Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

Camino Island

Book Notes

Okay, I think this is the first Grisham I have ever read. I have to say, I enjoyed it. If you read the various reviews, all the men and Grisham fans are loudly saying "THIS ISN'T GRISHAM, THIS IS A GHOST WRITER! Hated it," and all the women (yes, hyperbole) are saying, "This was a great read!" Be unsurprised, as the protagonist is a woman. And a book-reader at that.

Moazam recommended this book to me a bit ago. He commented he thought I would enjoy it, as it is about books and reading and bookstores and wheeeeee! Well, he was right about this one. I was careful to wait until he finished it before starting it, though. He had a couple recommendations that missed the mark. This one was on. More on that I would have expected it to be, given that I had recently read an F. Scott Fitzgerald book, my first, and the original manuscripts were fictionally stolen at the beginning of the book (so, I'm not spoiling the story by saying that, it's on the back cover, too). A delightful coincidence.

This was a fun read. If you're a Grisham fan, this will be a change of pace, based on the other reviews. I find this to be a good beach read, but definitely not high literature.

The heist was over, it was a success, but in any crime clues are left behind. Mistakes are always made, and if you can think of half of them, then you’re a genius.
Page 21

He claimed to average four books per week and no one doubted this. If a prospective clerk did not read at least two per week, there was no job offer.
Page 55

I really cracked up at this. I managed this feat in 2015, but haven't quite managed a repeat performance since. This year I'll be just under 2 a week, I think, at 1.8 a week.

She didn’t buy books either. Why buy books when you could get them for free at the library?
Page 70

Something I recently started doing myself! Thanks, Libby!

But she was a writer, not a teacher, and it was time to move on. To where, she wasn’t certain, but after three years in the classroom she longed for the freedom of facing each day with nothing to do but write her novels and stories.
Page 72

Having time does not mean work will actually happen.

When he’d sold cars he talked about nothing but cars, and now that he scouted for the Orioles he talked of nothing but baseball. Mercer wasn’t sure which subject held less interest, but she gamely hung on and tried to make lunch enjoyable.
Page 88

We talk about what is important in our lives at the moment.

“Tessa always said you were too competitive. Checkers, chess, Monopoly. You always had to win.”

“I guess. Seems kind of silly now.”
Page 93

“Have you been to the store?” Myra asked.

“I stopped by on the way here. It’s lovely.”

“It’s civilization, an oasis."
Page 118

I feel this way about every bookstore. And every chocolate store. And paper store. And tea shop.

“Anybody else?” Mercer asked. So far every other writer had been trashed and Mercer was enjoying the carnage, which was not at all unusual when writers gathered over drinks and talked about each other.
Page 119

Same for pretty much any vocation.

“Got a bunch of the self-published crowd. They crank ’em out, post ’em online, call themselves writers."
Page 119

We all want to believe our work is better, more important, "correct," and those who didn't suffer or found an easier way are somehow less.

They moved a lot, and always to larger homes in nicer neighborhoods. They were chasing something, a vague dream, and Mercer often wondered where they would be when they found it. The more money they made the more they spent, and Mercer, living in poverty, marveled at their consumption.
Page 212

The typical "American Dream."

On the one hand she almost admired their ability to love each other enough to allow the other to stray at will, but on the other hand her southern modesty wanted to judge them for their sleaze.
Page 217

“A fling? Your wife has been sleeping with her French boyfriend for at least a decade. You call that a fling?”

“No, that’s more than a fling, but Noelle doesn’t love him. That’s all about companionship.”
Page 220

Own it, girl. The old saying from college: “If you’re gonna be stupid you gotta be tough.”
Page 230

“Thanks. So will you finish that?”

“I doubt it. I’ll give any book a hundred pages, and if by then the writer can’t hold my attention I’ll put it away. There are too many good books I want to read to waste time with a bad one.”
Page 237

I wish I could stop reading bad books. Instead, I read faster to stop the pain.

“Same here, but my limit is fifty pages. I’ve never understood people who grind through a book they don’t really like, determined to finish it for some unknown reason. Tessa was like that. She would toss a book after the first chapter, then pick it up and grumble and growl for four hundred pages until the bitter end. Never understood that.”
Page 238

*cough*

Even though Mark was being filmed and recorded, all four FBI agents and all five grim-faced young men from the U.S. Attorney’s office scribbled furiously as if their notes were important.
Page 273

Prince Caspian

Book Notes

This is Book 4 of The Chronicles of Narnia.

I will likely be done with all of these by the end of the month, at the rate I'm going and ease of reading. I will be okay with being done hunting for Christian allegorical elements in the books I'm reading by Christmas.

This book puzzled me a lot in a couple places. I'm okay with time passing, and the kids being pulled back to Narnia - it's magic, and if you accept magic, you need to suspend disbelief and let the newly defined laws of nature reveal themselves. That's fine.

What I'm struggling with is that that talking animals, the Talking Animals, eat their own kind. They serve bacon and eggs and bear to the kids. In another book, the kids ate roast. Okay, so, maybe the animals who can't talk are a different species, distinctly farm animals? Nope, turns out that Talking Animals can devolve into non-talking animals. This means, there is a spectrum of Talking in Narnia with the animals. If we take Talking as a measurement of intelligence, then the Talking Animals eat their stupid, their dumb, their deaf, their mute, their mentally incapacitated, their learning-disabled. While this could be okay in some societies to cull the herd, I'm not sure this is what C. S. had in mind when he had his Talking Animals.

This book was published in 1951. The Two Towers was published in 1954. Why is this significant? Because C.S. Lewis had the protagonists saved by a giant forest of trees in this book. That's three years before the Ents were released on the world. Another struggle.

I also struggled with several of the allegorical elements in this book. When Aslan comes to town, a few people are delighted by him and everyone else runs. Oddly, only the repressed, the downtrodden, the abused are delighted to see him. So, Christianity is only for the underdog?

Again, the battles were absurd, and the wrap-everything-up send-the-bad-guys-to-a-remote-island-in-another-world resolution difficult to accept - what uninhabited, population-sustaining island still existed in the early 1900s? (None.) Reading as an adult, however, makes the absurdity amusing instead of intelligence-insulting.

I'll keep reading, I'm over half way done. I want to see how this story ends.

“We shall need a camp-fire if we’ve got to spend the night here,” said Peter. “I’ve got matches. Let’s go and see if we can collect some dry wood.”
Page 17

THE WORST OF SLEEPING OUT OF DOORS is that you wake up so dreadfully early. And when you wake you have to get up because the ground is so hard that you are uncomfortable.
Page 30

“Those who run first do not always run last,”
Page 90

“We are certainly in great need,” answered Caspian. “But it is hard to be sure we are at our greatest. Supposing there came an even worse need and we had already used it?”

“By that argument,” said Nikabrik, “your Majesty will never use it until it is too late.”
Page 96

“Yes,” said Peter, “I suppose what makes it feel so queer is that in the stories it’s always someone in our world who does the calling. One doesn’t really think about where the Jinn’s coming from.”
Page 102

“It’s like old times,” said Lucy. “Do you remember our voyage to Terebinthia—and Galma—and Seven Isles—and the Lone Islands?”
Page 113

Hmmmmm.... where have I heard THAT name before?

“Do you remember when we had the musicians up in the rigging playing flutes so that it sounded like music out of the sky?”
Page 113

Okay, think about this for a moment. She didn't say, "we had the sailors up in the rigging" she said musicians. So, here you have normal men and women who are good at playing musical instruments being hoisted up into the rigging to play for the kings and queens. It's cold up there, likely windy, and also quite likely miserable hanging from the rigging, and you have to do it or earn the displeasure of the kings and queens.

Blech.

They went ashore at last, far too tired to attempt lighting a fire; and even a supper of apples (though most of them felt that they never wanted to see an apple again) seemed better than trying to catch or shoot anything.
Page 115

“I hope you’re right,” said Susan. “I can’t remember all that at all.”

“That’s the worst of girls,” said Edmund to Peter and the Dwarf. “They never carry a map in their heads.”

“That’s because our heads have something inside them,” said Lucy.
Page 119

They even thought they had struck an old path; but if you know anything about woods, you will know that one is always finding imaginary paths. They disappear after about five minutes and then you think you have found another (and hope it is not another but more of the same one) and it also disappears, and after you have been well lured out of your right direction you realize that none of them were paths at all.
Page 120

“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”
Page 122

“Lucy,” he said, “we must not lie here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.”

“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so—”

From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I—I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that … oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?” Aslan said nothing. “You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right—somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.” “Oh dear,” said Lucy.
Page 142

Pretty sure Lewis is telling us to have strength in your faith, and do what needs to be done even when it's hard.

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.
Page 143

And here's the gist of all faith: you believe, what other's believe doesn't matter. Except, objectively, you still need to believe in some things: gravity, for example.

“It is hard for you, little one,” said Aslan. “But things never happen the same way twice. It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now.”
Page 143

“I am sorry for Nikabrik,” said Caspian, “though he hated me from the first moment he saw me. He had gone sour inside from long suffering and hating. If we had won quickly he might have become a good Dwarf in the days of peace. I don’t know which of us killed him. I’m glad of that.”
Page 173

“Welcome, Prince,” said Aslan. “Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?”

“I—I don’t think I do, Sir,” said Caspian. “I’m only a kid.”
Page 206

Okay, the self-awareness of Caspian is fantastic. The blame on age is insulting. Age does not give wisdom, there are incompetent old people. coughCheetoh.

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
Page 218

How Stoic of Aslan. In the end, we're all the same - dead.

The Beautiful and Damned

Book Notes

While in Seattle a while ago, I wandered into the Elliot Bay bookstore and, unsurprisingly, left with a stack of books. In that stack was The Great Gatsby, which I hadn't yet read. So tell me why, when I decided to read a Fitzgerald book, I would start with this book, The Beautiful and Damned? I mean, I can't even blame BookRiot for this one.

