and treated as second-class citizens are less likely to be peaceful.16 In other words: closing the gender data gap really is better for everyone.
We didn’t have firm data on the sex disparity in natural-disaster mortality until 2007, when the first systematic, quantitative analysis was published.34 This examination of the data from 141 countries between 1981 to 2002 revealed that women are considerably more likely to die than men in natural disasters, and that the greater the number of people killed relative to population size, the greater the sex disparity in life expectancy. Significantly, the higher the socio-economic status of women in a country, the lower the sex gap in deaths.
It’s not the disaster that kills them, explains Maureen Fordham. It’s gender – and a society that fails to account for how it restricts women’s lives. Indian men have been found to be more likely to survive earthquakes that hit at night ‘because they would sleep outside and on rooftops during warm nights, a behavior impossible for most women’.35 In Sri Lanka, swimming and tree climbing are ‘predominantly’ taught to men and boys; as a result, when the December 2004 tsunami hit (which killed up to four times as many women as men36) they were better able to survive the floodwaters.37 There is also a social prejudice against women learning to swim in Bangladesh, ‘drastically’ reducing their chances of surviving flooding,38 and this socially created vulnerability is compounded by women not being allowed to leave their home without a male relative.39 As a result, when cyclones hit, women lose precious evacuation time waiting for a male relative to come and take them to a safe place.
They also lose time waiting for a man to come and tell them there’s a cyclone coming in the first place. Cyclone warnings are broadcast in public spaces like the market, or in the mosque, explains Fordham. But women don’t go to these public spaces. ‘They’re at home. So they’re totally reliant on a male coming back to tell them they need to evacuate.’ Many women simply never get the message.
Do NothingBook Notes Written with a loving hand by kitt some time around 19:32 on 16 December 2020
Similar to How to Do Nothing, this book (full title is "Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving") is a woman's journey into the realization that, hey, hamster on the hedonic treadmill is not the way to a happy life, and neither is killing ourselves for our capitalist overlords (my phrasing, not Headlee's).
This book goes through Headlee's journey to, not slowing down per se, more like recognizing that all of this attention grabbing stuff is adversely affecting your well-being. I appreciate that Headlee also specifically calls out luck for her success: there are millions of people working hard to be successful, and it's the good luck that springs them over the top into success. The parts where Headlee says, "this is true for me, so it is true for other people," well, I unsurprisingly both noted that and disagreed with them.
Also similar to How to Do Nothing, there's the history of work: how we used to work less, Industrial Revolution changed the economic landscape, labor fought for fewer hours, labor negotiated fewer hours for us, we drifted back into longer hours. And talk about longer hours: Headlee completely dismisses women's unspoken, unregistered, unpaid workload. While reading this book, I wanted to mail her a copy of Invisible Women and ask her to rewrite the book. As a single mother, I was hoping Headlee would not have been as dismissive of the unpaid work women do, as, as above, she has a "this is true for me, so it is true for other people" elements. Maybe she didn't recognize that the overwhelming amount of work she did includes that unpaid work, and that the workload is different for men and women? I don't know.
So, which of How to Do Nothing or Do Nothing would I recommend? Eh... depends on what age you want your protagonist to be. The messages are the same, one feels like it's from an early 30s point of view, the other from a mid-40s point of view, more time in the trenches. I have no idea of either of those impressions are true. This book resonated more with me, but I don't know if that was because of the parts of this book that irritated me (so I paid attention to this book than Odell's), the seemingly different age point of view of the authors, or if Odell's How to Do Nothing primed me for preferring this book by planting the thoughts of "do less."
One or the other, pick one. it is worth reading.
In 1859, Frederick Douglass first gave a speech that he would repeat multiple times in the ensuing years. It was a lecture on the “self-made man.” “There is nothing good, great, or desirable,” he said, “that does not come by some kind of labor.” This vision of a man (let’s be honest: it was almost always a man at that time) who achieved great things solely through toil and grit became an essential part of the American Dream, and some version of it took hold in many parts of Europe as well. “My theory of self-made men is, then, simply this: that they are men of work,” Douglass said. “Whether or not such men have acquired material, moral or intellectual excellence, honest labor faithfully, steadily and persistently pursued, is the best, if not the only, explanation of their success.” His argument is that the success of someone who achieves great things is mostly due to blood, sweat, and tears. Conversely, someone who is unsuccessful is obviously not working hard enough.
