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.

Post date:


Book Notes

I started reading this book and thought, very quickly, hey, I know this stuff already. This feels very familiar.

And a few pages into the book, I realized why when my first highlight appeared: I'd read this book before.

I don't recall when I'd read the book before, as it isn't in my notes for the last 4 years, but I had read it before. After debating for a bit on whether to reread it or put it down in favor of a new book, I figured I could give it a read, and read it quickly. Was not disappointed in myself.

The brain does a lot. We are oblivious to pretty much all of it. We can, however, be aware of some of that blindness, be aware of how we are going to react even when we expect and want to react differently, be aware of how small changes can improve our lives, and be gentle with ourselves when we are strange.

This book is seven years old. While we have more research, more theories, and more data about the brain, the fundamentals are the same, which makes this a great second read, too. I'd be interested in a follow up book with curation of the latest research.

Anyway, definitely worth reading, even recommended.

As far as anyone can tell, we’re the only system on the planet so complex that we’ve thrown ourselves headlong into the game of deciphering our own programming language. Imagine that your desktop computer began to control its own peripheral devices, removed its own cover, and pointed its webcam at its own circuitry. That’s us.
Page 2

Alterations to the brain change the kinds of thoughts we can think. In a state of deep sleep, there are no thoughts. When the brain transitions into dream sleep, there are unbidden, bizarre thoughts.
Page 3

The first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control.
Page 4

The men were consistently more attracted to the women with dilated eyes.
Page 4

This might explain a few things for me.

Instead, they simply felt more drawn toward some women than others, for reasons they couldn’t quite put a finger on.
Page 5

In the largely inaccessible workings of the brain, something knew that a woman’s dilated eyes correlates with sexual excitement and readiness.
Page 5

How is it possible to get angry at yourself: who, exactly, is mad at whom?
Page 19

It is interesting to consider that the majority of human beings live their whole lives unaware that they are only seeing a limited cone of vision at any moment.
Page 24

One of the most pervasive mistakes is to believe that our visual system gives a faithful representation of what is “out there” in the same way that a movie camera would.
Page 24

As Mariotte delved more deeply into this issue, he realized that there is a hole in our vision—what has come to be known as the “blind spot” in each eye. To demonstrate this to yourself, close your left eye and keep your right eye fixed on the plus sign. Slowly move the page closer
Page 32

My blind spot caused me all sorts of grief after I started having migraines at nine years old. I couldn't tell migraine spots from my blind spot and had to see a few doctors to figure out what the blindness was.

But more significantly, no one had noticed because the brain “fills in” the missing information from the blind spot.
Page 33

When the dot disappears, you do not perceive a hole of whiteness or blackness in its place; instead your brain invents a patch of the background pattern.
Page 33

Unless you're having a migraine with auras, then all bets are off.

He discovered that outfielders use an unconscious program that tells them not where to end up but simply how to keep running. They move in such a way that the parabolic path of the ball always progresses in a straight line from their point of view. If the ball’s path looks like its deviating from a straight line, they modify their running path.
Page 37


Your brain is in the dark but your mind constructs light.
Page 40

Consider the way you are reading the letters on this page. Your eyes flick effortlessly over the ornate shapes without any awareness that you are translating them: the meaning of the words simply comes to you. You perceive the language, not the low-level details of the graphemes.
Page 41

The second is that the people experiencing the hallucinations are discomfited by the knowledge that their visual scene is at least partially the counterfeit coinage of their brains.
Page 45

Though, if you grew up with migraines, you kinda learn early on not to trust absolutely what you see, and always take a second look.

In this way, the brain refines its model of the world by paying attention to its mistakes.
Page 49

It will come as no surprise to you that the mere exposure effect is part of the magic behind product branding, celebrity building, and political campaigning: with repeated exposure to a product or face, you come to prefer it more. The mere exposure effect is why people in the public spotlight are not always as disturbed as one might expect by negative press.
Page 65

Another real-world manifestation of implicit memory is known as the illusion-of-truth effect: you are more likely to believe that a statement is true if you have heard it before—whether or not it is actually true.
Page 65

F'ing brain.

Nothing is inherently tasty or repulsive—it depends on your needs. Deliciousness is simply an index of usefulness.
Page 76

Each organism has its own umwelt, which it presumably assumes to be the entire objective reality “out there.”
Page 77

Easy things are hard: most of what we take for granted is neurally complex.
Page 89

Researchers (as well as purveyors of pornography) have been able to discern a surprisingly narrow range for the female proportions that males find most attractive: the perfect ratio between the waist and hips usually resides between 0.67 and 0.8. The waist-to-hip ratios of Playboy centerfolds has remained at about 0.7 over time, even as their average weight has decreased. 22 Women with a ratio in this range are not only judged by males as more attractive, but are also presumed to be more healthy, humorous, and intelligent.
Page 91

When men ranked the beauty of women’s faces, they found the women with dilated eyes more attractive, because dilated eyes signal sexual interest.
Page 92

The Babylonian Talmud contains a passage in the same spirit: “In came wine, out went a secret.”

It later advises, “In three things is a man revealed: in his wine goblet, in his purse, and in his wrath.”
Page 103

Many people prefer a view of human nature that includes a true side and a false side—in other words, humans have a single genuine aim and the rest is decoration, evasion, or cover-up. That’s intuitive, but it’s incomplete.
Page 104

Your brain, as well, interprets your body’s actions and builds a story around them. Psychologists have found that if you hold a pencil between your teeth while you read something, you’ll think the material is funnier; that’s because the interpretation is influenced by the smile on your face. If you sit up straight instead of slouching, you’ll feel happier. The brain assumes that if the mouth and spine are doing that, it must be because of cheerfulness.
Page 134

Minds seek patterns. In a term introduced by science writer Michael Shermer, they are driven toward “patternicity”—the attempt to find structure in meaningless data.

Evolution favors pattern seeking, because it allows the possibility of reducing mysteries to fast and efficient programs in the neural circuitry.
Page 138

A popular model in the neuroscience literature suggests that dream plots are stitched together from essentially random activity: discharges of neural populations in the midbrain. These signals tickle into existence the simulation of a scene in a shopping mall, or a glimpse of recognition of a loved one, or a feeling of falling, or a sense of epiphany. All these moments are dynamically woven into a story, and this is why after a night of random activity you wake up, roll over to your partner, and feel as though you have a bizarre plot to relate.
Page 139

Consider the concept of a secret. The main thing known about secrets is that keeping them is unhealthy for the brain.
Page 145

After years of study, Pennebaker concluded that “the act of not discussing or confiding the event with another may be more damaging than having experienced the event per se.”

He and his team discovered that when subjects confessed or wrote about their deeply held secrets, their health improved, their number of doctor visits went down, and there were measurable decreases in their stress hormone levels.
Page 145

The main reason not to reveal a secret is aversion to the long-term consequences. A friend might think ill of you, or a lover might be hurt, or a community might ostracize you. This concern about the outcome is evidenced by the fact that people are more likely to tell their secrets to total strangers; with someone you don’t know, the neural conflict can be dissipated with none of the costs.
Page 146

If we hope to invent robots that think, our challenge is not simply to devise a subagent to cleverly solve each problem but instead to ceaselessly reinvent subagents, each with overlapping solutions, and then to pit them against one another. Overlapping factions offer protection against degradation (think of cognitive reserve) as well as clever problem solving by unexpected approaches.
Page 147

Some people are constitutionally incapable of keeping a secret, and this balance may tell us something about the battles going on inside them and which way they tip. Good spies and secret agents are those people whose battle always tips toward long-term decision making rather than the thrill of telling.
Page 150

When your biology changes, so can your decision making, your appetites, and your desires. The drives you take for granted (“ I’m a hetero/ homosexual,” “I’m attracted to children/ adults,” “I’m aggressive/ not aggressive,” and so on) depend on the intricate details of your neural machinery.
Page 155

Many of us like to believe that all adults possess the same capacity to make sound choices.

It’s a nice idea, but it’s wrong.
Page 157

As far as we can tell, all activity in the brain is driven by other activity in the brain, in a vastly complex, interconnected network. For better or worse, this seems to leave no room for anything other than neural activity—that is, no room for a ghost in the machine. To consider this from the other direction, if free will is to have any effect on the actions of the body, it needs to influence the ongoing brain activity. And to do that, it needs to be physically connected to at least some of the neurons. But we don’t find any spot in the brain that is not itself driven by other parts of the network. Instead, every part of the brain is densely interconnected with—and driven by—other brain parts. And that suggests that no part is independent and therefore “free.” So in our current understanding of science, we can’t find the physical gap in which to slip free will—the uncaused causer—because there seems to be no part of the machinery that does not follow in a causal relationship from the other parts.
Page 166

However, at this point, no one can see a clear way around the problem of a nonphysical entity (free will) interacting with a physical entity (the stuff of the brain).
Page 167

To help a citizen reintegrate into society, the ethical goal is to change him as little as possible to allow his behavior to come into line with society’s needs.
Page 182

Poor impulse control is a hallmark characteristic of the majority of criminals in the prison system.
Page 182

If it seems difficult to empathize with people who have poor impulse control, just think of all the things you succumb to that you don’t want to. Snacks? Alcohol? Chocolate cake? Television? One doesn’t have to look far to find poor impulse control pervading our own landscape of decision making. It’s not that we don’t know what’s best for us, it’s simply that the frontal lobe circuits representing the long-term considerations can’t win the elections when the temptation is present. It’s like trying to elect a party of moderates in the middle of war and economic meltdown.
Page 182

Recall the patients with frontotemporal dementia who shoplift, expose themselves, urinate in public, and burst out into song at inappropriate times. Those zombie systems have been lurking under the surface the whole time, but they’ve been masked by a normally functioning frontal lobe.
Page 184

The same goes for the mentally retarded or schizophrenic; punitive action may slake bloodlust for some, but there is no point in it for society more broadly.
Page 189

Biological explanation will not exculpate criminals. Brain science will improve the legal system, not impede its function. 36 For the smooth operation of society, we will still remove from the streets those criminals who prove themselves to be over-aggressive, under-empathetic, and poor at controlling their impulses. They will still be taken into the care of the government. But the important change will be in the way we punish the vast range of criminal acts—in terms of rational sentencing and new ideas for rehabilitation. The emphasis will shift from punishment to recognizing problems (both neural and social) and meaningfully addressing them.
Page 190

Effective law requires effective behavioral models: understanding not just how we would like people to behave, but how they actually behave.
Page 191

Visual illusions reveal a deeper concept: that our thoughts are generated by machinery to which we have no direct access.
Page 194

The dethronement led to a richer, deeper understanding, and what we lost in egocentrism was counterbalanced in surprise and wonder.
Page 196

(It is also the case that a virtuous actor can have minimal temptations and therefore no requirement for good brakes, but one could suggest that the more virtuous person is he who has fought a stronger battle to resist temptation rather than he who was never enticed.)
Page 197

All of this leads to a key question: do we possess a soul that is separate from our physical biology—or are we simply an enormously complex biological network that mechanically produces our hopes, aspirations, dreams, desires, humor, and passions? 7 The majority of people on the planet vote for the extrabiological soul, while the majority of neuroscientists vote for the latter: an essence that is a natural property that emerges from a vast physical system, and nothing more besides.
Page 203

As soon as your drink is spiked, your sandwich is sneezed upon, or your genome picks up a mutation, your ship moves in a different direction. Try as you might to make it otherwise, the changes in your machinery lead to changes in you. Given these facts on the ground, it is far from clear that we hold the option of “choosing” who we would like to be.
Page 209

Who you turn out to be depends on such a vast network of factors that it will presumably remain impossible to make a one-to-one mapping between molecules and behavior (more on that in the moment).
Page 209

If there’s something like a soul, it is at minimum tangled irreversibly with the microscopic details.
Page 209

In other words, a lower level of social acceptance into the majority correlates with a higher chance of a schizophrenic break. In ways not currently understood, it appears that repeated social rejection perturbs the normal functioning of the dopamine systems.
Page 211

In my view, the argument from parsimony is really no argument at all—it typically functions only to shut down more interesting discussion. If history is any guide, it’s never a good idea to assume that a scientific problem is cornered.
Page 222

Keep in mind that every single generation before us has worked under the assumption that they possessed all the major tools for understanding the universe, and they were all wrong, without exception.
Page 223

“Vision after early blindness.”
Page 230 incognito for interactive demonstrations of how little we perceive of the world. For excellent reviews on change blindness, see Rensink, O’Regan, and Clark, “To see or not to see”; Simons, “Current approaches to change
Page 230

Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution

Book Notes

Okay, I really have no idea why I picked up this book. It was on some list, it sounded interesting, so I picked it up.

This is not a guide to political revolution.

This is a Bernie Sanders Manifesto, along with resources to work within the system.

The book is a long iteration of his platform, is beliefs, what he stands for. The book says, "Here is a problem. Here is how I think this problem could be solved." Not, "Here's how to solve this problem, and the data to prove it will work." Not, "Here's the legislation I have introduced." Not, "Here is the cultural problem that contributes to this social problem and do these actions to fix it."

Revolution is painful, the callouts in this book to "get involved" are not. Yes, they are time consuming, but revolution means an overhaul of the system, not an evolution of the system.

One can appreciate what Sanders is trying to do to make the country better. A complete upheaval might be the way to go. This is not the guidebook for that revolution. Better to look at The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for a guide, even if I disagree with that book's actual politics.

The book is worth a read to understand what Sanders stands for. For that part, it was worth the read. I don't disagree with much of his platform, I just don't see the pilot programs, the supporting data, or the means to implement.

In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a basic principle of American economic life should be that if you work forty hours or more a week, you do not live in poverty.
Location 77

Increasing the minimum wage is good for businesses as well as workers because it reduces employee turnover. When workers earn a living wage, they are more likely to stay with their company.
Location 120

And spend money.

Public assistance given to low-wage workers is essentially subsidizing the profits of the companies paying the low wages.
Location 126

Which is bullshit.

Walmart makes profits by paying wages so low that the workers not only qualify for but also need public assistance just to get by.
Location 131

Hate Walmart.

I do not believe that the government should burden taxpayers with the financial support of profitable corporations owned by some of the wealthiest people in this country. That’s absurd.
Location 145

If we are serious about reversing the decline of the middle class, we need a major federal jobs program that puts millions of Americans to work at decent-paying jobs. We need workers to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure—our roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, airports, railways, levees, and dams.
Location 258

Our tax code essentially legalizes tax dodging for large corporations.
Location 349

America is not broke. The very wealthy and huge, profitable corporations just aren’t paying the taxes that, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. more than a century ago, “are what we pay for a civilized society.”
Location 364

The Roundtable also wants to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to seventy, and to cut cost-of-living adjustments for seniors and disabled veterans. These CEOs callously promote the idea that increasing their corporate profits is more important than their fellow Americans receiving the benefits they have earned by working or by serving in the military.
Location 369

We have been losing millions of jobs as a direct result of our disastrous trade policies. This is a major contributor to the decline of the middle class, rising poverty, and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else. We must do everything possible to stop companies from outsourcing American jobs.
Location 444

Americans see that there are different rules for the rich and powerful than for everyone else. They see kids arrested and sometimes even jailed for possessing marijuana or for other minor crimes. But when it comes to Wall Street executives, whose illegal behavior hurts millions of Americans, they see that there are no arrests, no police records, and no jail time.
Location 555

There is something fundamentally wrong with our criminal justice system when not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy in 2008.
Location 565

“Equal Justice Under Law” cannot just be words engraved over the doors of the Supreme Court.
Location 567

 To create an economy that works for all americans and not just a handful of billionaires, we have to address the ever-increasing size of the megabanks.

 We must end, once and for all, the scheme that is nothing more than a free insurance policy for wall street: “too big to fail.”

 We need a banking system that is part of a productive economy—making loans at affordable rates to small and medium-sized businesses—so we can create a growing economy with decent-paying jobs.

 We need a banking system that encourages homeownership by offering affordable mortgage products that are designed to work for both the lender and the borrower.

 We need a banking system that is transparent and accountable and that adheres to the highest ethical standards as well as to the spirit and the letter of the law.
Location 574

One might have thought that as part of the bailout, these huge banks would have been reduced in size to make certain that we never experience a recurrence of what happened in 2008. In fact, the very opposite occurred. Today, three of the four largest financial institutions—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo—are about 80 percent bigger than they were before we bailed them out.
Location 585

No financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure would send the world economy into crisis.
Location 591

If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.
Location 592

Today, commercial banks still have over $ 177.46 trillion of derivatives contracts on their books. That is insane.
Location 603

All derivatives trading should be done in an open, transparent exchange similar to the stock market, without exceptions. As
Location 615

Needless to say, this game of high-speed speculation adds absolutely nothing to a productive economy.
Location 628

We have to discourage reckless gambling on Wall Street and encourage productive investments in a job-creating economy.
Location 631

we need to turn for-profit credit-rating agencies into transparent nonprofit institutions that are independent from Wall Street and accountable to a board of directors that represents the public interest.
Location 656

The decisions that the Federal Reserve made during the 2008 crisis sent a very clear message: while the rich and powerful are “too big to fail” and are worthy of an endless supply of cheap credit, ordinary Americans must fend for themselves. This was a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.
Location 687

We must require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full and independent audit of the Fed every year.
Location 718

Health care should be a right, not a perk of being employed.
Location 757

it has never made sense to me that our health care system is primarily designed to make huge profits for multibillion-dollar insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals, and medical equipment suppliers.
Location 762

The details of the national health systems vary in each of these countries, but all of them guarantee health care for all their citizens, and none of them allow private health insurance companies to profit off human illness.
Location 766

Think about the extraordinary impact it would have on our economy if all Americans had the freedom to follow their dreams and not worry about whether the family had health insurance.
Location 824

The pharmaceutical industry, because of its great power, rarely loses legislative fights. It has effectively purchased the Congress, and there are Republican and Democratic leaders who support its every effort.
Location 863

There was a time, forty or fifty years ago, when many people could graduate from high school and move right into a decent-paying job with good benefits. Strong unions offered apprenticeships, and a large manufacturing sector provided opportunities for those without an advanced degree.
Location 974

Exactly how much do students benefit by having, in some cases, dozens of vice presidents of this or that, each earning hundreds of thousands of dollars or more?
Location 989

Another reason college educations are becoming so expensive is that colleges are increasingly being run as businesses competing for market share.
Location 990

In fact, it is much easier for a big bank or corporation to declare insolvency and be forgiven for outstanding debts than it is for an individual going through personal bankruptcy to be discharged from a student loan.
Location 1011

America rightfully outlawed debtors’ prisons in the mid-nineteenth century, but some cities and states are issuing contempt-of-court warrants that get around those rules.
Location 1016

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, of which I have long been a member, found that these for-profit schools spend, on average, about 30 percent more per student on marketing and recruiting than on actual instruction.
Location 1035

Not everybody wants to go to college, and not everybody needs to go to college. This country needs carpenters, plumbers, welders, bricklayers, ironworkers, mechanics, and many other professions that pay workers, especially those in unions, good wages for doing very important, skilled work.
Location 1049

In today’s world, that’s not quite the way it works. In opposition to science and what the people want are enormously powerful forces who want to maintain the status quo. They are more interested in short-term profits for fossil fuel companies than in the future of the planet.
Location 1188

Forty percent of energy used in this country goes to heat, cool, and light buildings and run electricity through them.
Location 1213

The great irony of climate change is that American taxpayers are subsidizing the most profitable industry in history, whose products are quite literally killing us, to the tune of more than $ 20.5 billion every single year.
Location 1241

For every dollar of taxpayer funds invested in renewable energy over the past fifteen years, fossil fuels have received eighty dollars!
Location 1245

We should also end all new federal leases for oil, gas, or coal extraction on public lands and waters. Public lands and waters are for the public to enjoy for generations to come—not for the oil companies to exploit for profit in the short term.
Location 1277

The hypocrisy of those who argue that solar and wind tax credits are too expensive or are no longer needed because the industries should be able to stand on their own is stunning. Taxpayers have been subsidizing fossil fuel companies through tax credits for more than one hundred years, and Congress long ago made those incentives permanent features of the federal tax code.
Location 1303

Police officers must be held accountable. In a society based on law, nobody can be above the law, especially those who are charged with enforcing it.
Location 1407

African Americans and Latinos together comprised 57 percent of all prisoners in 2015, even though neither of these two groups makes up even one-quarter of the U.S. population.
Location 1431

The time is long overdue for this country to understand that we cannot jail our way out of health problems like mental illness and drug addiction.
Location 1441

We have around 4 percent of the world’s population, yet we have more than 20 percent of all prisoners.
Location 1454

And we spend $ 80 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxpayer dollars to lock them up.
Location 1458

Private corporations should not be making profits off of the incarceration of human beings.
Location 1460

No one, in my view, should be allowed to profit from putting more people behind bars.
Location 1469

Every effort should be made to have police forces reflect the diversity of the communities they work in. And that must include in positions of leadership and training departments.
Location 1504

We must demilitarize our police forces so they don’t look and act like invading armies. Police departments must be part of the community they serve and be trusted by the community.
Location 1506

We should federally fund and require body cameras for law enforcement officers to make it easier to hold everyone accountable, while also establishing standards to protect the privacy of innocent people.
Location 1509

When policing becomes a source of revenue, officers are often pressured to meet quotas that can lead to unnecessary or unlawful traffic stops and citations. And civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to take property from people even before they are charged with a crime.
Location 1516

Undocumented immigrants are woven into the fabric of our society and our economy. They work in some of the hardest and lowest-paid jobs.
Location 1587

Moreover, the institute estimates that they pay an average of 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes—which, by the way, is 48 percent more than the 5.4 percent paid by the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
Location 1602

All too often, farmworkers are paid horrendously low wages, exposed to pesticides, and deprived of the most basic decent living conditions.
Location 1621

When employers report that they need to bring in foreign labor because there is no one in this country able to do their jobs, what is really going on is that there is no one here willing to do the job for the low wages being offered.
Location 1654

To my mind, the U.S. government should not be in the painful and inhumane business of locking up families who have fled violence.
Location 1684

Immigration reform must allow individuals to apply for relief, even if convicted of nonviolent offenses.
Location 1701

Binding workers to a specific employer or not allowing their family members to work creates a situation rife with abuse and exacerbates an already unequal relationship between the employer and the employee.
Location 1726

Immigration reform means making sure our borders are modern and secure, especially in this era when terrorism can come from anywhere.
Location 1728

The word “government” refers to the way people organize authority to perform essential functions. It usually describes who does what, who has what power, and who is responsible for what. When there is no organized authority, there is no government, and that is called anarchy.
Location 1796


Book Notes

I was trying to finish this book before the end of last year, as January is going to be a non-fiction only month for me.