I picked it up, however, and started reading. The book is about Anthony Patch, a social parasite, and his marriage to his wife, Gloria. Okay, no, it isn't a abook about Patch, who is the grandson of a wealthy tycoon from the late 1800s, and a moocher of said tycoon's wealth. Patch doesn't actually work, he lives off an allowance from his grandfather, and hopes for the man's death throughout the book.

Except the book isn't about Anthony. Rather, it is a social commentary on the worthlessness of the non-working financially elite who don't actually do anything for society except spout non-sense about intellectuals, non-intellectuals, the meaning of life, the lack of meaning in life, and a billion things they actually know nothing about. Unironically, said people continue to exist today.

That the main characters are pretty awful, shallow people, I can't say I was ever on their side. When Anthony's grandfather interrupted a particular rowdy party during Prohibition, I cheered for Anthony's disinheritance. Fitzgerald's characters in this book are unlovable, disgusting, mooching parasites of the world. Which, well, the describing of such was likely the point of the book.

I'm glad I read it. I look forward to reading the Great Gatsby.

It had irritated him to wait for Anthony. He was under the delusion not only that in his youth he had handled his practical affairs with the utmost scrupulousness, even to keeping every engagement on the dot, but also that this was the direct and primary cause of his success.
Page 5

During the year that had passed since then, he had made several lists of authorities, he had even experimented with chapter titles and the division of his work into periods, but not one line of actual writing existed at present, or seemed likely ever to exist.
Page 6

Oh, look, the people who read about things, plan about things, and never actually DO the things? They existed long before today.

MAURY: No, sir! I believe that every one in America but a selected thousand should be compelled to accept a very rigid system of morals — Roman Catholicism, for instance. I don’t complain of conventional morality. I complain rather of the mediocre heretics who seize upon the findings of sophistication and adopt the pose of a moral freedom to which they are by no means entitled by their intelligences.
Page 10

Because in this commentary, the characters believe money equals intelligence. We know better. They knew better, but is human nature to want to feel superior.

Fifteen years of yes’s had beaten Mrs. Gilbert. Fifteen further years of that incessant unaffirmative affirmative, accompanied by the perpetual flicking of ash-mushrooms from thirty-two thousand cigars, had broken her.

To this husband of hers she made the last concession of married life, which is more complete, more irrevocable, than the first — she listened to him. She told herself that the years had brought her tolerance — actually they had slain what measure she had ever possessed of moral courage.
Page 17

Bilphism.
Page 21

This is all over the place in the book. It's the belief we are reincarnated.

He found in himself a growing horror and loneliness. The idea of eating alone frightened him; in preference he dined often with men he detested.
Page 24

Anthony Patch with no record of achievement, without courage, without strength to be satisfied with truth when it was given him. Oh, he was a pretentious fool, making careers out of cocktails and meanwhile regretting, weakly and secretly, the collapse of an insufficient and wretched idealism.
Page 24

... and wove along with faintly upturning, half-humorous intonations for sentence ends — as though defying interruption — and intervals of shadowy laughter.
Page 25

Perhaps the sentence-ending uplift isn't new, either?

She talked always about herself as a very charming child might talk, and her comments on her tastes and distastes were unaffected and spontaneous.
Page 26

Her beautiful eyes and lips were very grave as she made her choice, and Anthony thought again how naïve was her every gesture; she took all the things of life for hers to choose from and apportion, as though she were continually picking out presents for herself from an inexhaustible counter.
Page 27

There was one of his lonelinesses coming, one of those times when he walked the streets or sat, aimless and depressed, biting a pencil at his desk. It was a self-absorption with no comfort, a demand for expression with no outlet, a sense of time rushing by, ceaselessly and wastefully — assuaged only by that conviction that there was nothing to waste, because all efforts and attainments were equally valueless.
Page 42

The growth of intimacy is like that. First one gives off his best picture, the bright and finished product mended with bluff and falsehood and humor. Then more details are required and one paints a second portrait, and a third — before long the best lines cancel out — and the secret is exposed at last; the planes of the pictures have intermingled and given us away, and though we paint and paint we can no longer sell a picture. We must be satisfied with hoping that such fatuous accounts of ourselves as we make to our wives and children and business associates are accepted as true.
Page 50

Hello, let me introduce you to my representative. (Hi, BenK!)

And there used to be dignified occupations for a gentleman who had leisure, things a little more constructive than filling up the landscape with smoke or juggling some one else’s money.
Page 50

“Aren’t you interested in anything except yourself?”

“Not much.”
Page 50

This sums up much of the book.

“A woman should be able to kiss a man beautifully and romantically without any desire to be either his wife or his mistress.”
Page 51

Instead of seizing the girl and holding her by sheer strength until she became passive to his desire, instead of beating down her will by the force of his own, he had walked, defeated and powerless, from her door, with the corners of his mouth drooping and what force there might have been in his grief and rage hidden behind the manner of a whipped schoolboy.
Page 52

Okay, so, instead of beating or raping a woman for her saying no, he respects her decision. Society is seriously messed up when accepting another person's autonomy is considered being beaten.

Happiness, remarked Maury Noble one day, is only the first hour after the alleviation of some especially intense misery.
Page 58

Book Two

The girl was proudly incapable of jealousy and, because he was extremely jealous, this virtue piqued him. He told her recondite incidents of his own life on purpose to arouse some spark of it, but to no avail. She possessed him now — nor did she desire the dead years.
Page 59

... in crowded rooms they would form words with their lips for each other’s eyes — not knowing that they were but following in the footsteps of dusty generations but comprehending dimly that if truth is the end of life happiness is a mode of it, to be cherished in its brief and tremulous moment.
Page 61

One of those personalities who, in spite of all their words, are inarticulate, he seemed to have inherited only the vast tradition of human failure — that, and the sense of death.
Page 98

“I reached maturity under the impression that I was gathering the experience to order my life for happiness. Indeed, I accomplished the not unusual feat of solving each question in my mind long before it presented itself to me in life — and of being beaten and bewildered just the same. “But after a few tastes of this latter dish I had had enough. Here! I said, Experience is not worth the getting. It’s not a thing that happens pleasantly to a passive you — it’s a wall that an active you runs up against. So I wrapped myself in what I thought was my invulnerable scepticism and decided that my education was complete. But it was too late. Protect myself as I might by making no new ties with tragic and predestined humanity, I was lost with the rest. I had traded the fight against love for the fight against loneliness, the fight against life for the fight against death.”
Page 113

“There’s only one lesson to be learned from life, anyway,” interrupted Gloria, not in contradiction but in a sort of melancholy agreement.

“What’s that?” demanded Maury sharply.

“That there’s no lesson to be learned from life.”
Page 113

“What a feeble thing intelligence is, with its short steps, its waverings, its pacings back and forth, its disastrous retreats! Intelligence is a mere instrument of circumstances. There are people who say that intelligence must have built the universe — why, intelligence never built a steam engine! Circumstances built a steam engine. Intelligence is little more than a short foot-rule by which we measure the infinite achievements of Circumstances."
Page 114

MAURY: What is a gentleman, anyway?

ANTHONY: A man who never has pins under his coat lapel.

MAURY: Nonsense! A man’s social rank is determined by the amount of bread he eats in a sandwich.

DICK: He’s a man who prefers the first edition of a book to the last edition of a newspaper.

RACHAEL: A man who never gives an impersonation of a dope-fiend.

MAURY: An American who can fool an English butler into thinking he’s one.

MURIEL: A man who comes from a good family and went to Yale or Harvard or Princeton, and has money and dances well, and all that.

MAURY: At last — the perfect definition! Cardinal Newman’s is now a back number.
Page 121

Gloria would be twenty-six in May. There was nothing, she had said, that she wanted, except to be young and beautiful for a long time, to be gay and happy, and to have money and love. She wanted what most women want, but she wanted it much more fiercely and passionately.
Page 123

Oh, she wanted it MORE. Because wanting something MORE means you should get it. (Sarcasm, in case that was lost in the written word.)

After the sureties of youth there sets in a period of intense and intolerable complexity. With the soda-jerker this period is so short as to be almost negligible. Men higher in the scale hold out longer in the attempt to preserve the ultimate niceties of relationship, to retain “impractical” ideas of integrity. But by the late twenties the business has grown too intricate, and what has hitherto been imminent and confusing has become gradually remote and dim. Routine comes down like twilight on a harsh landscape, softening it until it is tolerable. The complexity is too subtle, too varied; the values are changing utterly with each lesion of vitality; it has begun to appear that we can learn nothing from the past with which to face the future — so we cease to be impulsive, convincible men, interested in what is ethically true by fine margins, we substitute rules of conduct for ideas of integrity, we value safety above romance, we become, quite unconsciously, pragmatic. It is left to the few to be persistently concerned with the nuances of relationships — and even this few only in certain hours especially set aside for the task.
Page 126

There was, first of all, the sense of waste, always dormant in his heart, now awakened by the circumstances of his position. In his moments of insecurity he was haunted by the suggestion that life might be, after all, significant.
Page 126

“I can just see you,” she stormed, “letting him back you down!”

“What could I say?”

“You could have told him what he was. I wouldn’t have stood it. No other man in the world would have stood it! You just let people order you around and cheat you and bully you and take advantage of you as if you were a silly little boy. It’s absurd!”
Page 127

Again, allowing other people to be autonomous apparently means you need to beat them up.

"A person like you oughtn’t to accept anything unless it’s decently demonstrable.”

“I don’t care about truth. I want some happiness.”

