|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.|
Andrea Camilleri passed away a short while ago. After his passing, his death was mentioned in the NYT and in a post on MB.
I wasn't sure if the MB post was a recommendation for the books or not, but figured, hey, the author passed away, he was a fairly prolific writer, maybe a book or two are worth reading. Problem is that most early works, especially the first of a series, and the first published by an author, have rough edges. The author may not have (that is to say, likely hasn't) developed their voice yet, so the first novel isn't a great choice for a reader's introduction to said author's works.
At least, that's what I'm going to say.
The book was a murder mystery. The characters were one-dimensional, feeling more like a long 1970s era Fantasy Island episode than a detective or mystery book. A prominent business man (was he as good as his public face, or was he good at covering up his corruption?) is found dead in a seedy location. A blonde is seen fleeing the scene, suspiciously.
Everyone thinks the guy died while having sex with a known high-class prostitute. Well, everyone except his wife and Urbane Sicilian police inspector Salvo Montalbano. Let's take a moment to point out that only the wife saw that the dead guy's underwear was on inside-out, okay?
Yeah, so, when the murderer comes out of nowhere, I rather scream deus ex machina and flip the table.
I'd say, if you're on a desert island, sure, read this book. Or if you're a fan of Camilleri and are reading all his works, yes. Otherwise, watch the tv shows. Wait, maybe not, are they any good? Don't know.
Pecorilla was the foreman in charge of assigning the areas to be cleaned, and he nurtured an undisguised hatred for anyone with an education, having himself managed to finish middle school, at age forty, only thanks to Cusumano, who had a man-to-man talk with the teacher. Thus he manipulated things so that the hardest, most demeaning work always fell to the three university graduates in his charge.
“If, on the other hand, you hush everything up, the silence itself starts to talk, rumors begin to multiply out of control until you can’t stop them anymore.
If I had to express my sincere opinion of the man, I would say that he represents a splendid specimen of the nincompoop, of the sort that flourish wherever there is a rich and powerful father.
He thought it best to exit, return to his car, and get his pistol from the glove compartment. He hardly ever carried a weapon; the weight bothered him, and the gun rumpled his trousers and jackets.
“Where do we go now?” Ingrid repeated. She wasn’t joking anymore; utter female that she was, she had noticed the man’s agitation.
Have you ever had a book that you started reading (okay, really, that part probably lost 80% of the US population) and just unexpectedly sank into like a warm bath? Like, you thought you would like the book (which is why you started reading it in the first place), but didn't realize that the book was going to become a homecoming, that you found a safe space?
Yeah, this book was like that for me.
I borrowed the book from the library and read it. Then borrowed the audio book and listened to it. Then bought a hardback copy of the book, to read again.
The book is a sort of long essay on the beauty of silence, by Erling Kagge, who walked unsupported and unaided to both the North Pole and the South Pole. Yeah, while y'all are drinking beers and watching some stupid sports game, a man walked to the South Pole and back out alone. IDK, seems like someone worth listening to when he starts talking about silence.
The timing of the book in my life was amazing. Maybe the timing will be good for you, too? Let me buy you a copy.
I loved this book. If I could, I'd have this be a textbook that every high school kid had to read, to understand biases and how they are being externally manipulated. Can you imagine how much better everyone would be if we were all aware of our biases and the cultural and commercial manipulations happening? WOW!
Anyway, ahem, this book.
This book lists a whole slew of cognitive biases, logic fallacies, and faulty thinkings that, once you know about them, you can see everywhere.
I suspect that, sadly, even if a lot of people know about them, they won't care enough to do anything positive about them, but for people who do care, for people who want to improve, knowing about them is incredibly powerful.
I loved this book. I found it amazing and will buy you a copy if you promise to read it fully.
To fight against the confirmation bias, try writing down your beliefs—whether in terms of worldview, investments, marriage, health care, diet, career strategies—and set out to find disconfirming evidence.
Since this behavior was discovered, nearly every airline has instituted crew resource management (CRM), which coaches pilots and their crews to discuss any reservations they have openly and quickly. In other words: They carefully deprogram the authority bias. CRM has contributed more to flight safety in the past twenty years than have any technical advances.
Whenever you are about to make a decision, think about which authority figures might be exerting an influence on your reasoning. And when you encounter one in the flesh, do your best to challenge him or her.
If something is repeated often enough, it gets stored at the forefront of our minds. It doesn’t even have to be true. How often did the Nazi leaders have to repeat the term “the Jewish question” before the masses began to believe that it was a serious problem?
We prefer wrong information to no information.
availability bias. Fend it off by spending time with people who think differently than you do—people whose experiences and expertise are different from yours. We require others’ input to overcome the availability bias.
Life is a muddle, as intricate as a Gordian knot.
We want our lives to form a pattern that can be easily followed. Many call this guiding principle “meaning.” If our story advances evenly over the years, we refer to it as “identity.”
“We try on stories as we try on clothes,” said Max Frisch, a famous Swiss novelist.
Stories are dubious entities. They simplify and distort reality and filter things that don’t fit. But apparently we cannot do without them. Why remains unclear.
Whenever you hear a story, ask yourself: Who is the sender, what are his intentions, and what did he hide under the rug? The omitted elements might not be of relevance. But, then again, they might be even more relevant than the elements featured in the story,
The real issue with stories: They give us a false sense of understanding, which inevitably leads us to take bigger risks and urges us to take a stroll on thin ice.
The hindsight bias is one of the most prevailing fallacies of all. We can aptly describe it as the “I told you so” phenomenon: In retrospect, everything seems clear and inevitable.
So why is the hindsight bias so perilous? Well, it makes us believe we are better predictors than we actually are, causing us to be arrogant about our knowledge and consequently to take too much risk.
Overcoming the hindsight bias is not easy. Studies have shown that people who are aware of it fall for it just as much as everyone else.
Keep a journal. Write down your predictions—for political changes, your career, your weight, the stock market, and so on. Then, from time to time, compare your notes with actual developments. You will be amazed at what a poor forecaster you are.
but the diaries, oral histories, and historical documents from the period. If you can’t live without news, read newspapers from five, ten, or twenty years ago.
The more we like someone, the more inclined we are to buy from or help that person.
According to research, we see people as pleasant, if (a) they are outwardly attractive, (b) they are similar to us in terms of origin, personality, or interests, and (c) they like us.
Of course your vote counts, but only by the tiniest of fractions, bordering on the irrelevant.
So, if you are a salesperson, make buyers think you like them, even if this means outright flattery. And if you are a consumer, always judge a product independently of who is selling it. Banish the salespeople from your mind or, rather, pretend you don’t like them.
If someone says “never,” I usually register this as a minuscule probability greater than zero since “never” cannot be compensated by a negative probability.
In sum: Let’s not get too excited. Improbable coincidences are precisely that: rare but very possible events. It’s not surprising when they finally happen. What would be more surprising is if they never came to be.
Have you ever bitten your tongue in a meeting? Surely. You sit there, say nothing, and nod along to proposals. After all, you don’t want to be the (eternal) naysayer. Moreover, you might not be 100 percent sure why you disagree, whereas the others are unanimous—and far from stupid. So you keep your mouth shut for another day. When everyone thinks and acts like this, groupthink is at work: This is where a group of smart people makes reckless decisions because everyone aligns their opinions with the supposed consensus.
Induction seduces us and leads us to conclusions such as: “Mankind has always survived, so we will be able to tackle any future challenges, too.” Sounds good in theory, but what we fail to realize is that such a statement can only come from a species that has lasted until now.
if you want to convince someone about something, don’t focus on the advantages; instead highlight how it helps them dodge the disadvantages.
The fear of losing something motivates people more than the prospect of gaining something of equal value.
We can’t fight it: Evil is more powerful and more plentiful than good. We are more sensitive to negative than to positive things.
In the West, teams function better if and only if they are small and consist of diverse, specialized people. This makes sense, because within such groups, individual performances can be traced back to each specialist.
We hide behind team decisions. The technical term for this is “diffusion of responsibility.”
People behave differently in groups than when alone (otherwise there would be no groups). The disadvantages of groups can be mitigated by making individual performances as visible as possible.
When it comes to growth rates, do not trust your intuition. You don’t have any. Accept it. What really helps is a calculator or, with low growth rates, the magic number of 70.
Second, avoid ad-contaminated sources like the plague. How fortunate we are that books are (still) ad-free!
try to remember the source of every argument you encounter. Whose opinions are these? And why do they think that way? Probe the issue like an investigator would: Cui bono? Who benefits? Admittedly, this is a lot of work and will slow down your decision making. But it will also refine it.
Let’s call it alternative blindness: We systematically forget to compare an existing offer with the next-best alternative.
Warren Buffett does things: “Each deal we measure against the second-best deal that is available at any given time—even if it means doing more of what we are already doing.”
Forget about the rock and the hard place, and open your eyes to the other, superior alternatives.
social comparison bias had kicked in—that is, the tendency to withhold assistance to people who might outdo you, even if you look like a fool in the long run.
Kawasaki says: “A-players hire people even better than themselves. It’s clear, though, that B-players hire C-players so they can feel superior to them, and C-players hire D-players. If you start hiring B-players, expect what Steve [Jobs] called ‘the bozo explosion’ to happen in your organization.”
Hire people who are better than you, otherwise you soon preside over a pack of underdogs.
Suppose you sit on the board of a company. A point of discussion is raised—a topic on which you have not yet passed judgment. The first opinion you hear will be crucial to your overall assessment. The same applies to the other participants, a fact that you can exploit: If you have an opinion, don’t hesitate airing it first. This way, you will influence your colleagues more and draw them over to your side. If, however, you are chairing the committee, always ask members’ opinions in random order so that no one has an unfair advantage.
On a societal level, NIH syndrome has serious consequences. We overlook shrewd ideas simply because they come from other cultures.
We are drunk on our own ideas. To sober up, take a step back every now and then and examine their quality in hindsight.
U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, but at a press conference in 2002, he expressed a philosophical thought with exceptional clarity when he offered this observation: There are things we know (“ known facts”), there are things we do not know (“ known unknowns”), and there are things we do not know that we do not know (“ unknown unknowns”).
Put yourself in situations where you can catch a ride on a positive Black Swan (as unlikely as that is). Become an artist, inventor, or entrepreneur with a scalable product. If you sell your time (e.g., as an employee, dentist, or journalist), you are waiting in vain for such a break. But even
To my recollection, I have not read an Agatha Christie mystery before this one. Given she was a prolific writer, knowing which of her books to read, which are better than the rest, is a worthwhile endeavor. Fortunately, others have read all of Christie's books, and I can use their wisdom to curate my reading list.
This book tops many of Christie's must-read books lists. It is the highest rated Poirot books, and the highest rated Christie mystery book, so, rather than skipping to the end, I started at the top.
And read this one.
I had the advantage of not having read this book before and not having seen the movie. I loved the ending. Well, not the ending ending, but the big reveal. Wow, just wow. I suspect if I had read the other Poirot books, I would have recognized him when he was introduced. I didn't, so even that small reveal was fun for me.
Basic plot: small(-ish) town doctor receives a call in the middle of the night that a friend / patient / big name in town is dead, and rushes to find, yes, indeed, he is not only dead, but also obviously murdered. He then works with the local police and, when invited, Poirot to discover who the murderer. It could be any number of persons in the dead man's household, based on given testimonies, and wow, everyone has something to hide. Society and shame has a way of doing that to us.
The glimpses into a past society was fun, too.
While normally I'd say, "I strongly recommend one read an Agatha Christie mystery," regardless of which one, I agree with all those who have read many if not all of her books, this one is great. Strongly recommended.
“Do not disquiet yourself. It is not with me a habit. But you can figure to yourself, monsieur, that a man may work towards a certain object, may labour and toil to attain a certain kind of leisure and occupation, and then find that, after all, he yearns for the old busy days, and the old occupations that he thought himself so glad to leave?”
“Yes,” I said slowly. “I fancy that that is a common enough occurrence. I myself am perhaps an instance. A year ago I came into a legacy—enough to enable me to realize a dream. I have always wanted to travel, to see the world. Well, that was a year ago, as I said, and—I am still here.”
My little neighbour nodded. “The chains of habit. We work to attain an object, and the object gained, we find that what we miss is the daily toil."
“And anyway,” continued Miss Flora, “all this making a fuss about things because someone wore or used them seems to me all nonsense. They’re not wearing or using them now. That pen that George Eliot wrote The Mill on the Floss with—that sort of thing—well, it’s only just a pen after all. If you’re really keen on George Eliot, why not get The Mill on the Floss in a cheap edition and read it.”
Youth is very buoyant. Even the brutal murder of his friend and employer could not dim Geoffrey Raymond’s spirits for long.
Perhaps that is as it should be. I do not know. I have lost the quality of resilience long since myself.
She knows the value of being direct on certain occasions. Any hints would certainly have been wasted on Caroline.
“You see,” she explained, following directness with tact,
“Everyone has something to hide,” I quoted, smiling.
“You still believe that?”
“More than ever, my friend."
“Curiosity is not my besetting sin,” I remarked coldly. “I can exist comfortably without knowing exactly what my neighbours are doing and thinking.”
I should not like Caroline to know. She is fond of me, and then, too, she is proud…My death will be a grief to her, but grief passes….
Okay, everyone knows the movie.
Not everyone knows the movie was a book. The afterword in the book confirms this.
I had read recently about how Palahniuk's financial advisors had pretty much swindled him out of his earnings from this book ($6000 advance, according to the afterword!), and that, well, he had taken a startling Classical Stoic view on the whole thing. Maybe my purchasing of the book (twice, actually, to my surprise) will help in some small way.
So, this book.
The Narrator is living a typical American life, everything is normal, and he feels empty. He starts going to support groups to feel alive.
I loved the support groups so much, if people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention. If this might be the last time they saw you, they really saw you. Everything else about their checkbook balance and radio songs and messy hair went out the window. You had their full attention. People listened instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. And when they spoke, they weren’t telling you a story. When the two of you talked, you were building something, and afterward you were both different than before.
Eventually he meets up with Tyler Durden, who is pretty much the asshole every guy wants permission to be. The narrator's life begins to unravel. Said narrator doesn't care much, because Tyler is there to carry him along.
I had seen the movie, I know how the story goes. I had the eight rules of fight club (all lowercase in the book, unlike the uppercase the media uses) memorized at one time. Having now read the book, I am impressed with how closely the movie is to the book. The more subtle details such as the single porn movie frame being spliced into a family movie translated into the movie really well, I can appreciate those details.