Even today, despite the income gap being higher in the United States than in almost any other nation, many Americans believe they can rise to riches through honest labor, and that belief fuels a willingness to work too much, even when we’re not reaping the profits of our labor.
A separate study from Princeton revealed that the stronger your belief that you can rise through the income ranks, the more likely you are to defend the status quo. If you think your life could be a Horatio Alger story, you’re more likely to support the existing economic and political policies instead of pushing for change. Never mind that most of my friends and neighbors earn as much now as they did ten years ago, many think to themselves. I’ll be the exception.
This belief in hard work as a virtue and a life philosophy started on the door of a church in Germany. Over the course of a couple hundred years, the religious notion that working long and hard makes you deserving while taking time off makes you lazy was adopted as an economic policy, a way to motivate employees and get the most out of them. In the end, this story is about how the industrialist desire to have fewer workers doing more hours of work merged with the religious belief that work is good and idleness is bad, along with a capitalist faith in constant growth. When time became money, the need to get more time out of workers became urgent if profit targets were to be met.
If you examine all the surveys based on self-reporting, that is, asking people what they do with their time, you’ll get the sense that everyone is working almost all the time. The productivity expert Laura Vanderkam heard from many women that they worked sixty hours a week on average. But when she had them keep time logs, she found they actually worked about forty-four hours a week.
More than half of U.S. employees feel overworked or overwhelmed on a regular basis, according to a study from the Families and Work Institute. The president of this nonprofit research center, Ellen Galinsky, told ABC News that “many American employees are near the breaking point.” I really doubt that all of those people are imagining their stress so they have something to complain about. I believe they really feel that way because I feel that way too.
Hansson, the founder of Basecamp and the bestselling author of Rework, says, “Don’t tell me that there’s something uniquely demanding about building yet another fucking startup that dwarfs the accomplishments of The Origin of Species or winning five championship rings. It’s bullshit. Extractive, counterproductive bullshit peddled by people who either need a narrative to explain their personal sacrifices and regrets or who are in a position to treat the lives and well-being of others like cannon fodder.”
In a 2017 op-ed, he wrote, “Workaholism is a disease. We need treatment and coping advice for those afflicted, not cheerleaders for their misery.” If it is a disease, it’s the worst kind: the kind we won’t admit we have and therefore don’t seek to treat. Workaholic should not be a compliment or a humblebrag—it should be a cry for help.
Another misguided effort was the creation of open office plans. In this case, the motive was noble and positive: Executives sought to create more cohesive teams and to encourage social interaction. In the end, the effect has been exactly the opposite. Years of research show open office plans actually make people less likely to talk to each other. Having no possibility of privacy causes stress and therefore discourages creative thought. We put people on display and they retreated. Can you blame them?
A survey of golfers in 2015 showed most think it takes too long to play eighteen holes. Players younger than forty-five said they’d prefer to play for only ninety minutes or so, and many courses now offer nine-hole games. This impatience shows up in all kinds of industries: People even listen to podcasts and audiobooks at double or even triple speed in order to get through them more quickly.
In many ways, I think we’ve lost sight of the purpose of free time. We seem to immediately equate idleness with laziness, but those two things are very different. Leisure is not a synonym for inactive. Idleness offers an opportunity for play, something people rarely indulge in these days.
Please note that by “work” I don’t mean the activities we engage in to secure our survival: finding food, water, or shelter. I mean the labor we do in order to secure everything else beyond survival or to contribute productively to the broader society, the things we do in exchange for pay.
For generations, we have been told that our life’s purpose is work. Religious leaders often told the faithful that a lifetime of labor is how you earn an afterlife of respite, so idleness must be put off until after death. In truth, work ethics in the Western world have often been tied to faith, especially in the United States.
The University of Pennsylvania professor Alexandra Michel says people put in long hours not for “rewards, punishments, or obligation” but because “many feel existentially lost without the driving structure of work in their life—even if that structure is neither proportionally profitable nor healthy in a physical or psychological sense.”