“Well, if you’ve got a decent mind the second has got to be qualified by the first. Any simple soul can delude himself with mental garbage.”
Page 135

West Pointers began to be noticed for the first time in years, and the general impression was that everything was glorious, but not half so glorious as it was going to be pretty soon, and that everybody was a fine fellow, and every race a great race — always excepting the Germans — and in every strata of society outcasts and scapegoats had but to appear in uniform to be forgiven, cheered, and wept over by relatives, ex-friends, and utter strangers.
Page 136

Anthony’s affair with Dorothy Raycroft was an inevitable result of his increasing carelessness about himself. He did not go to her desiring to possess the desirable, nor did he fall before a personality more vital, more compelling than his own, as he had done with Gloria four years before. He merely slid into the matter through his inability to make definite judgments. He could say “No!” neither to man nor woman; borrower and temptress alike found him tender-minded and pliable. Indeed he seldom made decisions at all, and when he did they were but half-hysterical resolves formed in the panic of some aghast and irreparable awakening.
Page 142

As a rule things happened to Dot. She was not weak, because there was nothing in her to tell her she was being weak. She was not strong, because she never knew that some of the things she did were brave. She neither defied nor conformed nor compromised.
Page 143

He was going to be able to shout the technical phrase, “Follow me!” to seven other frightened men.
Page 146

I laughed at this one. Anthony was promoted to Corporal, which gave him little power, except this.

At the inspections one did not dress up to look well, one dressed up to keep from looking badly.
Page 146

As Mr. Carleton piled assertion upon assertion Anthony began to feel a sort of disgusted confidence in him. The man appeared to know what he was talking about. Obviously prosperous, he had risen to the position of instructing others. It did not occur to Anthony that the type of man who attains commercial success seldom knows how or why, and, as in his grandfather’s case, when he ascribes reasons, the reasons are generally inaccurate and absurd.
Page 166

“But brilliant people don’t settle down in business — or do they? Or what do they do? Or what becomes of everybody you used to know and have so much in common with?”

“You drift apart,” suggested Muriel with the appropriate dreamy look.

“They change,” said Gloria.

“All the qualities that they don’t use in their daily lives get cobwebbed up.”
Page 177

“The last thing he said to me,” recollected Anthony, “was that he was going to work so as to forget that there was nothing worth working for.”
Page 178

She turned a page and learned that a candidate for Congress was being accused of atheism by an opponent.
Page 179

She wondered if they were tears of self-pity, and tried resolutely not to cry, but this existence without hope, without happiness, oppressed her, and she kept shaking her head from side to side, her mouth drawn down tremulously in the corners, as though she were denying an assertion made by some one, somewhere.
Page 179

But he hated to be sober. It made him conscious of the people around him, of that air of struggle, of greedy ambition, of hope more sordid than despair, of incessant passage up or down, which in every metropolis is most in evidence through the unstable middle class. Unable to live with the rich he thought that his next choice would have been to live with the very poor. Anything was better than this cup of perspiration and tears.
Page 180

… The fruit of youth or of the grape, the transitory magic of the brief passage from darkness to darkness — the old illusion that truth and beauty were in some way entwined.
Page 180

There was nothing, it seemed, that grew stale so soon as pleasure.
Page 181

“It does to me. There’s nothing I’d violate certain principles for.”

“But how do you know when you’re violating them? You have to guess at things just like most people do. You have to apportion the values when you look back. You finish up the portrait then — paint in the details and shadows.”
Page 182

“Same old futile cynic,” he said. “It’s just a mode of being sorry for yourself. You don’t do anything — so nothing matters.”
Page 182

“You say — at least you used to — that happiness is the only thing worth while in life. Do you think you’re any happier for being a pessimist?”
Page 182

The Horse and His Boy

Book Notes

This is Book 3 of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Okay, here's the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia series I don't have any recollection having read before. I have to say, when I was reading it, I kept wondering when the R.R. Martin moment was going to happen. When is the bad guy going to win.

This book gave me the epiphany (yes, I'm slow sometimes) that we read books as a way to believe that the good guys can win in the end, when life teaches us the bad guys nearly always win. Nearly always. The powerful are seldom toppled before they do horrific damage.

Anyway, the book. The Horse. He's a talking horse. He befriends a boy. They escape the horse's master, who was a powerful, violent, hateful warrior. They are guided by circumstance, which turns out not to be so arbitrary, into fulfilling a prophesy. Go, good guys, go!

Again, I tried to read it not for the story, but for the Christian allegory that it is supposed to be. There are elements of God helps those who help themselves, elements of Stoicism's do what you need to do without complaining, and elements of pure whimsy in the book.

I'm on a roll, so will continue reading the series. The books are contininuing to be quick, two hour or so reads, which makes them a good end-of-year series to finish.

“Why, it’s only a girl!” he exclaimed.
Page 31

I really think the "only a girl" and "just like a girl" and the subtle and not so subtle remarks of Lewis that women and those of the female gender are somehow less of a person because of their gender is REALLY going to turn me off these archaic books.

"‘O my mistress, do not by any means destroy yourself, for if you live you may yet have good fortune but all the dead are dead alike.’"
Page 39

A not-so-bad reason to keep living: it is irreversable.

People who know a lot of the same things can hardly help talking about them, and if you’re there you can hardly help feeling that you’re out of it.
Page 46

Having been brought up by a hard, closefisted man like Arsheesh, he had a fixed habit of never telling grown-ups anything if he could help it: he thought they would always spoil or stop whatever you were trying to do.
Page 79

Yah. Substitute "people in power" or "people who don't have your best interest at heart" or "people who haven't earned the right to know of your vulnerabilities" for "grown-ups" and you'll be accurate, too.

Shasta lay down beside it with his back against the cat and his face toward the Tombs, because if one is nervous there’s nothing like having your face toward the danger and having something warm and solid at your back.
Page 92

“But I want her,” cried the Prince. “I must have her. I shall die if I do not get her—false, proud, black-hearted daughter of a dog that she is! I cannot sleep and my food has no savor and my eyes are darkened because of her beauty. I must have the barbarian queen.”
Page 118

Okay, this is a common theme in a lot of the books I'm reading: being overwhelmed with desired that it blocks out all rational thought. This is a for-kids version, sure, but there are others. That longing can be overwhelming. There's a similar theme in The Beautiful and Damned, which is a considerable contrast to this book.

One of the drawbacks about adventures is that when you come to the most beautiful places you are often too anxious and hurried to appreciate them...
Page 132

Yes.

He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.
Page 155

You’re not quite the great Horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses. Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that. It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another.
Page 161

Seneca's quote comes to mind: “I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent— no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”

Shasta was dreadfully frightened. But it suddenly came into his head, “If you funk this, you’ll funk every battle all your life. Now or never.”
Page 199

“Never taunt a man save when he is stronger than you: then, as you please.”
Page 232

“For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”
Page 240

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Book Notes

This is Book 2 of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Okay, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is the book that, if you know only one book in the Narnia series, this is the one you know. It is an allegory for the story of Christ, though, really, can be enjoyed as a children's tale, if you'd like.

If you have insomnia, this is TOTALLY the book to read between 2am and 5am. Zoom zoom.

I enjoyed the quick read, all of two hours or so. I had read this book before. I don't recall if I found the fight and war scenes as absurd the first time through, though. Peter, with no fighting experience, managed to kill the top wolf in Narnia with a sword the first time he holds the sword? Really? What level of divine intervention is this?

Again, I would have liked to have read this in a book club with a couple 10 year olds, to learn their perspective. I have this wish to read a lot of books in a book club with a bunch of 10 year olds, maybe younger. Their perspectives are so different, and, well, to be honest, so long ago for me that I believe they'd be fascinating again.

On to the next book, also known as the first of the books of the series that I know I haven't read!

Lucy grew very red in the face and tried to say something, though she hardly knew what she was trying to say, and burst into tears.
Page 26

I TOTALLY understand this reaction to feeling powerless. When you are small and less strong than those around you, frustration expresses itself this way.

“Just like a girl,” said Edmund to himself, “sulking somewhere, and won’t accept an apology.”
Page 30

Just like a boy, being an asshole.

Edmund did not like this arrangement at all but he dared not disobey;
Page 35

See above, about power and helplessness.

He is our brother after all, even if he is rather a little beast.
Page 85

Ah yes. Siblings. Some are wonderful, some are better out of your life. You don't choose your blood relatives, you do choose your family.

"For you also are not to be in the battle."

“Why, sir?” said Lucy. “I think — I don’t know — but I think I could be brave enough.”

"But battles are ugly when women fight."
Page 109

To be clearer, all battles are ugly. Some are just harder than others.

And oh, how miserable he was! It didn’t look now as if the Witch intended to make him a King. All the things he had said to make himself believe that she was good and kind and that her side was really the right side sounded to him silly now.
Page 114

God, I hope that all the Cheetoh supporters are feeling EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. You voted for him out of spite and look, things are getting worse for you. Good job.

People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.
Page 127

And Aslan said nothing either to excuse Peter or to blame him but merely stood looking at him with his great unchanging eyes. And it seemed to all of them that there was nothing to be said.
Page 128

Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do.
Page 131

How Stoic.

“Are you ill, dear Aslan?” asked Susan.

“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”
Page 150

The comfort of human touch.

I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been — if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you — you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.
Page 158

“Others also are at the point of death. Must more people die for Edmund?”
Page 179

The Magician's Nephew

Book Notes

This is Book 1 of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Continuing my fixing-my-lack-of-classics-reading-as-a-teen non-prolbem, I started the Chronicles of Narnia. Except, I thought The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book, checked it out of the library, then was stunned when I read it was book two of the series.