Pretty much anyone who is a fan of the movie should read the book. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Palahniuk's writing style, or even a minor one, so I'm unlikely to read another book of his any time soon, but this one was worth reading if you are a fan.
I just don’t want to die without a few scars, I say. It’s nothing anymore to have a beautiful stock body. You see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right out of a dealer’s showroom in 1955, I always think, what a waste.
It used to be enough that when I came home angry and knowing that my life wasn’t toeing my five-year plan, I could clean my condominium or detail my car. Someday I’d be dead without a scar and there would be a really nice condo and car. Really, really nice, until the dust settled or the next owner. Nothing is static.
Ever since college, I make friends. They get married. I lose friends. Fine.
"You know, the condom is the glass slipper of our generation. You slip it on when you meet a stranger. You dance all night, then you throw it away. The condom, I mean. Not the stranger.”
Marla tells me how in the wild you don’t see old animals because as soon as they age, animals die. If they get sick or slow down, something stronger kills them. Animals aren’t meant to get old. Marla lies down on her bed and undoes the tie on her bathrobe, and says our culture has made death something wrong. Old animals should be an unnatural exception. Freaks.
Cancer will be like that, I tell Marla. There will be mistakes, and maybe the point is not to forget the rest of yourself if one little part might go bad.
There are a lot of things we don’t want to know about the people we love.
By this time next week, each guy on the Assault Committee has to pick a fight where he won’t come out a hero. And not in fight club. This is harder than it sounds. A man on the street will do anything not to fight.
The goal was to teach each man in the project that he had the power to control history. We, each of us, can take control of the world.
"You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don’t really need.
On a long enough time line, everyone’s survival rate drops to zero.
8 11 in the Harry Hole series, which I read out of order, and have come to really like. I didn't like the initial Harry Hole book I read, which is a shame, because I now look forward to them.
So, the end of book
7 10 felt like a good conclusion for the Harry Hole series. He gets to live happily-ever-after, the fairy tale ending we all want (well, most of us, I guess). Thing is, said endings are rarely The End, and the shine can often wear off in the mundane. Except for when it doesn't. When you don't trust it. When you realize it can all come crashing down in a moment, because life is like that, it keeps going, it keeps changing, it keeps moving, and loss in the in the cards for everyone playing the game of life.
Also, Nesbo had a few more loose ends to wrap up, like, oh, IDK, the one who got away maybe?
Who comes back.
The story starts with a couple gruesome murders, and Harry saying, "Nope, I'm not on the force any more, I'm sober, I'm with the most amazing woman for me, I got this, go away." Except when you have a calling, you can fight it until you die, or give in and follow it.
So back in Harry goes.
When a storyline wraps up and you have another 20% of the book left, you will often realize that you're reading either George R.R. Martin or some Harry Hole book, and that what looks like a nicely wrapped gift ... isn't.
I enjoyed the book, it's worth reading. If you're a fan of Nesbo's Harry Hole books, keep reading. If you aren't yet a fan, start at book one and see if you like it before reading this one (and include the six between).
Unrelated, this was book 50 that I've read this year so far, and another square on my 2019 Goals Bingo! card. Yay!
"That was the experience they were buying when they employed her. For instance, you shouldn’t betray your ideals. Or those closest to you. Or your responsibilities and obligations. And, if you get it wrong, you apologise and try to get it right next time. It’s OK to make mistakes. But betrayal isn’t OK."
The second sort was waking up alone. That was characterised by an awareness that he was alone in bed, alone in life, alone in the world, and it could sometimes fill him with a sweet sensation of freedom, and at other times with a melancholy that could perhaps be called loneliness, but which was perhaps just a glimpse of what anyone’s life really is: a journey from the attachment of the umbilical cord to a death where we are finally separated from everything and everyone.
Happiness was like moving on thin ice, it was better to crack the ice and swim in cold water and freeze and struggle to get out than simply to wait until you plunged into it.
“Harry?” He could tell from the tone of her voice that she wasn’t going to give up.
“Don’t start with my name, please, you know it makes me nervous.”
Kinda like starting a sentence with "So....."
“OK. I suspect you of suggesting a dead woman because you assume I’ll think you’d find it less of a threat if it’s a woman I can’t spend the night with, in purely practical terms..."
“In that case, why don’t you just do it? Why not have a fling?”
“To start with, I don’t even know if my dream woman would say yes, and I’m no good at dealing with rejection. And secondly, because the bit about ‘no consequences’ doesn’t apply.”
Harry focused on the newspaper again. “You might leave me. Even if you don’t, you won’t look at me the same way anymore.”
“You could keep it secret.”
“I wouldn’t have the energy.”
“When you say you wouldn’t have the energy to keep an affair secret, do you mean ‘couldn’t keep up the pretence’?” Rakel asked.
“I mean ‘couldn’t be bothered.’ Keeping secrets is exhausting. And I’d feel guilty.” He turned the page. No more pages. “Having a guilty conscience is exhausting.”
“I feel that I’m trying to answer your questions as honestly as I can. But in order to do that, I need to think about them, and be realistic. If I were to follow my initial emotional instinct, I’d have said what I thought you wanted to hear. So here’s a warning. I’m not honest, I’m a slippery sod. My honesty now is merely a long-term investment in my own plausibility. Because there may come a day when I really need to lie, and then it might be handy if you think I’m honest.”
“Heredity. It’s like going to a fortune-teller and regretting it. As human beings, we tend not to like things we can’t avoid. Death, for instance.”
The most peculiar thing wasn’t that he’d become a teacher, but that he liked it. That he, like most people usually regarded as taciturn and introverted, felt less inhibited in front of a gathering of demanding students than when the guy at the only open checkout in the 7-Eleven put a packet of Camel Lights down on the counter and Harry thought about repeating his request for “Camels,” before noticing the restlessness of the queue behind him.
Wow, okay, this.
“Mm. Just because there are only a few of them doesn’t mean that they’re not right.”
“You yourself have said that if you can think of any form of deviancy, there’ll be someone out there who’s got it.”
“Oh yes, it’s all out there. Or will be. Our sexuality is all about what we’re capable of thinking and feeling. And that’s pretty much unlimited."
Harry remembered something he had once thought. That when he fell, when he pulled the cork from the bottle and took the first swig, it wasn’t the way he imagined, because that wasn’t the decisive moment. The decision had already been taken long before. And from that moment on, the only question was what the trigger would be. It was bound to come. At some point the bottle would be standing there in front of him. And it would have been waiting for him. And he for it. The rest was just opposite charges, magnetism, the inevitability of the laws of physics. Shit.
“Are you still dry, Harry?”
“As a Norwegian oil well, boss.”
“Hm. You do know that Norwegian oil wells aren’t dry, don’t you? They’ve just been shut down until the price of oil rises again.”
“That was the image I was trying to convey, yes.”
Hagen shook his head. “And there was me thinking that you’d get more mature with age.”
“Disappointing, isn’t it? We don’t get wiser, just older."
“Some detectives might regard it as—what’s the word I’m looking for?—challenging, to have such a big name from the past looking over their shoulder.”
“Not a problem—I always play with my cards on the table, sir.” Katrine gave a brief smile.
He turned and looked at her with one eyebrow raised. “Why do you ask that?” And she felt it now as she had back then, the way that look could hit her like an electric shock, the way he—a man who could be so reserved, so distant—could bulldoze everything else aside just by looking at you for a second, and demand—and get—all of your attention. In that one second there was only one man in the whole world.
Harry was running. Harry didn’t like running. Some people ran because they liked it. Haruki Murakami liked it. Harry liked Murakami’s books, apart from the one about running—he had given up on that one. Harry ran because he liked stopping. He liked having to run. He liked weight training: a more concrete pain that was limited by the performance of his muscles, rather than a desire to have more pain. That probably said something about the weakness of his character, his inclination to flee, to look for an end to the pain even before it had started.
“What’s your point?”
“That people are more scared than the likelihood of meeting a vampirist ought to make them. Because it’s all over the front pages of the newspapers, and because they’ve read that he drinks blood. But at the same time they light cigarettes that are pretty much certain to kill them.”
And then you had people—like Isabelle and he himself—who wanted absolutely everything: power, but without any suffocating obligations. Admiration and respect, but enough anonymity to be able to move freely. Family, to provide a stable framework and help their genes survive, but also free access to sex outside the four walls of the home. The apartment and the car. And solid shit.
Possibly because she was exhausted and nervous, possibly because the brain takes refuge in silly things when it ought to be concentrating on things that are overwhelming and terrifying.
“And you sound like you’re thinking about employing a thief.”
“I’ve never had anything against thieves with acceptable motives.”
She laughed. “In the end is somewhere between what’s dragging you down today, and the day when nothing can drag us down any more, Harry.”
Harry closed his eyes. Of course there was something to hope for, something to look forward to: the time that comes after what’s dragging you down today. The day when nothing can drag you down any more.
He sat down, took a sip of coffee. Gave her the time she needed, didn’t fill the silence with words that demanded answers.
The sender was email@example.com. No text, just an image. Presumably taken with a light-sensitive camera, seeing as she hadn’t noticed a flash. And probably a telephoto lens. In the foreground was the dog pissing on the cage, and there she was, in the middle of the cage, standing stiffly and staring like a wild animal. She’d been tricked. It wasn’t the vampirist who had called her.
“They often get angry and full of moral indignation at that age,” Steffens said. “They shift the blame for anything that goes wrong onto their father, and the man they once wanted to become suddenly represents everything they don’t want to become.”
“Are you speaking from experience?”
“Of course, we do that all the time.”
“Does it end up positive?”
“The joy of saving lives minus the despair at losing people you could have saved.”
“Yes, I saw the crucifix in your office. You believe in callings.”
“I think you do too, Hole. I’ve seen you. Maybe not a calling from God, but you still feel it all the same.”
Harry looked down at his cup. Steffens was right about the coffee being intriguingly bad. “Does that mean you don’t like your job?”
“I hate my job,” the senior consultant smiled. “If it had been up to me, I’d have chosen to be a concert pianist.”
“You’re a good pianist?”
“That’s the curse, isn’t it? When you’re not good at what you love, and good at something you hate.”
Harry nodded. “That’s the curse. We do jobs where we can be useful.”
“And the lie is that there’s a reward for someone who follows a calling.”
“Perhaps sometimes the work in itself is reward enough.”
“Only for the concert pianist who loves music, or the executioner who loves blood.”
“Maybe he didn’t hate it as much as he claimed.”
“How do you mean?”
Harry shrugged. “An alcoholic hates and curses drink because it ruins his life. But at the same time it is his life.”
“There are various answers to that,” Steffens said. “And one that’s true.”
“And that is?”
“That we don’t know.”
“Like you don’t know what’s wrong with her.”
“Hm. What do you know, really?”
“If you’re asking in general terms, we know quite a lot. But if people knew how much we don’t know, they’d be scared, Harry. Needlessly scared. So we try to keep quiet about that.”
“We say we’re in the repair business, but we’re actually in the consolation business.”
“So why are you telling me this, Steffens? Why aren’t you consoling me?”
“Because I’m pretty sure you know that consolation is an illusion."
"... detective you’re also selling something more than you say you are. You give people a feeling of comforting justice, of order and security. But there’s no perfect, objective truth, and no true justice."
“Do you know what made crime rates go down in the U.S.A. in the nineties?
Because crime rates didn’t just fall in New York, but right across the U.S.A. The answer is actually the more liberal abortion laws that were introduced in the 1970s.” Steffens leaned back in his chair and paused, as if to let Harry think it through for himself. “Single, dissolute women having sex with men who vanish the next morning, or at least as soon as they realise she’s pregnant. Pregnancies like that have been a conveyor belt producing criminal offspring for centuries. Children without fathers, without boundaries, without a mother with the money to give them an education or moral backbone or to teach them the ways of the Lord. These women would happily have taken their embryonic children’s lives if they hadn’t risked being punished for it. And then, in the 1970s, they got what they wanted. The U.S.A. harvested the fruits of the holocaust that was the result of liberal abortion laws fifteen, twenty years later.”
“I suppose that’s just the way it is,” Katrine said. “We start off having everything, and then lose it, piece by piece. Strength. Youth. Future. People we like…”
And just as he felt tears welling up, they were suppressed by rage. Of course we lose them, everyone we try to hold on to, the fates disdain us, make us small, pathetic. When we cry for people we’ve lost, it’s not out of sympathy, because of course we know that they’re free from pain at last. But still we cry. We cry because we’re alone again. We cry out of self-pity.
“And then it comes back. Doesn’t it?” She laughed again. “Nothing’s forever, life is by definition temporary and always changing. It’s horrible, but that’s also what makes it bearable.”
“This too shall pass.”
“Let’s hope so."
“I don’t know. I just know that when I’m walking on the wafer-thin ice of happiness, I’m terrified, so terrified that I wish it was over, that I was already in the water.”
"Admitting that we have doubts is taken as an admission of our own inadequacy, not an indication of the complexity of the mystery or the limitations of our profession."
“I remember some advice I was given when I first started working on cases, Harry. That if you want to survive, you have to learn when to let go.”
“I’m sure that’s good advice,” Harry said, lifting his coffee cup to his lips and looking up at Hagen. “If you think survival’s so bloody important.”
“You should never underestimate the first thing you think,” Harry said. “That’s usually based on more information than you’re actually aware of. And the simplest solution is often the right one.”
“Harry doesn’t like people, you see.”
“I do like people,” Harry said. “I just don’t like being with them. Particularly not when there’s a lot of them at the same time.”
It no longer irritated Steffens that people thought that cold was a thing, and didn’t understand that it was merely the absence of heat. Cold was the natural, dominant state. Heat the exception. The way murder and cruelty were natural, logical, and mercy an anomaly, a result of the human herd’s intricate way of promoting the survival of the species.
We feel first and reason afterwards. We see a man who doesn’t intervene to rescue his wife, and we feel contempt. Then along comes what we think is cold, objective reflection, but is actually us trying to find new information to justify what we felt initially.
He had let go so many times before. Had given in to pain, fear, a death wish. But he had also given in to a primitive, egocentric survival instinct that had shouted down any longing for a painless nothingness, sleep, darkness. And that was why he was here. Still here. And this time he wasn’t letting go.
I did not like this book.
I have previously like Cleave's writing, perhaps less than Mom does, but enjoyed it none-the-less. The first one I read of his, Trust No One, I really enjoyed. The second one less so. This one I actively dislike.
Because the main character is a sadistic murderer, and we hare supposed to feel sympathy for him because he got his ball crushed in a vise (yes, literally, I'm giving you a spoiler there) and he's being framed for a murder he didn't actually do. That is, one he didn't do. We're told to ignore the six murders and rapes he did do.