I didn't make it, so this is the first book of the new year that I have finished!

I picked up this book because "by Claire North" and, let's be real, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was a fun read. This was also on NPR's recommended list, so I figured I'd read it.

While I believe I understand the message of the book (that when you put a price tag on people's lives, the system is incentivized to profit off of everything people do, to the detriment of the system), I didn't really enjoy this book. The format of past to present to past was good story-telling, I liked that aspect.

North (a pseudonym) has a number of other books, so I'll likely try another of hers. This book has good reviews from others, so maybe just me?

The man whose name was sometimes Theo Miller had been twenty-two years old when they abolished human rights. The government insisted it was necessary to counter terrorism and bring stable leadership to the country.
Location 301

They wavered, avoiding each other’s gaze. Finally Theo mumbled, looking at some place a few hundred miles above and a little to the left of her forehead, “Are you …”
Location 502

Love this description, "few hundred miles above."

If you’re rich enough, you get to pay less tax if you turn yourself into a company, and if you’re a company you can buy a parole.
Location 509

But as the years went by, anger had faded.

Most things faded, given time.
Location 952

Good rate of return that, decent interest on time spent, I respect that, I understand that, not my language but it’s my song.
Location 1296

[D]reams were for children and she was a grown-up now. Grown-ups just dealt with things. They carried on—that’s what being grown-up meant.
Location 1603

Beyond, the world carries on.
Location 1757

Vagrants could be Tasered on sight in this part of the city—they caused emotional distress, and emotional distress was basically assault.
Location 2027

By night Mala Choudhary practised Muay Thai. She won most of her fights but found those she lost more exciting.
Location 2057

He used to see them sometimes in the snarling boys who liked it when their dogs growled at passing strangers, because the dogs made people scared, and if people were scared of you then you were powerful, and if you were powerful, you mattered. Even if you didn’t know what mattering was good for.
Location 2319

The queen says this country is a slave state. That there aren’t any chains on our feet or beatings on our backs because there don’t need to be. Cos if you don’t play along with what the Company wants, you die. You die cos you can’t pay for the doctor to treat you. You die cos the police won’t come without insurance. Cos the fire brigade doesn’t cover your area, cos you can’t get a job, cos you can’t buy the food, cos the water stopped, cos there was no light at night and if that’s not slavery, if that’s not the world gone mad if that’s not … … but we got used to it. Just the way things are.
Location 3631

I don’t think it matters. We got taught not to care. It’ll pass. It’ll pass.
Location 3679

“Loneliness is a state of mind. You have to want something, to be lonely. You have to need some sort of reassurance, someone to tell you that this is who you are. I’m not lonely. I don’t want anything."
Location 4243

"Our lives exist in many different, contradictory states, all at once. I am a liar. I am a killer. I am honest. I am fighting for a good cause. I am burning the world. We want things simple, and safe, and when they aren’t, when the truth is something complicated, something hard, or scary, we stop. The words run out. Everything becomes …”
Location 4249

“It’s how it happens, of course. The worst of it. Not ‘My neighbour has been taken to be burned alive, their house stolen, their children dead and I am so, so scared to speak of it.’ Just ‘They went away. Just—away.’ And we smile. And everyone else is as scared as we are, and knows what that smile means. Is grateful that you didn’t make the terror real. Thankful that you haven’t caused a stink. Because it would hurt … someone. Someone who isn’t a stranger would get hurt, if we ever managed to speak the truth of things. If we ever had the courage to say what we really think, even if it destroyed who we want the world to think we are. Who it is we think we should be. There would be too much pain. So we say nothing. Things just … trail away into a smile, which everyone understands and doesn’t have to mean a thing. We are grateful for that silence, for the thing that can’t be expressed. To fill it would be a terrible thing.”
Location 4254

There was probably a bit of love left, somewhere. It simply hadn’t been a priority for either of them.
Location 4544

"Then I started screaming too, just screaming, and it felt good. I’d never done nothing like that before but I was crying after, I screamed and then there was nothing left and I just cried and it was the best thing it was … They don’t bother me now. They’ve got this guy, this boss bloke, he goes to the sea every morning and rages at it. Just rages at it, cos of how he was born into this shit, and he didn’t ever find no way to make his life good, and he rages at the sky cos it never helped him, and at the earth cos it never carried him somewhere else, and his raging it’s … it’s sorta good, you know? It’s like going to church, only different like. Sometimes I scream, it’s like praying, but different."
Location 4640

"Is she dead?” An afterthought, a thing which was probable but which the girl hadn’t wanted to ask.
Location 4662

The sea the sky the earth they never carried me I hate them for letting me be born for making me breathe I hate them I hate—but she gotta love ’em. If she’s your daughter you gotta find her, you gotta help her be something which isn’t … you know.
Location 4898

Even thin ice can puncture the hull, can sink a narrowboat. They drown as they sleep they wake the water rushing down their noses it is.
Location 4958

Indecision. Martyrdom. Suspension of all things, a failure to act, the need to look at things from a new perspective, a willing victim a … Neila doesn’t like the word “victim.” If you’re “willing” then how are you a “victim”? Victim is the denial of choice …
Location 4969

Or maybe … maybe that’s unfair. Maybe they care. But caring isn’t the same as doing something, and doing something is hard. It’s very, very hard.
Location 5178

Simon is a shit. I’m not saying this to excuse my son. My son is also a shit. But Simon was the shit that blocked the toilet, if you’ll pardon my saying so. Naturally he assumes he isn’t. Most people assume they aren’t shits. It’s just good business. That’s what it amounts to. Business is good. Good is business it is
Location 5868

I think he hits her sometimes, but she always says … when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, he always says sorry afterwards and that’s how she knows he loves her. I always thought I’d tell her to run away. It’s a very easy thing to say, much easier than anything that matters—but I never mustered the courage.
Location 5877

When my daughter died I spent so long trying to make it my fault, because if it was my fault it wasn’t just luck. It was the action of man, it was fate, it was God,
Location 5996

If you call him terrible you have to ask yourself why, you have to blame yourself and no one wants to do that. It’s the hardest thing in the world to say ‘I am a bad mother, and he is a bad father,’ it is impossible, it is devastating it is … because if I am a bad mother then I am … there is nothing worse.
Location 6321

And she said, “My brother had depression, he had depression and we all told him to get over it, we told him to just try and see the good side of things I mean, the good side it was just …”
Location 6888

“You ask people, when they tell you something terrible, you ask them ‘Are you okay?’ Of course they’re not fucking okay but what else are you meant to say. ‘Oh you must be feeling shit you must be so shit you must be …’”
Location 6892

The Hanged Man is the crossroads, is suspension, a choice that holds you back or will send you forward, a moment where all things stand on the edge.
Location 6908

Sometimes I catch myself making stories from the things that happened in my life, making stories of who I will be, and in these stories I’m always the hero or the villain because that way I made a choice, I made a choice and I chose to be here and there wasn’t ever anything which I couldn’t control, there wasn’t a part of me that is …”
Location 6920

“Do you regret?” she asked. “Do you look back, do you look at—when you think about the time you’ve had and the things—do you regret? Is that what you feel?” Theo thought about it. “I think I would,” he said at last. “If there wasn’t something more important to do.”
Location 6926

“Half the people we ask don’t even know if the queen is real, they can’t imagine it, anything changing. But the idea makes them feel better. That maybe they can do this really small thing, like this up yours to the world and maybe it’ll make a difference, maybe they count.
Location 6994

The Phenomenon

Book Notes

Over the years, I have bought Kris a number of baseball-related books. Some have been peripherally baseball related, sorta like the movie For the Love of the Game is a baseball movie (for the record, it is not, it is a romance movie with baseball elements, it is not a baseball movie). Some were definitely baseball related.

This one, however, is the first baseball book Kris recommended back to me.

That's right, I bought baseball books for him, but hadn't actually read them.

So, on his recommendation, I read this one.

I didn't know Ankiel's story. In a few sentences: he was a baseball phenomenon, likely to be better than Sandy Koufax, who, depending on how your stats rank your pitchers, is considered the greatest pitcher of all time. Then he threw a wild pitch that got into his head, and he couldn't get it out. He tried, he failed, he left baseball, he came back a hitter and an outfielder instead. He had a good career.

This book is his autobiography of that career. Many parts of the book read like the inner dialog of a person talking with himself, trying to psych himself up, convince himself that he can do this next thing, that the last thing wasn't so bad.

A result of the style of inner chatter writing and not knowing Ankiel's story is that I was really confused in the first two chapters. of the book. By chapter five, Ankiel had written enough of his story that I understood the why of this book, and was engrossed in the story.

Had I been paying more attention when I was reading The Art of Fielding, I would have recognized Ankiel's name before reading this book, as he is mentioned.

I really enjoyed this book. If you like biographies, baseball, or stories about the hero's journey, this I strongly recommend this book. It isn't one where the hero triumphs, but it is a tale of continuing to do the work, to try, to succeed in a different way, and, in the end, to accept that the life you have isn't the one you wanted, but it can still be a good one.

I would stand behind him when he needed a push, before him when he needed a shield, beside him when he did not.
Location 76

Denise, my mom, wished she’d had the sense to leave Richard. Right then. The bruises generally healed while my father was away.
Location 419

I understand this wish.

She couldn’t shake the notion that a boy should have a father nearby. She couldn’t not believe in having a family, even if it were all fouled up and volatile and hurtful.
Location 450

Another problem was that Dad was a bully, and Mom, because she so wanted to believe the nightmare would end and didn’t want to be threatened again and also didn’t want to lie in a puddle of her own blood on the kitchen floor, was afraid. She had nowhere to go.
Location 453

I was too small, and then I was too afraid, and even when I grew up there remained the notion that to challenge one’s father was to call out the whole universe into the middle of the street to decide who was the better man. And how long would that have lasted? A punch or two? And what would that have cost my mother in bruises?
Location 505

An acquaintance of mine has this deep-seated belief that victims can alway speak, that they can always walk away or continue to fight. He never quite understands that sometimes the victim cannot do those things, because the victim understands the consequences of those actions can sometimes be worse than the abuse. My acquaintance does not understand that.a

My mother didn’t deserve the life she got, and I would not — could not — choose the same. I was going to chase something better. I was going to let myself dream and go after that.
Location 670

Though I’d worn a facsimile of the uniform briefly the fall before, the first day in a real clubhouse — a spring training clubhouse, but still, surrounded by real major leaguers — buttoning that bright jersey and curling the brim of that new cap felt meaningful.
Location 806

"... curling the brim ..." Hee!

The way to nine months of every single day was an hour at a time, a minute at a time even. Try not to look back. Definitely do not look forward, because the destination is tiny in the distance, and to chase that would be a reasonable path to exhaustion.

No, just hit the next mark in the routine. Do that, and when that is done the next mark will appear. Hit them all, and at the end of the day you’re fed and rested and healthy and strong and clear-headed and confident.

Miss one, then another, and that day gets wobbly, and the next is too full trying to cover for the previous one, and the next is messier, and this is how sore elbows and bad Aprils and doubt and stomachaches are born.
Location 922

Your brain quit on you. Unless, and this was something to think about, your brain knew best, and it really was protecting you. You don’t want to throw this pitch, it’s not going to end well, so I won’t let you throw it.
Location 1112

It’s a spark of fear, of humiliation, of regret before the fact.
Location 1121

“The yips,” he said, “can be explained in both psychological and neuromuscular terms, and it’s extremely complicated. It’s very difficult to treat and very difficult to understand.… What it boils down to, a mistake is made, ultimate trust is eroded, pressure interferes with the lack of trust, and that compounds the problem. Now there’s anxiety, and a vicious cycle ensues.”

Along come the obsessive thoughts, Dr. Oakley said, the failure, the pursuit of perfection now fouled by anxiety and more failure and more anxiety. “This,” he added, “is a phenomenon on steroids.”
Location 1151

“When a person’s really distressed, they’re overwhelmed by that,” Dr. Oakley said.

“Turn it on its head. Instead of curtailing that moment, bring it on. Experience that. Spend more time with it.

“Most people, of course, don’t want to spend time with it. It’s not a pleasant thing. So what I do, and it goes along with treating anxiety disorders, I try prolonged exposure to it. You actually need more time with it, what my friend Ken Ravizza calls ‘getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.’”
Location 1169

We knew that wouldn’t last forever, but twenty-one years old or even thirty-one years old hardly seemed a time to stop believing in tomorrow. Our arms were strong. Our hearts were set to the rhythms of the game. So we’d run our laps and take the ball and try to throw it past hitters. That was the plan.
Location 1275

In some ways, I told him, the Thing is not unlike cancer. A lot of people who get cancer did nothing to attract it. They are not flawed people. They did not abuse themselves. It’s not as though they stood too close to someone who already had cancer. So they, perhaps, can wonder why they were chosen, but they cannot blame themselves. “It’s not your fault,” I said, repeating a line I heard often.
Location 1390

Here's one of the things our the modern American culture: unfortunate random things happen to people and said people are blamed for being morally bankrupt and deserving the unfortunate random thing.

Which is, in reality, total bullshit.

In Lincoln's day, a clinically depressed person was supported by his community and had a chance to heal. Today, a clinically depressed person is thrown (likely non-effective) drugs and told to walk it off. Depression doesn't work that way. Sames as other random things like the yips. Or some cancers.

And if I couldn’t bury the monster, I would drown it. “Hey,” I said to Darryl Kile, “think you could get me a bottle of vodka?”

It was humiliating. He returned with a full bottle. Something cheap. No judgment. I shrugged. “Do what you gotta do, kid,” he said. “I understand.”
Location 1771

“Do what you have to do, Ank,” Harvey said, just like Darryl had said, maybe amused at the tactic and definitely concerned for the consequences. “Just know it’s not real.”
Location 1794

“Real,” I told Harvey, “and the rest of it is getting a little blurry right now. I have to pitch. This is how I can.”

“Ank,” he said, “it’s still there. You’re not winning. You’re stalling.”
Location 1798

I made three starts. They went like this: 4 1/ 3 innings, 3 hits, 17 walks, 12 wild pitches, a 20.77 ERA. That’s a lot to happen over 13 outs.
Location 1842



In rookie ball, yes. Against a bunch of kids whose best stories were about high school.
Location 1878

I have a couple friends like this.

But I also didn’t have to pretend I was fine when I wasn’t. I could walk around between starts and not feel the weight of the last start and the next start.
Location 1888

“Real” tasted better chased by Bud Lights. It slept better with Xanax. It looked better after one last round and a boozy promise that tomorrow would be happier.
Location 1922

Darryl had been good to me for no reason but to be good to me, and I wanted more than anything in that moment to be his teammate again.
Location 1968

I quit drinking, a special point for Harvey, who for years had seen me hose down bad days with alcohol — and sometimes pills — and celebrate good days with the same.
Location 1991

Harvey’s point, that I must feel the pain in order to treat the pain, was that I’d require clarity to cope with whatever came next. To beat whatever came next. Or, perhaps, to live with whatever came next.
Location 2004

Every ballpark could be a test of past failures and buried memories, some new way to summon the anxiety that was only too eager to return.
Location 2029

But I’d become pretty skilled at keeping the bad thoughts out, holding off what before had felt — and surely was — the inevitable wave of panic.
Location 2041

By then, I was less afraid. Not unafraid,
Location 2056

Big difference.

I liked dawn for the way I remembered it smelling, that being before the accident and the concussion, which jostled just enough in my head to kill my sense of smell. I was thirteen then, being towed on a skateboard behind a go-cart, an event that concluded predictably with a crash, a trip to the emergency room, and my being down one sense.
Location 2119

Dislike mornings. Understand the lack of the sense of smell.

I liked dawn because of its coolness, how it foretold — demanded, even — a fresh start, a ball’s-stuck-in-the-tree do-over.
Location 2122


“Today’s the day,” I said. “I’m going to do it.”

“OK, Ank. You go do it. We’ll talk later. You good?”
Location 2132

Ballplayers didn’t walk away. They were shoved, forcibly removed from the premises at the end of a cattle prod, railing against the injustices of age and declining skills and the idiots who decided who was too old and unskilled.
Location 2150

I. Can’t. Do. It. Anymore. Every word a hammer strike, loud and final. Each report echoing in my head as my old life vanished, my old dreams with it, dying of self-inflicted chaos.
Location 2160

I’d invited him out of obligation. I sat in a dark bus out of obligation. Those years were hard on him too, he said, and I listened out of obligation, for what I didn’t know. Maybe I was still hoping I was wrong about him, the evidence notwithstanding.
Location 2414

Obligation can be an ugly thing.

In this case, Ankiel tells it as this being a gift to his future wife, to try one more time. He tried, it didn't work out. Kudos to him for trying.

I don’t miss him. I miss the notion of a father, though.
Location 2417

[W]hen I rose to the top step to say thank you to those who were kind enough to remember me, I felt no pain. What I felt was strength. Power. Energy. The game was good again. And I was good at it again. My heart was smiling. And I wanted everyone to see.
Location 2488

"Yes, a very tough set of circumstances growing up, but not making excuses, not being a bum on the street, and here he is a father of two, so I love him. I just will never quit hoping that he had a good quality of life.’”
Location 2496

What happens to all of us. How a grown man who has performed a single act his entire life, an act that is so simple or has become so simple, finds that it becomes not simple and, beyond that, in a lot of ways, incapacitating.
Location 2661

[Harvey]’d tell me it wasn’t my fault. I was not responsible for who — more precisely, what — my father was, or what he’d done to my mother and me, or what I should have done about it.
Location 2687

What happened happened. Now what?
Location 2690

I’ve told my friends, “You ever find me hanging from the garage rafters, I was murdered.”
Location 2700

Harvey showed me how, sometimes simply by asking, “OK, what the fuck you gonna do about it?” Emphasis on the profanity, hard like that, as if to say, It’s a big-boy world out there, Ank, and bad stuff happens, and then you decide: I’m in or I’m out.
Location 2702

It’s what they called the guy who knew too well the doubts swimming in Domenick’s heart and head. Where they’d send him. How they’d probably never leave. But you fight. You find a way through it or around it. You ask for help. They send me in. And we go to breakfast.
Location 2754

We start there. So very few people actually got it. Fewer still knew how to help. And there was only one Harvey. We didn’t slay the monster together, but we stood shoulder to shoulder and tried. Then we bandaged up and got on our feet and tried again. Some days, we had our pick of monsters.
Location 2827

How many I’d told there was no trick to beating this thing, and hell, there might be no beating it at all, but there was no shame in trying. Trying was the only way to find out. Trying required courage. Trying meant allowing for failure. Trying was hard and lonely. So yeah, I recommended trying. I thought about Harvey. What would Harvey say? “Go on, Ank, what the fuck”? Or, maybe, “What’s the point, Ank? What do you have left to prove? Don’t do it for the money. Don’t do it for any reason except that you want to.”
Location 2914

The Hanging Tree

Book Notes

This is book 6 of the Peter Grant series.

I really enjoyed this book. I'm unsure why I enjoyed this one more than the others, and I enjoyed the others. Maybe the plot was more action, less internal thinking? Unsure.

This one has Peter tracking down the drugs involved in the death of a teen in an expensive, and empty, unit of One Hyde Park. A child of a river is involved, which said river would prefer not disclosed (doesn't happen). We also learn of another pocket of leftover magic pracitioners, passed down from mother to daughter for generations.

And there's search of the Third Principia, Newton's tome on magic. Oh, and the introduction of Guleed, a female Muslim cop who does just fine.

I will probably read the book again in a few years, and realize why I like this one more than the others. In the meantime, this is a "if you're reading the series, keep reading, this is a fun one."

I recommend the series in general. Start with Midnight Riot.

I waited about a minute, just so I could claim I’d waited five, and then headed back up the garden.
Page 4

Olivia glanced at the picture, then sideways at her mother, and I saw her make the wrong decision. But, before I could say anything, she opened her mouth and stuck her future in it.
Page 18

Guleed always knew how to keep her mouth shut, and had this mad way of just fading into the background whenever she wanted to. Well, we all have our ways of dealing with difficulties — mine is to ask stupid questions.
Page 30

Because, for police officers, “close relative” frequently rhymes with “prime suspect,”
Page 34

He spoke with that deliberately toned down posh accent that, before they allowed regional dialects on the radio, used to be known as BBC standard.
Page 36

Did not know.

Useful or not, it still had to be written up because a) empirically speaking a negative result is still a result, b) someone cleverer than you might make a connection you missed and c) in the event of a case review it’s sensible to at least look like you’re being competent.
Page 39

Yay, scientific method!

That’s the trouble with community policing — strangely, people start expecting you to be part of the community.
Page 44

Melanie who was one of those round perky people who give the impression that it’s only a great effort of will stopping them from bouncing around the room.
Page 44

Beverley said that she found that people stuck the first vaguely appropriate label on, whether it fit the facts or not.
Page 45

“I know it’s hard, Peter,” she’d said. “But if you could contain your erudition and ready wit for just a little while we’d be most grateful.”

“Am I allowed to be cheeky?” I’d asked.

“No you’re fucking not,” said Seawoll.
Page 53

That, as they say, is fighting talk. But, as Nightingale once told me during boxing practice, the best blow is the one your opponent doesn’t even notice until he keels over.
Page 54

The word “bollocks” is one of the most beautiful and flexible in the English language. It can be used to express emotional states ranging from ecstatic surprise to weary resignation in the face of inevitable disaster.
Page 57

Either the management were paying them way over the odds, or their HR department had been outsourced to Stepford, Connecticut.
Page 62

I love references like these.

I'm pretty sure I've missed over half of them, too.

Generally when you’re interviewing somebody and they seem remarkably calm about one crime, it’s because they’re relieved you haven’t found out about something else.
Page 81

You see, even the clever ones can’t resist being clever and the next move, if you want them to stay being clever, is to play dumb.
Page 81

“Women carried on “practicing”,” said Lady Helena, “just as they carried on composing, painting and all the other professions from which history has erased them. Mother taught daughter, who passed on the skills through the generations — just as women have always had to do."
Page 85

The media always calls this sort of thing senseless, but the motive made sense — it was just stupid, is what it was.
Page 112

This one was a white woman with slate gray eyes which she narrowed at me when I introduced myself.
Page 114

Slate gray eyes... hmmmmmm....