Turns out, The Magician's Nephew was published after the Lion-Witch-Wardrobe book, but is, indeed, a prequel. Digory, the title character in The Magician's Nephew, is the batty uncle in the Lion-Witch-Wardrobe saga. Which explains why he seems to ... no, wait, wrong review.

I'm unsure if I have read this book before. I didn't think I had, but multiple parts of it were familiar, leading me to believe I had. I spent much of the book pondering the allegorical elements, teasing out the parallels between the story and the Bible. I found, however, that what enjoyed the most was pausing to reflect on the characters' motivations, including both character flaws and human traits. The aversion to loss is universal, especially of a loved one. People are motivated to do awful things, but can also be incentivized towards doing the right thing, both of which are present in the book.

The book is quick two hour read. I suspect most of these books in the series will be. In line with my policy of reading a series if I enjoy the first one, and don't stop until two bad ones in a row, no, wait, I'm reading the whole series, so on to the next one!

I enjoyed the book. I would have liked to have a 10 year old kid with me in a book club reading this book to hear her perspective.

And both felt that once the thing had been suggested, it would be feeble not to do it.
Page 9

Cracking up with this. How many times has something disastrous happened because a person couldn't back down? Oh, I shouldn't NOT do this, since you suggested it.

"But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys—and servants—and women—and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny."
Page 21

And this is the "I'm better than you" attitude that is incredibly prevalent in human nature.

“All it means,” he said to himself, “is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants.”
Page 21

And this is the typical response from everyone else to that attitude.

"You don’t understand. I am the great scholar, the magician, the adept, who is doing the experiment. Of course I need subjects to do it on. Bless my soul, you’ll be telling me next that I ought to have asked the guinea-pigs’ permission before I used them! No great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice. But the idea of my going myself is ridiculous. It’s like asking a general to fight as a common soldier. Supposing I got killed, what would become of my life’s work?"
Page 26

This is pretty much how I believe every leader who is unwilling to either go into war or send his own child into war is. "I will send YOUR child, but not mine." "I will ask YOU to make the sacrifice I refuse to make."

"I hope, Digory, you are not given to showing the white feather."
Page 27

I had to look this one up:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_feather

"A white feather has been a traditional symbol of cowardice, used and recognised especially within the British Army and in countries of the British Empire since the 18th century, especially by patriotic groups, including some early feminists, in order to shame men who were not soldiers. It also carries opposite meanings, however: in some cases of pacifism, and in the United States, of extraordinary bravery and excellence in combat marksmanship.

"This was the old banqueting hall where my great-grandfather bade seven hundred nobles to a feast and killed them all before they had drunk their fill. They had had rebellious thoughts."
Page 62

Huh. George R.R. Martin wasn't the first person to think of butchering at a feast.

“It was my sister’s fault,” said the Queen. "She drove me to it."
Page 66

Hate this. Blaming others for your own actions. Right.

"It had long been known to the great kings of our race that there was a word which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things except the one who spoke it."
Page 66

Well, you know how it feels if you begin hoping for something that you want desperately badly; you almost fight against the hope because it is too good to be true; you’ve been disappointed so often before.
Page 92

I know this well.

For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.
Page 136

Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.
Page 137

Laughing! Yes. Welcome to the willful ignorance of the United States.

It was even better than yesterday, partly because everyone was feeling so fresh, and partly because the newly risen sun was at their backs and, of course, everything looks nicer when the light is behind you.
Page 168

Unless you're taking a picture, then no one looks good.

“I don’t know that I care much about living on and on after everyone I know is dead. I’d rather live an ordinary time and die and go to Heaven.”
Page 175

“Sleep,” he said. “Sleep and be separated for some few hours from all the torments you have devised for yourself.”
Page 185

Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart’s desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it.”
Page 190

And Digory could say nothing, for tears choked him and he gave up all hopes of saving his Mother’s life; but at the same time he knew that the Lion knew what would have happened, and that there might be things more terrible even than losing someone you love by death.
Page 191

You’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.
Page 199

Inerrrrrrrrrrtia.

After about six weeks of this lovely life there came a long letter from Father in India, which had wonderful news in it. Old Great-Uncle Kirke had died and this meant, apparently, that Father was now very rich. He was going to retire and come home from India forever and ever.
Page 199

Wonderful news? Someone f'ing died and it's wonderful news?

One person's tragedy is another person's blessing. The hardest thing about death is that life goes on.

The Secret Garden

Book Notes

I have had this book on my shelf for ages. Like, possibly decades, two of them. Given my desire to fill the holes in my childhood and teenage reading choices, I grabbed this one from the stack and started reading.

I have to say, while I did pick a hardback book, I picked a crappy printing of this book. I won't be keeping this particular copy.

As for the book, it was cute. It likely would have had more impact had I read it as a kid. I struggle to see how a spoiled kid, TWO of them no less, can become pleasant children if left to their own devices, given an outside to play with. Pondering that, maybe the problem is me, and kids would become pleasant with exercise and the like.

This book also included the obsessive love that seems to be pervading, in one format or another, many of the books I've read recently.

I'm glad I've read the book. I wasn't moved about it. It's classic literature, will likely stay that way. While many people ask if they'd prefer to be or befriend Mary or Colin, I have to say I'm more likely to hang with Dickon, the animal whisperer. I liked him best.

“what Dickon would think of thee?”

“He wouldn’t like me,” said Mary in her stiff, cold little way. “No one does.”

Martha looked reflective again. “How does tha’ like thysel’?” she inquired, really quite as if she were curious to know.

Mary hesitated a moment and thought it over. “Not at all—really,” she answered. “But I never thought of that before.”
Page 62

“Mother said that to me once,” she said. “She was at her washtub an’ I was in a bad temper an’ talkin’ ill of folk, an’ she turns round on me an’ says: ‘Tha’ young vixen, tha’! There tha’ stands sayin’ tha’ doesn’t like this one an’ tha’ doesn’t like that one. How does tha’ like thysel’?’ It made me laugh an’ it brought me to my senses in a minute.”
Page 63

And she ran into the middle of the room and, taking a handle in each hand, began to skip, and skip, and skip, while Mary turned in her chair to stare at her, and the queer faces in the old portraits seemed to stare at her, too, and wonder what on earth this common little cottager had the impudence to be doing under their very noses. But Martha did not even see them. The interest and curiosity in Mistress Mary’s face delighted her, and she went on skipping and counted as she skipped until she had reached a hundred. “I could skip longer than that,” she said when she stopped. “I’ve skipped as much as five hundred when I was twelve, but I wasn’t as fat then as I am now, an’ I was in practice.”
Page 71

Because, yes, a kid who has never skipped before can suddenly skip like the wind.

“It looks nice,” she said. “Your mother is a kind woman. Do you think I could ever skip like that?”

“You just try it,” urged Martha, handing her the skipping-rope. “You can’t skip a hundred at first, but if you practice you’ll mount up."
Page 71

There.

“Do you want to live?” inquired Mary.

“No,” he answered, in a cross, tired fashion. “But I don’t want to die.
Page 131

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like? You don’t see it in rooms if you are ill.”

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth,” said Mary.
Page 133

“She is my mother,” said Colin complainingly. “I don’t see why she died. Sometimes I hate her for doing it.”

“How queer!” said Mary.

“If she had lived I believe I should not have been ill always,” he grumbled. “I dare say I should have lived, too. And my father would not have hated to look at me. I dare say I should have had a strong back. Draw the curtain again.”
Page 135

"Why is the curtain drawn over her?” He moved uncomfortably. “I made them do it,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t like to see her looking at me. She smiles too much when I am ill and miserable. Besides, she is mine and I don’t want everyone to see her.”
Page 135

“Is Colin a hunchback?” Mary asked. “He didn’t look like one.”

“He isn’t yet,” said Martha. “But he began all wrong. Mother said that there was enough trouble and raging in th’ house to set any child wrong. They was afraid his back was weak an’ they’ve always been takin’ care of it—keepin’ him lyin’ down an’ not lettin’ him walk. Once they made him wear a brace but he fretted so he was downright ill. Then a big doctor came to see him an’ made them take it off. He talked to th’ other doctor quite rough—in a polite way. He said there’d been too much medicine and too much lettin’ him have his own way.”
Page 140

We become what others expect us to become when we are children.

If we expect greatness, we'll more likely see it than if we expect nothing.

“Go on the moor! How could I? I am going to die.”

“How do you know?” said Mary unsympathetically. She didn’t like the way he had of talking about dying. She did not feel very sympathetic. She felt rather as if he almost boasted about it.

“Oh, I’ve heard it ever since I remember,” he answered crossly. “They are always whispering about it and thinking I don’t notice. They wish I would, too.”

Mistress Mary felt quite contrary. She pinched her lips together. “If they wished I would,” she said, “I wouldn’t. Who wishes you would?”
Page 146

Ah, obstinance.

“Do you think he wants to die?” whispered Mary.

“No, but he wishes he’d never been born. Mother she says that’s th’ worst thing on earth for a child. Them as is not wanted scarce ever thrives."
Page 161

Mary’s lips pinched themselves together. She was no more used to considering other people than Colin was and she saw no reason why an ill-tempered boy should interfere with the thing she liked best. She knew nothing about the pitifulness of people who had been ill and nervous and who did not know that they could control their tempers and need not make other people ill and nervous, too. When she had had a headache in India she had done her best to see that everybody else also had a headache or something quite as bad. And she felt she was quite right; but of course now she felt that Colin was quite wrong.
Page 167

"Mother says as th’ two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way—or always to have it. She doesn’t know which is th’ worst."
Page 183

... had stared when he first saw Mary; but this was a stare of wonder and delight. The truth was that in spite of all he had heard he had not in the least understood what this boy would be like and that his fox and his crow and his squirrels and his lamb were so near to him and his friendliness that they seemed almost to be part of himself. Colin had never talked to a boy in his life and he was so overwhelmed by his own pleasure and curiosity that he did not even think of speaking.