No. No no no. There is a lot of misery and pain surrounding those deaths (well, in the fictitious world there is, but there's enough around in the real world to be able to make the connection), and those are pretty hard to ignore with the basic premise of the whole plot.
Now, the social commentary part is a bit more interesting. Cleave weaves a tale of first impressions, how our prejudices blind us to reality, and how being able to see past our assumptions is crucial to surviving, even thriving, in this world.
That particular commentary, however, doesn't negate the horrid thought that we are to sympathize with an active and deliberate murderer.
Read Cleave's other books. Skip this one.
It was hanging over her heart when she drove her parents to the funeral home, sat down with the funeral director, and, over tea and coffee that nobody touched, shopped through coffin brochures, turning the glossy pages and trying to pick out something her dead brother would look good in. They had to do the same for the suit. Even death was fashion conscious.
The cemetery is an expanse of lush lawn broken up with cement markers and, at the moment, mostly deserted, except for a handful of people standing in front of gravestones, all of them with tragedies of their own.
How can it make sense that he should die at fifteen, almost sixteen? The other people planted in this location average sixty-two years old.
Back at the bathroom door I call out to her. “Come out or I’ll break your cat’s neck.” “Please, please don’t hurt her.”
It seems the only thing Mom has to live for is talking. And complaining. Luckily the two go hand in hand for her.
The fantasy wasn’t as good as the reality, and the reality was much messier, but it was an experience, and they say practice makes perfect.
Henry then went on to point out that if man was made in God’s image and man was doing nothing to help him, then God would be doing nothing too. If God came down to walk about the earth, Henry said, and saw him sitting there outside the parking building, begging for change and food, then God would look right through him and just walk on by. The same way everybody else did.
Strangely, it was Martin who suffered the least, because he didn’t understand he was dying. Even at the end he thought he was going to be getting better. Didn’t they all think that? Yes. Life was always going to get better.
I’m not actually sure where ideas come from, whether they’re just floating around out there in some dimension close to but not quite of this world, where our minds can reach out and pluck them, whether a series of firing synapses in our mind weigh up cold data into cold possibilities, or whether it comes down to a simple train of thought riding through Lucksville. Ideas come at any time, often when you’re not expecting them.
Sometimes it’s all I need. Other times it’s not enough. Can’t complain. Who’d listen?
The interesting thing about insanity is that Insanity is strictly a legal term, not a medical one. Patients like me are not insane—we just plead it if we’re caught. The reality is if we really were insane, we wouldn’t be trying to evade conviction—we’d be caught at the scene smeared in blood and peanut butter and singing Barry Manilow tunes.
“So why are you talking to me?” I ask. “I’ve got bills to pay.” Sure, that and the fact that money will always win out over fear, loyalty, truth, or whatever other bullshit shoves its way into a prostitute’s life.
“She threatens him, she even goes to the police, but at the end of the day her fear of him and her love for him prevent her from acting. This woman is a loser. You can’t understand how she could even have married a guy like that, let alone have his children. But you forget he’d been charming when she met him, the same way you were charming when you met your wife.”
I also know that domestic abuse isn’t about a man who is in love with his wife too much; it’s about a man who is in love with the ability to control her.
Do you know what it’s like, Joe, to know you’re absolutely right about something—I mean, beyond any doubt—but you can’t get somebody else to agree with you? It’s not that they don’t understand, or that they don’t want to. They’ve become so used to doing the wrong thing that there couldn’t possibly be another way.”
Her parents reminded her time and time again, but the problem when people remind you so often is that you start to ignore it. The words go in, but they don’t settle anywhere.
While I understand the bone-deep need to go home, home of our memories and melancholy don't exist. Okorafor conveys this in Binti: Home incredibly well, as Binti returns home and it just... isn't. Her family it torn between the joy of seeing her, and the rage at her ignoring the path they set out for her.
Which is pretty much the lesson one can take from the series so far: that we need to follow our own path, even as it is filled with stress and guilt and pain and disappointment.
Really liking the series so far, recommended, but be sure to have all three books before you start reading. The first two are fast reads, and you'll want to jump right into the third after finishing this one.
Plus, I didn’t want to turn back. Why don’t I ever want to do what I’m supposed to do?
I can relate to this.
I’d come all this way to go on my pilgrimage because I’d thought my body was trying to tell me something was wrong with it. I hadn’t wanted to admit it to myself, but I’d thought I’d broken myself because of the choices I’d made, because of my actions, because I’d left my home to go to Oomza Uni. Because of guilt.
Suddenly, I felt cold. Very very cold. With dismay. Deep down, I knew. From the moment my grandmother told me about the Zinariya, I’d known, really. Change was constant. Change was my destiny. Growth.
“Oh, they know, someone in those clans knows enough to build toxic ideas against us right into their cultures. That’s really why we are so outcast, untouchable to them."
Why did the Seven allow this to happen? Yet, drowning in the waters of death gave me new life. Not drowning in it, carried by it.
“You did not succeed your father. No man will marry you. Selfish girl. Failed girl.” I was supposed to be these things in order to be. I had not taken my place within the collective. This had left me feeling exposed and foundationless, even as I pursued my dreams.
I looked at my hands, wanting to bring them to my face and inhale the scent of the otjize covering them. I wanted to go home. I wanted to chase crabs near the lake until the sun set and then turn around to look at the Root and admire the glow of the bioluminescent plants that grew near the roof. I wanted to argue with my sisters in the living room. I wanted to walk into the village square with my best friend Dele to
I wanted to sit in my father’s shop and construct an astrolabe so sophisticated, my father would clap arthritis-free hands with delight. I wanted to play math games with my mother where sometimes she’d win and sometimes I’d win. I wanted to go home.
I wanted to go home, but I wanted to solve the edan more. Everything comes with a sacrifice.
I have had this book, and its two sequels, on my to-read list for a long while now. I recall seeing it on Martha and Chookie's door bench and commenting that I wanted to read it. Martha was enthusiastic about it, as was Sonja, resulting in my increased anticipation for reading it.
In Binti, we have the introduction of a girl / teen / young woman making a choice between what her society and family wants and expects her to be, and who she wants to become. She made a choice (decided to go to university), decided to start down the path to a life she chose, only to be sideswiped by circumstances so far outside of her control and history and experience that even her survival would be legend.
That the story takes place in outer space, that we have many many races as a stand-in for the human race in its prejudices and biases and faults and triumphs, makes the lessons slightly easier to digest for a younger person. That the story takes place in outer space makes it more delightful for an older reader.
The book is a fast read, maybe an hour. The shortness doesn't make it any less worthwhile. The book is definitely worth reading.
The shuttle began to move and I stared until I couldn’t see it anymore. “What am I doing?” I whispered.
My father didn’t believe in war. He said war was evil, but if it came he would revel in it like sand in a storm. Then he’d say a little prayer to the Seven to keep war away and then another prayer to seal his words.
Those women talked about me, the men probably did too. But none of them knew what I had, where I was going, who I was. Let them gossip and judge. Thankfully, they knew not to touch my hair again. I don’t like war either.
So me being the only one on the ship was not that surprising. However, just because something isn’t surprising doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with.
Imagine what it meant to go there as one of that 5 percent; to be with others obsessed with knowledge, creation, and discovery.
But deep down inside me, I wanted . . . I needed it. I couldn’t help but act on it. The urge was so strong that it was mathematical.
I’d read that Meduse could not move through walls, but even I knew that just because information was in a book didn’t make it true.
I wanted to ask, “Why did you let this happen?” but that was blasphemy. You never ask why. It was not a question for you to ask.
They say that when faced with a fight you cannot win, you can never predict what you will do next. But I’d always known I’d fight until I was killed. It was an abomination to commit suicide or to give up your life. I was sure that I was ready.
The chefs on the ship fed these fish well and allowed them to grow strong and mate copiously. Then they lulled the fish into a sleep that the fish never woke from and slow cooked their flesh long enough for flavor and short enough to maintain texture.
I paused. “Like my mother always says, ‘we all wish for many things,’” I said,
The first thing I noticed was the smell and weight of the air when I walked off the ship. It smelled jungly, green, heavy with leaves. The air was full of water.
Several of the human professors looked at each other and chuckled. One of the large insectile people clicked its mandibles. I frowned, flaring my nostrils. It was the first time I’d received treatment similar to the way my people were treated on Earth by the Khoush. In a way, this set me at ease. People were people, everywhere. These professors were just like anyone else.
I really need to keep a list of where I find books and add them to my to-read pile. I have no idea where this one's recommendation originated, but it was on my list, on hold at the library, and dropped. So, I read it. As one does.
The book takes some reading to understand the world of the book. In this world, memories can be extracted into living, breathing, existing beings. Said extraction removes the memory from the person whose memory it is, the Source. The extracted memories survive as long as a memory would, except the one whose tale this book tells.
How glorious and wonderful would this process be? That one could remove a memory and never feel the pain or sorrow or loss associated with that pain. Extract the memory of the lost love and it can share its joy with those around her.
Except, we are who we are because of the memories. Trials and troubles and difficulties are f'ing hell when we go through them. They can break us. They can make us stronger. They shape who we become.
And that's rather the point of the book, I would say. A commentary or illustration about how removing a memory adversely affects the person, how so much of our lives are intertwined that every memory has an echo in other parts of us, and how this process would be actually be a very awful thing indeed.
Mem is a fast read. If you're a fan of Morrow's, or like subtly sorrowful books, this one is worth reading. Otherwise, try One Hundred Years of Solitude for the sorrowful reading.
The Professor’s answer was always the same: he was pleased that the technology was bringing relief and sometimes even amusement to the affluent classes, but he regretted the way his work remained financially inaccessible to others. The science of extraction had been developed to help people heal from painful memories, he reminded them, and the poor had as many as the wealthy.
The overwhelming majority of extractions continued to be exercises in purging, and few Sources retained their extracted memories as keepsakes. In truth, few Mems were of the happy sort, and their shelf life was expected to be relatively brief (or so the Bankers’ observations had seemed to prove).
And while she enjoyed a good memory presentation as much as anyone, she felt entirely convinced that her Mems could be different. They could be like me. Certainly the Professor impressed upon her the fact that he could make no such guarantee and that he was entirely unsure why Dolores Extract No. 1 showed no signs of expiration, but life had taught the woman that all things were possible, as long as you made clear your reasonable desire.
It was the first time I’d been lied to by a man, that I knew of, and I felt it must mean something.
What surprised me most was that while he was the one being dishonest, I somehow was the one made to feel small and uncertain.
I thought of my own parents and the secrets they’d agreed to keep from Dolores the moment they rushed her to the clinic, the things they vowed never to discuss after her extractions, though she’d never remember them now. It seemed a sacrifice any number of families would make, and I couldn’t imagine they would lament escaping the memory themselves. The grand charade was never just for the Source.
It wasn’t love or death and it was rarely betrayal that sent them there. While women came desiring any number of memories extracted and for a variety of reasons, it seemed that men had an almost singular experience with which they couldn’t make peace.
“Perhaps if the law were written more clearly, they wouldn’t be fractured in the first place.” “But even better if the procedure could be perfected.” I’d never felt such a rush of violent disagreement. It rolled up the length of my torso and burned my chest, as if more than a mere opinion. It was strong enough in fact that suppressing it took effort. “If people are imperfect enough to destroy their minds, perhaps they cannot perfect the procedure that allows them to do so.”
Ettie and I had agreed that when it was just she and I we needn’t coddle each other’s feelings the way men often did.
But more than that, the experience. What’s it like to know there’s something you’ll never remember?” She scoffed at her own question. “Silly!”
“In that case, it’s just cruel. Trapping one moment or feeling inside someone and then leaving them to expire when the feeling runs its course.”
This moment is the first of its kind in Montreal, and so is the dead man. On all sides of the accident, pedestrians, streetcar patrons, and motorists alike vacillate between hysteria and calm. There is no way to know which will become the standard response when automobile accidents become commonplace. But there is something else. An understanding that this is possible. It is possible to be killed by the most prized of possessions, to be destroyed by the greatest invention of our time. It is possible to die in the street no matter how you began the day. This is the first universal truth I have ever come by on my own and it multiplies like fire. Because if this is possible—if sudden death is no respecter of persons—so must every horrid thing be.
“It’s heartbreak food. Real girls eat dessert first thing in the morning when someone’s made us sore.” She sat down beside me. “I do, anyway.”
“Real people assume it must be lovely,” I explained between tiny bites. “That she must have written me lovely things.”
“But it’s not true of every mother and child, Mem or not. Scores of families are hideous, Elsie, they are.”
“But they aren’t. Dolores’s parents aren’t hideous. They’re just hers.”
“Why is memory this way? Why isn’t it content to hurt you once? Why must it remind you of all the times you’ve been hurt before?”
The Professor tossed his own head to the side as though casting off regard. “Oh, but how many of them care for anything but the welfare of the stockholders, and how many of them worry about anything but a return on their investments?!”
Standing between them, I felt a weakness threatening my knees and a hot pounding in my chest, unsure which one would overwhelm me first.
There’s a chance that I was angry, that I had been all along. Even when I thought that I was tired of fighting, perhaps I was exhausted by having to.
This is book 7 of the Peter Grant series. Pretty sure I have that order correct.
Whoo! Another Peter Grant book! Yasssssss!
This wasn't one that I was able to switch from written to spoken words easily, I often will switch to audio when I can't be reading a book, then back to the written word as soon as I am able. This one, eh, easily, but that's a good thing, as the story was dense enough to want to read in one go (okay, two go's).
The Faceless Man is back, and Lesley is needed to help out Peter, except she can't, but she can. There are enough twists and references to previous books' scenes that, well, if you haven't started the series, okay now you can start the series, and read all the way to this book (you'll likely catch more subtleties in the details as a result, too).
I'm still enjoying the series. There are graphic novels with the series, too, but I haven't read them, so no comment on them.
Recommended if you're a fan (and waaaaaaay recommended if you are), otherwise, don't start at this book, bad idea. Go back to book 1 and start there.
You use Protection Command people for this kind of job because unlike SCO19 they’re trained to do guard duty. You want a certain kind of personality who can stand around in the rain for eight hours and still be awake enough to shoot someone in the central body mass at a moment’s notice.
As a police detective—which, by the way, I had officially become just that month—I get to spend a lot of time in people’s houses, often without their consent. Homes are like witnesses. They pretty much lie all the time. But, as Stephanopoulos says, the longer someone lives in a house the more intrinsically interesting the lies become. When you’re police, an interesting lie can be as useful as the truth. Sometimes more so.