“My father was somebody important right up to the day he was nobody at all,” she said. “Power in the material world is fleeting.”
Page 121

So, back to Mayfair where the constant flow of money keeps the streets clean and free of unsightly poor people.
Page 122

This was off the books — I was not here, this never happened — the spice must flow.
Page 122

Cracking up.

“La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain,” said Nightingale later when we were preparing our case notes.

Which is French for “Them that has, gets.”
Page 151

Which was totally not my fault, I might add, although I probably shouldn’t have used the word Krynoid in my official report.
Page 153


Though, I have to admit the Doctor Who reference was entertaining in and of itself to me, based on my ongoing and lifelong fascination with crinoids.

Every spare centimeter of the wall space had been covered with shelves, all of which were stuffed with books.
Page 165


The previous summer I’d done the exact same thing while being chased by an invisible unicorn — so at least I had form.
Page 217

How not to be seen, lesson number one: Don’t stand up.
Page 220

Because the alternative is you, I wanted to shout back. But the second lesson on how not to be seen is: Don’t answer back.
Page 220

Sometimes courage is easy, and sometimes you have to scream at your own body to act in its own bloody best interest, and sometimes it refuses the call altogether. And the pisser is that you never know which one it’s going to be until you try.
Page 222

Mercifully it must have been quite late on because it wasn’t the featureless box so favored by the American modernists, and the architect had actually made an attempt to fit it in with the rest of street.
Page 228

“But we are not always the sons our fathers dream of — as you should know.” As I did know, and all the things sons do to make their fathers proud until you learn to choose your own life for your own reasons.
Page 251

Hyde Park Corner is what happens when a bunch of urban planners take one look at the grinding circle of gridlock that surrounds the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and think — that’s what we want for our town.
Page 251

It was full night by the time I crossed the street and the Portland stone of the Arch was bleached white by spotlights, the bronze on top lit up in blue.
Page 252

Once more into the breach, I thought.
Page 257

“If it’s all the same to you, sir, I think I’m going to have to see this through,” she said. “Inshallah.” As God wills it.

“Good show,” said Nightingale.

This is it, I thought. We’re all going to die.
Page 258

“When you’re married you get used to each other — you really only see the person you expect to see.”
Page 288

The Late Show

Book Notes

I picked up this book not because I was excited about the new series that Connelly (of Harry Bosch writing fame) was writing, but rather because book two of this series is a Harry Bosch book, and it made sense to read book one before reading book two.

My prediction before reading the book, once I realized the main character, Renee Ballard is a cop, was "Okay, murder, tunnels, and bad cops did it." I was not disappointed, but there was only two of those three.

The book follows a week or so of Ballard's time in the night shift of being a cop in the Hollywood Police Department. A large amount of Los Angeles, ala Bosch, which I enjoyed.

A couple of the timelines just didn't work for me. Some events happened way too fast, people do not heal as fast as they do in this book. Bureaucracy does not move as fast as they do in this book. Recovery from traumatic events does not occur as fast as it does in this book. The compressed timeline pulled me out of the book.

Which is fine. I enjoyed the book. I'm looking forward to the next Bosch book, which is out, but has a 3 month wait at the library. If you're a Bosch fan, this is a good one to read (the Bosch step-brother ones, eh, less so).

Ballard had been in the Dancers and knew the club got its name from a club in the great L.A. novel The Long Goodbye. She also knew it had a whole menu of specialty drinks with L.A. literary titles, like the Black Dahlia, Blonde Lightning, and Indigo Slam.
Location 328

Well, time to look up more books...

The only problem was that outside of his cases his moral compass didn’t always point true north. He made choices based on political and bureaucratic expediency, not right and wrong.
Location 514

Some of the notes revealed more about the personality of the officer than it did about Ramone.
Location 1129

One wrong input in the search parameters could easily result in a “no records found” response, even if there was a closely matching case somewhere in the data.
Location 1137

Sounds like Machine Learning™ needs to come to law enforcement.

... that would require a warrant and a commitment of time and money from the department’s Commercial Crimes Division that outweighed the importance of the case.
Location 1718

“Somebody who totally fucked me over died today,” she said.

“Then why are you sad?” he asked. “I mean, fuck him. If it was a him.”

“I don’t know. I guess because it means what he did can never be changed. His death makes it permanent.”

“I think I get that.”
Location 2048

There were eight [surf]boards arranged in slots according to size: her life’s collection so far. She never traded in boards. There were too many memories attached to them.
Location 3149

I kinda feel this way about my cars, and regret selling every one.

Most people were trying to get out of L.A. Ballard was trying to get in. She steadily goosed her rented Ford Taurus through heavy rush-hour traffic on the 101 freeway toward downtown.
Location 3638


Lethal White

Book Notes

Okay, when J. K. Rowling writes, she uses a lot of words. This has been happening since book four of the Harry Potter series, and it carried over into this series.

Except, in this book, I didn't feel like it had too many words. So either I've become used to too-many-words, or Rowling's editor managed to convince her to trim the excess with this book.

I enjoyed this book. It isn't a short book, taking most people 11 hours to read, it took me a couple hours less, but that's still a lot of words.

The book starts off pretty much where the last one ended, Robin's wedding, and does a number of flashbacks and fast-forwards to tell the story of that day, week, month. The first part had a number of miscommunications and interfering people and George Costanza awkwardness that I almost stopped reading it. I kept going, and enjoyed the book.

There are a couple mysteries in the book, with the bulk following an unhinged Billy as he deals with memories of childhood violence that may or may not have happened, and a separate investigation of the blackmailing of a government official. I will admit to having spent most of the book trying to figure out what would have been legal six years before, and is no longer legal, and why that would be blackmailable. I suspect this was part of the delight of the mystery.

The Cormoran / Ellacott partnership works well professionally, but both of them long for the other in the book, which leads to a stressed professional relationship. I guess this makes for good tension in a mystery book? Maybe?

Anyway, if you're reading the series, keep going. If you haven't started, start at the first one and make it through the second one. These last two have been fun. Not Harry Potter books 1-3 fun, but adult action-mystery fun.

Matthew had sought to deny her the thing that might save her, the thing for which she had cried in the small hours of the night when everybody else was asleep: the restoration of her self-respect, of the job that had meant everything to her, of the friendship she had not known was one of the prizes of her life until it was torn away from her.

Matthew had lied and kept lying. He had smiled and laughed as she dragged herself through the days before the wedding trying to pretend that she was happy that she had lost a life she had loved. Had she fooled him? Did he believe that she was truly glad her life with Strike was over? If he did, she had married a man who did not know her at all, and if he didn’t…
Location 323

“You don’t get to make those decisions for me!” she yelled.
Location 389

“You see,” Robin had continued with the speech she had prepared, “my life is pretty much wall to wall with people who think they know what’s best for me.”

“Well, yes,” said the therapist, in a manner that Robin felt would have been considered condescending beyond the clinic walls, “we’ve discussed — ”

“ — and…” Robin was by nature conciliatory and polite. On the other hand, she had been urged repeatedly by the therapist to speak the unvarnished truth in this dingy little room with the spider plant in its dull green pot and the man-sized tissues on the low pine table. “… and to be honest,” she said, “you feel like just another one of them.”
Location 743

“We can’t throw it all away, can we?” he had asked her hoarsely from the bed where the doctor had insisted he stay. “All these years?”
Location 860

His personality filled the room like the first bar of a hit song. Strike knew him from those few words as the kind of man who, in the army, was either outstandingly useful or an insubordinate bastard.
Location 1069

“No,” lied Strike, because he knew what it felt like to have your personal details strewn across the newspapers. It was kindest, if at all credible, to pretend you hadn’t read it all, politest to let people tell their own story.
Location 1663

“De mortuis nil nisi bonum?” asked Strike.
Location 1786

He had wanted to believe her when she had told him how glorious it was to have her flat to herself and her freedom restored, yet lately he had felt tiny spots of displeasure when he had told her he had to work weekends, like the first heavy drops of rain that presage a storm.
Location 1840

There was, after all, little pleasure to compare with that given by a woman who really wanted you, he thought
Location 1853

From a distance of two years, he saw himself trying to hold tight to some part of his past as everything else slipped away.
Location 1862

Strike had learned many tricks and secrets, become adept ferreting in even the darkest corners of the internet, but often the most innocent social media sites held untold wealth, a minor amount of cross-referencing all that was necessary to compile detailed private histories that their careless owners had never meant to share with the world.
Location 1886

In Strike’s experience, those who disdained the use of representation in court were either unbalanced or so arrogant that it came to the same thing.
Location 1919

Robin had dwelled at length on her need to discern where the real Matthew ended and her illusions about him began. “People change in ten years,” the therapist had responded. “Why does it have to be a question of you being mistaken in Matthew? Perhaps it’s simply that you’ve both changed?”
Location 2561

“D’you believe in redemption?”
Location 2962

And sometimes, she knew, the kindness of a stranger, or even a casual acquaintance, could be transformative, something to cling to while those closest to you dragged you under in their efforts to help.
Location 2969

For the first time ever, Robin had sex with Matthew that night purely because she could not face the row that would ensue if she refused.
Location 3171

Only love could have justified the havoc they had lived together, or the many times he had resumed the relationship, even while he knew in his soul that it couldn’t work. Love, to Strike, was pain and grief sought, accepted, endured.
Location 3217

Lorelei’s willingness to accept the casualness of their current arrangement did not stem from a shared sense of disengagement, but from a desperation to keep him on almost any terms.
Location 4561

“People always say that,” he grunted. “It is the money, and it isn’t. Because what is money? Freedom, security, pleasure, a fresh chance…"
Location 5643

“You wanted things I couldn’t give you. Every single fucking time, you hated the poverty.”

“I acted like a spoiled bitch,” she said, “I know I did, then I married Jago and I got all those things I thought I deserved and I want to fucking die.”

“It goes beyond holidays and jewelry, Charlotte. You wanted to break me.” Her expression became rigid, as it so often had before the worst outbursts, the truly horrifying scenes. “You wanted to stop me wanting anything that wasn’t you. That’d be the proof I loved you, if I gave up the army, the agency, Dave Polworth, every-bloody-thing that made me who I am.”
Location 6657

"I gave you the best I had to give, and it was never enough,” he said. “There comes a point where you stop trying to save the person who’s determined to drag you down with them.”
Location 6670

"He came from a background that finds anything that deviates from its own conventions and norms to be suspect, unnatural, even dangerous. He was a rich white Conservative male, Mr. Strike, and he felt the corridors of power were best populated exclusively by rich white Conservative males. He sought, in everything, to restore a status quo he remembered in his youth."
Location 7238

“Yet she stayed with him. Of course, people do stay, even when they’re treated abominably."
Location 7260

"... it will go the way it always goes in the press when it all comes out: it will have been my fault, all of it! Because men’s crimes are always ours in the final analysis, aren’t they, Mr. Strike? Ultimate responsibility always lies with the woman, who should have stopped it, who should have acted, who must have known. Your failings are really our failings, aren’t they? Because the proper role of the woman is carer, and there’s nothing lower in this whole world than a bad mother.”
Location 7369

Life had taught him that a great and powerful love could be felt for the most apparently unworthy people, a circumstance that ought, after all, to give everybody consolation.
Location 7394

“You liked it, you liked me being stuck at home, why can’t you admit it?"
Location 7516

I think marriage is nearly always an unfathomable entity, even to the people inside it, Della Winn had said.
Location 7578

“You can bloody hate someone and still wish they gave a shit about you and hate yourself for wishing it.”
Location 7920

Robin took the tissue and, with one hearty blow of her nose, demolished it.
Location 8383

Brief Cases

Book Notes

This is a collection of Harry Dresden short stories, collected into one volume. Usually the stories are part of a science-fiction-fantasy anthology written by many authors, of which a Dresden will be one of many in the book. I used to buy these anthologies for the Dresden story, until I realize if I wait long enough, a compendium of Dresden shorts will be assembled and published, and THAT was what I really wanted.

Though now that I'm using the library more, I could probably borrow the anthologies...


I had read many of these short stories before, mostly in the Big Foot collection. There were, however, a few I hadn't read. I enjoyed the Molly tales, especially the one where she earned her svartalf apartment. Molly's thinking voice, however, while a bit too male, and a lot too Dresden, is still quite enjoyable to read.

The book is a must for any Dresden fan, and would make little sense to anyone else.

And pretty sure I missed a bunch of my highlighted quotes, what, reading on a broken kindle and such.

Cold Case

Carlos squinted his eyes and studied the bartender, as if weighing the value of heeding her words versus the personal pleasure he would take in being contrary. Harry Dresden has had a horrible influence on far too many people, and has much to answer for.
Page 288

“Knights of the Cross never have any missions they question?” Carlos asked.

“I think they get a different kind of question,” I said. “For Dad, it was always about saving everyone. Not just the victims. He had to try for the monsters, too.”

“Weird,” Carlos said.

“Not so weird,” I said. “Maybe if someone had offered a hand to the monsters, they wouldn’t have become monsters in the first place. You know?”
Page 305

“Once we get these kids clear, I want to kiss you again.” My tummy did a little happy cartwheel, and my heart sped up to keep it company.
Page 307


“I haven’t kept track,” I said. “Somewhere between zero and none. Should I have?”
Page 308

“The more people who know about them and fear them, the more awake and more powerful they become,” he said. “That’s why the people who know about them don’t talk about them much.”
Page 309

Jury Duty

But, again, when casting a wizard as the central character, from a storytelling standpoint all of that power is a liability, not an asset. Protagonists have to be challenged, struggle, and grow, not just mow down everything that gets in their way with their Tenser’s Mystic Inflammable Bulldozer spell.
Page 325

And yet, this is exactly what Butcher did to Dresden.

I didn’t think I’d had much out on the island, but it’s amazing how many boxes it takes to hold not much.
Page 327

“The government isn’t the mob, Harry.”

“Aren’t they?” I asked. “Pay them money every year to protect you, and God help you if you don’t.”
Page 328

I glanced at the clock as I filed out with the rest of the jury. Nine tomorrow morning. That gave me just under sixteen hours to do what wizards do best. I left, and began meddling.
Page 337

Day One

“You want to help guys like this,” Patterson said. “But he doesn’t want to help himself. You know? You can’t save someone who don’t want to be saved.”

“Doesn’t mean we can’t try,” I said. “Where is he?”
Page 366

“Ehyeh ašer ehyeh,”
Page 379

“It’s just...” I said. “Killing is such a waste. What I did was necessary. But I’m not sure it was good.”

“Killing rarely is,” he said, “at least in my experience. Could you have done any differently?”

“Maybe?” I said. “I don’t know. With what I knew at the time... I don’t know.”
Page 380

Zoo Day

I really enjoyed this story, told three times in three parts from Dresden's, Maggie's, and Mouse's perspectives.

My instincts frequently roll their eyes at the decisions my brain makes.
Page 388

That was what haunts did. They followed you, sometimes for days and days, and they stared and their empty eyes made you relive the bad things from your life. If they did it long enough, you’d just wind up in a ball on the ground — and when you got up, you’d have big black eyes and the haunt would be telling you what to do from then on. I thought about telling
Page 401

He didn’t talk to me in a kid voice, like some grown-ups did. They sound different when they talk to children. My dad sounded like he did when he talked to anyone else.
Page 406

Learned this one the hard way when I talked to Kim Wasson's girl, Ceili. Don't. Talk. Down. Talk with.

But feeling true isn’t the same as being true. In fact, feelings don’t have very much to do with the truth at all.
Page 413

Nothing is truly safe in this world — and that being the case, why worry about threats that have not yet appeared?
Page 420

That might be the saddest part of human heart-stupidity: how much happiness you simply leave aside so that you have enough time to worry.
Page 420

"Depart this city. Do not come back.”

“Or else?” he asked.

“There is nothing else,” I replied calmly. “You will do these things. The only question is whether you will do them of your own will or if I must teach you how.”
Page 429

A Killer Harvest

Book Notes

Okay, while Mom and I were walking in Copenhagen (I love that I can say that), I mentioned how delighted I was with the previous Paul Cleave book I had read. She immediately and enthusiastically agreed with my delight, then tried to remember which of his other books she really liked.

Out came Libby and we scrolled through the list at the library, and this was on the list and this was the one she really liked. boom! onto my hold list it went.

I enjoyed the book. There was a small twist at the end, and a couple deux ex machina moments that were somewhat eyerolling, but I enjoyed the book. The timeline of things was completely unrealistic, no kid is going back to school after going from completely blind to revolutionary eye surgery to home in three weeks.

That a kid can go from no sight to depth recognition in moments was also a bit farfetched, too. And not having any infection after the craziness of the surgery bumbling? No.

But, hey, it's fiction. Found out it is Young Adult fiction, which made it fun. I wish I had known it was YA, as I would have approached it differently.

I enjoyed the book. Trust No One is better, but this was still a fun read. If you're a Cleave fan, definitely read it.

That’s the trick to this — keep moving forward fast enough to stop the bad news from catching up.
Page 20

His dad once said that bad news for everybody else is big news for the media. He would often say, It’s human tragedy that keeps them employed.
Page 22

"... your father fell from a great height. He would have died instantly. He wouldn’t have felt a thing.”

“Except he would have,” Joshua says. “He would have felt fear all the way down, and the higher he fell from, the longer he got to feel it.”
Page 23

"You have to plan for how the world is now, not for how it might be. And of course you can hope. We can all hope.”
Page 31

He is lonely. He is bored. He is sad.
Page 54

Dangerous combination.

“Because people who don’t like themselves are drawn to the idea of belittling others online.”
Page 59

Neither of them excelled in school, neither of them went to university, both of them were concerned with current events but never willing to help make change. They didn’t vote, because they didn’t see a point, neither had had a relationship that lasted longer than a few months, and even then those relationships were few and far between.
Page 68

This describes most other people, does it not?

Did everybody else in Simon’s life think so little of him that they actually believe he did those bad things? Of course, he did do them, but why aren’t people doubting that? They can’t know, not for sure, yet they’re quick to believe the worst.
Page 75

The lift arrives. The door opens. She steps in and the guy steps in. He smiles at her and presses the button, then stands in one corner while she stands in the other. She wonders when everybody jumped on the unwritten rule that you couldn’t make conversation in a lift. People can chat in all sorts of situations, they’ll say hi as they pass by on the street, they’ll make chitchat buying groceries, or at a bar, or a sports game, or in a queue — but making small talk with a stranger in a lift is committing a cardinal sin...
Page 92

I was laughing at this one.

I'm the person who stands the wrong way in an elevator so that I can see everyone, and then starts talking.

Hope strung out is still hope, but it feels like hell.
Page 236

The exercise isn’t completely pointless — those who took and uploaded the pictures will all be charged, and hopefully it will send out a message to others willing to do the same stupid thing. Only she doesn’t think it will. The kind of person who takes a photograph of a dead teenage boy and puts it online isn’t the kind of person who understands how society should work.
Page 248

Peterson is one of those guys who use their hands a lot when they talk.
Page 248

Full-body talking. My specialty.

“Dad used to say the world was full of good people willing to do nothing.”

“Your dad is dead,
Page 259

He tells her how normal it was, and in a way that made it more frightening — how can you find monsters when they can live like anybody?
Page 297

Only Human

Book Notes

I really wanted to like this book. I really enjoyed the first one, which made the second one worth reading. If this series were longer than three books, I would call this one the first of two bad books which would cause me to stop reading the series. The book isn't bad bad, but it is merely okay, which would be the first of two consecutive strikes needed for me to stop reading a series.

The book starts nine after the last one ended, with a dead robot left on Earth now working, Americans terrorizing everyone under the guise of "freedom," and our four intrepid heros returning from Esat Ekt. The storyline also folds back to immediately after our four Earth heros landed on Esat Ekt and are not allowed to leave, so we learn their history and why they left when when weren't really allowed to leave.

It's easy to see where Neuval was going with this particular book: he talks about us versus them and repressed populations and people being held against their will, stopped from leaving by a bureaucratic government and power-seeking people. The parallels to modern western culture and its direction are almost punched into the reader's face.

With Kara gone, however, the sass of the conversations are gone, too. Which makes the book less interesting. There isn't discovery and adventure, there's the tedium of life and the mundane. Both of which, sure, exist and are important, but not when I'm reading a young adult science fiction books about aliens and giant robots and the like.

And really, if it is so easy to recreate a person, memories, soul and all, why wasn't Kara xeroxed in this way and updated regularly?

Don't know!

If you're reading the series, read the book, finish the series. If you're not reading the series yet, read the first book at stop.

— One more for the good guys. Spreading freedom, one city at a time.
— I’m fairly certain they had freedom before.
— Well, now they have more.
Page 6

I don’t care what happens to my “soul.” I don’t care if there’s still a me, but I really want for there to be a you. The world makes more sense if there’s a you.
Page 44

Believe me, my standards as a single parent are about as low as they can be. She didn’t come with a manual, but if there is one, I’m pretty sure there’s a bit in it about not stranding your child on another planet, dying in front of her, letting her deal with your body.
Page 44

What was that thing Wittgenstein said? Something about a man imprisoned in an unlocked room because it doesn’t occur to him to pull instead of pushing on the door.
Page 44

Yep, looked up Wittgenstein.

— We can learn so much from these people, use the time we have to understand how their society works.
— What’s the point if we can’t tell anyone?
— Do you really mean that, Vincent? That doesn’t sound like you at all.
Page 74

I wish they’d make the best of whatever time we have here. We all see the same things, but I wish they could see them as I do. I feel like I’m enjoying a movie no one else in the room is paying attention to.
Page 77

You don’t wanna think about bad shit, so you pretend it doesn’t exist? Reality doesn’t give a crap whether you pay attention to it or not. It’s still there.
Page 137

— Goddammit! Listen to what I’m saying! I don’t wanna be saved! I don’t want you to do anything because I don’t want their stupid cure.
— I’m not gonna let you die.
— I don’t need your permission, son. I’m a general. I’m tired of this place. I’m tired, period. I’m seventy-one years old. I’m allowed.
— …
— What? You think I’m sorry to go? You think I have a bucket list I want to get through after all this?
— You don’t want to go home?
Page 144

My hatred of "gonna" and "wanna" burns with the heat of a thousand suns.

There are ZERO WAYS a General of the Armed Forces of The F'ing Planet Earth is going to say, "gonna" and "wanna" instead of "going to" and "want to."

This was as bad as a Puero Rican girl raised by a South American general, a French Canadian scientist, and an American woman sounding like she is a Jewish girl from the Bronx, as the audio book does.

Couldn't listen to that shit.