But Dickon did not feel the least shy or awkward. He had not felt embarrassed because the crow had not known his language and had only stared and had not spoken to him the first time they met. Creatures were always like that until they found out about you.
Page 202

“He’d be at home in Buckingham Palace or at the bottom of a coal mine,” he said. “And yet it’s not impudence, either. He’s just fine, is that lad.”
Page 207

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever.
Page 215

He liked the mysteriousness of it and did his best, but in the midst of excited enjoyment it is rather difficult never to laugh above a whisper.
Page 217

“Lots o’ fools,” said Ben. “Th’ world’s full o’ jackasses brayin’ an’ they never bray nowt but lies. What did tha’ shut thysel’ up for?”
Page 229

“Well,” he said, “you see something did come of it. She used the wrong Magic until she made him beat her. If she’d used the right Magic and had said something nice perhaps he wouldn’t have got as drunk as a lord and perhaps—perhaps he might have bought her a new bonnet.”
Page 241

“Th’ best thing about lecturin’,” said Ben, “is that a chap can get up an’ say aught he pleases an’ no other chap can answer him back. I wouldn’t be agen’ lecturin’ a bit mysel’ sometimes.”
Page 269

In each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been discovered. In the last century more amazing things were found out than in any century before. In this new century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to light. At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.

One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.
Page 281

When he traveled about, darkness so brooded over him that the sight of him was a wrong done to other people because it was as if he poisoned the air about him with gloom.
Page 283

One Day We'll All Be Dead And None Of This Will Matter

Book Notes

I picked up this book from a Book Riot list of the two books I keep going back to when things get rough. Well, things have been rough, so I picked it up.

What I wasn't expecting was a book of essays, which tells me, hey, I'm growing, I'm expanding. I am delighted by the essays, mostly because Scaachi is great at writing, writing meaningfully, and writing humourously (oh, the number of times I laughed out loud were too many to count!). While I can't relate to a number of parts of her story (the being Indian in Canada part, or the being the victim of subtle racism part, in particular), the part of being a woman online and being a woman in tech, and having the world rage at you, and loving your parents even as you rage at them, well, those parts I could relate to.

Turns out, Scaachi caused an uproar on twitter when she asked for books from non-white, non-male authors. Wait, what? I suspect she was the topic of the day on twitter, because there is one every f'ing day, but I was off twitter when she uproared, and well, missed it. I'm sorta sorry I did, as I would have nodded, then +1'd, and tweeted at her "I understand." Likely wouldn't have done much, but sometimes you need the "I'm with you" and the +1 to balance out the negative in your world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I recommend it.

No one finds anything in France except bread and pretension, and frankly, both of those are in my lap right now.
Page 2

Nothing bad can happen to you if you’re with your mom. Your mom can stop a bullet from lodging in your heart. She can prop you up when you can’t. Your mom is your blood and bone before your body even knows how to make any.
Page 11

Nothing, it seems, scares you into perpetual fear quite like becoming one of the oldest in your bloodline.
Page 19

When you leave the protective wing of your family for the first time, it takes a while before you learn that the only person now tasked with taking care of you is you.
Page 21

Being afraid of the world, of unknown beasts, only makes you feel alone. Sometimes you just need to get on the plane and hope nothing bad happens.
Page 23

But it wasn’t real fear because I was with my mom. Nothing bad happens when you’re with your mom.
Page 24

This.

It was embarrassing to be mistaken for a boy. Not a girl with masculine tendencies, not a girl rejecting traditional gender roles, but a boy.
Page 36

As someone who is very, very frequently mistaken for a boy, I'm used to it by now.

And so her life would be (and is) different than mine, because her race is a footnote instead of the title.
Page 61

“Why not?” I worried here, because I want her to like it there, or at least to be indifferent about it the way you get to be indifferent about a home when you don’t realize you’ll miss it one day.
Page 71

Do not talk to me about how you love the “colours” of an Indian wedding—the main colours come from blood and shit, not necessarily respectively.
Page 77

Teenage girls of all creeds and colours so often think their bodies are too big, or too small, or too misshapen to be acceptable—we are conditioned to hate ourselves and the ways we’re built. So it’s surprising when you try to wedge your pancake breasts into a decade-old chiffon top, your arms unable to bend back down, your soft biceps straining the tensile strength of a factory stitching, only to learn that your teenage body was, in fact, fine, it was just fine. (For all you know, despite your current physical hang-ups, it might still be.)
Page 86

I tried to not get too wrapped up in the process—what is, physically or morally, wrong with being of a certain size? Where do I get off feeling sorry for myself based on an arbitrary metric that I already know to be bullshit?—but when a shopkeeper looks at your frame and shakes his head solemnly, it’s hard not to take it personally.
Page 89

Home, somehow, is always the last place you left, and never the place you’re in.
Page 90

Arguing over traditions that have been in place forever is so consuming that neither of us even began to try.
Page 92

Most people use Twitter to drain their brains of the things you can’t say in public, the minor irritations of existence, passive aggression so sharp that if you acted it out at your office you would immediately be fired.
Page 116

People ask me how I handle this. “Doesn’t it wear you down?” one friend asked after I showed her my Twitter mentions, filling with men calling me a cunt or a whore or threatening to detach my limbs and toss me into a dumpster. It doesn’t—or, rather, it didn’t—for the same reason that you’re not supposed to be afraid of non-poisonous spiders. They’re more afraid of you, and they’re only displaying a panic response when their legs freak out and they start running around your walls in circles. Why waste my finite fear and rage on what is, ultimately, something my cat can trap and eat out of her little pink paws?
Page 120

After a year or so of mocking them, I started asking, directly, what happened to them. Sometimes I’d just apologize preemptively for what was so obviously a personal destruction they were trying to soothe.
Page 120

Or they just hate women. They hate brown women who do not fit a stereotype they’re comfortable with, but frankly, they hate those women too. Sometimes there isn’t logic. Sometimes they just think I’m a cunt.
Page 121

It is taxing to consider the circumstances that can take an unmarked human canvas and make it rage-filled and petty and lost. It’s not fun to have sympathy for the people who are trying to hurt you. But their actions can sometimes make sense: what’s easier than trying to get better is trying to break something else down. It gives credence to your power, a power you might not always feel.
Page 121

These men who harass women online were all owed something very simple at one time—respect, love, affection, the basic decency of living upwards and not curling inwards, a humane education—and someone, along the line, failed them.
Page 121

It changes you, when you see someone similar to you, doing the thing you might want to do yourself.
Page 123

We are deeply afraid of making marginalized voices stronger, because we think it makes privileged ones that much weaker.
Page 124

And when that message comes from a non-white non-male person themselves, someone young enough to not yet have any inherent gravitas and—this part is important—just enough privilege to be powerful, that’s when they target you.
Page 124

Years ago, when another writer accused me of fabricating sources in my work, I went to Jordan, devastated and furious. “The thing to remember about him,” he said, “is that he’s nobody. Nobody at all. Fuck that guy in the ear.”
Page 127

Jordan is, in all the best ways, the opposite of me: he is incredibly calm, methodical, patient, and he can wait a full five minutes between a thought forming in his head and hurtling its way out of his mouth.
Page 128

I laughed at this one. I laughed at a lot of Scaachi's writing.

“There is no cowardice in removing yourself from a wildly unhealthy and unwinnable situation,” he said when I told him about my Twitter account burning down before my eyes.
Page 128

No, I was right the first time: there is no bottom. You just sink and sink and sink until the force of your fall pulls the skin clean off your bones.
Page 129

Above all, I like bothering people. I like being present in spaces where I am not welcome because you do not deserve to feel comfortable just because you’re racist or sexist or small-minded.
Page 130

I can understand this.

Most didn’t have much to say at all, because when you die, a shocking few will be sad.
Page 131

No one cares more about your successes and your foibles than you.
Page 131

I was dumb enough to want a hug from a machine.
Page 132

I understand this. Wow, I understand so much of these essays.

What they say to me online is the purest distillation of the rage they feel — statements that would get them fired or arrested in real life but get them a moderate fan base or begrudging attention online.
Page 134

(I wouldn’t, like, go to yoga, but I’d talk about it. If I’ve learned anything from white women, it’s that the best kind of yoga is the kind you talk about fucking constantly.)
Page 140

Alcohol is the great equalizer. Alcohol makes you brave. Alcohol makes you beautiful. Alcohol makes you fall in love.
Page 141

When I was a teenager, the world told me that a girl is responsible for her own body if she’s raped or assaulted when she’s drunk: that’s her fault, it’s on her to not get so drunk she stops being fun and starts being a liability.
Page 143

Women can’t be fun all the time, can’t drink without consequence. Frankly, few people can, but who feels the consequences of their otherwise harmless actions quite like women?
Page 154

After you shoot out into the world and build a community, and people leave, you feel the loneliest you’ve ever been in your life.
Page 156

I had been angry for myself for such a long time that I forgot to be sad for him.
Page 159

The first time I was roofied,
Page 169

Okay, this had me sitting back and going, "Uh." The FIRST time?

And yet, being surveilled with the intention of assault or rape is practically mundane, it happens so often. It’s such an ingrained part of the female experience that it doesn’t register as unusual. The danger of it, then, is in its routine, in how normalized it is for a woman to feel monitored, so much so that she might not know she’s in trouble until that invisible line is crossed from “typical patriarchy” to “you should run.”
Page 171

There was shame in having to admit that you had a little moustache when all the white girls at school didn’t even get wispy hairs on the backs of their thighs.
Page 176

Yuuuuup.