When you arrive unexpectedly at someone’s house you go in through the front door, often after making sure you’ve got a couple of mates waiting round the back. For a business, especially the kind that involves big trucks and heavy metal, it’s always better to go in through the back. The customer-facing part of any modern business is purposely designed to be as politely unhelpful as possible. If you go in from the rear, the customer-facing staff are all facing the wrong way and everybody starts their conversation on the back foot.
I suggested the British Museum, not least because it’s possible to lose just about anything in their storage area. They’re still looking for a mummy that went missing in 1933—staff believe it was stolen but Nightingale said he’d always had a sneaking suspicion that it got bored one day and walked away.
People are often willing to tell you all sorts of secrets when they’re trying to hide something from you. You should always make a mental note—it may not be your case today but you never know, it might come round later. I asked what else was going on.
Have you ever had that sensation, just as you’re going to sleep, that a bomb has gone off inside your head? It’s a real medical phenomena called, I kid you not, exploding head syndrome. It’s what’s known as a parasomnia, which is Greek for “we don’t know either.”
“Londinium is next. But Suetonius, the governor, doesn’t fancy his chances so he buggers off with what troops he has and leaves the city to its fate.” I’ve read my Tacitus—I knew what was coming next. “The gentry always buggers off when London’s in danger. Have you noticed that?” he said. “One whiff of the plague, some social unrest, a bit of light bombing and the Establishment’s nowhere to be found.”
“So up he sprang. A thing full of hatred and mad laughter, capering through the ashes of the city. Because order did not save his children. Law did not save his wife. And, for all his faith in the gods, they did nothing.”
I’ve found that if you voluntarily take on a chore somebody else doesn’t want to do, they don’t check the results too closely—in case they have to do it again themselves.
He once told me that the problem was not that criminals were evil but that most of them were pathetic—in the proper sense of the word. Arousing pity, especially through vulnerability or sadness. Recently I’d learned the Greek root: pathetos—liable to suffer. “You’ve got to feel sorry for them,” he said. And you didn’t have to be in the job long to see what he meant. The addicts, the runaways, the men who were fine unless they had a couple of drinks. The ex-squaddies who’d seen too much. The sad fuckers who just didn’t have a clue how to make the world work for them, or had started so beaten down they barely learned to walk upright. The people who shoplifted toilet paper or food or treats for their kids. “This is a trap,” he’d said. “You’re not a social worker or a doctor. If people really wanted these problems solved there’d be more social workers and doctors.” I’d asked what we were supposed to do. “You can’t fix their problems, Peter,” he’d said. “Most of the time you can’t even steer them in the right direction. But you can do the job without making things worse.”
Which is just as well, as I ran straight into Chorley coming the other way. I was half blind and he was looking over his shoulder—it was one of them meeting engagements that military theorists suggest you should never ever do if you can help it. He didn’t spot me until we were less than three meters apart.
“A romantic,” said Nightingale. “The most dangerous people on earth.”
So in I went clutching my Domestos and my spray bottle of generic own-brand surface cleaner and got on with it. Pausing a couple of times to throw up while I did.
Sometimes you’ve got to go hard to get the job done. Although not always in the way that people are expecting.
The whole of my left side from shoulder to knee went numb, in that worrying numb-now pain-later way of a major injury, and the air was literally knocked out of my body. I was trying to breathe in but it felt as if my lungs were paralyzed. Then I coughed. It hurt, then I breathed in—it was wonderful.
I did not like this book.
This book is a series of 2-3 page essays on, "Oh, you should do this in your company, it'll totally make you better and successful!" without actually providing how to do the things, or where to go get more information, or why said thing would be better.
"Stop and think, you'll need to understand this fully." "Run with the decision you need to move fast!" Argh, fuck off. This book is FULL of hindsight bias and survivor bias, blech.
This book was a slog to get through, taking me three months to actually finish it (and I've been concentrating on non-fiction books!) I put it down a half dozen times, and kept picking it back up because both I hoped something could would come of it and it was recommended by Marty of a sense, and I thought it would be worth reading.
You'll do better reading just about any Brené Brown book on leadership than reading this book. I strongly recommend Dare to Lead if you're looking for a business book to read.
Skip this one, save your money. Blech.
As someone who is not 100% awkward in social situations, but is probably 95% awkward internally, only 30% awkward externally, I find reading books that teach about reducing that awkwardness to be very helpful. This book was, unsurprisingly, very helpful. Many of the lessons and techniques presented have, also unsurprisingly, worked for me since I started applying them.
Take, for instance, the realization that if you're at a meetup or conference, you already have something in common with everyone at the meetup and conference. Hello, smalltalk and ways to introduce yourself to everyone else. How wonderful is that realization? Answer: way wonderful!
The format of the book has summary of each chapter at the end of it, which I greatly appreciated.
This book is worth reading, even if you're not in sales. Having the confidence to approach people, and being able not to worry about what to do when you're in small and big groups, is great.
In my research for How to Create Your Own Luck, I learned that those who turn serendipity into success say yes when they want to say no. Because they do that, they are able to parlay possibilities and coincidence into opportunities they otherwise would not have had.
Tom Hanks turned to Ed Burns and said, “Please tell me that I was nice to you.” Burns replied, “Yes, you were very nice.” Tom Hanks looked relieved and said he was glad. Here is a man with great acclaim, celebrity, career success and wealth and his first concern was that he was nice to this young man who had brought him coffee.
We show our character not by how we treat people in a position to help us but in how we treat people who can’t—or so we think. Being nice in any room pays off.
If you are sitting in a meeting; attending a convention, a board retreat or a yearly conference; or are involved in a keynote presentation, you are already in a group with whom you have something in common. You just need some strategies; tips; opening and exit lines; and mostly, the permission to talk to those still unknown colleagues, cronies, contacts, clients, customers and potential friends.
At a presentation for a professional services firm, one of the partners wondered how he could possibly introduce a person he found boring to a client. His colleague provided the perfect response, “What’s boring for you may be fascinating for someone else who shares their interests.”
Good social skills positively impact one’s well-being and life expectancy.
Those who can mingle and make contacts and conversation will shine in any room.
Conversation is the cornerstone of team building and collaboration.
Face-to-face contact with bosses, colleagues and clients requires a personal touch.
When you’re in the same room, you already have something in common.
No one is boring when you discover their area of passion.
Life is too short, and time too precious, to spend an hour or two squandering opportunities and, in the process, having a bad time.
But at most events we can’t count on being introduced to anyone, let alone the people we most want to meet. We are on our own when it comes to circulating. We have to walk up to people and introduce ourselves, if we don’t want to be left standing in the middle of the room, staring at the ceiling or the floor.
There is an old adage, “Good things come to those who wait.” Au contraire. Gray hair comes to those who wait and sometimes even varicose veins, if the waiting is done standing up!
If you don’t have any skin in the game, you never win.
If you don’t take the risk and reach out to people, you never make new friends or new contacts.
Most of us are strong enough to withstand a temporarily chipped ego.
The person who appears to be disinterested may not be judging or rejecting us, but may be distracted with another worry.
But when we allow negative self-talk to prevail, we can become overwhelmed by the roadblocks and talk ourselves out of taking a risk. If we don’t seize the moment, it will be gone, along with the opportunity.
[A]lways pay tribute to that great old overused line, “Don’t I know you from someplace?”
One way to muster up the courage to take a risk and talk to strangers is to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Surprisingly enough, your worst fear is usually not a matter of life and death. And the odds are that disaster will not occur—and that even if it does, you will survive.
Taking the risk is almost always worth the discomfort. It’s a cliché, but “nothing ventured, nothing gained” makes sense. With technology moving the world at warp speed, embracing real-time opportunities for face-to-face connections makes sense.
- Be aware of negative self-talk and change it into positive self-talk.
- Extending yourself to people feels risky, but the benefits are well worth the discomfort.
- Remember, what you think is the worst thing that could happen most often won’t.
So what do you do when a newly incoming CEO recommends a book to the team? Well, duh, you read it.
What happens when the book he recommends has to do with dysfunctional teams? Well, duh, you read it.
What else happens? You are stunningly shocked (SHOCKED) at how relevant the book is, sadly unsurprised that you were unaware of all the problems with the team, and cautiously hopeful that things can be better. In other words, mine in fact, "Hoooboy, lots of it is relevant."
Okay, those five dysfunctions are:
1. Absence of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. Avoidance of accountability
5. Inattention to results
Seems like not good things.
The book is told as a tale, of a new CEO coming in and working with the leadership of a company. Most tales that have morals are stunningly contrived. This one, however, has this reader nodding a lot with, "Yep... yes... uh huh, yeah."
“Trust is the foundation of real teamwork. And so the first dysfunction is a failure on the part of team members to understand and open up to one another. And if that sounds touchy-feely, let me explain, because there is nothing soft about it. It is an absolutely critical part of building a team. In fact, it's probably the most critical.”
“Great teams do not hold back with one another,” she said. “They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”
The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group.
the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas.
the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.
avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team.
They trust one another. They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas. They commit to decisions and plans of action. They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans. They focus on the achievement of collective results.
Members of Trusting Teams . . . Admit weaknesses and mistakes Ask for help Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion Take risks in offering feedback and assistance Appreciate and tap into one another's skills and experiences Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics Offer and accept apologies without hesitation Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group
This low-risk exercise requires nothing more than going around the table during a meeting and having team members answer a short list of questions about themselves. Questions need not be overly sensitive in nature and might include the following: number of siblings, hometown, unique challenges of childhood, favorite hobbies, first job, and worst job. Simply by describing these relatively innocuous attributes or experiences, team members begin to relate to one another on a more personal basis, and see one another as human beings with life stories and interesting backgrounds.
Team Effectiveness Exercise
It requires team members to identify the single most important contribution that each of their peers makes to the team, as well as the one area that they must either improve upon or eliminate for the good of the team. All members then report their responses, focusing on one person at a time, usually beginning with the team leader.
team leaders must create an environment that does not punish vulnerability. Even well-intentioned teams can subtly discourage trust by chastising one another for admissions of weakness or failure.
All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business.
Ideological conflict is limited to concepts and ideas, and avoids personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks.
teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quickly and completely than others, and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue.
When team members do not openly debate and disagree about important ideas, they often turn to back-channel personal attacks, which are far nastier and more harmful than any heated argument over issues.
Mining Members of teams that tend to avoid conflict must occasionally assume the role of a “miner of conflict”—someone who extracts buried disagreements within the team and sheds the light of day on them. They must have the courage and confidence to call out sensitive issues and force team members to work through them. This requires a degree of objectivity during meetings and a commitment to staying with the conflict until it is resolved. Some teams may want to assign a member of the team to take on this responsibility during a given meeting or discussion.
Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, commonly referred to as the TKI.
One of the most difficult challenges that a leader faces in promoting healthy conflict is the desire to protect members from harm.
In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision.
The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty: Consensus. Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even when complete agreement is impossible. They understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered.
Certainty. Great teams also pride themselves on being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct.
they understand the old military axiom that a decision is better than no decision.
They also realize that it is better to make a decision boldly and be wrong—and then change direction with equal boldness—than it is to waffle.
It is important to remember that conflict underlies the willingness to commit without perfect information. In many cases, teams have all the information they need, but it resides within the hearts and minds of the team itself and must be extracted through unfiltered debate.
In order for teammates to call each other on their behaviors and actions, they must have a clear sense of what is expected. Even the most ardent believers in accountability usually balk at having to hold someone accountable for something that was never bought in to or made clear in the first place.
this dysfunction is the unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations.
team members who are particularly close to one another sometimes hesitate to hold one another accountable precisely because they fear jeopardizing a valuable personal relationship.
the most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure.
A Team that Holds One Another Accountable . . . Ensures that poor performers feel pressure to improve Identifies potential problems quickly by questioning one another's approaches without hesitation Establishes respect among team members who are held to the same high standards Avoids excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action
The enemy of accountability is ambiguity, and even when a team has initially committed to a plan or a set of behavioral standards, it is important to keep those agreements in the open so that no one can easily ignore them.
The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance.
A Team that Focuses on Collective Results . . . Retains achievement-oriented employees Minimizes individualistic behavior Enjoys success and suffers failure acutely Benefits from individuals who subjugate their own goals/ interests for the good of the team Avoids distractions
Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly human.
Okay, so, lots of books on death or death-adjacent this year. Probably both really good for my health, and not so good for my health. Upside, not obsessed, merely realistically recognizing my own mortality.
This book of seven essays by Christopher Hitchens were written while he had esophageal cancer, diagnosed a bit over a year before his death. Hitchens had written before on death and his own mortality, reminding all of us that all of us die, and rejecting the idea that religion is a comfort at the end.
I took lots of notes about the book, then didn't keep them. I did, however, buy the book in hardback, as I do with all good books I read from the library and want to keep. I recommend this book, even if thinking about dying is a scary, frightening thing for you. Better to face it eyes open head up, than be caught by surprise.
I'm doing a poor job of participating in the Caltech Book Club. I am, however, doing a fantastic job of reading the book club books. When this book entered the list, I immediately checked it out from the library and devoured it. A book on paper? PAPER? Sign me up!
The blurb from the back of the book:
The book does that, gives a history of paper. I loved that part. It also gives a commentary on technology, how it develops, how it influences society, and why it happens. I enjoyed that part of it, too.
If you like paper, this book is worth reading. If you like history, also worth reading. I loved the book. YMMV
Throughout history the role of technology and people’s reactions to it have been remarkably consistent,
There are other important lessons to be learned from the history of technology—and other commonly held fallacies. One is that new technology eliminates old. This rarely happens.
[I]t is futile to denounce technology itself. Rather, you have to try to change the operation of the society for which the technology was created.
You cannot warn about what a new technology will do to a society because that society has already made the shift.
Society changes, and that change creates new needs. That is why the technology is brought in. The only way to stop the technology would be to reverse the changes in the society.
A technology that is intended to redirect society will usually fail. In fact, most technology companies do not introduce new technology but new ways to use ideas that already exist.
It says something about our world that we seldom remember the person who came up with an idea, but canonize the pragmatist who made it commercially viable. Already we have forgotten the people who created most of the important computer concepts and instead celebrate the people who became rich on them.
But there is one truly unique human trait: people record. They record their deeds, their emotions, their thoughts, and their ideas . . . they have an impulse to record almost everything that enters their minds and to save it for future generations. And it is this urge that led to the invention of paper.