— I’m sorry, sir.
— Sorry for what? Are you apologizing to me because you can’t cure cancer? Or because you can’t make the world the way I want it to be? Either way, never be sorry about things you have no control over. You’ll just give yourself ulcers.
Page 145

How (classically) Stoic.

These people can’t even do racist right. I hate this world. People are small. They’re ignorant, and they’re happy to stay that way. They make an effort to. They’ll spend time and energy finding ways not to learn things just to feel comfortable with their beliefs.
Page 152

Oh, is she back in the US?

Anyone who can beat up a cook can get out! But they’re not. They’re all staying here. Basically, they don’t need the fence or the guards. They can just tell people to stay, and they stay. Stay! There, good boy!
Page 167

I asked him why people complained about politics all the time but did absolutely nothing about it. I couldn’t understand why people keep voting for the very people they loathe. They’ll protest a war, but the everyday stuff, small injustices, they just let them slide. Friends making a fortune off government contracts, paying a hundred dollars for a pencil, that type of thing, people complain about it, everyone does, but they won’t do a thing. I remember how floored I was when he told me that was a good thing, how we need a certain level of cynicism for society to function properly. If people thought they had real power to change things, if they truly believed in democracy, everyone would take to the streets, advocate, militate for everything. It happens from time to time.
Page 167

If you see something wrong with the world, fix it. Fight. Resist. Don’t use cardboard.
Page 168

Part Three: Road to Damascus

— What is it they say? No news is good news?
— Well, they do say that, but it’s bullshit. No news is just the absence of news.
Page 207

— I wouldn’t know why I was doing it. I don’t see the point.
— Knowledge is the point. Why else do we do anything?
Page 212

"On the planet? You can’t defeat terrorism on a whole planet, it’s not an army you can crush. That’s why it’s called terrorism. There’d always be one person left somewhere to blow up more things."
Page 229

— I had a feeling you’d go back to old habits right away.
— Am I that predictable?
— Well, yes. Everyone is. I’d do the same thing. Old shoes, old shirt, a familiar meal. For a moment, the world makes sense again.
Page 232

"You’re being too hard on people, just like you can be too hard on yourself. People got scared. Rightly so! What happened here nine years ago wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just happened. People have the right to be emotional, and irrational, from time to time."
Page 233

Just not at the level of Cheetoh, btw.

"We’ve lost our collective mind! Scientists are ignoring their own findings. People are denying even the most basic scientific facts because it makes them feel better about hurting each other. Do you realize how horrifying that is? We’re talking about human beings making a conscious effort, going out of their way, to be ignorant. Willfully stupid. They’re proud of it. They take pride in idiocy. There’s not even an attempt to rationalize things anymore."
Page 233

Oh, hey, the commentary isn't opaque AT ALL here.

You can’t expect babies to do the things adults do. You can’t expect anyone to do things they can’t do. If you ask me to lift five hundred pounds, I can’t. It doesn’t matter how much I want to, how much conviction I put into it. It’s just not something I can do.
Page 235

— You’re right.
— I know I’m right! I wouldn’t say things if I thought they were wrong!
Page 236

Our late friend once told me: “redefine alterity and you can erase boundaries.”
Page 237

If you’re using bombs instead of words, that means you’re banking on people giving you what you want out of fear instead of reason. That’s never a good sign.
Page 265

— Alex, are you ready for this?
— No. — Good. Overconfidence is bad.
— Then I’m doing great.
— That makes two of us.
Page 268


Book Notes

This is another Caltech Bookclub read, I started reading it way behind the rest of the readers, so spent much of today reading to catch up. Aaaaaaaaaand, finished it in a day. I do like reading while treadmill walking.

Butler grew up in Pasadena, which is the connection to Caltech for the book club. Previous books were about Caltech scientists or Caltech research or by Techers. This one has a lot of Pasadena in it. It was neat to know where she was describing, even if the Pasadena and Altadena even I knew are as gone as hers.

Butler is known as a science-fiction author. While this book has unexplained time travel as a plot mechanism, no time is spent exploring the phenomenon, making this book not really science fiction in my categorization. It is, however, a seriously good commentary on human nature.

The main character, Dana, is transported back to early 1800s American South. As Dana is black, we read about the atrocities of slavery, as told from a modern person transported back to the brutality of the era. We see how we normalize horrible behaviours, often to survive. We see how we assume power, even when we are one of the powerless. We see how we don't see our own privilege, how seeing another's view is difficult, it not impossible.

I think what's lingering with me most, however, is the slow descent into acceptance that Butler weaves into the story. It reminds me a great deal what Mistakes We Made (but not by me) discusses about human nature: we are all frogs in the pot about to boil.

I appreciated the technological contrast between today and forty years ago in the difficulties that the characters experienced. The story told from 2018 would have been much different in the details. I suspect Dana of 2018 would not have lasted as long as Dana of 1976 did.

I've read other books by Butler, on the strong recommendation from Claire and Susan. So far, all of them have been worth reading. I strongly recommend this book, and reading it for the commentary on human nature.

There were free blacks. You could pose as one of them.”

“Free blacks had papers to prove they were free.”

“You could have papers too. We could forge something …”

“If we knew what to forge. I mean, a certificate of freedom is what we need, but I don’t know what they looked like. I’ve read about them, but I’ve never seen one.”
Page 46

Here's an example of where 2018 Dana could Internet Search™ for an image of freedom papers, and be able to create copies.

Yet, how much would they really matter for a single black woman in the South? Tear them up and she's in the same place as she was without them.

“I’m even crazier than you,” he said. “After all I’m older than you. Old enough to recognize failure and stop dreaming, so I’m told.”
Page 56

After all, how accepting would I be if I met a man who claimed to be from eighteen nineteen—or two thousand nineteen, for that matter.
Page 63

The timing of this cracked me up. 2019! A month away!

“None of them say eighteen-anything either,” said Kevin. “But here.” He picked out a bicentennial quarter and handed it to Rufus.

“Seventeen seventy-six, nineteen seventy-six,” the boy read. “Two dates.”
Page 64

I so love those quarters.

If you have one, send it to me!

I was the worst possible guardian for him—a black to watch over him in a society that considered blacks subhuman, a woman to watch over him in a society that considered women perennial children.
Page 69


"Even here, not all children let themselves be molded into what their parents want them to be."
Page 86

“Wait a minute,” he said. “I’m not minimizing the wrong that’s being done here. I just …”

“Yes you are. You don’t mean to be, but you are.”
Page 107

White people. Privilege (such an overused, abused term these days). Explaining away the horrible actions of others as, "not that bad."

“The ease seemed so frightening,” I said. “Now I see why.”


“The ease. Us, the children … I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.”
Page 108

One small step at a time.

Down the slippery slope.

Or if I had to stay here, why couldn’t I just turn these two kids away, turn off my conscience, and be a coward, safe and comfortable?
Page 113

When that time came, I could walk away from the agency not owing anybody.

My memory of my aunt and uncle told me that even people who loved me could demand more of me than I could give—and expect their demands to be met simply because I owed them.
Page 117

The pain was a friend. Pain had never been a friend to me before, but now it kept me still.
Page 122

The fire flared up and swallowed the dry paper, and I found my thoughts shifting to Nazi book burnings. Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of “wrong” ideas.
Page 154

“What’s it going to get them?”

“It’ll get them the cowhide if they don’t,” she snapped. “I ain’t goin’ to take the blame for what they don’t do. Are you?”

“Well, no, but …”

“I work. You work. Don’t need somebody behind us all the time to make us work.”
Page 158

The discussion was about why the slaves continue to work, and why some are more motivated that others to work.

“Don’t want to hear no more,” she repeated softly. “Things ain’t bad here. I can get along.” She had done the safe thing—had accepted a life of slavery because she was afraid.
Page 159

Ignorant as I knew I was, I trusted myself more than I trusted her.
Page 161

Don't we all.

Gotten possession of the woman without having to bother with her husband. Now, somehow, Alice would have to accept not only the loss of her husband, but her own enslavement. Rufus had caused her trouble, and now he had been rewarded for it. It made no sense. No matter how kindly he treated her now that he had destroyed her, it made no sense.
Page 163

“My man used to. He’d tell me I was the only one he cared about. Then, next thing I knew, he’d say I was looking at some other man, and he’d go to hittin’.”
Page 165


I went, annoyed, but silent. I thought he could have given me a decent estimate if he had wanted to. But it didn’t really matter. Kevin would receive the letter and he could come to get me. I couldn’t really doubt that Rufus had sent it. He didn’t want to lose my good will anymore than I wanted to lose his. And this was such a small thing.
Page 167

Wow, doesn't this feel like the Princess Bride?

“Mama said she’d rather be dead than be a slave,” she said.

“Better to stay alive,” I said. “At least while there’s a chance to get free.”
Page 172

I went out to the laundry yard to help Tess. I had come to almost welcome the hard work. It kept me from thinking.
Page 178

Better than drinking, maybe.

"All I want you to do is fix it so I don’t have to beat her. You’re no friend of hers if you won’t do that much!"

Of hers!
Page 180

This is totally the thinking of abusers blaming the victims, "You made me do it, you made me beat the holy hell out of you." Um... no.

When she hurt, she struck out to hurt others. But she had been hurting less as the days passed, and striking out less.
Page 181

She went to him. She adjusted, became a quieter more subdued person. She didn’t kill, but she seemed to die a little.
Page 185

Would I really try again? Could I? I moved, twisted myself somehow, from my stomach onto my side. I tried to get away from my thoughts, but they still came. See how easily slaves are made? they said.
Page 196

But he wanted me around—someone to talk to, someone who would listen to him and care what he said, care about him. And I did. However little sense it made, I cared. I must have. I kept forgiving him for things.
Page 198

I wondered whether he had been able to write during the five years, or rather, whether he had been able to publish. I was sure he had been writing. I couldn’t imagine either of us going for five years without writing. Maybe he’d kept a journal or something.
Page 217

In other words, he was sorry. He was always sorry. He would have been amazed, uncomprehending if I refused to forgive him. I remembered suddenly the way he used to talk to his mother. If he couldn’t get what he wanted from her gently, he stopped being gentle. Why not? She always forgave him.
Page 242

She decided to teach me to sew. I had an old Singer at home and I could sew well enough with it to take care of my needs and Kevin’s. But I thought sewing by hand, especially sewing for “pleasure” was slow torture.
Page 243

Before the era of disposable clothing.

He just didn’t like working alone. Actually, he didn’t like working at all. But if he had to do it, he wanted company.
Page 253

Sounds like a number of people I know.

“He’ll never let any of us go,” she said. “The more you give him, the more he wants.”
Page 262

Sometimes I wrote things because I couldn’t say them, couldn’t sort out my feelings about them, couldn’t keep them bottled up inside me. It was a kind of writing I always destroyed afterward. It was for no one else.
Page 282

He lay with his head on my shoulder, his left arm around me, his right hand still holding my hand, and slowly, I realized how easy it would be for me to continue to be still and forgive him even this.

So easy, in spite of all my talk.
Page 290

From the reader's guide at the end of the book:

5. “I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” Dana says this to Kevin when they have returned to the present and are discussing their experiences in the antebellum South. Do we also in the twenty-first century still have conditioned responses to slavery?
Page 296

The Big Sleep

Book Notes

I added this book to my reading list some time after reading a ranking of Chandler's Marlowe books in order of "good," and this one wasn't first, but it is the first book of the series.

After checking this book out from the library, I found a nicely bound hardcover in a bookstore. Instead of reading the library version, I've been reading the paper version. Turns out, I've seen the movie, and recall much of it. The first 25% of the book matches the film well. We'll see if it stays that way, I'll be watching the movie again shortly.

I really enjoyed this book. Helps that I've lived in Los Angeles. While my residency was not in the late thirties, the world that Chandler describes is vivid enough, and based on real enough places, that I could visualize the story very well.

Unsurprisingly, most of the supporting characters are one-dimensional, Silver-Wig loves her man, until she realizes he's a killer, for example. Mars is a tough guy, willing to do most things for a dollar, and smart enough to have someone else do those things.

Marlowe, however, has more character. He's the hero of the story, we follow him around, we see more of his motivations, so unsurprisingly we understand him better. Seems reasonable that someone who wants to solve puzzles and understands a bit about human character would become a private investigator.

Unrelated, there is a lot of "kissing people you just met" in this book, but no actual sex. I didn't realize that people kissed so much in Los Angeles. I clearly did L.A. wrong.

I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed all the one-line and otherwise short zingers, and the snappy dialog. I'll likely continue reading the series.

"If I sound a little sinister as a parent, Mr. Marlowe, it is because my hold on life is too slight to include any Victorian hypocrisy."
Page 13

“I need not add that a man who indulges in parenthood for the first time at the age of fifty-four deserves all he gets.”
Page 13

Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.
Page 42

"Sure you can’t help me on this?"

I liked his putting it that way. It let me say no without actually lying.
Page 62

Not being bullet proof is an idea I had had to get used to.
Page 73

He was afraid of the police, of course, being what he is, and he probably thought it a good idea to have the body hidden until he had removed his effects from the house.
Page 110

"Being what he is," which would be gay. I appreciate the progress we have made as a culture, in many ways. We have further to go.

Cops get very large and emphatic when an outsider tries to hide anything, but they do the same things themselves every other day, to oblige their friends or anybody with a little pull.
Page 114

"You’ll hear from him."

"Too late will be too soon," I said,
Page 116

I read all three of the morning papers over my eggs and bacon the next morning. Their accounts of the affair came as close to the truth as newspaper stories usually come—as close as Mars is to Saturn.
Page 118

“What makes you think I’m doing anything for him?”

I didn’t answer that.
Page 120

Then my eyes adjusted themselves more to the darkness and I saw there was something across the floor in front of me that shouldn’t have been there. I backed, reached the wall switch with my thumb and flicked the light on.

The bed was down.
Page 153

HUH. Marlowe has a Murphy bed, too!

I’m your friend. I won’t let you down—in spite of yourself.
Page 155

I threw my cigarette on the floor and stamped on it.
Page 156

A significantly different world. There are many references to cigar and cigarette ash being allowed to fall into the rug.

It seemed a little too pat. It had the austere simplicity of fiction rather than the tangled woof of fact.
Page 169

There was a tarnished and well-missed spittoon on a gnawed rubber mat.
Page 170

Again, different world.

“It’s very funny,” she said breathlessly. “Very funny, because, you see—I still love him. Women—” She began to laugh again.
Page 196

One dimensional.

What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell.
Page 230

Foxglove Summer

Book Notes

This is book 5 of the Peter Grant series.

I have so been enjoying the Peter Grant series, and strongly recommend them to anyone who enjoys the Dresden Files or the Alex Verus series. A different flavor of the modern-day wizard, urban fantasy story, and one that seems, if one can suspend disbelief, reasonable in terms of "We don't know" and "Let's find out" of magic. That anyone can learn is a premise of the story-line, which I can appreciate.

The book centers around the disappearance of two girls in a small English town (village, hamlet, something...). Initially unsure if there's anything "weird" about their disappearances, that there is a WW2 era practitioner living nearby lends reason to investigate, and Peter does.

The book deals with some of Peter's life frustrations. He's been holding things together, despite some ugh awful things happening. We learn more of Peter's history, more of his family dynamics.

The book was a fast read. There are two more currently published book and one novella in the series. Will definitely keep reading them.

Once Mr. Punch and the M25 were behind me, I tuned the car radio to Five Live, which was doing its best to build a twenty-four-hour news cycle out of about half an hour of news.
Page 8

This cracked me up. Yes about how frustrating news cycles are in order to obtain and keep attention.

Never underestimate the ability of a police driver to misjudge a corner when finally coming home from a twelve-hour shift.
Page 26

Missing kids are tough cases. I mean, murder is bad but at least the worst has already happened to the victim—they’re not going to get any deader. Missing kids come with a literal deadline, made worse by the fact that you don’t get to learn the timing until it’s too late.
Page 27

“Do you think I’m going to get my daughter back?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.


Because you’ve got to have hope and no news is good news. And because the best you can do is sound like you’re being forthright and sincere. If they get their kids back they won’t even remember what you said and if they don’t—then nothing else will be important.
Page 41

Hope will kill you.

“My idea?”

“Something suitably weird.”

“That’s a bit presumptuous, isn’t it?” I said.

“Presumptuous is my middle name,” said Dominic.
Page 49

We trooped off behind her into waist high bracken, down something that was not so much a path as a statistical variation in the density of the undergrowth.
Page 52

He called it potentia because there’s nothing quite like Latin for disguising the fact that you’re making it up as you go along.
Page 55

Polidori’s theories were as good as anyone else’s. But sticking a Latin tag on a theory doesn’t make it true. Not true in a way that matters.
Page 56

Absence of evidence, as any good archeologist will tell you, is not the same as evidence of absence.
Page 56

A lot of men must have left their belongings behind in 1944 believing that they were coming back.
Page 61

We all do this. We assume we have more life.

Not always a good assumption.

All your cases, I thought, do not belong to us.
Page 71

This cracked me up. I love the cultural references in these books, even if I do have to look up most of the English ones.

Right, I thought. If you can’t be clever then at least you can be thorough.
Page 89

And everyone can do the work.

During the whole pointless process not one resident refused to let us in or objected to us looking around, which I found creepy because there’s always one. But Dominic said no. “Not in the countryside,” he said.

“Community spirit?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “That and everyone would know that they hadn’t cooperated, which people would find suspicious. In a village that sort of thing sticks for, like, generations.”
Page 90

I wanted to ask where Beverley was, and how the Teme family just happened to have her phone. But if there’s one thing Nightingale has taught me, it’s to let other people talk themselves out before giving anything away.
Page 97

We were pretty certain we knew roughly where he’d been, but members of the public have an unnerving tendency to switch straight from lying to your face to telling you what they think you want to hear—with no intervening period of veracity at all.

That’s fine when you’re looking for them to put their hand up to some crimes and boost your clear-up statistics. But when the lives of two kids depends on the accuracy of the statement, you tend to be a bit more thorough.
Page 103

He told us the truth, although it took ages to pry all the sordid details out. Which just goes to show that if you want a confession, use a telephone book—but if you want the truth, you’ve got to put in the hours.
Page 104

Nightingale says that conspiracies of silence are the only kind of conspiracies that stand the test of time.
Page 107

I woke in the hour before dawn, stuck in that strange state where the memory of your dreams is still powerful enough to motivate your actions.
Page 130

Wow, yes. Those moments are powerful.

Because it’s always a waste of time, all those rushed, angry stupid things you do. They never solve the problems. Because in real life that rush of adrenaline and rage just makes you dumb and seeing red just leads you up the steps to court for something aggravated—assault, battery, stupidity.
Page 149

“Imposing themselves on the landscape”—they’d always called it that on Time Team.

Especially the beardy Iron and Bronze Age specialists—“ The Romans imposed themselves on the landscape.” Or, I thought, they wanted to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.
Page 160

“You said that there’s weird shit, but it normally turns out to have a rational explanation.”

“It does,” said Beverley. “The explanation is a wizard did it.”

“That’s my line,” I said, and Beverley shrugged.
Page 161

Again, cracking up.

“Sic transit Gloria mundi,” I said, because it was the first thing that came into my head—we clinked and drank. It could have been worse. I could have said “Valar Morghulis” instead.
Page 187

"Thus passes the glory of the world," in Latin, and "All men must die," in High Valyrian.

Dying here!

I didn’t tell her that I was pretty much legally required to have an adult present—it’s easier to manage people if they maintain a sense of agency.
Page 264

I had one of those “somebody do something” moments when you suddenly have the realization that the person supposed to be doing something is you.
Page 282

The night may be dark and full of terrors, I thought, but I’ve got a big stick.
Page 295

When faced with a low-level hostage situation your first task is to calm the hostage taker down long enough to find out what they want. Then you can lie to them convincingly until you negotiate the hostage back, or are in a position to dog pile the perpetrator.
Page 307

You swear an oath when you become a police officer—you promise to serve the Queen in the office of constable with fairness, integrity and impartiality, and that you will cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offenses against people and property. The very next day you start making the first of the many minor and messy compromises required to get the Job done. But sooner or later the Job walks up to you, pins you against the wall, looks you in the eye and asks you how far you’re willing to go to prevent all offenses. Asks just what did your oath, your attestation, really mean to you?
Page 313

But sometimes the right thing to do is the right thing to do, especially when a child is involved.
Page 314

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Book Notes

In the large list of "books I knew about and didn't read in childhood, but are still in print," this book came to my attention, so I plunked it on my library hold list without thinking about it much. It dropped into my reading queue, and I ripped through it.

This is a notable book in the Logans Series, about a black family living in the American South during the 1930s, which is to say, the Great Depression. The family was lucky, in that they owned their own land, but owning and holding onto land if often two very different things, especially when power and prejudice and greed come into play.

The story follows Cassie, who is nine, as she experiences the subtle and overt racism of her times. Taylor does a good job of describing the ugliness of human nature as seen from a young person's perspective. If anything, I'd argue that Taylor left out a lot of the uglier parts, which is likely a good thing, given the target audience.

A number of times in the book, Cassie complains that things aren't fair. And, yes, god yes, I'm agreeing with the character. Even now, things aren't fair, they will never be fair, and that frustrates me, even in fictional books.

The book doesn't lose its impact over its 42 years of print. Worth reading.

“Well, I just think you’re spoiling those children, Mary. They’ve got to learn how things are sometime.”

“Maybe so,” said Mama, “but that doesn’t mean they have to accept them… and maybe we don’t either.”
Page 30

We preferred to do without them; unfortunately, Mama cared very little about what we preferred.
Page 43

“But, Big Ma, it ain’t fair!” wailed Little Man. “It just ain’t fair.”
Page 44

“If I was to be walking out there when the bus comes, that ole bus driver would be sure to speed up so’s he could splash me,” I suggested.
Page 53


“See, fellows, there’s a system to getting out of work,” T.J. was expounding as I sat down. “Jus’ don’t be ’round when it’s got to be done. Only thing is, you can’t let your folks know that’s what you’re doin’. See, you should do like me. Like this mornin’ when Mama wanted to bring back them scissors she borrowed from Miz Logan, I ups and volunteers so she don’t have to make this long trip down here, she bein’ so busy and all. And naturally when I got here, y’all wanted me to stay awhile and talk to y’all, so what could I do? I couldn’t be impolite, could I? And by the time I finally convince y’all I gotta go, all the work’ll be done at home.” T.J. chuckled with satisfaction. “Yeah, you just have to use the old brain, that’s all.”
Page 72

Just Do. The. Work.

This character is like so many people these days: they work harder not to do the work than the effort of doing the work would actually take.