There’s something so carnal about pulling little parts of your body off or out of yourself.
Page 178

It’s rarely you who decides there’s something wrong with you; instead, you get your cues from someone who is the right combination of bored, cruel, and insecure about themselves to begin with.
Page 179

It’s easier to rebel against hair norms if you’re a woman generally unburdened by them in the first place.
Page 181

But of course, the secret to Indian hair is merely to be Indian.
Page 182

Do I just get it waxed like a strawberry blond might, and hope that it doesn’t look like I walked into a controlled fire, labia first?
Page 186

Laughing. So. Hard.

It’s a quintessential encapsulation of running after an unattainable goal: we turned this basic fact about our bodies into something ugly.
Page 189

But the only way to do better, to have better, is to lose pieces of what was.
Page 206

It’s been so long, it’s so far now, the only thing you can do is remember it as perfect.
Page 208

“Falling in love” sounds so passive, but it did feel unintentional, like tripping into a pit that happened to be filled with downy gold.
Page 217

I don’t like changing my personal status quo even when my status quo isn’t comfortable.
Page 217

It wasn’t fair, but it was predictable.
Page 219

Few things get less complicated as you age, but your family, that at least should become easier. You should eventually make peace with everyone, with their decisions and their quirks.
Page 220

We talked about my work or his crushing ennui or about how the biggest tree in the backyard rotted and he had to get it taken out or how Raisin started to yell “HOW RUDE” anytime someone did something she didn’t care for.
Page 228

Papa’s sun is the brightest, so when he decides to set, it makes for some very long, cold winters.
Page 233

Once, while in the car together, he half stated, half muttered, apropos of nothing, “You live, you create things, you become a footnote in history. That’s what happens when you get old. It’s a trage—IT’S A TRAGEDY.”
Page 233

I get angry at toaster ovens (TERRIBLE FOR POP TARTS), and irate when people don’t follow my advice.
Page 236

Or at least I need to believe in his ability to let things go when they are ultimately out of his control, because otherwise we’re both just alone, spinning separately when we’re supposed to be in this together.
Page 236

The Little House On The Prairie

Book Notes

I continue my reading of the children classics by checking this one out of the library, as I didn't believe this is a book I'm going to want to keep, and reading it. Which is what happened.

I read the book. I enjoyed the book for the most part, though my reading of the book was completely and totally colored by my childhood watching of the Little House On The Prarie series. Laura was totally Gilbert as I read. I found this realization a bit disappointing, as I prefer to have my own impressions of the characters when reading.

Again, as with Anne of Green Gables, I am surprised that I am surprised the book is as dense in classic Stoicism as it is. Was fascinating to read all of it.

The blinding hatred of Native Americans in the book threw me off more than a little. Even as the Ingalls build their homestead on Indian land, both historically and by treaty, they complain about the Indians invading their home. Gee, look, you're f'ing stealing theirs completely. I was annoyed by that part.

I enjoyed the book for the most part. I'm a bit intrigued by the idea of the lost skills demonstrated by Pa in the book, but I'm not reading any more in the series, I didn't enjoy them that much. This book itself is book three in the series, so I already skipped a bunch.

Checking another classic off my fill-in-the-gaps reading goal.

Pa said he wouldn’t have done such a thing to Jack, not for a million dollars. If he’d known how that creek would rise when they were in midstream, he would never have let Jack try to swim it. “But that can’t be helped now,” he said.
Page 26

Pa kept pouring more hot water into the tub in which Ma’s foot was soaking. Her foot was red from the heat and the puffed ankle began to turn purple. Ma took her foot out of the water and bound strips of rag tightly around and around the ankle.

“I can manage,” she said.

She could not get her shoe on. But she tied more rags around her foot, and she hobbled on it. She got supper as usual, only a little more slowly. But Pa said she could not help to build the house until her ankle was well.
Page 61

I read with interest the previous recommendations for a sprained / crushed ankle. Used to be, heat was the solution. Now, it is very much RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. They had the compression right, but not the ice part.

When Carrie felt the beads on her neck, she grabbed at them. She was so little that she did not know any better than to break the string. So Ma untied it, and she put the beads away until Carrie should be old enough to wear them. And often after that Laura thought of those pretty beads and she was still naughty enough to want her beads for herself.
Page 181

Okay, the little one can't play with them, so let's put them away so that no one can play with them. What a crock.

Worse, to make a little girl feel bad for wanting something.

Laura was not really crying. She was too big to cry. Only one tear ran out of each eye and her throat choked up, but that was not crying. She hid her face against Ma and hung on to her tight. She was so glad the fire had not hurt Ma.
Page 204

Even the 10 year olds are Stoics!

“We could get along all right, if I didn’t,” said Pa. “There’s no need of running to town all the time, for every little thing. I have smoked better tobacco than that stuff Scott raised back in Indiana, but it will do. I’ll raise some next summer and pay him back. I wish I hadn’t borrowed those nails from Edwards.”

“You did borrow them, Charles,” Ma replied. “And as for the tobacco, you don’t like borrowing any more than I do. We need more quinine. I’ve been sparing with the cornmeal, but it’s almost gone and so is the sugar. You could find a bee - tree, but there’s no cornmeal tree to be found, so far as I know, and we’ll raise no corn till next year. A little salt pork would taste good, too, after all this wild game. And, Charles, I’d like to write to the folks in Wisconsin. If you mail a letter now, they can write this winter, and then we can hear from them next spring.”
Page 206

No sense wishing for things or that your actions were different, they are what they are, deal with it. Every interaction in this book oozes the classic stop-complaining-and-do-what-needs-be-doing attitude. I wish people were more like this today.

Anne of Green Gables

Book Notes

So, Anne of Green Gables takes place on Prince Edward Island. I did not realize this when I started reading it, in my continuing journey to fill in the gaps in my childhood reading. I spent too much time reading Voltaire and not enough time reading Nancy Drew, apparently.

Anyway, if you ask a Canadian, "Hey, did you know Anne of Green Gables happens in Canada?" you will not only watch a Canadian laugh until his sides ache, you'll also be asked in return, "Hey, did you know George Washington was the first president of the United States?" True story. I asked Jonathan.

My first impression of the book?

Holy crap, does Anne talk a lot. I understand how Matthew would become endeared to her, as he didn't speak much and was fascinated by Anne. I could also understand anyone would would ask Anne to just shut the f--- up. I don't know that I would have been able to stand how much she talks in real life.

Of course, maybe I could have. There's something attractive about a dynamic, outgoing, care-free, focused woman.

...

Nah.

The second impression I had about the book is just how much Classic Stoicism pervades this book. Every other paragraph contains a comment or action that is completely and totally "no sense in complaining, do what needs to be done." Why, oh why, don't we have that attitude now? Why oh why has this ability to do the work been lost in our times?

I enjoyed the book. I won't be continuing the series, as there are a large number of other books I'd rather read next, but I am glad I have read this one. This book is worth reading.

Mrs. Rachel felt that she had received a severe mental jolt. She thought in exclamation points.
Page 5

There’s never anybody to be had but those stupid, half-grown little French boys; and as soon as you do get one broke into your ways and taught something he’s up and off to the lobster canneries or the States. At first Matthew suggested getting a Home boy. But I said ‘no’ flat to that. ‘They may be all right — I’m not saying they’re not — but no London street Arabs for me,’ I said. ‘Give me a native born at least. There’ll be a risk, no matter who we get. But I’ll feel easier in my mind and sleep sounder at nights if we get a born Canadian.’
Page 6

"Home Boy" What an odd phrasing. When I went to look it up, however, the original said, "getting a Barnado Boy."

Curiouser and curiouser.

If you had asked my advice in the matter — which you didn’t do, Marilla — I’d have said for mercy’s sake not to think of such a thing, that’s what.”
Page 7

And as for the risk, there’s risks in pretty near everything a body does in this world. There’s risks in people’s having children of their own if it comes to that — they don’t always turn out well.
Page 7

"I asked her to go into the ladies’ waiting room, but she informed me gravely that she preferred to stay outside. ‘There was more scope for imagination,’ she said. She’s a case, I should say.”
Page 10

"But I just went to work and imagined that I had on the most beautiful pale blue silk dress — because when you are imagining you might as well imagine something worth while — and a big hat all flowers and nodding plumes, and a gold watch, and kid gloves and boots."
Page 14

"She said I must have asked her a thousand already. I suppose I had, too, but how you going to find out about things if you don’t ask questions?"
Page 14

"Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive — it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it?"
Page 14

"Dreams don’t often come true, do they? Wouldn’t it be nice if they did?"
Page 16

“I suppose — we could hardly be expected to keep her.”

“I should say not. What good would she be to us?”

“We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.
Page 30

"I’m not in the depths of despair this morning. I never can be in the morning. Isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings? But I feel very sad.

But the worst of imagining things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.”
Page 33

"All sorts of mornings are interesting, don’t you think? You don’t know what’s going to happen through the day, and there’s so much scope for imagination."
Page 33

"It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?”
Page 34

"There is no use in loving things if you have to be torn from them, is there? And it’s so hard to keep from loving things, isn’t it?"
Page 35

“I’ve made up my mind to enjoy this drive. It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. Of course, you must make it up firmly."
Page 39

"I’ve never brought up a child, especially a girl, and I dare say I’ll make a terrible mess of it. But I’ll do my best."
Page 49

"And I’m afraid I’ll never be able to think out another one as good. Somehow, things never are so good when they’re thought out a second time. Have you ever noticed that?”
Page 57

Mrs. Rachel was not often sick and had a well-defined contempt for people who were; but grippe, she asserted, was like no other illness on earth and could only be interpreted as one of the special visitations of Providence.
Page 65

"Everyone else is a baby, but I am strong." Everyone's a hypocrite.