Plato wrote, “And once a thing is put in writing, the composition, whatever it may be, drifts all over the place, getting not only in the hands of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it. It doesn’t know how to address the right people and not address the wrong.” This may explain why he never wrote down what he considered his best ideas, his so-called unwritten doctrines,
Many felt as Plato did, that once something was written down, it no longer came from within a person, but was external and therefore was not sincere, not heartfelt, and thus in a sense was made less true.
Songs belong to oral culture. Everything about the way they are written is oral, which is why they are easy to memorize. When a song gets stuck in your head, this is not by chance. That is what they were built to do;
IQ tests are often criticized for not truly measuring intelligence. What, then, do they measure? They measure literacy, because we have grown to associate literacy with intelligence.
Writing was one of the few things the Chinese did not do first—though they do have the world’s oldest living written language.
People had extensive collections of books, some of which they took with them when they traveled.
The brushes would be dipped in an ink made from lampblack, the carbon from burned material—pine was best—mixed with a liquid.
It has never been clear to historians why Chinese tradition credits the invention of the brush to Meng Tian.
Modern-day historians have accused the short-lived Qin dynasty that he served of a tendency to obliterate earlier achievements and claim them for themselves.
Throughout the ancient world, the direction of writing varied tremendously—right to left, left to right, top to bottom, bottom to top, and from the middle outward. The Mayans and Aztecs wrote all over the page, with lines directing the reader where to go next. Some cultures, such as the Greeks, switched the direction of their writing over time.
In early Chinese history, valuables had been buried with the dead as offerings to the spirits, but the problem of grave robbing soon arose. During Han times, valuables were replaced with coins, but grave robbing persisted. Then the Chinese came up with the imaginative idea of making imitation valuables and imitation money out of paper; the gesture to the spirits was still there, but nothing was of use to the thieves.
All kinds of judgments could be made by looking at someone’s handwriting.
So, a few scholars have interpreted this passage as saying that a nation is formed on paper, by a written text.
This expansion was occurring despite a continuing widespread feeling, still lingering from the Middle Ages, that writing could not be trusted. During the Middle Ages, even a message, if it was considered truly important, was delivered orally.
Over the centuries, the monasteries had not changed much. From their inception in fifth-century Italy onward, they had always been places for reading. Monks, particularly in the Benedictine order, were expected to spend hours reading every day. Since reading was of necessity a daylight activity, monks were required to read only two hours a day in the winter, but three in the summer. They had to read an entire book during Lent, and smaller books were made so that a monk could fulfill his reading obligation when traveling.
In some countries such as France and Italy, paper workers attained a certain measure of power by banding into guilds. These workers were well paid and their meals were provided, so they saved most of what they earned, hoping to eventually buy their own mills. Whole families—mother, father, and children—would live and work in the mill and save toward this goal, which was attainable if they lived long enough because there was always room for a new paper mill.
We know that Gutenberg was a goldsmith, which is significant. Many early printers were goldsmiths, because it took skill with metal to make moveable type; there were numerous high-quality goldsmiths in Mainz.
Usually the person credited with an invention, the one who makes it work and makes it profitable, is a savvy businessman. This was probably true of Cai Lun, but it was not true of Gutenberg. He never became wealthy.
Of course, not everyone loved printing. As with every other new technology, there were those who were disdainful—some who thought it was barbarism, some who thought it was the end of civilization, and some who thought it was a threat to their jobs.
Many of the aristocrats who employed scribes and maintained libraries of handwritten books were contemptuous of what they saw as sleazy imitations, which in a sense the printed books were.
Books had been rare, and their power had been well appreciated. So these newfangled printers with their strange ability to produce books for sale by the hundreds were regarded in some quarters with great suspicion.
A certain human touch was missing in the way the letters and the words all had exactly the same spacing, they said. It was rigid and uncreative.
Leonardo da Vinci was notorious in his lifetime for his inability to complete projects. He would accept a commission for some grand undertaking and would never get beyond the start. As a government official in Florence said in 1506 about a mural the artist had only begun, “He made a very small beginning of a very large thing.”
Leonardo’s problem was well summed up by Pope Leo X, who once saw him engrossed in trying to create the perfect formula for varnish instead of painting: “This man will never do anything, for he begins by thinking about the end before the beginning of his work.”
Though he is usually thought of as a painter, only fifteen paintings, some unfinished, have been found, along with two damaged murals.
Five years later, he printed the fictional Hypnerotomachia by Francesco de Colonna, a book that garnered more attention. It was an erotic romance, not at all shocking for the time; pornography was a popular genre in the emerging printing trade.
These small, portable books, which Aldus called libelli portatiles, are credited with changing people’s reading habits. This, of course, is the technological fallacy at work once again. Aldus did not change reading habits. Rather, a change in reading habits prompted him to produce a different kind of book. He could see that books were too big for the way the new readers wanted to use them. Books were no longer read only by learned monks and scholars at stands in monasteries and castles but by a broad range of people, especially in Italy and France. People wanted to read while lounging in chairs or at a café; they wanted to take books to work to read on breaks or on trips.
She also wanted Spilman’s mill to succeed because she was troubled by the extent to which England relied on imports from France.
The French Crown that had tried so rigorously to stop their papermakers from working in England ended up driving them there.
The French war on Protestants also caused some French paper mills to shut down, reducing their output of the valuable export. Realizing their mistake, the French government attempted to win back some of their papermakers. Numerous French papermakers in England were taken into custody and legal action ensued; others were persuaded to return home, their travel expenses paid for.
During an attack of plague in 1536, paper mills in Middlesex were closed down, and when the government asked the public to help support the out-of-work papermakers, the locals complained that they had earned better salaries than most artisans and should have saved their money.
As the scribes of old were keenly aware, literacy is empowering and a threat to despotic rule. Saye’s great crime, according to Cade, was not losing Normandy but sending children to school.
Unlike broadsides, pamphlets had traditionally been aimed at the intelligentsia, but Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, clearly aimed at common citizens, changed that. In an age of flowery prose, his language was clear, direct, and unadorned.
THE HISTORY OF paper offers insight into why the colonists wanted independence from Britain. A coin, a paper mill, a newspaper—whatever it was that the colonists wanted, the Crown often prohibited it. And then the British tried to earn revenue by taxing the goods the colonists were forced to import from England because local production was stifled.
DETERMINED TO KEEP the paper mills open during the Revolution, the colonists exempted papermakers from military service.
paper plugs were needed to seal the black powder in the muskets’ firing chambers, to keep it separate from bullets, and paper cartridges were required to encase the powder and bullets. Sometimes, that paper was scarce. In 1776, according to historian William St. Clair, most of the 3,000-copy press run of Saur’s 1776 German Bible was used to fire American muskets.
The soldiers found 2,500 copies of the sermon and sent it off to Monmouth, where it was used to plug the muskets of the men fighting the British to a draw in a famously tough battle—later renowned as the one instance in which George Washington was said to have cursed.
A French paper mill on the eve of the French Revolution still involved women sorting rags, a pulper—usually old water-powered stampers—a vat, a vatman, a coucher, waterleaves pressed between felt by sturdy men, a presser with a big bar to compress the felt, women hanging paper to dry, a sizeman cooking up sizing, women examining sheets and removing the flawed ones, and a loftman wrapping the sheets into reams. These workers all had very specific skills, and there were strict rules about which jobs were for women and which for men.
In prerevolutionary France, paper workers had more power and were more assertive than most other workers because they were few in number and highly skilled. They were known to walk off the job and spend an afternoon in a nearby tavern, returning only at mealtime. They had a reputation for being independent and unruly, and they ignored government regulations.
the publisher did not have the expense of binding. He sold sewn pages, which the buyer, after carefully inspecting the quality of the paper used, took to a bookbinder.
It could even be argued, as Diderot did, that the spread of reading and its accompanying spread of knowledge led to rebellion against the old order. This was why that old order, the aristocracies and clergy of Europe, were tremendously fearful of this increasing popularity of books and newspapers and reading in general.
As with all changes, there was considerable discussion about their repercussions. Not everyone believed, as did Diderot, that reading was a positive and liberating experience. Some believed, as Cervantes had noted with irony, that too much reading could ruin a person. This fear of reading was connected with the desire to oppress, as is evident in the many arguments over time claiming that reading was not good for the working class or for women or for slaves.
On the eve of the French Revolution, Diderot had predicted that enormous changes were coming to society, that those changes would bring with them technology, and that technology, in turn, would make people freer. This is partly because he thought that technology would make information more readily available. But the dissemination of information alone does not set people free, and a new information technology creates a new ruling class. Technology by itself does not change the nature of society.
The local people were deeply offended by the scavengers, especially the ragmen, some of whom, they said, went as far as to dig up shallow graves.
The Glatfelter Company still makes paper on the site today.
The preferable wood for this trade was spruce. According to the company, it turned 7 million cords of pulpwood into paper in 1923. An acre of land grew an estimated five cords of pulpwood, so the company had consumed the wood of 140,000 acres, or 220 square miles, of forestland in a single year.
The Zai Yuan Tang Mill in Anhui Province, just north of Jinxian, was
ABOUT FORTY-FIVE MILES north of Tokyo, in the Dohira Mountains, is the town of Ogama-Machi, famous for making washi for the past 1,200 years. Before
Teizou is now seventy-eight and says of his craft, “I get easily sick of it.”
With remarkable frequency, the phrase is uttered, “The world is changing.” It is certainly true that the world is changing, but this sentence is often announced as though the world had never changed before. There has been no period in human history when the world was not changing.
Today’s ideas, facilitated by the inventions of the Industrial Revolution, are taking as long to lead to new inventions as did the ideas of the Industrial Revolution. One of the reasons why we believe otherwise, why we imagine our times to be moving so swiftly, is that we live in an age of marketing. Electronic devices are built with planned obsolescence; that is, they are deliberately built not to last, so that everyone will have to buy another one soon.
People like to write down quick notes and memos on paper even if they have a cell phone with a memo function.
Different people have different paper preferences and appear to enjoy having choices.
Computers were not developed to replace books or paper; they were developed to be a better way to store and access information.
And written language itself has been returning to its early development, to pictographs and hieroglyphics. There are the signs by the side of the road, the signs denoting women’s and men’s bathrooms, and the growth of the use of emoticons—
Why are these pictographs conveying feelings, such as ￼, meaning “happy,” increasingly becoming part of the digital vocabulary of the twenty-first century? It is because change and the resistance to change always work hand in hand.
I have had this book on my shelf for a long time, easily five years. I'm pretty sure I bought the book on Matthew's recommendation after Matthew and I had talked about a conference all about play (presumably bringing play back into tech, instead of the pursuit of the fast out that so many startups have these days and have had for the last decade or so).
Reading the book, I found myself nodding and thinking, "Yeah, I know this," but really, I didn't know much of it. Much of it is common sense, some of it is actionable, all of the book is needed. Without play, work is difficult, motivation is low. When things are fun (interesting, enjoyable), motivation is high. The tasks can be hard, they can be time-consuming, but if they're fun, if there's play involved, they can be enjoyable.
I recommend this book to every parent and teacher and leader and follower, definitely worth reading.
Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.
Engineers are professional skeptics. To them, good things and useful ideas last, like laws of nature. Engineers build on the bedrock of established fact. They usually regard emotional components of a system as too vague to be useful.
PROPERTIES OF PLAY Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake) Voluntary Inherent attraction Freedom from time Diminished consciousness of self Improvisational potential Continuation desire
the first quality of play that sets it off from other activities is its apparent purposelessness. Play activities don’t seem to have any survival value. They don’t help in getting money or food. They are not done for their practical value. Play is done for its own sake. That’s why some people think of it as a waste of time. It is also voluntary—it is not obligatory or required by duty. Play also has inherent attraction. It’s fun. It makes you feel good. It provides psychological arousal (that’s how behavioral scientists say that something is exciting). It is a cure for boredom. Play provides freedom from time. When we are fully engaged in play, we lose a sense of the passage of time. We also experience diminished consciousness of self. We stop worrying about whether we look good or awkward, smart or stupid. We stop thinking about the fact that we are thinking. In imaginative play, we can even be a different self. We are fully in the moment, in the zone.
Another hallmark of play is that it has improvisational potential. We aren’t locked into a rigid way of doing things. We are open to serendipity, to chance. We are willing to include seemingly irrelevant elements into our play. The
We see things in a different way and have fresh insights.
Last, play provides a continuation desire. We desire to keep doing it, and the pleasure of the experience drives that desire. We find ways to keep it going. If something threatens to stop the fun, we improvise new rules or conditions so that the play doesn’t have to end. And when it is over, we want to do it again.
The things that most tie you down or constrain you—the need to be practical, to follow established rules, to please others, to make good use of time, all wrapped up in a self-conscious guilt—are eliminated. Play is its own reward, its own reason for being.
When anyone smiles at another person, they are reaching out, engaging in a play invitation as clear as a dog’s play bow.
Cats and other social mammals such as rats will, if seriously missing out on play, have an inability to clearly delineate friend from foe, miscue on social signaling, and either act excessively aggressive or retreat and not engage in more normal social patterns. In the give-and-take of mock combat, the cats are learning what Daniel Goleman calls emotional intelligence—the ability to perceive others’ emotional state, and to adopt an appropriate response.
Our primary need is to survive from one day to the next. The strongest drives are for food and sleep. When we are in peril, play will disappear. But studies show that if they are well fed, safe, and rested, all mammals will play spontaneously.
We are rewarded for behavior that conforms to the dictates of the biological drives and punished for behavior that goes against them. We feel pain when we don’t eat, and great pleasure when we are finally able to chow down (as the saying goes, “Hunger is the best sauce”). A great night’s sleep, especially after a string of sleepless nights, is one of the most satisfying, free pleasures available.
In an individual who is well-adjusted and safe, play very likely continues to prompt continued neurogenesis throughout our long lives. For example, studies of early dementia suggest that physical play forestalls mental decline by stimulating neurogenesis.
Runner’s World magazine once divided runners into four types: the exerciser, the competitor, the enthusiast, and the socializer. The exerciser is someone who runs primarily to lose weight, to stay in shape, to improve cardiovascular fitness. The competitor runs to improve race time, to beat others, to make a PB (personal best). Enthusiasts run to experience the joy of the day, to feel their muscles working and the air on their face. For the socializer, running is primarily an activity to bring people together for talking, which is the real fun. All four types are certainly running, but the internal experience can be very different. The truth is that the enthusiast and the socializer are most likely to be engaged in pure play—pursuing the activity for the joy it brings (and you could say that for the socializer the source of joy is the talking, not the running itself). The other two may be running mostly in pursuit of goals—perhaps fast times or fitness—that can take away the joy from the experience and add stress to their lives. If exercisers or competitors feel lousy when they don’t meet certain expectations they have for themselves, what they are doing is not really play.