So what happens to your identity when its defining characteristic disappears? Baby boomers are known for their work ethic and were motivated for decades by a drive to constantly get ahead. What happens when that drive is suddenly thrown into neutral? It certainly makes it difficult to answer one of the most common questions in the United States: “What do you do?” That question is considered rude in many other countries but is often one of the first things Americans want to know about others, mostly because knowing someone’s profession makes it easier to categorize them and rank them. It should come as no surprise that the connection between employment and identity can be traced back to the dawn of the industrial age. Prior to that time, people were more likely to ask about a person’s family than about their job. If you’ve been told for more than half a century that hard work is patriotic, that it is what separates a good person from a contemptible person, and that labor is part of the dues one must pay in order to earn entrance to heaven, what might happen when that labor ends and your life continues?
It’s quite true that having important work to do can lead to a mood boost. In fact, a survey of 485 separate studies demonstrated conclusively that people who like their work are more likely to be healthy in body and mind. Also, they are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than those who are either unemployed or who don’t like their jobs.
Turns out, people are often more relaxed in the office. Damaske explained in an interview that even the most urgent of issues at work is not as stressful as a crisis at home. Missing a deadline, for example, doesn’t usually take the same toll as the death of a loved one. What’s more, Damaske says, we always have an escape option in our working lives that we may not have at home. “You still know that you can quit, you can look for something else, that you can leave—leave your boss and your bad day behind,” Damaske said. Most people don’t walk out on their families because they’ve become irritating or find a new family when the old one is causing anxiety. You are usually tied to your family in ways that you’re not shackled to your job.
damaging. Many people in the industrialized world derive self-esteem from their jobs. Jobs confer status. It can be devastating to feel unwanted and useless. But does all this mean that work is a fundamental human need? Do we require productive work in order to remain healthy and viable? If we were supplied with food, water, shelter, and clothing, would we still need to work in order to thrive? My answer is no. I think the benefits conveyed by a meaningful career may stem from the value and emphasis placed on work by our culture, not by nature.
It’s not the emphasis on hard work that’s toxic, but the obsession with it. We now live in a culture in which we are not happy being and only satisfied when we’re doing. Maintaining that kind of guiding principle has unintended consequences. For one thing, it makes us less compassionate. For example, when Protestants are prompted to think about their jobs, they experience an immediate decrease in their empathy. (Remember that Protestants are among the most likely to believe hard work is its own reward.)
When we hear someone explain the same opinion in their own voice, we’re more likely to think they disagree because they have different perspectives and experiences. On a subconscious level, we make assumptions about the other person’s humanity based on the method they are using to communicate. If we’re reading a blog online, we tend to think of the author as less human than ourselves. Hearing someone’s voice helps us recognize them as human and therefore treat them in a humane way. Your voice might go up in pitch when you’re excited; your speech might slow when you’re trying to be deliberate. Tiny changes in tone, rhythm, and breath, the study report says, “serve as a cue for the presence of an active mental life.” Text, the researchers concluded, doesn’t provide the same cues that point to a human mind behind the message. So the possibility that a reader might dehumanize the author goes way up.
This is a big part of why our overuse of email and texting is contributing to dehumanization and hatred: We simply need to hear each other’s voices. Yet I’ve found that people have a very hard time accepting this. Globally, we have come to believe that email is more efficient, more convenient, and just better than the phone. Our addiction to email is a symptom of our obsession with efficiency and productivity.
We have a fundamental need to belong, a hunger for community, and we are choosing to starve ourselves.
Most people touch their phones about 2,600 times between waking and sleeping and spend about five hours browsing on them every day. Consider that when you’re feeling pressed for time. Out of a twenty-four-hour day, you probably spend about six to seven hours sleeping and eight hours at work. That leaves just nine hours, and you spend more than half of that time staring at your phone. Eighty-five percent of us use them while chatting with our family and friends.
The pace is even faster for texts. Ninety-five percent of them are read within three minutes, and it takes about 90 seconds to get a response. Ninety seconds!