Where was the wholesome punishment upon which she, Marilla, had plumed herself? Anne had turned it into a species of positive pleasure. Good Mrs. Lynde, not being overburdened with perception, did not see this. She only perceived that Anne had made a very thorough apology and all resentment vanished from her kindly, if somewhat officious, heart.
Page 77

“But I’d rather look ridiculous when everybody else does than plain and sensible all by myself,” persisted Anne mournfully.
Page 82

“Oh, yes; and I answered a lot of questions. Miss Rogerson asked ever so many. I don’t think it was fair for her to do all the asking. There were lots I wanted to ask her, but I didn’t like to because I didn’t think she was a kindred spirit.
Page 85

"Now, don’t be looking I told-you-so, Matthew. That’s bad enough in a woman, but it isn’t to be endured in a man. I’m perfectly willing to own up that I’m glad I consented to keep the child and that I’m getting fond of her, but don’t you rub it in, Matthew Cuthbert.”
Page 92

“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.”
Page 97

"She was leaning out to pick water lilies and if Mr. Andrews hadn’t caught her by her sash just in the nick of time she’d fallen in and prob’ly been drowned. I wish it had been me. It would have been such a romantic experience to have been nearly drowned. It would be such a thrilling tale to tell."
Page 108

No, that would be a horrible tale to tell, that of the drowned. Though bad experiences do make good stories.

“WHAT a splendid day!” said Anne, drawing a long breath. “Isn’t it good just to be alive on a day like this? I pity the people who aren’t born yet for missing it. They may have good days, of course, but they can never have this one. And it’s splendider still to have such a lovely way to go to school by, isn’t it?”
Page 109

"He told his mother — his mother, mind you — that you were the smartest girl in school. That’s better than being good looking.”

“No, it isn’t,” said Anne, feminine to the core."
Page 113

“I’d rather be pretty than clever."
Page 114

Ugh, no.

Mr. Phillips stalked down the aisle and laid his hand heavily on Anne’s shoulder. “Anne Shirley, what does this mean?” he said angrily. Anne returned no answer. It was asking too much of flesh and blood to expect her to tell before the whole school that she had been called “carrots.” Gilbert it was who spoke up stoutly. “It was my fault Mr. Phillips. I teased her.” Mr. Phillips paid no heed to Gilbert.
Page 116

Of course, it is the girl's fault. Always the girl's fault. No one ever believes the girl, EVEN WHEN THE BOY SAYS HE DID IT.

Anne stood there the rest of the afternoon with that legend above her. She did not cry or hang her head. Anger was still too hot in her heart for that and it sustained her amid all her agony of humiliation.
Page 116

“You mustn’t mind Gilbert making fun of your hair,” she said soothingly. “Why, he makes fun of all the girls. He laughs at mine because it’s so black."
Page 117

WAIT. NO. Just because he's an ass to everyone doesn't mean the behaviour shoudl be condoned. He should stop making fun of everyone's hair.

Mr. Phillips’s brief reforming energy was over; he didn’t want the bother of punishing a dozen pupils; but it was necessary to do something to save his word, so he looked about for a scapegoat and found it in Anne, who had dropped into her seat, gasping for breath, with a forgotten lily wreath hanging askew over one ear and giving her a particularly rakish and disheveled appearance. “Anne Shirley, since you seem to be so fond of the boys’ company we shall indulge your taste for it this afternoon,” he said sarcastically. “Take those flowers out of your hair and sit with Gilbert Blythe.”

The other boys snickered. Diana, turning pale with pity, plucked the wreath from Anne’s hair and squeezed her hand. Anne stared at the master as if turned to stone.

“Did you hear what I said, Anne?” queried Mr. Phillips sternly.

“Yes, sir,” said Anne slowly “but I didn’t suppose you really meant it.”

“I assure you I did” — still with the sarcastic inflection which all the children, and Anne especially, hated. It flicked on the raw. “Obey me at once.”

For a moment Anne looked as if she meant to disobey. Then, realizing that there was no help for it, she rose haughtily, stepped across the aisle, sat down beside Gilbert Blythe,
Page 118

So, the boys all do the same thing as the girl, BUT THE GIRL IS PUNISHED.

In case you're wondering, this happened to me a lot growing up as a kid. I did the same things my older brother did, but I was punished for the actions, and his behaviour was explained as "oh, boys will be boys!"

Fucking hate the double standard crap.

"She had a fearful headache all day yesterday. Mrs. Barry is so indignant. She will never believe but what I did it on purpose.”

“I should think she would better punish Diana for being so greedy as to drink three glassfuls of anything,” said Marilla shortly.
Page 133

Mrs. Barry was a woman of strong prejudices and dislikes, and her anger was of the cold, sullen sort which is always hardest to overcome.
Page 134

The rivalry between them was soon apparent; it was entirely good natured on Gilbert’s side; but it is much to be feared that the same thing cannot be said of Anne, who had certainly an unpraiseworthy tenacity for holding grudges. She was as intense in her hatreds as in her loves. She would not stoop to admit that she meant to rival Gilbert in schoolwork, because that would have been to acknowledge his existence which Anne persistently ignored; but the rivalry was there and honors fluctuated between them.
Page 142

I feel I understand this Anne character.

Mr. Phillips might not be a very good teacher; but a pupil so inflexibly determined on learning as Anne was could hardly escape making progress under any kind of teacher.
Page 142

Mrs. Lynde says Canada is going to the dogs the way things are being run at Ottawa and that it’s an awful warning to the electors. She says if women were allowed to vote we would soon see a blessed change.
Page 147

I giggled at this.

It’s all very well to say resist temptation, but it’s ever so much easier to resist it if you can’t get the key.
Page 148

You must just imagine my relief, doctor, because I can’t express it in words. You know there are some things that cannot be expressed in words.”

“Yes, I know,” nodded the doctor. He looked at Anne as if he were thinking some things about her that couldn’t be expressed in words.
Page 150

“Oh, Matthew, isn’t it a wonderful morning? The world looks like something God had just imagined for His own pleasure, doesn’t it? Those trees look as if I could blow them away with a breath — pouf! I’m so glad I live in a world where there are white frosts, aren’t you?"
Page 151

"But I hate to stay home, for Gil — some of the others will get head of the class, and it’s so hard to get up again — although of course the harder it is the more satisfaction you have when you do get up, haven’t you?”
Page 151

“I think you ought to let Anne go,” repeated Matthew firmly. Argument was not his strong point, but holding fast to his opinion certainly was. Marilla gave a gasp of helplessness and took refuge in silence.
Page 157

Spring had come once more to Green Gables — the beautiful capricious, reluctant Canadian spring, lingering along through April and May in a succession of sweet, fresh, chilly days, with pink sunsets and miracles of resurrection and growth.
Page 167

“Oh, Marilla, how can you be so cruel?” sobbed Anne. “What would you feel like if a white thing did snatch me up and carry me off?”

“I’ll risk it,” said Marilla unfeelingly. “You know I always mean what I say. I’ll cure you of imagining ghosts into places. March, now.”
Page 172

"I do feel dreadfully sad, Marilla. But one can’t feel quite in the depths of despair with two months’ vacation before them, can they, Marilla?
Page 176

"I’m very glad they’ve called Mr. Allan. I liked him because his sermon was interesting and he prayed as if he meant it and not just as if he did it because he was in the habit of it."
Page 178

"Mrs. Allan said we ought always to try to influence other people for good. She talked so nice about everything. I never knew before that religion was such a cheerful thing. I always thought it was kind of melancholy, but Mrs. Allan’s isn’t, and I’d like to be a Christian if I could be one like her. I wouldn’t want to be one like Mr. Superintendent Bell.”

“It’s very naughty of you to speak so about Mr. Bell,” said Marilla severely. “Mr. Bell is a real good man.”

“Oh, of course he’s good,” agreed Anne, “but he doesn’t seem to get any comfort out of it.
Page 179

“Yes; but cakes have such a terrible habit of turning out bad just when you especially want them to be good,” sighed Anne,
Page 180

“Can I fix the table with ferns and wild roses?”

“I think that’s all nonsense,” sniffed Marilla. “In my opinion it’s the eatables that matter and not flummery decorations.”

“Mrs. Barry had her table decorated,” said Anne, who was not entirely guiltless of the wisdom of the serpent, “and the minister paid her an elegant compliment. He said it was a feast for the eye as well as the palate.”
Page 182

“Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

“I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.”

“Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”

“I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”

“Oh, don’t you see, Marilla? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.”
Page 184

God I hope so. I keep making them, too.

For Anne to take things calmly would have been to change her nature. All “spirit and fire and dew,” as she was, the pleasures and pains of life came to her with trebled intensity. Marilla felt this and was vaguely troubled over it, realizing that the ups and downs of existence would probably bear hardly on this impulsive soul and not sufficiently understanding that the equally great capacity for delight might more than compensate. Therefore Marilla conceived it to be her duty to drill Anne into a tranquil uniformity of disposition as impossible and alien to her as to a dancing sunbeam in one of the brook shallows.
Page 187

Daring was the fashionable amusement among the Avonlea small fry just then. It had begun among the boys, but soon spread to the girls, and all the silly things that were done in Avonlea that summer because the doers thereof were “dared” to do them would fill a book by themselves.
Page 193

In his arms he carried Anne, whose head lay limply against his shoulder. At that moment Marilla had a revelation. In the sudden stab of fear that pierced her very heart she realized what Anne had come to mean to her. She would have admitted that she liked Anne — nay, that she was very fond of Anne. But now she knew as she hurried wildly down the slope that Anne was dearer to her than anything else on earth.
Page 196

Those two were the best of friends and Matthew thanked his stars many a time and oft that he had nothing to do with bringing her up. That was Marilla’s exclusive duty; if it had been his he would have been worried over frequent conflicts between inclination and said duty. As it was, he was free to, “spoil Anne” — Marilla’s phrasing — as much as he liked. But it was not such a bad arrangement after all; a little “appreciation” sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious “bringing up” in the world.
Page 206

Folks that has brought up children know that there’s no hard and fast method in the world that’ll suit every child. But them as never have think it’s all as plain and easy as Rule of Three — just set your three terms down so fashion, and the sum’ll work out correct. But flesh and blood don’t come under the head of arithmetic and that’s where Marilla Cuthbert makes her mistake. I suppose she’s trying to cultivate a spirit of humility in Anne by dressing her as she does; but it’s more likely to cultivate envy and discontent.
Page 211

"It’s at times like this I’m sorry I’m not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it’s hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this.”
Page 214

“She’s a bright child, Matthew. And she looked real nice too. I’ve been kind of opposed to this concert scheme, but I suppose there’s no real harm in it after all. Anyhow, I was proud of Anne tonight, although I’m not going to tell her so.” “Well now, I was proud of her and I did tell her so ‘fore she went upstairs,” said Matthew.
Page 216

“I won’t mind writing that composition when its time comes,” sighed Diana. “I can manage to write about the woods, but the one we’re to hand in Monday is terrible. The idea of Miss Stacy telling us to write a story out of our own heads!”