“Baby, you had to grow up a little today. I wish… well, no matter what I wish. It happened and you have to accept the fact that in the world outside this house, things are not always as we would have them to be.”
Page 126

Mama’s hold tightened on mine, but I exclaimed, “Ah, shoot! White ain’t nothin’!” Mama’s grip did not lessen.

“It is something, Cassie. White is something just like black is something. Everybody born on this earth is something and nobody, no matter what color, is better than anybody else.”

“Then how come Mr. Simms don’t know that?”

“Because he’s one of those people who has to believe that white people are better than black people to make himself feel big.”
Page 127

“They also said that slavery was good for us because it taught us to be good Christians—like the white people.” She sighed deeply, her voice fading into a distant whisper. “But they didn’t teach us Christianity to save our souls, but to teach us obedience. They were afraid of slave revolts and they wanted us to learn the Bible’s teachings about slaves being loyal to their masters."
Page 128

"... and people like Mr. Simms hold on to that belief harder than some other folks because they have little else to hold on to. For him to believe that he is better than we are makes him think that he’s important, simply because he’s white."
Page 129

“But there are other things, Cassie, that if I’d let be, they’d eat away at me and destroy me in the end. And it’s the same with you, baby. There are things you can’t back down on, things you gotta take a stand on. But it’s up to you to decide what them things are. You have to demand respect in this world, ain’t nobody just gonna hand it to you. How you carry yourself, what you stand for—that’s how you gain respect. But, little one, ain’t nobody’s respect worth more than your own. You understand that?”


“Now, there ain’t no sense in going around being mad. You clear your head so you can think sensibly."
Page 175

"Maybe even do what they doing now. It’s hard on a man to give up, but sometimes it seems there just ain’t nothing else he can do.”
Page 205

Nearer the fence a stocky man, masked like the others, searched the field in robot fashion for hidden fire under the charred skeletons of broken stalks.
Page 267

Were robots around in 1930, that she'd be able to make this comparison?

The Last Boy

Book Notes

Okay, most people know who Mickey Mantle is. Most people know my opinion on baseball. And most people who know me know I'm not a fan of biographies. If you didn't know, well, it comes down to it doesn't matter how great the person was, said person was still human, and thus any honest biography is going to show us where our hero stumbled and fell, and off the pedestal they fall. Not a fan, I like my illusions, thank you very much.

And so, we have the biography of Mickey Mantle. Why did I read this book? I'm trying to clean my library hold list, and this one was available. I didn't finish it before it was due, but was able to renew, so there's that.

Mantle was a product of his father and of his time. He had the natural talent, the determination of his father for his son to succeed where he did not, the life-long training, and f'ing bad luck. I understand this last one. The first part maybe not so much.

When I mentioned I was going to read Mantle's biography to Kris, he looked at me surprised. "You know, he was a drunk, right?" I shrugged. "He was also a great," I responded. "Yeah, I met him once."

That exchange stuck with me as I read the book. Here we have someone who was great, who could have been better, and life threw him a couple curveballs he couldn't hit, and alcohol became a coping mechanism. Talk about a tale as old as human history.

So, yeah, the man was a great baseball player. He was nice. He was a drunk. He lived, he coped as best he could, he died. The story was interesting, from the perspective of someone who didn't grow up with baseball, didn't really understand it until well into her adulthood, and wanted a reasonable look at the man's life. I appreciated the biography was written by woman.

If you're a fan of Mantle, don't read the book. If you're a fan of baseball, and understand and accept that idols will fall, the book is worth reading.

He always shot from below, the angle of icons, rendering his subjects larger than life. Clouds and foliage were banished from the frame; nothing was allowed to clutter the image.
Location 111

The photo is a touchstone of another era: when boys were allowed to be boys and it was okay to laugh at them for being themselves, when it was okay not to know and to forgive what you did know.
Location 232

People who loved him and loathed him agree he was an uncommonly honest man, a trait he bequeathed to his family.
Location 276

So how do you write about a man you want to love the way you did as a child but whose actions were often unlovable? How do you reclaim a human being from caricature without allowing him to be fully human? How do you find the light within the darkness without examining the dimensions of both?
Location 308

Tommy Henrich, Old Reliable, was assigned the task of turning him into an outfielder, teaching him how to gauge the angle of the ball off the bat; how to position his body to catch the ball on his back foot and get rid of it in one smooth motion; how to react to a drive hit straight at him.
Page 12

Oh boy.

He called his father and said he wanted to come home. “I was down,
Page 26

“Everybody was in the room. Then we went outside, but you could hear. I heard him say, ‘If that’s all the man you are, then get your clothes and let’s go home.’ Mutt did not yell. He spoke with authority. Mick was crying, of course. He was embarrassed because he wasn’t cutting the pie.”
Page 27

Mantle was too eager and too innocent to understand his dangerous indiscretion.
Page 29

He would play the next seventeen years struggling to be as good as he could be, knowing he would never be as good as he might have become.
Page 37

A clinic opened in Picher in 1927, but it was for the benefit of the mine operators, who were anxious to cull the sick from the workforce. Doctors provided advice but no treatment. Annual X-ray examinations were compulsory. Miners were required to carry a wallet-sized health card certifying that they were free of disease. Those whose X-rays came back positive were fired the same day and could never be hired by another mine.
Page 43

Hate this abuse. If you think about it, it wasn't that long ago.

Leaving a holiday party with Mickey, Sr., one year, Larry paused to embrace their mother. “We get outside, and Mick said, ‘I wish I could do that.’

“And I said, ‘What?’

“He said, ‘Kiss Mom on the cheek like that and hug her.’

“I said, ‘Just walk up and do it.’

“I really felt sorry for him that he couldn’t. Because, my goodness, that must be terrible.”
Page 54

“He was scared to death of everything. Granddad said, ‘I never dreamed he would grow up to be what he was because he was such a sissy.’ ”
Page 54

At Christmas, when all the other children got a pair of socks, there was always enough money to buy him a new baseball glove. He would cry, he later told a friend, because he didn’t get any toys.
Page 56

Playtime was over when Mutt got home from work. Every afternoon was punctuated by the rhythmic bang of the ball against the corrugated metal siding of the ramshackle shed.

“Every day at 4 P.M., Mickey had to be home, no matter where he was or what he was doing, to do batting practice,” Max said. “They’d throw a tennis ball. They’d stand him up against that leaning shed. He’d hit it up against the house. If it hit the ground, it was an out; below the window, a double; above the window, a triple; over the house, a home run. Every day.”
Page 57

If Mickey got out, they all got out. It was a huge—if unarticulated—burden to place on one boy’s shoulders.
Page 58

By the next baseball season, he began to look like a ballplayer. Probably it was just the natural order of things, a boy growing into a man, but the change in him was so immediate and so dramatic, it reinforced belief in a connection between the penicillin and the growth spurt that followed.

“When he got that penicillin in him, boy, his body shot out and the muscles in his arms jumped out,” Mosely said.
Page 63

Greenwade asked why he was pitching instead of playing the infield. “Someone’s got to do it,” he replied.
Page 65

Greenwade, who later claimed he didn’t know Mantle was a switch-hitter until that game, played down his talents when he spoke to Mutt. Marginal prospect. Might make it, might not. Kind of small. Not a major league shortstop. Imagine how galling it must have been every time Mantle heard Greenwade later boast, “The first time I saw Mantle, I knew how Paul Krichell felt when he first saw Lou Gehrig.”
Page 66

“What gripes you about those scouts in those days is they sign a guy out of poverty and he’d make the big leagues and then they’d brag about how cheap they got you,” Terry said.
Page 67

Mantle was afraid the Yankees would send him home before his $750 bonus kicked in on June 30. His insecurity was palpable; teammates found him softhearted and unexpectedly tender.
Page 69

Failure also made him petulant. When Mutt asked Lombardi how Mickey was doing, Lombardi replied, “He’ll be great if he quits pouting.”
Page 70

Gaynor gave him a weighted boot and a set of exercises to strengthen the quadriceps muscle and give support to his knee. Mantle ignored his instructions, preferring, he said later, to sit around, watch TV, and feel sorry for himself.
Page 73

As his friend Joe Warren said, “When you don’t raise your children to make their own decisions, then they grow up and they don’t know how to make decisions.”
Page 81

Without Mutt, there was no one with the moral authority to insist, no one to say no to Mickey Mantle. He would never grant anyone that authority again.
Page 81

Without Mutt, he was adrift, save for the organizational imperatives imposed by the baseball season. Free to make his own decisions, he made bad ones.
Page 81

How did Mantle play with a torn ACL? It can be done, Haas says. “Mickey Mantle can be classified as a ‘neuromuscular genius,’ one of a select few who are so well wired that they are able to compensate for severe injuries like this and still perform at the highest levels, overcoming a particular impairment at a given moment. It is a phenomenon comprised of motivation, high pain threshold, strength, reflexes, and luck.”
Page 111

In 1968, the last spring of Mantle’s career, Soares observed: “Mickey has a greater capacity to withstand pain than any man I’ve ever seen. Some doctors have seen X-rays of his legs and won’t believe they are the legs of an athlete still active.”
Page 111

“Later, the people in the medical department told me he never followed the instructions. I thought he did. He told me he was better. He didn’t follow the directions. I don’t think he followed anyone’s directions. He was a great athlete, a very poor patient.”
Page 113

The point of the argument was having it, not solving it. It was sustaining and somehow defining. Who you chose as your guy told you something about yourself—who you wanted to be and how you wanted to be.
Page 130

Branch Rickey, baseball’s most original thinker, planted the seeds of this new math by hiring the first team statistician in 1947—the same year he and Jackie Robinson defied baseball’s color barrier. Seven years later, he and his stat man, Allan Roth, pioneered the formula for on-base percentage. This arithmetic innovation was met with predictable disdain: “Baseball isn’t statistics,” groused Jimmy Cannon. “Baseball is DiMaggio rounding second.”
Page 134

He would hate what the game became.

Jim Bouton seconded that opinion years later: “Statistics are about as interesting as first base coaches.”
Page 134

Unless you're a stats-geek, and then it's heaven.

By 2001, James, paterfamilias of the stat-geek generation, had conceded that clarity had been all but lost in the numerical dust storm of mutating calculations and
Page 134

Ah. Okay. Heh.

To the gimlet eye of a modern stat geek, walks are the key to Mantle’s superior on-base percentage and the reason he fares so well in a pre ponderance of the new offensive metrics. Nor is Mantle’s self-flagellation over his lifetime .298 batting average warranted.

“He was measuring himself with the yardstick he grew up with in the 1930s,” Thorn said. Little wonder that teammates fulminated at all the “what ifs.”

“I hate it when people say how much he wasted,” said Clete Boyer. “Jesus Christ, how much better could he have been?”
Page 135

Reggie Jackson turned away from tracking the flight of one hundred batting-practice hacks to consider the question of Mickey Mantle and white-skin privilege.


It is the one “what if” nobody wants to talk about. If Mickey had been black and Willie had been white, what kind of conversation would there have been? Would there even have been a conversation? How much does race influence the way they are remembered?
Page 136

This confused me at first, because I didn't know about the Mays Mantle comparison. I had no frame of reference for this conversation until I had read through it. I didn't reread it for clarity, though.

I think character flaws bring compassion for all colors.
Page 136

Irvin watched with admiration as Mantle improved himself first as an outfielder and later as a public person. He listened when fantasy campers asked Mantle the question.

“‘Well,’ he’d say, ‘Mays was a better fielder. I had more power and hit the ball farther.’ He came out and told the truth.

“He made people like him. I told Willie, ‘You should be a little more personable. They’d like you the way they like Mickey.’

“But he never did.”
Page 138

Mickey shrugged. “He had to do it. He did it to Willie. He made his mistake when he did it to Willie. In the back of my mind it bugs me a little. It sounds worse than it is. A guy or two said, ‘Jesus Christ, you were my boyhood idol, now you’re banned. You must have done something bad.’ I feel really kind of bad no one took up for me. It’s, like, ‘Well, fine, he’s gone.’ ” Mays took up for him, sort of. “He’s never gonna harm baseball or anybody else,” Mays said. “The only one he ever harmed was himself.”
Page 143

He decided to lighten the mood with a joke. “God calls Saint Peter over, and he says, ‘Saint Peter, I was down on Earth and I made this man and this woman and I forgot to put their sexual organs on them. You take this pecker and this pussy down there and put ’em on them.’ “Saint Peter says, ‘Okay.’ And he’s getting ready to leave, and God says, ‘Be sure to put the pussy on the short, dumb one.’ ”
Page 143

Yeah, did I mention the fall off the pedestal?

Recklessness was always part of his charm, his cheerful, who-gives-a-fuck élan. But with each increasingly precarious turn threatening to upend the cart, with every vicious twist of his lower body as he swung through the ball, his limp became more pronounced and the consequences of his wildness more patent.
Page 146

That fall, in the sixth inning of game 4 of the World Series, Roebuck threw him a sinker that “hung out over the plate.” Not for long. Duke Snider admired the parabolic view in center field.

“I don’t mind you not charging it,” Roebuck told him later. “But you don’t have to stop to see how far it went.” Roebuck understood: length is a guy thing. Size matters.

“Seriously,” he said, laughing. “That’s what made the male regard Mantle that way. Forget God. Mickey Mantle can hit the ball farther than anybody.”
Page 156

Mantle had no idea what he did right or wrong or differently batting right-handed and left-handed. More than likely he would have had little truck with present-day baseball pedagogy.
Page 157

They don’t talk baseball; they discuss the “relationship amongst the sweet spot, COP, and vibration nodes in baseball bats,” the topic of a treatise published in Proceedings of the 5th Conference of Engineering of Sport.
Page 157

Kandel, a physician trained in psychiatry and neurobiology, explained: “There are two kinds of memories. They’re called implicit and explicit. Explicit memory is a memory of people, places, and objects. If you think of the last time you sat in a baseball stadium and remember who you were with, you’re doing explicit memory storage. “Implicit memory storage is hitting a tennis ball, hitting a baseball, doing anything that involves sensory motor skills.”
Page 158

Kandel was in a conversation I recently had with Bob. I'll likely add his latest book to my reading pile, really soon, like, done.

Muscle memory is a form of implicit memory that is recalled through performance, Kandel said, “without conscious effort or even the awareness that we are drawing on memory.”
Page 158

It’s also why the greatest athletes usually make the lousiest coaches.
Page 158

Let me tell you a story about Tyler Grant.

... forcing them to articulate what they do and how they do it, their performance deteriorates. Compelled to surrender what he calls “expertise-induced amnesia”—in short, to make an implicit memory explicit again—“ they start thinking about what they’re doing and mess everything up,” he said.
Page 158

The brain can bulk up, too. Repeated experience can form new synaptic connections, especially if you start building up those implicit memories before puberty. The right genes nurtured the right way—meaning early enough and often enough—creates the potential for a particular kind of genius.
Page 158

A 90-mile-per-hour fastball doesn’t leave much time for thought. Traveling at a rate of 132 feet per second, it makes the sixty-foot, six-inch journey from pitcher to batter in four-tenths of a second. The ball is a quarter of the way to home plate by the time a hitter becomes fully aware of it. Because there is a 100-millisecond delay between the time the image of the ball hits the batter’s retina and when he becomes conscious of it, it is physiologically impossible to track the ball from the pitcher’s hand to the catcher’s glove.
Page 160

Neurologically speaking, every batter is a guess-hitter. That’s where implicit memory comes in. The ability to infer the type of pitch and where it’s headed with accuracy and speed is inextricably linked with stored experience—the hitter has seen that pitch before, even if he can’t see it all the way.
Page 160

“The report was, you had to jam him,” said Osteen, then in the eighth of his eighteen years in the majors. “If you’ve got a guy like Mantle who’s standing miles away from the plate, where there is so much daylight between the inside corner and his hands, it’s frightening. It’s right down the middle of the plate for a guy like that.”
Page 162

“I went in there. It was a fastball, right on the black,” he said. “Right away he went straight into the ball and closed that daylight up.”
Page 162

The margin of error was a sliver of daylight. Which explains why when he was asked how he had pitched to Mantle, the late Frank Sullivan said, “With tears in my eyes.”
Page 162

“Oh, that night,” Carmen Berra said, recalling Billy Martin’s twenty-ninth birthday, the last one before you get old.
Page 163

Baseball writers ate, drank, and traveled with the team. Their tab was often paid by the team. “You couldn’t write one word of it, the debauchery,” said Jack Lang, the longtime executive secretary of the Baseball Writers Association of America. “It wasn’t just liquor. It was the women.”
Page 171

The locker room code of honor was inviolable: What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse—even if it doesn’t take place in the clubhouse.
Page 171

“The Yankee clubhouse was, like, below street level,” Mantle told me. “We had windows, like, where people are walking along. Girls used to come stand there, and we used to shoot water guns up in their puss. We could see ’em kind of flinch. They’d be looking around trying to figure out where the fuck that water is coming from.”
Page 173

Mantle once said that Martin was the only guy he knew who “could hear someone give him the finger.” He negotiated life with a chip on his shoulder, and those in the know gave him a wide berth.
Page 180

Yet Billy Martin’s birthday party was a watershed event, and not just because it gave Weiss the occasion to trade him. It was the day sportswriting began to grow up. The era of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil could not withstand TV’s increasingly intrusive cathode glare or the skepticism of an irreverent cohort of young sportswriters for whom questioning authority was a generational prerogative.
Page 183

Mantle sat out game 5, the ninth World Series game he had missed due to injury, and the Yankees lost 1–0. They won game 6 without him but lost game 7—and the World Series—despite his return to the lineup. His throwing arm would never be the same.
Page 184

“Guided differently, he could have done better for himself as a human being,” Jerry Coleman said. “He would have liked himself more.”
Page 185

And the guy poured him at least two more jiggers in that one, and he threw that one down. He wanted that anesthetic feeling up there in the prefrontal lobe.”
Page 188

She never could get accustomed to the familial reserve. “Mick’s family was cold,” she told me. “They didn’t visit. He didn’t visit.” And when they did pay a call, they didn’t show up emotionally.

“Nobody would talk. It was weird. Nobody would say anything,” Merlyn told me. “And the only way they could really talk was when everybody got bombed. Everybody had to have the beer. They could not relax and visit with each other unless they were having beers.”

“All they said was hello and goodbye,” Danny Mantle said.
Page 188

His people skills—emotional intelligence in modern parlance—made a lasting impression on Mark Freeman during the brief time they played together in 1959. “I think he’s basically one of the most decent guys I’ve ever met,” he told Leonard Schecter of the Post.
Page 239

Beat writers suspected there was another Mantle, one who didn’t begin every conversation with “Fuck you” or “Go fuck yourself” or, when he was pressed for time, just plain “Fuck.”
Page 240


He was a guy’s guy who called everyone “bud” or “pard.” But he cried easily. He wept at mournful country-western tunes, and at the morning headlines. “Somebody got killed or something, he’d get tears in his eyes,” Irv Noren said.
Page 240

In the clubhouse, Mantle shed the residue of bias he had brought with him from Commerce.
Page 242

One in the plus column.

“He’d say, C’mon, there’s a great place across the street.’ One of his favorites was having Coke and milk together. After a while it really didn’t taste too bad. He loved that drink. He’d have it even on airplanes. It’s like a root beer float.”
Page 242

He replied to the incessant inquiries for medical updates by pinning a sign to his chest: “Slight improvement. Back in two weeks. Don’t ask.”
Page 246

It was his first—albeit unacknowledged—hangover home run. “Pinch-hit, eighth or ninth inning, when he was too drunk to play,” Linz said, one of perhaps three or four times he saw Mantle play in that condition.
Page 246

This was the only time the bat actually bent in his hands.
Page 251

This would have been amazing to see.

By the time the morning papers rolled off the presses, the “Man of Mishaps” had been transmogrified into “a tragic figure,” “the champion hard-luck guy,” and “the most fabulous invalid in the long history of sport.”
Page 256

The Yankees were trailing by a run in the bottom of the seventh inning of the second game when Mantle emerged from the dugout to pinch-hit. The ovation began at the bat rack and reached a crescendo when Bob Sheppard announced his name. The roar “shook the windows of the Bronx County Courthouse,” one paper said.

Equally shaken, Mantle dug his spikes into the dirt on the right side of the plate and told himself, “Don’t just stand there and take three pitches—swing.” The Orioles were well aware that it was his first at-bat since the injury in Baltimore.

“Big George Brunet was on the mound,” Brooks Robinson said. “He just reared back and threw on every pitch.” Brunet threw one pitch, which Mantle took for a called strike, and then another. “Mantle swung his bat in anger for the first time in 61 games,” the Times reported, redirecting the ball into the left field stands.

“The most amazing thing is, it was not a pitch that most right-handed hitters are ever gonna get airborne,” Downing said. “And not only was it airborne, it was airborne about twenty feet off the ground and just hit those seats and ricocheted like a rocket!”

Mantle wasn’t sure he had pulled the ball enough. When the umpire signaled home run, he thought, “Gee, I’m a lucky stiff.” He broke into a cold sweat and something that resembled a trot. Later, he said he wasn’t sure how he made it around the bases and, in fact, didn’t remember doing so.

The roar of adulation eclipsed the two-minute standing ovation that had greeted him when he hobbled to the plate. It got louder and louder as he headed toward home. The Orioles applauded silently. “Gives you chills standing over there at first base,” Powell said. “Just being in the ballpark gave you chills.”

As Mantle rounded third base, Brooks Robinson thought “That’s why he’s Mickey Mantle.” By the time he reached home plate, “there was tears runnin’ all over his face,” Yankee pitcher Stan Williams said. He noticed because it was one of the rare occasions when Mantle allowed the outside world to see “how much it meant to him, how much the fans meant to him, how much the moment meant to him.”
Page 257

“Mantle hit the most god-awful tomahawk-swing line drive into the left field bleachers,” McCormick said.

“Over the hedges,” Bauer said. “Honest to God, I didn’t think he’d make it around the bases,” Boyer said.

“He kinda sobered his way around,” McCormick said. He would hear about it for the rest of his career: “Even the drunks can hit home runs off of you.”
Page 260

The sparse crowd was treated to an unfamiliar sight: Mantle batted right-handed against the right-hander, a transgression his father had abhorred. The departure in form was duly noted upstairs in the press box. Queried about it later, Mantle said he wanted to see if he could hit behind the runner batting from the right side.
Page 260

This amused me. I love that he was still experimenting.

“I got my butt chewed pretty bad. I said, ‘Eddie, what difference does it make?’