Researchers at Yale conducted a series of experiments involving more than a thousand people. In one study, participants were told how zippers work. Half of them were instructed to confirm the details of the explanation by searching online. Then they were all asked a bunch of totally unrelated questions like “How do tornadoes form?” Those who’d been allowed to look online for information about zippers were more likely to think they knew more about everything they were asked, even weather, history, and food. Studies show that online research doesn’t make us much more knowledgeable, but it significantly increases our confidence in our knowledge. Looking up your symptoms online, for example, is overwhelmingly likely to provide you with an incorrect diagnosis. And yet people who use virtual symptom checkers are more likely to doubt their doctor’s advice and search for alternative remedies.
We can end this toxic habit of constant comparison. Stop checking the internet to look at how other people are doing things, for one. If you want to make cupcakes, grab a recipe and make them. Don’t scour Pinterest for the “ultimate cupcake recipe,” buy special tools to decorate them perfectly, and then forget about those tools in a drawer somewhere because you’ve exhausted your interest in actually making the cupcakes.
That should be the new measure in most things: Is it good? Forget how it looks in photographs and ask yourself if you like it. Does it work? Instead of worrying about whether you stayed at the office longer than anyone else, focus on what tasks you accomplished and how well you completed them. Don’t look at your friends’ vacation photos and juxtapose them with your own. Instead, ask whether they enjoyed their time off.
If you’re going to compare yourself to others, look only as far as your friends, family, and neighbors. Pardon the TLC quote, but don’t search for a waterfall, “stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.”
In this day and age, it’s unlikely that other people will strike up a conversation with you on the elevator or the subway, so take the initiative and say good morning. As the behavioral scientist Nicholas Epley has said, few people wave, but almost everyone waves back.
Brainstorm alone and evaluate or analyze as a group. A good rule of thumb is that diverse groups who are allowed to make decisions independently will outperform even the most expensive consultant. We often decide to make decisions alone because we feel it’s more efficient. “Design by committee” is a common insult, used to describe a project that’s flawed and uninspired because it included the input of too many people. Most of us have had some experience with meetings at work in which coworkers shot down good ideas, quibbled over meaningless details, or consistently supported the safest option. The error in these situations, though, was not in gathering input from many people but in trying to reach consensus without minimal conflict. Consensus is about being comfortable and avoiding arguments, but comfort is the enemy of innovation. Cognitive diversity is disconcerting to many people because it almost always brings differing opinions, but it is essential for creative problem-solving and accuracy. It is what our big Homo sapiens brains are designed to respond to and exploit.
Choosing means goals in haste can waste a vast amount of time. You solve this problem by starting on the other end of the spectrum. Articulate your end goals and then choose smaller, specific goals that you are reasonably sure will bring you closer to the bigger objective. Check in frequently to make sure your habits truly are helping you make progress. If they’re not, don’t waste any more time on them. Dump them and try something else.
So here is the complete list of solutions, all designed to break your addiction to efficiency without purpose and productivity with production. Increase time perception. Create your ideal schedule. Stop comparing at a distance. Work fewer hours. Schedule leisure. Schedule social time. Work in teams. Commit small, selfless acts. Focus on ends, not means.
The overriding message is this: Stop trading time for money. The simple act of placing a value on an hour has made us loath to waste even a minute, and the more money you have, the more expensive your time is and the more you feel you don’t have enough time to spare. Our perception of time is now horribly warped. Leisure becomes stressful when you subconsciously believe you are wasting money by not being productive. However, if one of your end goals is to be happy, then pursuing a bigger income is not necessarily going to get you where you want to go. Allow yourself to consider other options.
Battle Hill BoleroBook Notes Posted by kitt at 21:37 on 27 November 2020
This is the third (and last at the time of my reading) book of the "A Bone Street Rumba" series. I picked up all three books in the series at once, figuring even if I didn't thoroughly enjoy the series, at least I would have something to listen to on the drive back from Denver. The audio books were recommended to me, and I continue the recommendation: Older's reading is fantastic, which is unusual for most authors, tbh. If you enjoy audiobooks, Battle Hill Bolero is a good choice.