Sometimes running is play, and sometimes it is not.
Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity.
Watching sports, sitcoms, Oprah, or an excellent drama on TV is usually a type of play, as is reading a novel. Think about how you feel walking out of a really good movie, bringing your mind back again to the everyday world but retaining a changed perspective. One critic remembers walking out of Lawrence of Arabia and feeling that the sunlight looked different. This sense of coming back to the world shows that the movie was indeed play. So is reliving its scenes in your mind later. Hobbies like model airplane building, kite flying, or sewing are most often play.
When Roger took me through his laboratory he was like a kid as he described his experiments. Here was the biggest, most expensive sandbox he had ever played with, all set up to let him discover wonderful new things. I still remember his glee when he told me about his latest work:
When we stop playing, we start dying.
She said that I had convinced her that play is important, and said she worried about her kids, ten and twelve years old, getting enough time to play but still studying and working enough that they would be successful in life. We spoke about the nature of success, and she realized that what she was really talking about was teaching them how to become responsible adults who have a playful approach to life, who enjoy life, and have work that excites them.
Imagination is perhaps the most powerful human ability. It allows us to create simulated realities that we can explore without giving up access to the real world.
a close examination of adult stream of consciousness demonstrates that the pretend-real process is a lifelong aspect of human thought. We continually make up story lines in our heads to keep the past, present, and future in context.
Even in our society, grandparents are often the ones who have the time to really listen to children. Parents are often busy trying to mold a child into what they think he or she ought to be. Perhaps grandparents are the ones who see us for what we really are and help us grow into that.
All of the patterns that induce states of play are present and remain important for growth, flexibility, and learning. Unfortunately, we often forget this or choose not to focus on play’s necessity under intense pressure to succeed. No Child Left Behind is a perfect example. While it is an admirable (and even necessary) goal to make sure that all children attain a certain minimal level of education, the result has often been a system in which students are provided a rote, skills-and-drills approach to education and “nonessential” subjects like art and music are cut.
In a sense, they are being prepared for twentieth-century work, assembly-line work, in which workers don’t have to be creative or smart—they just have to be able to put their assigned bolt in the assigned hole.
Without play, Panksepp suggests, optimal learning, normal social functioning, self-control, and other executive functions may not mature properly.
This research has led him to propose a connection between a lack of rough-and-tumble play and ADHD. In fact, based on their findings that “abundant access to rough-and-tumble play” reduces the inappropriate hyperplayfulness and impulsivity of rats with frontal lobe damage, he and his colleagues propose that a regimen of social, boisterous play might be one way to help children with mild to moderate ADHD control impulsivity
Some may cheapen these methods by saying that these teachers are just entertaining students, but what is wrong with that? As long as the lessons are learned as well or better than they would be with other methods. Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner.
As we grow older, we are taught that learning should be serious, that subjects are complicated. These serious subjects take serious study, we are told, and play only trivializes them.
Sometimes the best way to get the feel of a complicated subject is to just play with it.
That’s why kids often learn computer systems faster than adults—they aren’t afraid to just try stuff out and see what works, whereas adults worry that they will do something wrong. Kids don’t fear doing something wrong. If they do, they learn from it and do it differently next time.
Authentic play comes from deep down inside us. It’s not formed or motivated solely by others. Real play interacts with and involves the outside world, but it fundamentally expresses the needs and desires of the player.
All evidence indicates that the greatest rewards of play come when it arises naturally from within.
It used to be that self-organized play was all kids did. Most adults over the age of forty-five will likely have memories of exploring on their own, through puddles and fields or on city streets.
Parents and educators, corporate leaders, and others need to become convinced by the evidence that long-term life skills and a rewarding sense of fulfillment—and yes, performance—are more the by-product of play-related activities than forced performance.
True mastery over a lifetime comes from one’s internal play compass. When parents and teachers push too hard to get kids to perform, children do not experience feelings of competence and do not create from within their own sense of mastery.
sports can be a potent training for a playful life during the teen years. Sports provide a ready peer group, united in a common goal. Sports teach how to struggle against adversity, even when the odds seem insurmountable. Adult-organized sports don’t have to be antiplay when they are done right.
Athletics provide feedback about one’s own physical talents, and what it feels like to participate, win, lose, and be fair.
William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, once did a large statistical study to determine if the special preferences that athletes got on college admissions (lower SAT score cutoff, extra financial aid) were unfair. Bowen was surprised to find that, as a group, the athletes actually did better financially after college than other students, a fact he attributed to the drive and energy that sports cultivate.
the opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression.
Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.
We need newness of play, its sense of flow, and being in the moment. We need the sense of discovery and liveliness that it provides. We also need the purpose of work, the economic stability it offers, the sense that we are doing service for others, that we are needed and integrated into our world. And most of us need also to feel competent.
Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties.
When we play, dilemmas and challenges will naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out.
As with many things in life, often the problem is not the problem, the problem is how you react to the problem.
The paradox is that a little distance from a problem, a sense of perspective, a realization that it really matters little in the end if people choose Huggies over Pampers for their kids, can be one of the most important factors in success.
The beauty of sports is that it embraces the paradox of seriousness and play.
Sometimes the play may be a friendly competition between teams. Or it can be a very private sort of play-game that the rest of us never see—a personal competition, for instance, to see how fast we can write a memo, or how many things we can check off our to-do list that day.
Work matters, but we often allow day-to-day events at work to give us more anxiety than they are worth.
Getting oneself into a play state, however, masks the urgent purposefulness and associated anxiety of work, increasing efficiency and productivity.
Creative people can be simultaneously hardworking and goof-offs. They can have a laser focus on a task, but keep the wide view that lets them see how something fits into the big picture.
Creative people can escape into the imagination, but also are firmly grounded in reality. Creative ideas are often those that bring together ideas from different domains or fields.
Creative people know the rules of the game, but they are open to improvisation and serendipity.
Much of play takes place in an imaginative world, but is also firmly grounded in reality. In fact, play promotes mixing fantasy and reality.
As Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny . . .’ ”
We can get pretty far through sheer will-power, and some people have prodigious powers of perfectionism, self-denial, and suffering. Ultimately, though, people cannot succeed in rising to the highest levels of their field if they don’t enjoy what they are doing, if they don’t make time for play.
Without some sense of fun or play, people usually can’t make themselves stick to any discipline long enough to master it.
Every athlete I have ever met often feels that they just don’t want to start that workout. But when they do, the reason they love what they are doing comes back to them pretty quickly.
A crisis of some sort is not uncommon for successful people at midlife, but the age for this midlife meltdown has started coming earlier and earlier.
they too suffer the same crisis of the soul that comes from pouring every moment of your time and every ounce of your being into others’ expectations.
I have experienced too many cold and hostile reactions to play when people listen to a full rendition of its nature and importance, and they slowly realize that they have lived a life deprived of spontaneous play. They are struck by the fact that what love they’ve had in their lives was conditional and based on their performance. To fully realize this in one sitting as an adult can be overwhelming—too much to bear. The reaction is often an intense (but unconscious) defensiveness, a denial that the fullness of one’s life has been wasted. The resulting emotion is usually anger at the deliverer of the message.
Joy is our birthright, and is intrinsic to our essential design.
To really regain play in your life you will need to take a journey back into the past to help create avenues for play that work for you in the present. This can be done through a complete play history, or it can be done by simply sitting and remembering (and often visualizing) something you did in the past that gave you the sense of unfettered pleasure, of time suspended, of total involvement, of wanting to do this thing again and again.
Remember how that made you feel? Remember and feel that emotion and hold on to it, because that is what’s going to save you. The memory of that emotion is going to be the life raft that keeps you from drowning. It can be the rope that lifts you out of your play-deficient well.
Barbara loved her husband and naturally wanted to spend recreational time with him, but she realized that her husband’s heart play was never going to be hers.
Those who played together, stayed together. Those who didn’t either split or, worse yet, simply endured an unhappy and dysfunctional relationship.
Humans use play signals, too. When we greet each other, we smile and look at the other person with “soft” eyes—looking directly but not staring. We might also raise the eyebrows or lift the chin quickly in greeting.
These are an invitation to the other to mirror our expressions, to engage in a ritual bonding with the promise that we will progress to an emotional bonding. And the spirits of safety and trust are communicated nonverbally.
People trying not to look threatening will make no eye contact, will stare at a spot on the wall or some object, trying to look busy and inconspicuous.
If we lived in a world without play, all public adult interactions would model those of subway sitters and elevator riders. It would be a pretty grim world to live in. What play signals do is invite a safe, emotional connection, if even for an instant.
Really making emotional contact with people, inviting an emotional closeness either in a casual situation or long-term relationship, requires that we open ourselves to them. It requires that we not put up defensive walls and that we accept others for who they are. Then we can invite others to engage in play.
She has students pair off about two feet apart and look at each other for three solid minutes. A lot of people find this really uncomfortable.
It’s very personal. But the teacher urges people to get over themselves, to stop thinking about how they look and feel, and instead to think about the other person.
Teasing, as I’ve noted before, is a common way to probe the boundaries of a relationship and address power issues. In general, men engage in teasing more than women, and the teasing can seem rough to someone who is not used to it.
This reminds me of heckling in ultimate, the more heckling a team did, the closer the team members were. You can't heckle an outsider, it's just abuse and assholery if you do. Heckling a teammate, that's a sign of support, a message of, "Hey, yeah, you messed up, but we believe in you, so keep going."
I so miss the camaraderie of ultimate and Doyle's heckling.
The boundaries for such heckling are normally general cultural norms, but body language during the encounter usually primes the teaser to keep it up, or back off.
Jokes, when they contain unrealistic exaggeration, can allow us to safely address real fears without making them seem like accusations.
Without the various forms of social play we would find it very hard to live together. Society would either lock up like an overheated engine, or we would have to evolve a rigid, highly organized social structure like that of ants or bees. Play is the lubrication that allows human society to work and individuals to be close to each other.
Take play out of the mix and, like a climb in the oxygen-poor “death zone” of Mount Everest, the relationship becomes a survival endurance contest. Without play skills, the repertoire to deal with inevitable stresses is narrowed. Even if loyalty, responsibility, duty, and steadfastness remain, without playfulness there will be insufficient vitality left over to keep the relationship buoyant and satisfying.
Play also accentuates attraction.
The arts are indicators of emotional intelligence, but they also produce emotional intelligence. They help us grow and adapt.
A strong play drive is unspoken evidence of fitness to reproduce.
Romantic love, that is to say, the “deeply in love” form of love, is a super-strong force. The idealization and rapture of romantic love has addictive qualities that are similar to drug addiction.
Without play, romantic love naturally tends to drift into territoriality, possessiveness, dominance, or aggression. The emotion of romantic love is to feel totally in sync with the lover, but when lovers go out of sync the fall can be hard.
While being in love is intensely pleasurable, it can also be so intense that it is painful.
Studies have shown that being love-sick can cause actual physical sickness.
Stepping out of a normal routine, finding novelty, being open to serendipity, enjoying the unexpected, embracing a little risk, and finding pleasure in the heightened vividness of life. These are all qualities of a state of play.
In order to keep things hot, people have to keep growing, keep exploring new territory in themselves and each other. In short, they have to play.
Adult play is not much different. The competitive urge may make us want to dominate the competition in the short term, but if this happens all the time the game gets boring.
The natural urge to find balance in play is also the reason that people root for the underdog and against teams that win all the time.
When someone is domineering, aggressive, or violent, they are not engaged in true play, no matter what they are doing.
There is an agreement that participants be “good sports” who can shake hands and respect each other after the contest is decided. The desire for fair play probably runs very deep in our genes.
Adults who are healthy and psychologically well balanced will enjoy playing, but after a while they will grow tired of whatever game they are playing and do something else. People who are using the games to escape some other psychic pain, however, will not stop playing.
In life, it’s often not clear if you are “winning” or “losing.” Gaming offers a very controlled world in which victory and defeat can be clear and unambiguous.
On the whole, three-dimensional physical and social play is a “better” form of play, just as a balanced diet is better than one full of sugar hits.
incorporate play earlier and more consistently in my professional life, and to set clear boundaries about working too hard.
A “mean” girl who operates by psychological intimidation and exclusion is the equivalent of a boy bully, both of which interrupt the flow of play.
In both cases, I think that we adults are too quick to step in to stop such play. We see the potential for small hurts, hear the squeals and grunts that sound to us like loss of control, and we force the wrestlers to stop. We feel uncomfortable with the gossipy talk and we reflexively step in to make sure that kids are being fair. By doing so, we stop kids from learning on their own and from each other.
Teasing varies by culture and individual temperament, but some form exists everywhere, especially when people are emotionally close.
teasing allows people to go to the edge and just beyond, saying things that may or may not be hurtful if said straight out, offering all parties an escape if they have gone too far. Such teasing is a learned-through-play social skill, with culturally understood boundaries. If the intent is to enlighten or just have fun, teasing and joke-making are great elements of social bonding. If the underlying motive is to put down or humiliate the recipient, it’s not healthy.
Play, by its very nature, is a little anarchic. It is about stepping outside of normal life and breaking normal patterns. It is about bending rules of thought, action, and behavior.
Some people use this quality of play as cover for sadistic or cruel treatment of others. “Hey,” they might say if others object, “you can’t take a little playful hassling? What’s wrong with you?” This is not a dark side of play, because it is not play. It’s an attack under a false flag. It is an attempt to dominate, demean, or control while hiding behind the bulwark of our cultural assumptions about play being non-threatening.
Adults may joke about something that’s a little too personal. But when our interactions are based on a foundation of caring, these hurts are corrected and avoided in the future. Bending rules and pushing through limits should happen within the realm of play. They aren’t the dark side of play—they are the essence of play.
When sports and games are played as they should be played, organized for the fun of it, kids learn that cheating is wrong and that playing the game the best you can is the thing that matters
ONE OF THE HARDEST things to teach kids is how to make it past difficulty or perceived boredom to find the fun.
Here are some initial questions: When have you felt free to do and be what you choose? Is that a part of your life now? If not, why not? What do you feel stands in the way of your achieving some times of personal freedom? Are you now able to feel that what engages you most fully is almost effortless? If not, can you recall when you were able to experience such times? Describe. Imagine settings that allow that sort of engagement. Search your memory for those times in your life when you have been at your very best. (These are usually authentic play times, and give clues as to where to go for current play experiences.) What have been the impediments to play in your life? How and why did some kinds of play disappear from your repertoire? Have you discovered ways of reinitiating lost play that work for you now in your life? Are you able to imagine and feel that the things you most desire and enjoy are really the things that you ought to have? Why so, or why not? How free are you now as you play with your spouse or your family? Or do you treat them as an extension of a dutiful responsibility?