“We played baseball for fun.”
Page 261

“Then he struck him out with a fastball around the letters,” Roseboro said. “Mantle looked back at me and said, ‘How in the fuck are you supposed to hit that shit?’”
Page 262

Kids who imitated his stiff-legged arrival at second base didn’t realize it was the only way he could bring himself to a stop.
Page 267

Mickey had two different batting strokes: right-handed, he would hit on top of the ball. He would tomahawk the ball. Even his home runs to left field, a lot of ’em were line drives with top spin on ’em. They get out there real quick and sink and dive down into the bleachers. Left-handed, he undercut the ball. So here’s Barney Schultz throwing right into his power. Barney Schultz’s ball is breaking down, and Mickey’s bat goes down and . . .”
Page 268

Mantle stood in. Schultz wound up. McCarver knew right away: “Nothing good was gonna come of this pitch.” It didn’t dance or flutter or defy expectation. It didn’t do anything at all.

“It wasn’t thrown,” McCarver said. “It was dangled like bait to a big fish. Plus it lingered in that area that was down, and Mickey was a lethal low-ball hitter left-handed. The pitch was so slow that it allowed him to turn on it and pull"
Page 269

“When he left at 6: 30 A.M., Mickey and Whitey were in no condition to play baseball,” Lolich said. “He had done his job as far as he was concerned. He said, the next day Whitey pitched nine innings of shutout ball and Mantle hit two home runs.”
Page 272

There are two kinds of baseball fans: those who bellow invective at the opposition no matter what and those who stand for a worthy adversary.
Page 280

“I wake up most every day at 5: 30 or 6: 00 A.M.,” he said. “All those dreams.” A medley of recurring nightmares that make the long nights longer. Missed trains, missed planes, missed curfews—missed opportunities. “The hard part is just getting through it,” he said. Buses don’t stop. Fly balls don’t fly. Doors no longer open for The Mick. “I always felt I should have played longer.”
Page 285

“People have always placed Joe and Mickey on a pedestal,” Tony Kubek told Daily News columnist Bill Madden years later. “The difference is Joe always liked being there and Mickey never felt like he belonged.”
Page 291

His jealousy was palpable. “He would never look at Mickey Mantle until Mickey spoke to him—every time,” Clete Boyer said. “Mickey never said a bad word to the public about Joe D. Just to us.”
Page 291

When he was in Dallas, Mantle organized his life around the clubhouse at Preston Trail, the posh all-male Dallas golf club he had joined as a charter member in 1965, trying to re-create the camaraderie of the locker room.
Page 299

“Near the end he was really terrible to her, humiliating her,” said a friend who spent time with them at the Claridge. “She’d say she wanted to go to the hairdresser and ask for money. Mick would peel off a $ 1 bill and hand it to her in front of people, making her grovel.”
Page 312

Sometimes he spoke of suicide. “I’m not sure he cared if he died,” Merlyn told me. “Mick just felt guilty. He wanted to lay down on the railroad tracks.”

“The misery would be over,” David said.
Page 341

Mantle told him about seeing Ryne Duren on TV talking about his recovery. “That guy, when he was playing ball, was a wreck and he whipped it. He goes around talking, and he does a lot of good. If I can go out there and come back and the fact that I’ve whipped the drinking can help somebody else, then, sure, I want that known.”
Page 343

Somewhere, sometime, he figured out that the best defense isn’t a good offense—it’s being as offensive as humanly possible. He deflected scrutiny like an unhittable pitch hacking away, until he got something he could handle. Most people never saw through it. The rest quit trying.
Page 360

Bob Costas gave the eulogy, speaking for the child he once was, the children we all were before Mickey Mantle forced us to grow up and see the world as it is, not as we wished it to be.
Page 382

Lost Connections

Book Notes

Okay, the subtitle of this book is "Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions," which had me intrigued when it was first mentioned in the book feed of I'm not going to say no to reading a theory about Depression, especially when it comes with a promise of solutions.

The book starts off with the author's tale of his depression and time on anti-depressants and how his therapist keeps telling him he still sounds depressed. He insists no, he's not, but the therapist keeps repeating he still sounds depressed. No way!

Except... way.

The author goes on and keeps having include links to his references. Some of the references were really odd, "the audio of this conversation has been confirmed by my publisher" and "so and so recalled this the same way" kind of weird. Turns out, the author had previously been caught plagarizing himself and making stuff up, so he needed to be extra cautious in his books.

So, read with a bit of caution. Sure.

Except the studies and examples and anedcotes and stories and and and yeah, some of it isn't science but some of that not-science just... feels... right... as true, as something someone depressed needs to try when they want out of the cycle and want to heal, want to be whole.

Basic premise: we have lost the connections to our values, to ourselves, to our community, to our world. Without those connections, we are lost, we lack meaning, direction, purpose. Discover, embrace, and nurture those connection and the depression can be lifted.

It's very much along the lines of helping others can help oneself. We need our tribe, we need our community, we need nature (the green, the forests, the paths, the hiking, the sun, the water, the clean air), we need purpose. As long as we keep ignoring these connections, we perpetuate the cycle. Going it alone, as is the western culture's attitude, won't work, as being alone is a cause.

So, yeah, depression a thing in your life? Not the sadness thing, not the grief thing, the depression thing? "Why wouldn't you do anything you could to prevent it?" This book is a good start. Strongly recommended, might change your life.

It was only years later—in the course of writing this book—that somebody pointed out to me all the questions my doctor didn’t ask that day. Like: Is there any reason you might feel so distressed? What’s been happening in your life? Is there anything hurting you that we might want to change?
Page 7

No matter how high a dose I jacked up my antidepressants to, the sadness would always outrun it.
Page 10

I was doing everything right, and yet something was still wrong.
Page 10

You can’t escape it: when scientists test the water supply of Western countries, they always find it is laced with antidepressants, because so many of us are taking them and excreting them that they simply can’t be filtered out of the water we drink every day. 9 We are literally awash in these drugs.
Page 11

Once you settle into a story about your pain, you are extremely reluctant to challenge it.
Page 11

Unhappiness and depression are totally different things. There is nothing more infuriating to a depressed person than to be told to cheer up, or to be offered jolly little solutions as if they were merely having a bad week.
Page 13

At that time, the English doctor had realized that when you give a patient a medical treatment, you are really giving her two things. You are giving her a drug, which will usually have a chemical effect on her body in some way. And you are giving her a story—about how the treatment will affect her.
Page 20

Somebody once told me that giving a person a story about why they are in pain is one of the most powerful things you can ever do.
Page 38

The grief exception revealed something that the authors of the DSM — the distillation of mainstream psychiatric thinking — were deeply uncomfortable with. They had been forced to admit, in their own official manual, that it’s reasonable — and perhaps even necessary — to show the symptoms of depression, in one set of circumstances.
Page 41

As Joanne Cacciatore researched the grief exception in more detail, she came to believe it revealed a basic mistake our culture is making about pain, way beyond grief. We don’t, she told me, “consider context.” We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labeled as brain diseases.
Page 42

“Why do we call it mental health?” she asked me. “Because we want to scientize it. We want to make it sound scientific. But it’s our emotions.”
Page 42

Jo sat on the floor, and held her, and let the pain come out, and after it did, the mother felt some relief, for a time, because she knew she was not alone.

Sometimes, that is the most we can do.

It’s a lot.
Page 43

And sometimes, when you listen to the pain and you see it in its context, it will point you to a way beyond it — as I learned later.
Page 43

What if depression is, in fact, a form of grief — for our own lives not being as they should? What if it is a form of grief for the connections we have lost, yet still need?
Page 44

This meant, he told me, that he arrived at the psychiatric treatment center he was going to work out of in South London “completely ignorant” of what you are supposed to think about something like depression, and he now believes “that was a great advantage. I had no preconceived ideas [so] I was forced to have an open mind.”
Page 46

They labeled the first category “difficulties” — which they defined as a chronic ongoing problem, which could range from having a bad marriage, to living in bad housing, to being forced to move away from your community and neighborhood.

The second category looked at the exact opposite — “stabilizers,” the things that they suspected could boost you and protect you from despair. For that, they carefully recorded how many close friends the women had, and how good their relationships with their partners were.
Page 50

For every good friend you had, or if your partner was more supportive and caring, it reduced depression by a remarkable amount.
Page 50

So George and Tirril had discovered that two things make depression much more likely — having a severe negative event, and having long-term sources of stress and insecurity in your life.
Page 51

For example — if you didn’t have any friends, and you didn’t have a supportive partner, your chances of developing depression when a severe negative life event came along were 75 percent. 12 It was much more likely than not.
Page 51

We all lose some hope when we’re subjected to severe stress, or when something horrible happens to us, but if the stress or the bad events are sustained over a long period, what you get is “the generalization of hopelessness,” Tirril told me.
Page 52

I realized every one of the social and psychological causes of depression and anxiety they have discovered has something in common. They are all forms of disconnection. They are all ways in which we have been cut off from something we innately need but seem to have lost along the way.
Page 59

“When work is enriching, life is fuller, and that spills over into the things you do outside work,” he said to me. But “when it’s deadening,” you feel “shattered at the end of the day, just shattered.”
Page 69

“Disempowerment,” Michael told me, “is at the heart of poor health” — physical, mental, and emotional.
Page 69

Despair often happens, he had learned, when there is a “lack of balance between efforts and rewards.”
Page 70

Loneliness hangs over our culture today like a thick smog.
Page 73

It’s worth repeating. Being deeply lonely seemed to cause as much stress as being punched by a stranger.
Page 74

If you do that, you always find that lonely people are much more likely to be depressed or anxious. But that doesn’t get us very far — because depressed and anxious people often become afraid of the world, and of social interaction, so they tend to retreat from it.
Page 75

It turned out that — for the initial five years of data that have been studied so far — in most cases, loneliness preceded depressive symptoms. 8 You became lonely, and that was followed by feelings of despair and profound sadness and depression. And the effect was really big.
Page 77

Humans need tribes as much as bees need a hive.
Page 77

Or, as he told me later: loneliness is “an aversive state that motivates us to reconnect.”
Page 78

Anywhere in the world where people describe being lonely, they will also — throughout their sleep — experience more of something called “micro-awakenings.” These are small moments you won’t recall when you wake up, but in which you rise a little from your slumber.
Page 78

The best theory is that you don’t feel safe going to sleep when you’re lonely, because early humans literally weren’t safe if they were sleeping apart from the tribe. You know nobody’s got your back — so your brain won’t let you go into full sleep mode. Measuring these “micro-awakenings” is a good way of measuring loneliness.
Page 78

This showed that loneliness isn’t just some inevitable human sadness, like death. It’s a product of the way we live now.
Page 78

What this means is that people’s sense that they live in a community, or even have friends they can count on, has been plummeting.
Page 79

“How many confidants do you have?” They wanted to know how many people you could turn to in a crisis, or when something really good happens to you.
Page 79

Lonely people are scanning for threats because they unconsciously know that nobody is looking out for them, so no one will help them if they are hurt.
Page 82

To end loneliness, you need other people — plus something else. You also need, he explained to me, to feel you are sharing something with the other person, or the group, that is meaningful to both of you.
Page 83

The Internet arrived promising us connection at the very moment when all the wider forces of disconnection were reaching a crescendo.
Page 84

When he got a job as a software developer and he was given an assignment that made him feel pressured, he found himself endlessly chasing down Internet rabbit holes. He would have three hundred tabs open at any given time.
Page 87

If you’re a typical Westerner in the twenty-first century, you check your phone once every six and a half minutes. If you’re a teenager, you send on average a hundred texts a day. And 42 percent of us never turn off our phones. Ever.
Page 87

The compulsive Internet use, she was saying, was a dysfunctional attempt to try to solve the pain they were already in, caused in part by feeling alone in the world.
Page 88

The difference between being online and being physically among people, I saw in that moment, is a bit like the difference between pornography and sex: it addresses a basic itch, but it’s never satisfying.
Page 89

There’s a quote from the biologist E. O. Wilson that John Cacioppo — who has taught us so much about loneliness — likes: “People must belong to a tribe.”

Just like a bee goes haywire if it loses its hive, a human will go haywire if she loses her connection to the group.
Page 90

I asked Tim if, in Pinellas County where he grew up, he ever heard anyone talking about a different way of valuing things, beyond the idea that happiness came from getting and possessing stuff. “Well — I think — not growing up. No,” he said.
Page 93

It really did seem that materialistic people were having a worse time, day by day, on all sorts of fronts. They felt sicker, and they were angrier. “Something about a strong desire for materialistic pursuits,” he was starting to believe, “actually affected the participants’ day-to-day lives, and decreased the quality of their daily experience.” They experienced less joy, and more despair.
Page 94

Ever since the 1960s, psychologists have known that there are two different ways you can motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning. The first are called intrinsic motives — they are the things you do purely because you value them in and of themselves, not because of anything you get out of them.
Page 95

And there’s a rival set of values, which are called extrinsic motives. They’re the things you do not because you actually want to do them, but because you’ll get something in return — whether it’s money, or admiration, or sex, or superior status.
Page 95

He got them to lay out their goals for the future. He then figured out with them if these were extrinsic goals — like getting a promotion, or a bigger apartment — or intrinsic goals, like being a better friend or a more loving son or a better piano player.
Page 95

But people who achieved their intrinsic goals did become significantly happier, and less depressed and anxious. You could track the movement. As they worked at it and felt they became (for example) a better friend — not because they wanted anything out of it but because they felt it was a good thing to do — they became more satisfied with life. Being a better dad? Dancing for the sheer joy of it? Helping another person, just because it’s the right thing to do? They do significantly boost your happiness.
Page 96

The first is that thinking extrinsically poisons your relationships with other people.
Page 97

[T]hey found that the more materialistic you become, the shorter your relationships will be, and the worse their quality will be.
Page 97

There’s strong scientific evidence that we all get most pleasure from what are called “flow states” 13 like this — moments when we simply lose ourselves doing something we love and are carried along in the moment.
Page 97

... highly materialistic people, he discovered they experience significantly fewer flow states than the rest of us.
Page 98

When you are extremely materialistic, Tim said to me, “you’ve always kind of got to be wondering about yourself — how are people judging you?” It forces you to “focus on other people’s opinions of you, and their praise of you — and then you’re kind of locked into having to worry what other people think about you, and if other people are going to give you those rewards that you want.
Page 98

What you really need are connections. But what you are told you need, in our culture, is stuff and a superior status, and in the gap between those two signals — from yourself and from society — depression and anxiety will grow as your real needs go unmet.
Page 99

So if you become fixated on getting stuff and a superior status, the parts of the pie that care about tending to your relationships, or finding meaning, or making the world better have to shrink, to make way.
Page 99

And the pressure, in our culture, runs overwhelmingly one way — spend more; work more.
Page 99

Tim suspected that advertising plays a key role in why we are, every day, choosing a value system that makes us feel worse.
Page 100

“Advertising at its best is making people feel that without their product, you’re a loser."
Page 100

This system trains us, Tim says, to feel “there’s never enough. When you’re focused on money and status and possessions, consumer society is always telling you more, more, more, more. Capitalism is always telling you more, more, more. Your boss is telling you work more, work more, work more. You internalize that and you think: Oh, I got to work more, because my self depends on my status and my achievement. You internalize that. It’s a kind of form of internalized oppression.”
Page 101

“You’ve got to pull yourself out of the materialistic environments — the environments that are reinforcing the materialistic values,” he says, because they cripple your internal satisfactions. And then, he says, to make that sustainable, you have to “replace them with actions that are going to provide those intrinsic satisfactions, [and] encourage those intrinsic goals.”
Page 103

I ask him if he had withdrawal symptoms from the materialistic world we were both immersed in for so long. “Never,” he says right away. “People ask me that: “Don’t you miss this? Don’t you wish you had that?” No, I don’t, because [I am] never exposed to the messages telling me that I should want it.
Page 103

By living without these polluting values, Tim has, he says, discovered a secret. This way of life is more pleasurable than materialism.
Page 104

Joe is constantly bombarded with messages that he shouldn’t do the thing that his heart is telling him would make him feel calm and satisfied. The whole logic of our culture tells him to stay on the consumerist treadmill, to go shopping when he feels lousy, to chase junk values. He has been immersed in those messages since the day he was born. So he has been trained to distrust his own wisest instincts.
Page 105

Many of these women had been making themselves obese for an unconscious reason: to protect themselves from the attention of men, who they believed would hurt them.
Page 109

They needed someone to understand why they ate.
Page 109

Many scientists and psychologists had been presenting depression as an irrational malfunction in your brain or in your genes, but he learned that Allen Barbour, an internist at Stanford University, 15 had said that depression isn’t a disease; depression is a normal response to abnormal life experiences.
Page 112

Some people don’t want to see this because, at least at first, “it’s more comforting,” Vincent said, to think it’s all happening simply because of changes in the brain. “It takes away an experiential process and substitutes a mechanistic process.” It turns your pain into a trick of the light that can be banished with drugs.
Page 113

If you believe that your depression is due solely to a broken brain, you don’t have to think about your life, or about what anyone might have done to you.
Page 113

Magic pill to fix everything!

When you are a child and you experience something really traumatic, you almost always think it is your fault. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not irrational; like obesity, it is, in fact, a solution to a problem most people can’t see.
Page 113

When you’re a child, you have very little power to change your environment. You can’t move away, or force somebody to stop hurting you. So you have two choices. You can admit to yourself that you are powerless — that at any moment, you could be badly hurt, and there’s simply nothing you can do about it. Or you can tell yourself it’s your fault.
Page 114

In this way, just like obesity protected those women from the men they feared would rape them, blaming yourself for your childhood traumas protects you from seeing how vulnerable you were and are. You can become the powerful one. If it’s your fault, it’s under your control.
Page 114

“When people have these kind of problems, it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with them,” he said, “and time to start asking what happened to them.”
Page 115

It’s hard to describe what depression and acute anxiety feel like. They are such disorientating states that they seem to escape language, but we have a few clichés that we return to.
Page 116

If you’re a female baboon, you inherit your place in the hierarchy from your mother, as if you were a posh Englishman in the Middle Ages, but if you’re a male baboon, your place is established through a brutal conflict to see who can clamber to the top.
Page 117

While I understand this is how it is, I'm still fully annoyed at how much in nature and our society being female is being second class.

When Solomon was lying on a rock with one of the hottest babes of the troop, Uriah walked up in between them and started trying to have sex with her — right in front of the boss-man.
Page 119

Robert had discovered that having an insecure status was the one thing even more distressing than having a low status.
Page 120

The more unequal your society, the more prevalent all forms of mental illness are.
Page 121

It’s hard for a hungry animal moving through its natural habitat and with a decent status in its group to be depressed, she says — there are almost no records of such a thing.
Page 128

all humans have a natural sense of something called “biophilia.” It’s an innate love for the landscapes in which humans have lived for most of our existence, and for the natural web of life that surrounds us and makes our existence possible.
Page 128

When you are depressed — as Isabel knows from her own experience — you feel that “now everything is about you.” You become trapped in your own story and your own thoughts, and they rattle around in your head with a dull, bitter insistence. Becoming depressed or anxious is a process of becoming a prisoner of your ego, where no air from the outside can get in.
Page 129

Faced with a natural landscape, you have a sense that you and your concerns are very small, and the world is very big — and that sensation can shrink the ego down to a manageable size.
Page 129

But the research is very hard to find funding for, he said, because “a lot of the shape of modern biomedical research has been defined by the pharmaceutical industry,” and they’re not interested because “it’s very hard to commercialize nature contact.” You can’t sell it, so they don’t want to know.
Page 130

The lesson the depressed bonobos had taught her, she said, is: “Don’t be in captivity. Fuck captivity.”
Page 131

Especially if the prison is of your own making.

The cruelest thing about depression, she said, is that it drains you of the desire to be as fully alive as this — to swallow experience whole.
Page 131

How do you develop your sense of identity? How do you know who you are? It seems like an impossibly big question. But ask yourself this: What is the connecting thread that runs from your baby self, vomiting out teething biscuits, to the person who is reading this book now? Will you be the same person twenty years from now? If you met her, would you recognize her? What is the relationship between you in the past and you in the future? Are you the same person all along?
Page 136

A sense of a positive future protects you. If life is bad today, you can think — this hurts, but it won’t hurt forever. But when it is taken away, it can feel like your pain will never go away.
Page 138

I took her for a long lunch, and she started to tell me the story of her life since we last met, 10 in a hurried gabble punctuated by her apologizing a lot, although it was never quite clear what for.
Page 138

We give it a fancy name: we call it being “self-employed,” or the “gig economy” —
Page 141

For most of us, a stable sense of the future is dissolving, and we are told to see it as a form of liberation.
Page 141

It made intuitive sense to her, she said. When you have a stable picture of yourself in the future, she explained, what it gives you is “perspective — doesn’t it? You are able to say — ‘ Okay, I’m having a shitty day. But I’m not having a shitty life.’
Page 142

When I told Marc that I had been given antidepressants for thirteen years and had always been told that all my distress had been caused by a problem inside my brain, he said: “It’s crazy. It’s always related to your life and your personal circumstances.”
Page 145

Because you are feeling intense pain for a long period, your brain will assume this is the state in which you are going to have to survive from now on — so it might start to shed the synapses that relate to the things that give you joy and pleasure, and strengthen the synapses that relate to fear and despair.
Page 146

The pain caused by life going wrong can trigger a response that is “so powerful that [the brain] tends to stay there [in a pained response] for a while, until something pushes it out of that corner, into a more flexible place.”
Page 146

Everyone reading this will know somebody who became depressed, or anxious, yet seemingly had nothing to be unhappy about.
Page 150

Yet now, if we could go back in a time machine and talk to these women, what we’d say is: You had everything a woman could possibly want by the standards of the culture. You had nothing to be unhappy about by the standards of the culture. But we now know that the standards of the culture were wrong. Women need more than a house and a car and a husband and kids. They need equality, and meaningful work, and autonomy. You aren’t broken, we’d tell them. The culture
Page 151

You can have everything a person could possibly need by the standards of our culture — but those standards can badly misjudge what a human actually needs in order to have a good or even a tolerable life. The culture can create a picture of what you “need” to be happy — through all the junk values I had been taught about — that doesn’t fit with what you actually need. 19
Page 151

For a long time, we have been told there are only two ways of thinking about depression. Either it’s a moral failing — a sign of weakness — or it’s a brain disease.
Page 153

[T]here’s a third option — to regard depression as largely a reaction to the way we are living.
Page 153

One reason why is that it is “much more politically challenging” 25 to say that so many people are feeling terrible because of how our societies now work. It fits much more with our system of “neoliberal capitalism,” he told me, to say, “Okay, we’ll get you functioning more efficiently, but please don’t start questioning … because that’s going to destabilize all sorts of things.”
Page 154

Dr. Rufus May, a British psychologist, told me that telling people their distress is due mostly or entirely to a biological malfunction has several dangerous effects on them. The first thing that happens when you’re told this is “you leave the person disempowered, feeling they’re not good enough — because their brain’s not good enough.” The second thing is, he said, that “it pitches us against parts of ourselves.” It says there is a war taking place in your head. On one side there are your feelings of distress, caused by the malfunctions in your brain or genes. On the other side there’s the sane part of you.
Page 154

But it does something even more profound than that. It tells you that your distress has no meaning — it’s just defective tissue.
Page 156

He sometimes quotes the Eastern philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, 26 who explained: “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society.”
Page 156

To them, an antidepressant wasn’t about changing your brain chemistry, an idea that seemed bizarre to their culture. It was about the community, together, empowering the depressed person to change his life.
Page 160

What if changing the way we live — in specific, targeted, evidence-based ways — could be seen as an antidepressant, too?
Page 161

When they lived in Turkey, the women there had referred to their entire village as “home.” And when they came to Germany, they learned that what you are supposed to think of as home is your own four walls and the space within them — a pinched, shriveled sense of home.
Page 176

They had made themselves public. And it was only by doing that — by being released into something bigger than themselves — that they had found a release from their pain.
Page 177

We met in a coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, which is seen by the outside world as a font of left-wing radicalism, but on my way to meet her, I passed lots of young homeless people, all begging, all being ignored.
Page 179

Yeah, having recently passed the armies of homeless in Berkeley, I know this view.