This book continues the end of the previous book, where the cockroach creepers are still around, there are still ghosts being turned into assassins, and the Council still sucks a large amount. Several of the ghosts can see more than a little bit of the writing on the wall (that is to say, Mama Esther), which means we read a number of delightful foreshadowings. We also learn of Carlos' and Sasha's past, their lives, their deaths, and Sasha's previous life husband who is more than a little bit creepy.
The whole book culminates in a Battle of the Good Guys vs the Bad Guys™, where, you know, the good guys win. The corrupt Council is routed, despite incredibly superior numbers, but you can't ever forget the bumbling hero, nor the competent hero, nor even the big-hearted hero, especially when they are some of the main characters.
Great road trip listening material. Worth reading if you enjoy urban fantasy, or Older's works.
"I had a meeting to attend. Two in fact. I hate meetings. Meetings are Satan's way of balancing out all the beautiful things in the world, like music."
It's insanity to reshape an entire life around a single night. But no more insane than wasting away in a broken marriage or drowning in lonelienss for fear of messing up, and plenty choose those paths.
What I was most looking forward to about seeing Carlos again? That ease we always shared, even from the very beginning. It's a strange and magical thing when two people can simply know how to be around each other without having to stop and learn.
Two weeks and the constant jackhammer of grief against my chest hasn't dulled so much as become the new normal.
I understand this. I desperately miss my Chaseachu.
I made peace with the ache, but that doesn't stop it from hurting.
Midnight Taxi TangoBook Notes Posted by kitt at 10:18 on 25 November 2020
This is the second book of the "A Bone Street Rumba" series. I picked up all three books in the series at once, figuring even if I didn't thoroughly enjoy the series, at least I would have something to listen to on the drive back from Denver. The audio books were recommended to me, and I continue the recommendation: Older's reading is fantastic (which is unusual for most authors, tbh). This book had some incredibly jarring lyric reading by Older's child. I wasn't a fan of that part of the audiobook.
The book starts out with a little bit of Kia's story, filling in some heartache where she and her cousin investigate the weird things happening at a love interest of the cousin: a bunch of ghoulish men are creeping around the kid's house. Well, the ghoulish men decide to attack on the night Kia and her cousin are watching. Kia and Gio become involved in the mayhem, and survive. Gio later disappears, and Kia misses him desperately.
Thus starts a strange loop in Kia's life as small details of her life wraps back upon her: she's attacked by a ghost in a park, which is weird, her cousin returns, which is great, she gains the sight, which just is. and the bad guys escape. Which is to say, the weird ghost in the front yard is part of the climax, Gio is not Gregorio, Caitlin is a bad guy, and the idea of pink roaches is just gross.
I enjoyed the book as much as the first one, and agree they are worth reading for the entertainment.
I find new life in each moment like this: the midnight brownstones breezing past me, the siren song of something foul dragging me forward. This is life, and really, anything is better than the sheer emptiness of so many lost memories.
I know this is a terrible reason to be getting Cs, but the truth is, I'm bored out of my mind almost every day in school. I mean, most of us are, and believe me when I tell you it's not us, it's them. Half the kids in there could be teaching advanced computer coding to a roomful of the aging millenials that are supposed to be educating us.
Except Charo himself, of course, because sometimes sheer wrath will take you farther than any workout video or Tae Bo bullshit.
"When you do what I do for as long as I've been doing it, you learn to figure people out quickly and break down everything you need to know about them to two things."
"Huh?" I furrow my brow, and she smiles.
"Two essential things They're different things for everyone. But you don't have time to sit tehre analyzing eighty million little quirks and who loves their father. You have however many seconds to decide if they can kill you and if they will kill you, and then you either kill them first or you don't. And if you don't, you either die or you --"
"Have a four-hour cup of coffee at the diner."
"White girls." The driver snickers. "They will destroy me one day, but I will die happy."
"What just happened," Reza says, "is why you won't be going with us when we make contact with the Survivors." She doesn't say it cruelly; it's just a fact. When I meet her eyes, they're gentle.
"She..." But the words catch in my throat, and then instead of making a sesntence, I let out a low moan. The heaviness dislodges, rises. I put my head down in my arms and burst into tears.