The world is full of humor, irony, joy, and objects available for aesthetic appreciation. The trick is allowing yourself to open up to those influences, to see humor in virtually all situations.
You have to give yourself permission to improvise, to mimic, to take on a long-hidden identity. Let your body respond to lessons learned from nature but long suppressed. You can’t be truly open to spontaneity if you don’t feel comfortable testing novel ways of expressing yourself, pushed along by the pleasure of the action. Play is exploration, which means that you will be going places where you haven’t been before.
“It sucks being a beginner again,” he told me. “But unless you are willing to do that, unless you can let yourself feel okay about going through the awkward stage, you can’t grow.
One of the quickest ways to jump-start play is to do something physical. Just move.
We are alive when we are physically moving.
Fear and play cannot go together. Take a look at your environment and look at where you are unsafe.
Recognize if your body is tight or tense in certain situations.
developmentally we all need “secret spaces” in which we can be safely alone and give ourselves over to needed fantasies if we are to adapt to a challenging world. Find your own secret space.
Practice play. Understand what type of player you are and find ways to engage in your play.
Okay, this is book twenty eight of the year that I've read. It is also, the 27th non-fiction book I've read, sticking with my January non-fiction month for much longer than anticipated.
The problemm with reading only non-fiction, however, is that often you stop having stories. Depending on the book, you can go hours and hours and hours with dry facts that, while true (hence, unlike the idiot in the power position believes, non-fiction and not "alternate"), lack an engaging story. Drawdown is a fascinating catalog of technologies we need to use and develop and encourage, yes, but the book was slow going in its lack of story.
Shadow Divers, however, didn't lack for a story. The book is a recount of the 1991 discovery of a previously unknown U-boat off the coast of New Jersey, and the divers' journey to positively identifying it. I enjoyed the book a lot, with a few very strong parts that pulled me out of the story.
About half way through the book, I started looking up the various protagonists on the Intarwebs™. Bill Nagle's Wikipedia page links off to the U-869 Wikipedia page, which references that PBS NOVA episode "Hitler's Lost Sub" which I started watching. And then became momentarily confused, as the story I was reading in Shadow Divers wasn't the story I was hearing on the NOVA episode.
Okay, what up?
Further along in the book, Robert Kurson starts telling the tale from the perspective of those who died on U-869, and that's when I was fully pulled out of the story.
The men spoke briefly before wishing each other a good night. “At least,” Guschewski thought as he closed his door, “this fellow seems bright, capable, and friendly. At least Horenburg seems like a gentleman.”
Guschewski lived, and was interviewed for the book, a fact we find out at the end of the book, but parts like:
They knew this man to be their commander—they could see a nobility in his posture, a certainty in the slowness of his breaths, a strength in his face’s Teutonic angles.
are still absurd. Non-fiction can't really tell you this with any accuracy when the "they" died sixty years before.
I still very much enjoyed this book. It was a great read, takes about eight hours or so to read, but reads like an adventure, so it doesn't feel that long.
There were a lot of impossible places to go when the world was as big as Chatterton and Nagle saw it, but for God’s sake you had to try. You were required to try. What were you doing alive, these men thought, if you didn’t go and try?
A good diver reveals himself in the way he gears up.
Inside is where the bridge equipment lies—the telegraph, helm, and binnacles that gave the ship direction.
A diver who spends time inside a wreck will screw the “viz”; it’s just a matter of how soon and how badly.
Yet a curious truth pertains to these perils: rarely does the problem itself kill the diver. Rather, the diver’s response to the problem—his panic—likely determines whether he lives or dies.
A great diver learns to stand down his emotions. At the moment he becomes lost or blinded or tangled or trapped, that instant when millions of years of evolution demand fight or flight and narcosis carves order from his brain, he dials down his fear and contracts into the moment until his breathing slows and his narcosis lightens and his reason returns. In this way he overcomes his humanness and becomes something else. In this way, liberated from instincts, he becomes a freak of nature.
An ordinary diver will sometimes rush to extricate himself from trouble so that no other diver will witness his predicament. A disciplined diver is willing to risk such embarrassment in exchange for his life.
On a deep-wreck dive, no one is ever truly safe until he is back on the deck of the dive boat.
A few days later, Chatterton decided to take a trip. Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry was the permanent home of U-505, a type IXC U-boat captured by the Allies off Africa in 1944. The submarine had been kept in pristine condition and was open to the public.
She told them that after the war, her father had hobbled on crutches across America to visit the families of every man who had perished under his command because it was the right thing to do, that he needed to tell them in person that he appreciated their sons.
Everyone had an opinion, and John listened to all of them. But the more John absorbed these viewpoints, the more he suspected that these people didn’t really know. It was not that he doubted their conviction; in fact, he admired their passion and felt invigorated by the era. But he asked himself about the lives of the people behind the opinions, and the more he asked, the more he became convinced that few of them had ever gone out and looked for themselves.
“One more thing,” Mouse said. “A lot of the stuff you do out there, you’re going to have to live with all the way down the line. You’ll have to make decisions out there. When that happens, you have to ask yourself, ‘Where do I want to be in ten years, twenty years? How will I want to feel about this decision when I’m an old man?’ That’s the question for making important decisions.”
With each moment, Chatterton’s vision narrowed and the jungle sounds compressed, until the only impressions in his world were his own heaving breaths and pounding heart.
He could not imagine turning away from the first thing in his life at which he had been special, the thing at which he might be great.
As he neared the end of his six-month field obligation, he had come to believe these things: —If an undertaking was easy, someone else already would have done it. —If you follow in another’s footsteps, you miss the problems really worth solving. —Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus, and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average. —Every so often, life presents a great moment of decision, an intersection at which a man must decide to stop or go; a person lives with these decisions forever. —Examine everything; not all is as it seems or as people tell you. —It is easiest to live with a decision if it is based on an earnest sense of right and wrong. —The guy who gets killed is often the guy who got nervous. The guy who doesn’t care anymore, who has said, “I’m already dead—the fact that I live or die is irrelevant and the only thing that matters is the accounting I give of myself,” is the most formidable force in the world. —The worst possible decision is to give up.
in the water, self-contained, a man could be what he was meant to be, and when that happened it was impossible to be lost.
At home, Kohler allowed Richie to assemble and disassemble his tank and regulator—he believed in making his three children feel comfortable with mechanical equipment, to make them unafraid to touch things.
It had been a year since he had seen the dead woman in the water, but Richie had never stopped wondering how people could be left in the water when they had loved ones at home who needed to know where they were.
Richie’s father was right: always swing while the other guy is telling you how he’s going to kick your ass.
“We sank two U-boats,” Weidenfeld said. “But we never got credit for either of them.” “I’ve read about those incidents,” Chatterton said. “You guys believe the navy didn’t want to credit civilians.” “That’s right,” Weidenfeld said. “The navy didn’t want to acknowledge it because it would have terrified the public to think that average civilians were needed to fight the U-boats, and that the U-boats were coming so close to our shores.
He could not tolerate the idea of this diver stealing the visibility in a gold mine of artifacts under the pretext of shooting video. A mystery U-boat full of china and the guy is shooting video!
Chatterton began to insist but stopped himself when he looked into Chris’s widened eyes. In them, he saw only fear and knowing—the kind of knowing that occurs when one’s fate is certain and moments away.
But the lesson was stark and by now familiar: written history was fallible. Sloppy and erroneous assessments had been rushed into the official record, only to be presumed accurate by historians, who then published elegant reference works echoing the mistakes.
Along the way, each marveled at how easy it was to get an incomplete picture of the world if one relied solely on experts, and how important it would be to further rely on oneself.
But it took no more than these words for even a U-boat veteran like Guschewski to think, “There is great courage and competence in this man. You do not go against this voice. You do not go against this man.”
Seated with Neuerburg were his first officer, twenty-one-year-old Siegfried Brandt, and his chief engineer, thirty-year-old Ludwig Kessler.
Guschewski was stunned. He admired commanders who followed strict military protocol. But he had also prayed that U-869 would be led by a man with a heart.
During visits, he told Friedhelm that he believed the Nazis to be authoring the downfall of Germany. Friedhelm recoiled at the public nature of his expression. “Are you crazy talking like that in the open?” he asked Helmuth whenever such conversations unfolded. “People are listening everywhere! What you are saying is very dangerous!”
In 1943, Neuerburg and others were offered a choice: they could remain with the naval air arm or join the U-boats. Those who stayed with the air force would go into combat immediately; those who transferred to submarines might spend a year or more in training before going to battle. Neuerburg was father to a two-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. He chose the U-boats, though he harbored no illusions about their safety.
Zinten’s Nazi Party members continued to harass Otto and Elise over their church worship and their refusal to join the party,
One of them began crying, then another, then all of them. “What is wrong?” Gila asked, rushing to Nedel’s side and taking his hand. For a moment, the men could do nothing but cry. Nedel said nothing. Finally, one of the other men spoke. “None of us is coming back,” he said.
Time and again during their research, they had been astonished to discover that historians had been mistaken, books fallible, experts wrong.
The fantasy always felt good for a minute, but it always ended with Chatterton thinking, “When things are easy a person doesn’t really learn about himself. It’s what a person does at the moment of his greatest struggle that shows him who he really is. Some people never get that moment. The U-Who is my moment. What I do now is what I am.”
Then spring began to dab warmth into the air and Marks said it would be a shame if a man turned his back on his passion.
Whatever satisfaction he might derive from delivering an answer to the crewmen’s families and to history would be smothered by his helpless proximity to a drowning friend.
There might be, he thought, one scenario worse than watching his friend die in the wreck, and as Sunday drew near he knew that worst scenario to be allowing his friend to die while he stayed home and waited for the news.
“U-boats are my avocation,” he said. “Perhaps it would be boring if I were to earn money from it. It’s the detective’s way of treating these matters that moves me. Once you find out history is wrong, once you start investigating it and, with some luck, correcting it, that is satisfaction enough.”
I did not know what this book was about when I started reading it, which could have been why it was as powerful to me. I hope that commenting on it does not lessen its power when you read this book, because I STRONGLY recommend this book, and will buy you a copy if you'll read it.
Consider the U.S. Government and the Constitution which dictates how it interacts, grows, and is stopped. It has its checks and balances with its power, and, for the most part, can keep itself reined in (no, not really, but as far as governments go, its the worse we have expect for all others).
What the Founding Fathers did not anticipate in the Constitution was that the government would not be the most powerful entity in the country.
Lo and behold, our times.
The U.S. Government is not the most powerful organization in the country, and such status is causing problems.
The anti-trust (nee anti-monopoly) legislation of yore, the stuff that might have been covered in U.S. History class if you took a twentieth century history class, was the government's attempt to rein in the private power that was threatening to dethrone the U.S. Government. Said legislation works only if it is enforced, and since the Bush Jr Era (quelle surprise), it has not been.
This book is a history of the anti-trust work, its origins, its failings, and its hope.
I strongly recommend everyone to read it. Wu has done a great job of explaining the problem, providing solutions, and giving hope, in as much as one can have in a surveillance capitalistic world.
[I]n enacting and repeatedly fortifying the antitrust laws the United States made a critical, indeed Constitutional choice in industrial and national policy. After a period of intense national debate, including a presidential election in 1912 where economic policy was a central issue, the nation rejected a monopolized economy and chose repeatedly over the decades to preserve its tradition of an open and competitive market. The goal of antitrust law must be understood as respecting that choice.
Over the twentieth century, nations that failed to control private power and attend to the economic needs of their citizens faced the rise of strongmen who promised their citizens a more immediate deliverance from economic woes. The rise of a paramount leader of government who partners with monopolized industry has an indelible association with fascism and authoritarianism. It is true that antitrust alone will not cure the curse of bigness or eliminate the excesses of private power. But it strikes at the root, and getting the engines of the law restarted is an important part of dealing with a problem that has reached Constitutional dimensions.
In its American form, the Trust Movement envisioned an economy with every sector run by a single, almighty monopoly, fashioned out of hundreds of smaller firms, unfettered by competitors or government restraint. In short: pure economic autocracy.
For the American tradition had, to that point, been defined by resistance to centralized power and monopoly. The American Revolution itself was in large part sparked by the abuses of Crown monopolies. The original Boston Tea Party was, after all, really an anti-monopoly protest.
As Hofstadter writes: “From its colonial beginnings through most of the nineteenth century, [America] was overwhelmingly a nation of farmers and small-town entrepreneurs—ambitious, mobile, optimistic, speculative, anti-authoritarian, egalitarian, and competitive. As time went on, Americans came to take it for granted that property would be widely diffused, that economic and political power would be decentralized.”
As such, the movement posed a new challenge for a Constitution that was committed to limited and separate powers, and never contemplated the rise of private power as great as any of the branches of government, and able to corrupt governmental operations to suit its ends.
Louis Brandeis, the advocate, reformer, and Supreme Court Justice, has been done a particular kind of disservice. He is still known as a great jurist; his writings on the First Amendment and privacy are exalted. But what Brandeis really cared about was the economic conditions under which life is lived, and the effects of the economy on one’s character and on the nation’s soul.
Brandeisian economic vision. It envisions a vigorous, healthy economy, a skepticism of the self-serving rhetoric projecting the romance of big business or the inevitability of monopoly, and, above all, a sensitivity to human ends. Brandeis took matters like bigness and concentration as inseparable from the very nature of democracy, and the conditions under which its citizens would live. They determined what kind of country we would live in and what kind of environment that country would provide for its citizens.
As the Commission wrote, the consolidation campaign had “meant the reckless and scandalous expenditure of money; it meant the attempt to control public opinion; corruption of government; the attempt to pervert the political and economic instincts of the people in insolent defiance of law.” The
That view had important implications for what the nation and its laws should look like. A worthy nation was one that served as cauldron for character and self-development, one that “compels us to strive for the development of the individual.” Importantly, Brandeis didn’t think that such personal growth was something that just happened: He believed that it required the right conditions. As he said: “The ‘right to life’ guaranteed by our Constitution” should be understood as “the right to live, and not merely to exist. In order to live men must have the opportunity of developing their faculties; and they must live under conditions in which their faculties may develop naturally and healthily.”
A good country and a good economy, therefore, would be one that provided to everybody sufficient liberties and adequate support to live meaningful, fulfilling lives. He thought the American founders had understood this, that “[ t] hey valued liberty both as an end, and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty.” Hence a worthy nation should protect men and women from any forces, public or private, that might stifle the opportunities for thriving and life.