If you decide to pursue happiness in the United States or Britain, you pursue it for yourself — because you think that’s how it works. You do what I did most of the time: you get stuff for yourself, you rack up achievement for yourself, you build up your own ego. But if you consciously pursue happiness in Russia or Japan or China, you do something quite different. You try to make things better for your group — for the people around you. That’s what you think happiness means, so it seems obvious to you.
Page 181

Yet if I’m honest, that’s the kind of solution I craved. Something individual; something you can do alone, without any effort; something that takes twenty seconds to swallow every morning, so you can get on with life as it was before. If it couldn’t be chemical, I wanted some other trick, some switch I could flip to make it all fine.
Page 182

Now, when I feel myself starting to slide down, I don’t do something for myself — I try to do something for someone else.
Page 183

I learned something I wouldn’t have thought was possible at the start. Even if you are in pain, you can almost always make someone else feel a little bit better.
Page 183

When you went to see your doctor, you didn’t just get pills. You were prescribed one of over a hundred different ways to reconnect — with the people around you, with the society, and with values that really matter.
Page 192

Most people come to their doctor because they are distressed. Even when you have a physical pain — like a bad knee — that will feel far worse if you have nothing else in your life, and no connections.
Page 196

He says he has learned, especially with depression and anxiety, to shift from asking “What’s the matter with you?” to “What matters to you?”
Page 197

It’s not the work itself that makes you sick. It’s three other things. It’s the feeling of being controlled — of being a meaningless cog in a system. It’s the feeling that no matter how hard you work, you’ll be treated just the same and nobody will notice — an imbalance, as he puts it, between efforts and rewards. And it’s the feeling of being low on the hierarchy — of being a low-status person who doesn’t matter compared to the Big Man in the corner office.
Page 207

Our politicians are constantly singing hymns to democracy as the best system — this is simply the extension of democracy to the place where we spend most of our time. Josh says it’s an amazing victory for their propaganda system — to make you work in an environment you often can’t stand, and to do it for most of your waking life, and see the proceeds of your labor get siphoned off by somebody at the top, and then to make you “think of yourself as a free person.”
Page 208

From this experience, she has learned that “people want to work. Everybody wants to work. Everybody wants to feel useful, and have purpose.” 5 The humiliation and control of so many workplaces can suppress that, or drive it out of people, but it’s always there, and it reemerges in the right environment. People “want to feel like they’ve had an impact on other humans — that they’ve improved the world in some way.”
Page 209

It made me think: Imagine if we had a tough advertising regulator who wouldn’t permit ads designed to make us feel bad in any way. How many ads would survive?
Page 212

As they explored this in the conversation, it became clear quite quickly — without any prompting from Nathan — that spending often isn’t about the object itself. It is about getting to a psychological state that makes you feel better.
Page 214

Just asking these two questions — “What do you spend your money on?” and “What do you really value?” — made most people see a gap between the answers that they began to discuss. They were accumulating and spending money on things that were not — in the end — the things that they believed in their heart mattered. Why would that be?
Page 214

He learned that the average American is exposed to up to five thousand advertising impressions a day — from billboards to logos on T-shirts to TV advertisements. It is the sea in which we swim. And “the narrative is that if you [buy] this thing, it’ll yield more happiness — and so thousands of times a day you’re just surrounded with that message,” he told me.

He began to ask: “Who’s shaping that narrative?” It’s not people who have actually figured out what will make us happy and who are charitably spreading the good news. It’s people who have one motive only — to make us buy their product.
Page 215

At the next session, he asked the people in the experiment to do a short exercise in which everyone had to list a consumer item they felt they had to have right away. They had to describe what it was, how they first heard about it, why they craved it, how they felt when they got it, and how they felt after they’d had it for a while. For many people, as they talked this through, something became obvious. The pleasure was often in the craving and anticipation. We’ve all had the experience of finally getting the thing we want, getting it home, and feeling oddly deflated, only to find that before long, the craving cycle starts again.
Page 215

But as she began to read about envy, she realized that our culture was priming her to feel this way. She had been raised to constantly compete and compare, she said. “We’re highly individualistic,” she explained, and we’re constantly told that life is a “zero sum game.

There’s only so many pieces of the pie, so if somebody else has success, or beauty, or whatever, somehow it leaves less for you.
Page 219

We are trained to think that life is a fight for scarce resources — “ even if it’s for something like intelligence, when there’s no limit to how much human intelligence can grow across the world.” If you become smarter, it doesn’t make me less smart — but we are primed to feel that it does.
Page 219

And she discovered an ancient technique called “sympathetic joy,” which is part of a range of techniques for which there is some striking new scientific evidence. It is, she says, quite simple. Sympathetic joy is a method for cultivating “the opposite of jealousy or envy … It’s simply feeling happy for other people.”
Page 220

She was surprised that she could change in this way. “You think that certain things aren’t malleable,” she says, but “they completely are. You can be a total jealous monster, and you think that’s just part of who you are, and you find you can change it [by just] doing some basic thing.”
Page 221

“I’ve pursued happiness for myself my whole life, and I’m exhausted, and I don’t feel any closer to it — because where does it end? The bar just keeps getting moved.” But this different way of thinking, she said, seemed to offer a real sense of pleasure, and a path away from the depressing, anxiety-provoking thoughts she’d been plagued by.

“There’s always going to be shit coming into your life to be unhappy about. If you can be happy for others, there’s always going to be a supply of happiness available to you.
Page 222

She’s conscious that to many people, this would sound like a philosophy for losers — you can’t make it, so you have to get a thrill when somebody else does. You’ll lose your edge. You’ll fall behind in the constant race for success. But Rachel thinks this is a false dichotomy. Why can’t you be happy for other people and for yourself? Why would being eaten with envy make you stronger?
Page 222

He also brought a chestnut he had found on the ground the day his divorce came through, which he had kept, though he didn’t know why.
Page 229

They both, he said, break our “addiction to ourselves.”
Page 235

As Fred put it to me, these experiences teach you that “you don’t have to be controlled by your concept of yourself.”
Page 236

“You could say people have forgotten who they are, what they’re capable of, have gotten stuck … Many depressed people can only see their pains, and their hurts, and their resentments, and their failures. They can’t see the blue sky and the yellow leaves, you know?” This process of opening consciousness up again can disrupt that — and so it disrupts depression. It takes down the walls of your ego and opens you to connecting with what matters.
Page 237

Our egos protect us. They guard us. They are necessary. But when they grow too big, they cut us off from the possibility of connection. Taking them down, then, isn’t something to be done casually.
Page 238

There is a great deal of evidence — as I discussed before — that a sense of humiliation plays a big role in depression.
Page 243

“Time and again,” he said, “we blame a collective problem on the individual. So you’re depressed? You should get a pill. You don’t have a job? Go to a job coach — we’ll teach you how to write a résumé or [to join] LinkedIn. But obviously, that doesn’t go to the root of the problem … Not many people are thinking about what’s actually happened to our labor market, and our society, that these [forms of despair] are popping up everywhere.” Even middle-class people are living with a chronic “lack of certainty” about what their lives will be like in even a few months’ time, he says.
Page 250

Rutger told me: “When I ask people — ‘ What would you [personally] do with a basic income?’ about 99 percent of people say — ‘ I have dreams, I have ambitions, I’m going to do something ambitious and useful.’” But when he asks them what they think other people would do with a basic income, they say — oh, they’ll become lifeless zombies, they’ll binge-watch Netflix all day.
Page 251

Every single person reading this is the beneficiary of big civilizing social changes that seemed impossible when somebody first proposed them.
Page 253

The response to a huge crisis isn’t to go home and weep. It’s to go big. It’s to demand something that seems impossible — and not rest until you’ve achieved it.
Page 254

It’s a sign, Rutger says, of how badly off track we’ve gone, that having fulfilling work is seen as a freakish exception, like winning the lottery, instead of how we should all be living.
Page 254

Depression and anxiety have three kinds of causes — biological, psychological, and social. They are all real, and none of these three can be described by something as crude as the idea of a chemical imbalance.
Page 255

The United Nations — in its official statement for World Health Day in 2017 — explained3 that “the dominant biomedical narrative of depression” is based on “biased and selective use of research outcomes” that “cause more harm than good, undermine the right to health, and must be abandoned.”
Page 255

You aren’t a machine with broken parts. You are an animal whose needs are not being met. You need to have a community. You need to have meaningful values, not the junk values you’ve been pumped full of all your life, telling you happiness comes through money and buying objects. You need to have meaningful work. You need the natural world. You need to feel you are respected. You need a secure future. You need connections to all these things. You need to release any shame you might feel for having been mistreated.
Page 255

I know this is going to be hard to hear, I’d tell him, because I know how deep your suffering cuts. But this pain isn’t your enemy, however much it hurts (and Jesus, I know how much it hurts). It’s your ally — leading you away from a wasted life and pointing the way toward a more fulfilling one.
Page 255

We have lost faith in the idea of anything bigger or more meaningful than the individual, and the accumulation of more and more stuff.
Page 255

Depression and anxiety might, in one way, be the sanest reaction you have. 6 It’s a signal, saying — you shouldn’t have to live this way, and if you aren’t helped to find a better path, you will be missing out on so much that is best about being human.
Page 255

The Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Book Notes

I really liked and enjoyed this book. I hadn't read anything by Claire North, yet she joins the surprisingly large number of authors who have books I want to read, but I read a different book by the author instead.

I'm glad I did. This was such a fun read.

Harry August was born in 1919, died in 1989, and was born in 1919 to live his life over again. Given the era of his childhood and his death being three years before the release of the film Groundhog Day, it isn't surprising that the second time through, he pretty much did what most people would do: went insane. The third time through, though, hey, wait a moment.

Honestly, if I had a chance to redo life with all my memories of the previous life / lives, I would be so f'ing full of "HOT DAMN!" I'd likely be labeled insane from giddism. Is that a word? Is now.

I'd probably start to worry about the boredom of never dying sometime past the thirty or fortieth time through. Pretty sure I'd be able to figure out how not to come back when I was truly and goodly done.

I'd also hide immediately, along the lines of the Remembrance of Earth's Past idea that there's likely someone more powerful out there with greater skills, best stay hidden. Or was that After On and being the first sentient computer?

Anyway. Harry. We lurves the Harry.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I strongly recommend this book for any science fiction fan. I recommended it to my mom, and she doesn't read science fiction, I enjoyed it that much.

In my first life I enlisted of my own volition, genuinely believing the three great fallacies of the time – that the war would be brief, that the war would be patriotic and that the war would advance me in my skills.
Page 14

I had spent an entire life praying for a miracle, and none had come. And now I looked at the stuffy chapel of my ancestors and saw vanity and greed, heard the call to prayer and thought of power, smelled incense and wondered at the waste of it all.
Page 19

I asked if it was hard, being the first woman in her department. She laughed and said that only idiots judged her for being a woman – and she judged them for being idiots. “The benefit being,” she explained, “that I can be both a woman and a fucking brilliant surgeon, but they’ll always only be idiots.”
Page 33

They say that the mind cannot remember pain; I say it barely matters, for even if the physical sensation is lost, our recollection of the terror that surrounds it is perfect.
Page 36

Time is not wisdom; wisdom is not intellect. I am still capable of being overwhelmed; he overwhelmed me.
Page 40

I told him to study the Great Game, to research the Pashtun, look at a map.
Page 44

Oooooo! I know this reference! Thanks, Moazam!

I was out of shape, having never been in much of a shape to get out of, and my confinement had hardly aided the process.
Page 57

“I am honoured. But if your complaint is that ethics have no place in pure science, I’m afraid I must be forced to disagree with you.”

“Of course they don’t! Pure science is no more and no less than the logical process of deduction and experimentation upon observable events. It has no good or bad about it, merely right or wrong in a strictly mathematical definition. What people do with that science is cause for ethical debate, but it is not for the true scientist to concern themselves with that. Leave it to the politicians and philosophers.”
Page 70

“You can’t say you’re not expecting to achieve a thing, then express resentment that others agree with you.”
Page 72

Cancer is a process on which the healthy cannot impose.
Page 89

Private Harry Brookes poured his heart out to a distant stranger who made no reply, but I knew that what I needed was not so much the comfort of return, but to speak of what I had been. The telling was all, the reply merely a courtesy.
Page 89

"I was bleeding out of my insides I stood there and said, ‘I am a daughter of this beautiful land, and I will never participate in the ugliness of your regime!’ And when they shot me, it was the most magnificent I had ever been."
Page 151

Blackmail is surprisingly difficult to pull off. The art lies in convincing the target that whatever harm they do themselves – for, by definition, you are compelling them rather than coaxing them into obedience – is less than the harm which will be caused by the revelation of the secrets in your power.

More often than not the blackmailer overplays their hand, and nothing is achieved except grief. A light touch and, more importantly, an understanding of when to back away is vital to achieve success.
Page 153

Short of a society where religion obligated modesty, a Russian winter could do wonders for thwarting facial recognition.
Page 155

"I don’t understand what drives you. You have wealth, time and the world at your feet, but all you do is push, push and keep on pushing at things which really don’t bother you."
Page 162

In truth, my own words rang hollow in my ears. I spoke fine sentiments about participation in the world around us, and yet what was my participation to be?
Page 162

“Linears only have one life,” she said at last, “and they don’t bother to change anything. It’s just not convenient. Some do. Some… ‘great’ men, or angry men, or men that have been beaten so low that all they have left to do is fight back and change the world. But, Harry, if there is one feature most common to ‘great’ men, it’s that they’re nearly always alone.”
Page 163

“Only one thing surprises me any more,” she explained, “and that’s the things people admit when they’re pissed.”
Page 163

I spent the long waiting hours sitting in the silence and the dark, reproaching myself for my lack of self-reproach. A self-defeating exercise, but even when the logical absurdity of my own thought processes became apparent to me, I was rather annoyed that even this slim manifestation of conscience was so intellectual.
Page 165

Rationality, if not intellect, can still overwhelm alcohol when death is on the line.
Page 166

Are you God, Dr August? Are you the only living creature that matters? Do you think, because you remember it, that your pain is bigger and more important? Do you think, because you experience it, that your life is the only life that gets counted?
Page 211

Problem is, you’ve gone soft. You’ve got used to the comfy life, and the great thing about the comfy life is no one who has it is ever gonna risk rocking the boat. You should learn to live a little, rough it out –I’m telling you, there’s no greater high.”
Page 216

Knowledge is not a substitute for ingenuity, merely an accelerant.
Page 224

In another time, I felt, I would have enjoyed Soviet Dave’s company, and wondered just what stories lurked behind his polite veneer, to have made him a security man.
Page 226

I waited with the light out in my room for the dead hour of the night when the mind shifts into a numb, timeless daze of voiceless thought.
Page 228

The secret to being unafraid of the darkness is to challenge the darkness to fear you, to raise your eyes sharp to those few souls who stagger by, daring them to believe that you are not, in fact, more frightening than they are.
Page 228

The doctrine I spouted was, in fact, absolutely correct for the times we lived in, but I had underestimated how quickly the times changed and, vitally, how much more important the interpretations of rivals were than the truth of what you said.
Page 291

No one ever considers the question of bladder when dealing with matters of subterfuge.
Page 296

Or when writing fiction...

Armies tend to exploit science faster than civilians, if only because their need tends to be more urgent.
Page 322

I also believe that single-minded dedication to just one thing, without rest, respite or distraction, is only conducive to migraines, not productivity.
Page 345

She was an Indian mystic, one of the first to realise that the most profitable way to be enlightened was to spread her enlightenment to concerned Westerners who hadn’t had enough cultural opportunities to nurture their cynicism.
Page 385

The Mars Room

Book Notes

I really need to start keeping notes about why I add books to my reading list. I'm pretty sure this was a book on some "You should read this" list, as the book is on a number of said lists.

When I first started reading the book, I connected with the Kushner's descriptions of San Francisco. Quickly I realized, however, that her San Francisco was definitely not my San Francisco, nor was the main characters's childhood. The names, places, streets, landmarks, yes, I recognized all of those. The drugs and goofing off and delinquency, not so much, and no.

Everyone's raving about the book, though.

The writing is engaging. The plot was slow, but wasn't a bad thing because the writing was good. The characters were interesting. I don't know, worth the hype, maybe? Would I recommend it? I can't say I would, but that's because the book is outside what I normally read and what I would recommend. It can still be worth reading.

I guess if you're looking for a fictionalized account of a woman's prison life, from the perspective of an innocent (in an objective, just world, one could call the crime she committed justified), this book is good. It triggers my "not fair!" button, along with a couple other buttons about human nature, redemption, loss, and justice. But it isn't a comedy, nor does it try to be funny, which makes it better than most fictionalized women's prison accounts.

Sometimes what other people want is wantable, briefly, before dissolving in the face of your own wants.
Page 8

I sometimes think San Francisco is cursed. I mostly think it’s a sad suckville of a place. People say it’s beautiful, but the beauty is only visible to newcomers, and invisible to those who had to grow up there.
Page 9

I have no plans at all. The thing is you keep existing whether you have a plan to do so or not, until you don’t exist, and then your plans are meaningless. But not having plans doesn’t mean I don’t have regrets.
Page 12

We loved life more than the future.
Page 34

I talk to the clerk at the comic book store, who told me what blue balls was (I was probably blue-balling him by asking).
Page 41

Cracked me up.

And if someone did remember them, someone besides me, that person’s account would make them less real, because my memory of them would have to be corrected by facts, which are never considerate of what makes an impression, what stays in the mind after all these years, the very real images that grip me from the erased past and won’t let go.
Page 43

That was what beauty was, he supposed, when someone’s face stirred feelings.
Page 51

More typically, the good-looking ones were overly aware of their beauty. It was something to which they subjected others, a thing they hawked, bartered, and controlled.
Page 51

The touch of this girl’s comb produced a feeling that was both terrific longing and something like longing fulfilled.
Page 54

Most people talked to fill silence and didn’t know the damage they reaped.
Page 56

He understood there were people who didn’t want to be the wanter, but he could not make himself feel that way.
Page 56

A man could say every day that he wanted to change his life, was going to change it, and every day the lament became merely a part of the life he was already living, so that the desire for change was in fact a kind of stasis that allowed the unchanged life to continue, because at least the man knew to disapprove of it, which reassured him not all was lost.
Page 57

People who tinkered with trucks and dirt bikes and made assumptions of Gordon that he did nothing to dispel, because he knew those assumptions would work in his favor if he needed their help.
Page 94

Gordon withheld judgments. These people knew much more than he did about how to live in the mountains. How to survive winter and forest fires and mud flows from spring rains. How to properly stack wood, as Gordon’s neighbor from down the hill had patiently showed him, after his two cords of chunk wood were dumped in the driveway by a guy named Beaver who was missing most of his fingers.
Page 94

She made it the usual way, with juice boxes poured into a plastic bag and mixed with ketchup packets, as sugar. A sock stuffed with bread, the yeast, was placed in the bag for several days of fermentation.
Page 100

"The seventies is the end of good American cars. We used to make trucks in this country. Now we make truck nuts."


The idea that men would want to display an artificial scrotum—the most fragile part of a man’s body—on the back of their trucks, I said it made no sense and Conan agreed.
Page 105

I knew to let them make their mistake. You never correct, because their wrong might be your right. You wait, see how it’s going to play, see if you are getting some angle from their fuck-up.
Page 108

They were interested in having people to call, people who wanted something from them; it felt good to be pursued. It was a game to get attention. A game that was not a game because it was all they had.
Page 114

Like in the dressing room at the Mars Room, you don’t give your real name. You don’t offer information. You don’t talk about yourself because there is nothing to be gained from it.
Page 115

Men don’t holiday from their addictions. Holidays are busy, because the men need to escape from their real lives into their really real lives with us, their fantasies.
Page 124

But she sulked a lot, and he realized quiet people can control you just as effectively as loud ones. They do it differently is all.
Page 140

Things are more complicated than some can admit. People are stupider and less demonic than some can admit.
Page 166

“It’s okay to make a promise," London said to Gordon, as if summarizing for the teacher how life actually worked, “but it’s not always a good idea to keep one."
Page 188

I was forced to look at his tattoo, a chest-sized upside-down cross. “Got this to spite my brother," he said, his words thick from pain medication. “He’s a minister."