"I don't even really know what I'm mad about. I mean ... I got everything I wanted. You ever ... you ever get exactly what you wanted and then realize that you're still mad for not having had it all that time and it just doesn't seem fair at all?"
For a woman with her babies in enemy hands, she's holding up impressively. Sasha's a warrior, though; I see it all over her. She knows where to store up that anguish and fear so it doesn't get in the way of what needs to be done. I just hope she knows how to let it out when it's all over.
"Not a lotta spirits would be very sad to see the Council fall," Riley says.
"But way fewer would lift a finger to make it happen."
"My man." He slaps his chilly translucent hand against my outstretched one. "We got work to do."
Midnight SunBook Notes kitt decided around 20:09 on 24 November 2020 to publish this:
This book was slightly confusing at first, as it is the second book of the Blood on Snow series, but the protagonist of the first book died, but did he? The first book had two divergent endings, one of which was clearly delusional, but this second book initially has the reader (well, this reader) pondering the truth of that conclusion.
Eventually, I figured out, this book is the same world, but a different character set in that world, name change be damned, and then I was back into the tale.
We have Ulf, who is fleeing the Fisherman, after, quelle surprise, screwing the Fisherman in some small way. That the contract killer didn't and couldn't actually kill played a large part of that screwing and fleeing. The plot is your basic boy flees crime boss, boy visits small town, boy meets up with down-on-luck girl with issues and a kid, boy and girl like each other, crime boss' henchman shows up in small town, henchman is thwarted by small town's population, boy and girl live happily ever after plot, the same one that a dozen action movie plots use.
I enjoyed the book. It was a fast, mildly engaging read. it'll make more sense with the previous book read first. Worth reading if you're a Nesbø fan.
I sold hash and saved up for that bastard miracle cure I forced myself to believe in because the alternative was unbearable, because my fear that the little girl with the blue light in her eyes would die was even stronger than my own fear of death. Because we take comfort where we can find it: in a German medical journal, in a syringe full of heroin, in a shiny new book promising eternal life as long as you subordinate yourself to whatever new saviour they’ve just come up with.
“Thanks for taking care of Knut after the funeral.”
“Don’t mention it. How is he taking it?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Women always find a way of coping.”
“I’ve changed my mind. I want to know what you’re running from.”
“Your original decision was probably more sensible.”
“Because I believe you’re a good person. And good people’s sins can always be forgiven.”
“What if you’re wrong, what if I’m not a good person? Does that mean I’d end up burning in that hell of yours?” It came out more bitterly than I intended.
“Why are you still calling me Ulf?”
“That’s what you told me your name was, so that’s the name I use. Until you want to be called something different. Everyone should be allowed to change their name every so often.”
“Well, congratulations. You’re Futa…Futa…”
“…bayama. And Futabayama salutes you, courageous Haguroyama.” He raised his head. He had sand stuck to his wet face.
“Futabayama’s apprentice. Haguroyama also went on to be a master.” “Did he? He beat Futabayama?”
“Oh, yes. Toyed with him. He just had to learn a few things first. Such as how to lose.” Knut sat up. He squinted at me.
“Does losing make you better, Ulf?”
I nodded slowly. I saw that Lea was paying attention too.
“You get better”—I squashed a midge that had landed on my arm—“at losing.”
“Better at losing? Is there any point in being good at that?”
“Life is mostly about trying things you can’t do,” I said. “You end up losing more often than you win. Even Futabayama kept on losing before he started to win. And it’s important to be good at something you’re going to do more often, isn’t it?”
“I suppose so.” He thought about it. “But what does being good at losing actually mean?”
I met Lea’s gaze over the boy’s shoulder. “Daring to lose again,” I said.
I didn’t remember much of my wasted years at university, but I did remember William Blackstone, the eighteenth-century legal philosopher who occupied much the same territory as Mattis, at the crossroads of justice and faith in God. I remembered him because Grandfather had used him, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei and Søren Kierkegaard as examples of the fact that even the very sharpest minds are prepared to believe in the stuff and nonsense of Christianity if they think it offers a chance to escape death.