But it also meant freedom from industrial domination, exploitation, or so much economic insecurity that one could not really live without fear of unemployment and poverty. “Men are not free,” he wrote, “if dependent industrially on the arbitrary will of another.” Economic security was a foundation on which one could really be free in a meaningful sense—hence the importance of steady but not oppressive work, of education, time and space for leisure, parks, libraries, and other institutions.
We like to speak of freedoms in the abstract, but for most people, a sense of autonomy is more influenced by private forces and economic structure than by government. For many if not most people, the conditions of work determine how much of life is lived—such basic matters as the length of hours worked, the threat of being fired, harassment or mistreatment by a boss, and for some jobs, questions as fundamental as personal safety or access to a bathroom. Beyond work, our daily lives are shaped profoundly by economic matters like rent, access to transportation or groceries, and health insurance, even more so than any abstract freedoms. That is why Brandeis saw real freedom as freedom from both public and private coercion.*
He grew to detest the growing American culture of overwork, whether self-inflicted, as in the private lawyer’s case, or more menacingly, in the growing class of large firms who worked their employees past the limits of human endurance.
Instead what Brandeis really believed was that business could be a high calling and that a good career was one that created the conditions for human thriving. He thought for most people, a truly successful career consisted in developing a skill or a craft, or building a good business, and practicing as best one could, while aspiring to live by high principles in both personal and business affairs.
If he had a unifying principle, politically and economically, it is what we have said: that concentrated power in any form is dangerous, that institutions should be built to human scale, and society should pursue human ends. Every institution, public and private, runs the risks of taking on a life of its own, putting its own interests above those of the humans it was supposedly created to serve.
To Roosevelt, economic policy did not form an exception to popular rule, and he viewed the seizure of economic policy by Wall Street and trust management as a serious corruption of the democratic system. He also understood, as we should today, that ignoring economic misery and refusing to give the public what they wanted would drive a demand for more extreme solutions, like Marxist or anarchist revolution.
He added that the “trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is in duty bound to control them wherever need of such control is shown.”
Harlan read the Sherman Act as a literal ban on trusts, which, as he would later say, presented the danger of a “slavery that would result from aggregations of capital in the hands of a few individuals and corporations.”
As Roosevelt later reflected, “it was imperative to teach the masters of the biggest corporations in the land that they were not, and would not be permitted to regard themselves as, above the law.”
As Justice William Douglas would later put it, “power that controls the economy should be in the hands of elected representatives of the people, not in the hands of an industrial oligarchy.”
Hence, antitrust law was serving as a new kind of limit: a check on private power, by preventing the growth of monopoly corporations into something that might transcend the power of elected government to control. His pursuit of this goal makes it fair to call Roosevelt the pioneer of political antitrust.
But the broad tenor of antitrust enforcement—the broader goals of enforcement—should be animated by a concern that too much concentrated economic power will translate into too much political power, and thereby threaten the Constitutional structure.
At some level the point is obvious: Private economic power is a rival to the power of elected governments, and firms may also seek to control politics for their own purposes.
In a representative democracy, lawmaking is supposed to roughly match what the majority wants. If that is unclear or disputed, then we might expect or hope they’d reflect the interests of the “swing” voter—that is, the middle-of-the-road man or woman. But research shows that, for the vast majority of policy matters, that isn’t how things work at all.
large majorities don’t get what they want on many issues. Instead, they consistently lose out to small, closely-knit groups with discrete interests around which they organize—of which the “industry association” is the best example.
Olson’s memorable conclusion is that the small and organized will dominate the large and disorganized.
In 2003, the industry invested $ 116 million in convincing Congress to ban America’s largest federal-run insurance program, Medicare, from negotiating for lower drug prices. That $ 116 million was, to be sure, a major investment. However, the enactment of the negotiation ban has benefited the industry (and cost consumers) an estimated $ 90 billion per year. As an investment, it returns some 77,500 percent, and is a gift that keeps on giving.
A Princeton and Northwestern group in 2014 tested various theories of politics and concluded that a theory of “biased pluralism” best explained outcomes—that the public policies “tend to tilt toward the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”
The more concentrated the industry, the more corrupted we can expect the political process to be. Here, by corrupted, we mean a political system that does not serve its stated goals—service of the public’s interests—but instead favors a few groups at the expense of the general public.
Roosevelt’s point: Concentrated private power can serve as a threat to the Constitutional design, and the enforcement of the antitrust law can provide a final check on private power.
For example, as a firm adds more and more employees, it needs to add more managers, and ever-more complex systems of internal control, which tend, at some point, to begin making the firm less efficient. Managers in larger firms may start to yield to the temptations of seeking their own personal enrichment and power as opposed to the interests of the firm.
It was during the postwar years, over the 1950s and 1960s, that strong antitrust laws became most clearly identified as part of a functional democracy, and in that sense reached the fullest extent of their power, influence, and political support. Reflecting
Hitler’s rise and exercise of power were facilitated by the German Republic’s tolerance of monopolies in key industries, including the Krupp armaments company, Siemens railroad and infrastructure, and, most of all, the I.G. Farben chemical cartel.
That conclusion came from the observation that the main German monopolists, over the 1930s, threw their weight behind the Nazi regime when it lacked support among other key groups, and that each ultimately became deeply allied with and enmeshed in the German war effort.
As Senator Estes Kefauver put it: I think we must decide very quickly what sort of country we want to live in. The present trend of great corporations to increase their economic power is the antithesis of meritorious competitive development … Through monopolistic mergers the people are losing power to direct their own economic welfare. When they lose the power to direct their economic welfare they also lose the means to direct their political future.
He then turned to antitrust’s relationship to democracy. I am not an alarmist, but the history of what has taken place in other nations where mergers and concentrations have placed economic control in the hands of a very few people is too clear to pass over easily. A point is eventually reached, and we are rapidly reaching that point in this country, where the public steps in to take over when concentration and monopoly gain too much power. The taking over by the public through its government always follows one or two methods and has one or two political results. It either results in a Fascist state or the nationalization of industries and thereafter a Socialist or Communist state.
Like Thurman Arnold, Estes Kefauver, and other Americans, the Ordoliberals believed that the true origins of Nazi totalitarianism were the concentrations of economic power that began under Bismarck. In this sense, the European competition law was entwined, from the beginning, to the commitment to democracy and human freedom.
Since at least Adam Smith’s day, economists have favored competition and condemned monopoly.
Sherman had much broader concerns as well. He wanted antitrust law to fight “inequality of condition, of wealth, and opportunity” and feared that the trusts created “a kingly prerogative, inconsistent with our form of government.”
antitrust represented a democratic choice of economic structure and a check on the political and economic power of the monopolies.
As Learned Hand had written, “It is possible, because of its indirect social or moral effect, to prefer a system of small producers, each dependent for his success upon his own skill and character, to one in which the great mass of those engaged must accept the direction of a few. These considerations … prove to have been in fact [the law’s] purposes.”
In Alcoa, Hand articulated a better repudiation of monopoly than Brandeis himself had ever managed, writing that a “possession of unchallenged economic power deadens initiative, discourages thrift, and depresses energy; that immunity from competition is a narcotic, and rivalry is a stimulant, to industrial progress; that the spur of constant stress is necessary to counteract an inevitable disposition to let well enough alone.” Congress, said Hand, had chosen to “prefer a system of small producers, each dependent for his success upon his own skill and character, to one in which the great mass of those engaged must accept the direction of a few.”
One of the real triggers for the Justice Department, however, was signs that AT& T was also resistant even to government control.
But Bell managed to subvert or undermine many of these policies, thwarting the introduction of competition, running roughshod over the FCC. As in Theodore Roosevelt’s time, the idea of a monopolist that considered itself above government control compelled the Justice Department to action.
Robbing banks is economically irrational, given security guards and meager returns; ergo bank robbing does not happen; ergo there is no need for the criminal law. Exaggerated only slightly, this premise has been at the core of Bork-Chicago antitrust for more than thirty years.
First and most importantly, IBM dropped its practice of bundling (or tying) its software with hardware. That is broadly understood, even by IBM’s own people, to have kickstarted the birth of an independent software industry.
If the effect of the litigation was to prevent IBM from killing its main emergent challengers, the IBM case was not expensive, but incredibly cheap.
AT& T, for example, ruled its industry for decades, destroying myriad would-be challengers, with the tacit or sometimes active assistance of government. Having waited for several decades, are society and the economy supposed to wait for several more? This line of argument ignores the idea that deliberate investments in building barriers to entry can be effective, and it is often utterly rational for the monopolist to make such investments.
We can see that it is to the George W. Bush era that we owe our present economic state, as the administration dismantled most of the checks on industry concentration.
Cable was also freed to charge monopoly prices, and happily raised monthly prices at some eight times the rate of inflation. During a period of historically low inflation, it managed to raise its prices by an impressive 8 percent per year. Bills that were once in the $ 30–40 range rose over $ 100, and as much as $ 200 per month.
When a dominant firm buys its a nascent challenger, alarm bells are supposed to ring. Yet both American and European regulators found themselves unable to find anything wrong with the takeover.
It takes many years of training to reach conclusions this absurd. A teenager could have told you that Facebook and Instagram were competitors—after all, teenagers were the ones who were switching platforms.
When Facebook spies on competitors, or summons a firm to a meeting just to figure out how to copy it more accurately, or discourages funding of competitors, a line is crossed.
Anti-Merger Act of 1950,
As the Supreme Court put it, the law sought to erect “a barrier to what Congress saw was the rising tide of economic concentration” and therefore provided “authority for arresting mergers at a time when the trend to a lessening of competition in a line of commerce was still in its incipiency.” For “Congress saw the process of concentration in American business as a dynamic force” and it wanted to give the government and courts “the power to brake this force at its outset and before it gathered momentum.”
Breakups and the blocking of mergers (also known as “structural relief”) are at the historic core of the antitrust program, and should not be shied away from unduly. Breakups, done right, have clear effects. They can completely realign an industry’s incentives, and can, at their best, transform a stagnant industry into a dynamic one.
There is an unfortunate tendency within enforcement agencies to portray breakups and dissolutions as off the table or only for extremely rare cases. There is no legal reason for that presumption: Indeed, the original practice favored dissolution as the default remedy—implied in the very word “antitrust.”
Too much of the resistance to dissolution comes from taking too seriously the legal fiction of corporate personhood.
But reintroducing competition into the social media space, perhaps even quality competition, measured by matters like greater protection of privacy, could mean a lot to the public.
The simplest way to break the power of Facebook is breaking up Facebook.
The prerequisite would be persistent dominance of at least ten years or longer, suggesting that a market remedy is not forthcoming, and proof that the existing industry structure lacked convincing competitive or public justifications, and that market forces would be unlikely to remedy the situation by themselves. In
The “protection of competition” test is focused on protection of a process, as opposed to the maximization of a value. It is based on the premise that the legal system often does better trying to protect a process than the far more ambitious goal of maximizing an abstract value like welfare or wealth.
Here, as just one typical example, is Representative Dick Thompson Morgan in 1914: “the one thing we wish to maintain, and retain and sustain, is competition. We want to destroy monopoly and restore and maintain competition.”
Or as it said in the 1950s, “The heart of our national economic policy long has been faith in the value of competition.… ‘Congress was dealing with competition, which it sought to protect, and monopoly, which it sought to prevent.’”
The English Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, and other foundational laws of democracies around the world were all created with the idea that power should be limited—that it should be distributed, decentralized, checked, and balanced, so that no person or institution could enjoy unaccountable influence. Yet this vision has always had a major loophole. Written as a reaction to government tyranny, it did not contemplate the possibility of a concentrated private power that might come to rival the public’s, of businesspeople with more influence than government officials, and of an artificial creature of law, the corporation, that would grow to have political protection exceeding that of actual humans.
Okay, this is one of those books you wish did not need to exist.
Sadly, it does exist, it does need to exist. Happily, it is funny, in a "I'm not crying, you're crying!" sort of way.
The book is satire on women and their role in the workplace. It touches on many of the stereotypes of men and women in the workplace, and their interactions, and human nature, and the absurdity of all of our biases.
The mocking tone of the book could be off-putting, but it's funny for the most part, except for the parts where the humor is TOO REAL, and you cry instead.
It's a fun read, if you're in the right mindset. If you're a guy, yeaaaaaaaaah, this is really how things are for the rest of us.
When describing your accomplishments, you need to strike a balance between tooting your own horn and hiding your horn behind the shed. This is difficult because if you don’t take enough credit you won’t seem qualified, but if you take too much credit you’ll seem arrogant. Good luck with that.
However, sometimes when women say the exact same thing a man says it’s interpreted in a completely different way. It’s enough to make you want to cry (which as a man means you’re sensitive and as a woman means you’re hysterical).
Tone policing is an insidious way for people to disregard what you are saying by adjusting the focus to how you’re saying it.
Authenticity is less about being the real you and more about finding someone successful to look up to and being that person instead.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious offense and will not be tolerated, except in cases where the harasser was clearly joking and you need to relax.
You may go through different stages of being more successful than likeable or more likeable than successful or neither likeable nor successful. But one day you’ll wake up and you won’t care about being either and that’s the day you’ll be the most successful and most likeable person, at least to yourself.
Make sure your product is something your potential investors could personally see themselves using, or else they won’t be able to see any value in it whatsoever. Even though women are half of the population, remember, anything targeting them is considered a niche market.
DAILY APOLOGY ￼ checklist ￼ I’M SORRY FOR . . . ￼ Responding too late ￼ Responding too early ￼ Having my headphones on ￼ Being interrupted ￼ Staring at the bagels ￼ Speaking too softly ￼ Speaking at all ￼ Tripping on a rock (to the rock) ￼ Sharing too much ￼ Not sharing enough ￼ Enjoying food too much ￼ Asking a question ￼ Being misled ￼ Not liking my food ￼ Wanting something different ￼ Someone taking my seat ￼ Saying I’m sorry ￼ Asking to be paid ￼ Being bumped into ￼ Sitting in this chair ￼ Taking up space ￼ Needing help ￼ Offering to help ￼ My shoes being loud ￼ Going too fast ￼ Going too slow ￼ Swallowing too loudly ￼ Knowing what I’m doing ￼ Someone else’s mistake ￼ Being proud of myself ￼ Sharing my thoughts ￼ Being successful
So how do you be successful without hurting men’s feelings? You don’t. You be successful whether men’s feelings are hurt or not, because really that’s up to them, not you.