You sure showed him, I did not say.
Page 211

The women paid extra attention to Gordon, not knowing already what the problem was with him, as they had already established with the other single men at that party, according to Alex.
Page 219

The interaction brought back anxieties from grad school, the way his peers could casually criticize others they didn’t know anything about.
Page 220


The women were doing that grad school thing of air-quoting to install distance between themselves and the words they chose, these bookish women with an awkwardness he used to find cute.
Page 220

I could roam neighborhoods, visit my apartment in the Tenderloin, with the Murphy bed, my happy yellow Formica table, and above it, the movie poster of Steve McQueen in Bullitt. If you’re from SF, you love Bullitt and are proud because it was filmed there. Plus, Steve McQueen had been a delinquent kid who became a star but stayed cool, did his own stunt driving.
Page 238

I had started helping Button with her homework for Hauser’s class. I took more pleasure in it than I would have guessed.
Page 241

The singer, a barrel-chested baritone, launched into a song about a pulpwood hauler who demolished a roadside beer joint with a chain saw. Why did he do it? The song explained why. The pulpwood hauler did it because the bartender called him a redneck and refused to serve him a cold beer. So he destroyed the place.
Page 256

He had in his mind something Nietzsche said about truth. That each man is entitled to as much of it as he can bear. Maybe Gordon was not seeking truth, but seeking to learn his own limits for tolerating it.
Page 261

There were large-scale acts of it, the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians in a single year, for a specious war of lies and bungling, a war that might have no end, but according to prosecutors, the real monsters were teenagers like Button Sanchez.
Page 262

After indulging in the difficult facts, he all at once grasped why these kids, Button and her friends, had killed the poor student and ruined their own lives. The student was not a person to them. That was the reason. They would not have harmed someone they knew was a full person. He was alien to them, his fluency in Mandarin something the kids never considered.
Page 262

Racism and misogyny in a nutshell.

Remember this always, Alyosha says, and he means, as an antidote. Retain the innocence of the most wholesome feeling you ever had in your life. Part of you stays innocent forever. That part of you is worth more than the rest.
Page 265

Looking at someone who is looking at you was a drug as strong as any other.
Page 266

To stay sane, that was the thing. To stay sane you formed a version of yourself you could believe in.
Page 269

Geronima, and Sanchez, and Candy, all of them were people who suffered and along the way of their suffering they made others suffer, and Gordon could not see that making them suffer lifelong would accrue to justice. It added new harm to old, and no dead person ever came back to life that he had heard about.
Page 269

It was probably an improvident time to quit a job, with the economy tanking, but the rhythms of the world did not always coordinate with the rhythm of the person.
Page 271

As I said it, I realized that he was luring me into the water, by suggesting he would end his life he was luring me to end mine.
Page 288

There were women in San Francisco who rode motorcycles. This bothered him. Because women, how did they understand the physics of it. If you don’t get physics you can’t be in control of speed.


He could put her on the back, though. Teach her how to hold on tight, lean with him as he leaned. So many broads didn’t even know how to be a passenger, leaned the wrong way when he cornered.
Page 311

This was from the misogynist part of the storyline.

Appropriately, I'd want to pipe this fictional character, too.

The life is the rails and I was in the mountains I dreamed of from the yard. I was in them, but nothing stays what you see from far away when you get up close.
Page 335

The Disappearing Spoon

Book Notes

Okay, here we go, traipsing both down memory lane AND across the periodic table. I so much enjoyed this book. It took me a while to read it, however, and I totally missed the Caltech Bookclub meetings about it. I ended up checking it out from two different libraries for a total of three checkouts, not because it wasn't interesting, but rather because I needed to just start reading it.

The book is all about the periodic table, its history and its current state. Kean gives us stories about the different parts of the table, along with the stories of the main characters in its development, including those who sidetracked along the way.

Kean discusses the various parts of the periodic table, going through the chemistry and the physics of different elements, along with the science of finding the elements and the politics of naming them.

So... much... fun.

Probably helped that a lot of it happened at Tech and at Berkeley.

If you like science, this is a good book. If you enjoy pondering the periodic table even a hundredth as much as I do (yes, I have it memorized!), I strongly recommend this book. Even if you don't even think about the periodic table much, it still makes a great book to read to the kids before bed.

The discovery of eka-aluminium, now known as gallium, raises the question of what really drives science forward — theories, which frame how people view the world, or experiments, the simplest of which can destroy elegant theories.
Page 54

Melts in your hand! Geranium doesn't!

And after such a breakthrough, Böttger reasonably expected his freedom. Unfortunately, the king decided he was now too valuable to release and locked him up under tighter security.
Page 61

But if Ytterby had the proper economic conditions to make mining profitable and the proper geology to make it scientifically worthwhile, it still needed the proper social climate.
Page 61

They’re neither created nor destroyed: elements just are.
Page 65

Since the pinprick that existed back then, fourteen billion years ago, contained all the matter in the universe, everything around us must have been ejected from that speck.
Page 65

And if you’re looking for truly exotic materials, astronomers believe that Jupiter’s erratic magnetic field can be explained only by oceans of black, liquid “metallic hydrogen.” Scientists have seen metallic hydrogen on earth only for nanoseconds under the most exhaustively extreme conditions they can produce.
Page 70

Sure, promethium was useless, but scientists, of all people, cheer impractical discoveries, and the completion of the periodic table was epochal, the culmination of millions of man-hours.
Page 103


At this point, rooms full of young women with pencils (many of them scientists’ wives, who’d been hired to help out because they were crushingly bored in Los Alamos) would get a sheet with the random numbers and begin to calculate (sometimes without knowing what it all meant) how the neutron collided with a plutonium atom; whether it was gobbled up; how many new neutrons if any were released in the process; how many neutrons those in turn released; and so on.
Page 108

Other elements absorb extra neutrons like alcoholics do another shot at the bar — they’ll get sick someday but not for eons.
Page 113

The New Yorker staff answered, “We are already at work in our office laboratories on ‘newium’ and ‘yorkium.’ So far we just have the names.”
Page 116

But his first major scientific discovery, which propelled him to those other honors, was the result of dumb luck.
Page 116

As many inventions and discoveries are, alas.

A little childishly, he never earned more than a bachelor’s degree, not wanting to subject himself to more schooling.
Page 118

Cracked me up.

Jokes aside, much of a generation of Soviet science was squandered extracting nickel and other metals for Soviet industry.
Page 124

Hate politics like this.

“Leave [physicists] in peace,” Stalin graciously allowed. “We can always shoot them later.”
Page 125

However, though good science itself, Mendeleev’s work encouraged a lot of bad science, since it convinced people to look for something they were predisposed to find.
Page 138

Confirmation bias is a bitch.

Given that nationalism had destroyed Europe a decade earlier, other scientists did not look kindly on those Teutonic, even jingoistic names — both the Rhine and Masuria had been sites of German victories in World War I.
Page 139

In fact, Lawrence blurted out, oblivious to the Italian’s feelings, how happy he was to save $184 per month to spend on equipment, like his precious cyclotron. Ouch. This was further proof that Lawrence, for all his skill in securing funds and directing research, was obtuse with people.
Page 141

“Fission… escaped us, although it was called specifically to our attention by Ida Noddack, who sent us an article in which she clearly indicated the possibility…. The reason for our blindness is not clear.”

(As a historical curiosity, he might also have pointed out that the two people who came closest to discovering fission, Noddack and Irène Joliot-Curie — daughter of Marie Curie — and the person who eventually did discover it, Lise Meitner, were all women.)
Page 142

Yeah. The "reason" is not clear. Right.

It’s not clear why Pauling bothered to have someone check him if he wasn’t going to listen, but Pauling’s reason for ignoring the student is clear. He wanted scientific priority — he wanted every other DNA idea to be considered a knockoff of his.
Page 147

If certain bacteria, fungi, or algae inch across something made of copper, they absorb copper atoms, which disrupt their metabolism (human cells are unaffected). The microbes choke and die after a few hours. This effect — the oligodynamic, or “self-sterilizing,” effect — makes metals more sterile than wood or plastic and explains why we have brass doorknobs and metal railings in public places.
Page 168

Never underestimate spite as a motivator for genius.
Page 179

I need this on a t-shirt.

Hundreds died within weeks — further proof that when it comes to panaceas the credulity of human beings is boundless.
Page 181

After determining that life has a bias toward handedness on a deep level, Pasteur suggested that chirality was the sole “well-marked line of demarcation that at the present can be drawn between the chemistry of dead matter and the chemistry of living matter.”

If you’ve ever wondered what defines life, chemically there’s your answer.
Page 181

The clever part was that both the chiral catalyst with the rhodium atom and the target 2D molecule were sprawling and bulky. So when they approached each other to react, they did so like two obese animals trying to have sex.
Page 183

Panic never kicks in, despite the lack of oxygen. That might seem incredible if you’ve ever been trapped underwater. The instinct not to suffocate will buck you to the surface. But our hearts, lungs, and brains actually have no gauge for detecting oxygen.

Those organs judge only two things: whether we’re inhaling some gas, any gas, and whether we’re exhaling carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide dissolves in blood to form carbonic acid, so as long as we purge CO2 with each breath and tamp down the acid, our brains will relax.

It’s an evolutionary kludge, really. It would make more sense to monitor oxygen levels, since that’s what we crave. It’s easier — and usually good enough — for cells to check that carbonic acid is close to zero, so they do the minimum.
Page 188

More than anything, politics proved the folly of scientists burying their heads in lab work and hoping the world around them figured out its problems as tidily as they did their equations.
Page 205

After years of willed invisibility, Meitner was suddenly subject to Nazi pogroms. And when a colleague, a chemist, tried to turn her in, she had no choice but to flee, with just her clothes and ten deutsch marks.
Page 218

The eka-lanthanum Joliot-Curie had found was plain lanthanum, the fallout of the first tiny nuclear explosions! Hevesy, who saw early drafts of Joliot-Curie’s papers from that time, later reminisced on how close she’d come to making that unimaginable discovery. But Joliot-Curie, Hevesy said, “didn’t trust herself enough” to believe the correct interpretation. Meitner trusted herself, and she convinced Hahn that everyone else was wrong.
Page 218

He had read Goethe in the original German and found him mediocre. I was still young enough to be impressed by any strong convictions, and the denunciation made me suspicious of Goethe as a great thinker. Years
Page 240

He did so with all the enthusiasm of a dilettante, and about as much competence.
Page 240

As usual, Goethe picked the losing side because it pleased him aesthetically.
Page 241

In the late 1920s, the legendary Hungarian (and later American) designer László Moholy-Nagy drew an academic distinction between “forced obsolescence” and “artificial obsolescence.” Forced obsolescence is the normal course of things for technologies, the roughage of history books: plows gave way to reapers, muskets to Gatling guns, wooden boat hulls to steel.

In contrast, artificial obsolescence did and increasingly would dominate the twentieth century, Moholy-Nagy argued. People were abandoning consumer goods not because the goods were superannuated, but because the Joneses had some newer, fancier design. Moholy-Nagy — an artist and something of a philosopher of design — couched artificial obsolescence as materialistic, infantile, and a “moral disintegration.”
Page 244

He had read and absorbed Moholy-Nagy’s theories of design, but instead of letting the moral reproach of artificial obsolescence hem him in, Parker saw it in true American fashion: a chance to make a lot of money. If people had something better to buy, they would, even if they didn’t need
Page 245

Either way, the name fit the confessional poet, who exemplified the mad artist — someone like van Gogh or Poe, whose genius stems from parts of the psyche most of us cannot access, much less harness for artistic purposes.
Page 251

Special proteins attach to people’s DNA each morning, and after a fixed time they degrade and fall off. Sunlight resets the proteins over and over, so they hold on much longer. In fact, the proteins fall off only after darkness falls — at which point the brain should “notice” the bare DNA and stop producing stimulants.
Page 253

Many artists report feeling flatlined or tranquilized on lithium.
Page 254

Though an essential trace nutrient in all animals (in humans, the depletion of selenium in the bloodstream of AIDS patients is a fatally accurate harbinger of death), selenium is toxic in large doses.
Page 258

what pathological science is not. It’s not fraud, since the adherents of a pathological science believe they’re right — if only everyone else could see it. It’s not pseudoscience, like Freudianism and Marxism, fields that poach on the imprimatur of science yet shun the rigors of the scientific method.

It’s also not politicized science, like Lysenkoism, where people swear allegiance to a false science because of threats or a skewed ideology. Finally, it’s not general clinical madness or merely deranged belief.

It’s a particular madness, a meticulous and scientifically informed delusion. Pathological scientists pick out a marginal and unlikely phenomenon that appeals to them for whatever reason and bring all their scientific acumen to proving its existence.
Page 259

But the game is rigged from the start: their science serves only the deeper emotional need to believe in something.
Page 259

A pathological science takes advantage of that caution. Basically, its believers use the ambiguity about evidence as evidence — claiming that scientists don’t know everything and therefore there’s room for my pet theory, too.
Page 260

But what really makes the ongoing hunt for megalodons pathological is that doubt from the establishment only deepens people’s convictions.
Page 263

Still, a few skeptics, especially at Cal Tech, seethed. Cold fusion upset these men’s scientific sensibilities, and Pons and Fleischmann’s arrogance upset their modesty.
Page 265

One word, little t. Caltech, please.

Whenever pure tin tools or tin coins or tin toys got cold, a whitish rust began to creep over them like hoarfrost on a window in winter. The white rust would break out into pustules, then weaken and corrode the tin, until it crumbled and eroded away. Unlike iron rust, this was not a chemical reaction. As scientists now know, this happens because tin atoms can arrange themselves inside a solid in two different ways, and when they get cold, they shift from their strong “beta” form to the crumbly, powdery “alpha” form.
Page 279

Various European cities with harsh winters (e.g., St. Petersburg) have legends about expensive tin pipes on new church organs exploding into ash the instant the organist blasted his first chord. (Some pious citizens were more apt to blame the Devil.)
Page 280

Scientists can now coax ice into forming fourteen distinctly shaped crystals by using high-pressure chambers. Some ices sink rather than float in water, and others form not six-sided snowflakes, but shapes like palm leaves or heads of cauliflower.
Page 282

Some cosmologists today calculate that our entire universe burst into existence when a single submicronanobubble slipped free from that foam and began expanding at an exponential rate. It’s a handsome theory, actually, and explains a lot — except, unfortunately, why this might have happened.
Page 308

The first complex organic molecules may have formed not in the turbulent ocean, as is commonly thought, but in water bubbles trapped in Arctic-like sheets of ice. Water is quite heavy, and when water freezes, it crushes together dissolved “impurities,” such as organic molecules, inside bubbles. The concentration and compression in those bubbles might have been high enough to fuse those molecules into self-replicating systems.
Page 309

Oklo was powered by nothing but uranium, water, and blue-green algae (i.e., pond scum). Really. Algae in a river near Oklo produced excess oxygen after undergoing photosynthesis. The oxygen made the water so acidic that as it trickled underground through loose soil, it dissolved the uranium from the bedrock.

All uranium back then had a higher concentration of the bomb-ready uranium-235 isotope — about 3 percent, compared to 0.7 percent today. So the water was volatile already, and when underground algae filtered the water, the uranium was concentrated in one spot, achieving a critical mass. Though necessary, a critical mass wasn’t sufficient.

In general, for a chain reaction to occur, uranium nuclei must not only be struck by neutrons, they must absorb them. When pure uranium fissions, its atoms shoot out “fast” neutrons that bounce off neighbors like stones skipped across water.

Those are basically duds, wasted neutrons. Oklo uranium went nuclear only because the river water slowed the neutrons down enough for neighboring nuclei to snag them. Without the water, the reaction never would have begun. But there’s more. Fission also produces heat, obviously.

And the reason there’s not a big crater in Africa today is that when the uranium got hot, it boiled the water away. With no water, the neutrons became too fast to absorb, and the process ground to a halt. Only when the uranium cooled down did water trickle back in — which slowed the neutrons and restarted the reactor. It was a nuclear Old Faithful, self-regulating, and it consumed 13,000 pounds of uranium over 150,000 years at sixteen sites around Oklo, in on/ off cycles of 150 minutes.
Page 323


Almost all life forms use metallic elements in trace amounts to create, store, or shuttle energetic molecules around inside them. Animals primarily use the iron in hemoglobin, but the earliest and most successful forms of life, especially blue-green algae, used magnesium.
Page 328

And because Einstein determined that space and time are intertwined, some physicists believe that alpha variations in time could imply alpha variations across space. According to this theory, just as life arose on earth and not the moon because earth has water and an atmosphere, perhaps life arose here, on a seemingly random planet in a seemingly unremarkable pocket of space, because only here do the proper cosmological conditions exist for sturdy atoms and full molecules.
Page 330

First are superatoms. These clusters — between eight and one hundred atoms of one element — have the eerie ability to mimic single atoms of different elements. For instance, thirteen aluminium atoms grouped together in the right way do a killer bromine: the two entities are indistinguishable in chemical reactions. This happens despite the cluster being thirteen times larger than a single bromine atom and despite aluminium being nothing like the lacrimatory poison-gas staple. Other combinations of aluminium can mimic noble gases, semiconductors, bone materials like calcium, or elements from pretty much any other region of the periodic table.
Page 342

Assuming that he would decipher DNA, Pauling had not broken much of a sweat on his calculations at first, and Ava lit into him: “If [DNA] was such an important problem, why didn’t you work harder at it?” Even so, Linus loved her deeply, and perhaps one reason he stayed at Cal Tech so long and never transferred his allegiance to Berkeley, even though the latter was a much stronger school at the time, was that one of the more prominent members of the Berkeley faculty, Robert Oppenheimer, later head of the Manhattan Project, had tried to seduce Ava, which made Linus furious.
Page 358

Overall, the history of varying constants resembles the history of alchemy: even when there’s real science going on, it’s hard to sift it from the mysticism. Scientists tend to invoke inconstants to explain away whatever cosmological mysteries happen to trouble a particular era, such as the accelerating universe.
Page 373

Broken Homes

Book Notes

I think I kinda want all my Peter Grant book notes to say the same thing: love the book, love the series, something something rivers, if you enjoy the series keep reading, and, wow, do I love the cultural references, even though I figure I miss more than half of them.

Oh, wait.

This book is the fourth book in the Peter Grant series. It follows Peter as he tracks down a rare book that was flagged for notice if it ended up in the system, which it did. During the tracking of it, Peter finds the thief dead, and heads off to the home of the author of the book, also long since dead, but of interesting architectural interest.

Which leads to wondering what is so special about the book and the buildings and the architect. This resulted in lots of Wikipedia lookups of different architectural styles (by me, not by Peter), and an ending that was completely unexpected and brilliant in its surprise.

We have a hint of a longer story arc, too, which is intriguing, too.

I'm way enjoying the series, and sorta wish there were more good urban fantasy books coming out. If you're a fan of Aaronovitch, of course keep reading! If you're not, well, start at Midnight Riot and fix that.

Nothing kills and injures more police than attending a traffic accident on a fast road...
Page 2

It’s a police mantra that all members of the public are guilty of something, but some members of the public are more guilty than others.
Page 4

The Folly had last been refurbished in the 1930s when the British establishment firmly believed that central heating was the work, if not of the devil per se, then definitely evil foreigners bent on weakening the hardy British spirit.
Page 24

“You can’t go wrong,” he said, “by searching anyone who engages you in conversation.” On the basis that nobody willingly engages the police in conversation unless they’re trying to deflect attention from something.
Page 29

“He lives on the outskirts,” said Jaget and we shared a moment of mutual incomprehension at the inexplicable life choices of commuters.
Page 48

Commuting sucks.

Lots of hand gestures as he indicated where he wanted the solos to come in during the set because, as my dad always says, while improvisation and spontaneity may be the hallmarks of great jazz, the hallmark of being a great player is ensuring the rest of the band is spontaneously improvising the way you want them to.
Page 128

Instead, I made the usual squirmy excuses and promises of the fully grown man faced with his mum’s uncanny ability to knock ten years off his age at will.
Page 129

A quiet crowd is a bit of a worry to a copper, since a noisy crowd is one that’s telegraphing what it’s going to do next. A quiet crowd means that people are watching and thinking. And that’s always dangerous, on the off chance that what they’re thinking is, I wonder what would happen if I lobbed this half brick at that particularly handsome young police officer over there.
Page 131

“You can’t have protection from the law and then pretend it doesn’t exist when it suits you.” “Technically, we can,” said Effra. “Human rights are not contingent upon the behavior of the individual.”
Page 212

“They’re probably waiting for one of us to get freeze dried,” said Lesley, whose attitude toward taser deployment was that people with heart conditions, epilepsy and an aversion to electrocution should not embark upon breaches of the peace in the first place.
Page 214

The trouble with people is they’ve got a romantic view of the past.”
Page 230

Back then it was a privilege, not a right.” He finished his beer. “Not that decent housing shouldn’t be a human right, you understand? But in those days people appreciated what they had.”
Page 231

It’s a sad fact of modern life that sooner or later you will end up on YouTube doing something stupid. The trick, according to my dad, is to make a fool of yourself to the best of your ability.
Page 236

It was just as well Postmartin had his own copy, because he regarded people who annotate books the way my dad looked upon people who left their fingerprints on the playing surface of their vinyl.
Page 251

“You know how some people work at being stupid?” she asked. “If you give them a clear, common sense choice they give it a lot of thought and then choose stupid.” “I think we did probation
Page 254

“The farmer’s not going to like it if he comes tooling up in a tractor and he can’t get in,” I said. “He’ll get over it,” she said. “Farmers are always pissed off about something.”
Page 281

“Maybe they were made here,” I said and that’s when the Asbo’s car alarm went off. The Asbo had a good one too, a really annoying woo-woo-woo followed by the sound of a donkey being castrated with a rusty saw and then back to the woo-woo-woo. It cut off midway through the third cycle.
Page 286

From an ordinary policing point of view the best way to deal with firearms is to be outside the operational perimeter while SCO19, the armed wing of the Metropolitan Police, shoot the person with a gun. The second best way is to deal with the weapon before it gets pointed at you.
Page 288

“This is fucking stupid,” said Max, who had repeated this statement at regular intervals since we’d arrived here.
Page 292

But shove had arrived and I found I couldn’t make myself move, not even a little bit. It was shameful. I had found the upper limit of my courage. Fortunately for me, there is no known lower limit to human stupidity.
Page 294

“Fuck it!” yelled Lesley. “Go, go, go.”

So we went, went, went.
Page 297

“Do you think we should...” I nodded in the direction of the barn.

“Peter,” said Lesley. “From a purely operational point of view I believe that would be a really fucking bad idea.”
Page 298

SOMETIMES, WHEN YOU turn up on their doorstep, people are already expecting bad news. Parents of missing kids, partners that have heard about the air crash on the news — you can see it in their faces — they’ve braced themselves. And there’s a strange kind of relief, too. The waiting is over, the worst has happened and they know that they will ride it out. Some don’t, of course. Some go mad or fall into depression or just fall apart. But most soldier through. But sometimes they haven’t got a clue and you arrive on their doorstep like god’s own sledgehammer and smash their life to pieces. You try not to think about it, but you can’t help wondering what it must be like.
Page 347