“Why, it’s as easy as wink,” said Anne.

“It’s easy for you because you have an imagination,” retorted Diana, “but what would you do if you had been born without one? I suppose you have your composition all done?” Anne nodded, trying hard not to look virtuously complacent and failing miserably.
Page 220

"All the girls do pretty well. Ruby Gillis is rather sentimental. She puts too much lovemaking into her stories and you know too much is worse than too little. Jane never puts any because she says it makes her feel so silly when she had to read it out loud. Jane’s stories are extremely sensible. Then Diana puts too many murders into hers. She says most of the time she doesn’t know what to do with the people so she kills them off to get rid of them. I mostly always have to tell them what to write about, but that isn’t hard for I’ve millions of ideas.”

“I think this story-writing business is the foolishest yet,” scoffed Marilla. “You’ll get a pack of nonsense into your heads and waste time that should be put on your lessons. Reading stories is bad enough but writing them is worse.”

“But we’re so careful to put a moral into them all, Marilla,” explained Anne. “I insist upon that. All the good people are rewarded and all the bad ones are suitably punished.
Page 222

“Yes, it’s green,” moaned Anne. “I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. But now I know it’s ten times worse to have green hair. Oh, Marilla, you little know how utterly wretched I am.”

“I little know how you got into this fix, but I mean to find out,” said Marilla. “Come right down to the kitchen — it’s too cold up here — and tell me just what you’ve done. I’ve been expecting something queer for some time. You haven’t got into any scrape for over two months, and I was sure another one was due. Now, then, what did you do to your hair?”
Page 228

Marilla had done her work thoroughly and it had been necessary to shingle the hair as closely as possible. The result was not becoming, to state the case as mildly as may be. Anne promptly turned her glass to the wall. “I’ll never, never look at myself again until my hair grows,” she exclaimed passionately. Then she suddenly righted the glass. “Yes, I will, too. I’d do penance for being wicked that way. I’ll look at myself every time I come to my room and see how ugly I am.
Page 231

Yeah. I understand the sentiment, even if I can't feel the sentiment. Shave the head so that not having hair doesn't bother you, that's my belief.

I prayed, Mrs. Allan, most earnestly, but I didn’t shut my eyes to pray, for I knew the only way God could save me was to let the flat float close enough to one of the bridge piles for me to climb up on it.
Page 236

It was proper to pray, but I had to do my part by watching out and right well I knew.
Page 237

God helps those who help themselves. The praying doesn't do crap without the action to follow it up.

It’s always wrong to do anything you can’t tell the minister’s wife. It’s as good as an extra conscience to have a minister’s wife for your friend.
Page 248

"That’s the worst of growing up, and I’m beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don’t seem half so wonderful to you when you get them.”
Page 248

I didn’t mind promising not to read any more like it, but it was agonizing to give back that book without knowing how it turned out.
Page 256

It’s really wonderful, Marilla, what you can do when you’re truly anxious to please a certain person.”
Page 257

But we can’t have things perfect in this imperfect world, as Mrs. Lynde says. Mrs. Lynde isn’t exactly a comforting person sometimes, but there’s no doubt she says a great many very true things.
Page 259

Ruby says she will only teach for two years after she gets through, and then she intends to be married. Jane says she will devote her whole life to teaching, and never, never marry, because you are paid a salary for teaching, but a husband won’t pay you anything, and growls if you ask for a share in the egg and butter money. I expect Jane speaks from mournful experience, for Mrs. Lynde says that her father is a perfect old crank, and meaner than second skimmings.
Page 259

"But mostly when I’m with Mrs. Lynde I feel desperately wicked and as if I wanted to go and do the very thing she tells me I oughtn’t to do. I feel irresistibly tempted to do it. Now, what do you think is the reason I feel like that? Do you think it’s because I’m really bad and unregenerate?”

“If you are I guess I am too, Anne, for Rachel often has that very effect on me. I sometimes think she’d have more of an influence for good, as you say yourself, if she didn’t keep nagging people to do right. There should have been a special commandment against nagging."
Page 267

“It’s nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one’s heart, like treasures. I don’t like to have them laughed at or wondered over."
Page 269

“No, I wasn’t crying over your piece,” said Marilla, who would have scorned to be betrayed into such weakness by any poetry stuff.
Page 292

Boys were to her, when she thought about them at all, merely possible good comrades. If she and Gilbert had been friends she would not have cared how many other friends he had nor with whom he walked. She had a genius for friendship; girl friends she had in plenty; but she had a vague consciousness that masculine friendship might also be a good thing to round out one’s conceptions of companionship and furnish broader standpoints of judgment and comparison.
Page 300

"I’ve done my best and I begin to understand what is meant by the ‘joy of the strife.’ Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing."
Page 304

For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.
Page 305

“There — there — don’t cry so, dearie. It can’t bring him back. It — it — isn’t right to cry so. I knew that today, but I couldn’t help it then. He’d always been such a good, kind brother to me — but God knows best.”

“Oh, just let me cry, Marilla,” sobbed Anne. “The tears don’t hurt me like that ache did. Stay here for a little while with me and keep your arm round me — so. I couldn’t have Diana stay, she’s good and kind and sweet — but it’s not her sorrow — she’s outside of it and she couldn’t come close enough to my heart to help me. It’s our sorrow — yours and mine. Oh, Marilla, what will we do without him?”

“We’ve got each other, Anne. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here — if you’d never come. Oh, Anne, I know I’ve been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe — but you mustn’t think I didn’t love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It’s never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it’s easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you’ve been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.”
Page 314

Anne, new to grief, thought it almost sad that it could be so — that they could go on in the old way without Matthew. She felt something like shame and remorse when she discovered that the sunrises behind the firs and the pale pink buds opening in the garden gave her the old inrush of gladness when she saw them - that life still called to her with many insistent voices.
Page 314

Hardest thing about death is that life goes on.

“Josie is a Pye,” said Marilla sharply, “so she can’t help being disagreeable. I suppose people of that kind serve some useful purpose in society, but I must say I don’t know what it is any more than I know the use of thistles. Is Josie going to teach?”
Page 316

Bridge to Terabithia

Book Notes

For reasons I haven't quite figured out, I decided not long ago to fill in the gaps in my young adult life's reading choices, and read a number of "classic" children's (young adult these days) books. Since I had a travel day today, and finished up the other book I was reading, and not wanting to read any of my already started books, I picked up Bridge to Terabithia.

And finished it today, too. Go me.

This isn't an unknown book for people of a certain age. The author's son was able to make it into a movie, which increased its exposure. The book is banned from many schools because, for some reason that is completely incomprehensible to me, some parents believe hiding death from a kid is a Good Thing™. Of note, it is NOT a Good Thing™. It is actively a Bad Thing™. Death is a part of life, and accepting that sooner than later makes the life part of this cycle a better experience, more sweeter, more cherished, more worthy.

Reading this book, I knew one of the two main kids died. I wasn't sure which one, nor was I sure of the circumstances. That the story is based (broad strokes) on the author's son's childhood experience makes this story more sad. When should a parent ever outlive her child? Okay, if the child is evil, fine, yes. Exceptional case.

As I knew the climax of the plot, I wasn't overwhelmed when it happened. That, and I was heading to an event with a lot of people I don't know, meant my desire not to cry unabashedly was stronger. I didn't cry, but I did feel that loss, and that numbness after the loss.

A book worth reading at some point in a person's life. Unsure when would be a good time, to be honest.

The parents being as good as they can be, but not perfect, was consistent with with the previous book, which made it a two book trend, amusing me somewhat. What? people aren't perfect? And we hear them yelling at their kids? Huh. Real Life™

Quotes from the book:

His straw-colored hair flapped hard against his forehead, and his arms and legs flew out every which way. He had never learned to run properly, but he was long-legged for a ten year-old, and no one had more grit than he.

Because grit was important, even back in the 1970s.

Miss Edmunds would play her guitar and let the kids take turns on the autoharp, the triangles, cymbals, tambourines, and bongo drum. Lord, could they ever make a racket!

Okay, I'm laughing now, because I remember the autoharp, triangles, and making a racket in music class.

All the teachers hated Fridays. And a lot of the kids pretended to. But Jess knew what fakes they were. Sniffing "hippie" and "peacenik" even though the Vietnam War was over and it was supposed to be OK again to like peace, the kids would make fun of Miss Edmunds' lack of lipstick or the cut of her jeans.

Okay to like peace. What a f'd up world we live in that peace wouldn't be okay to like.

She punched him in the shoulder. "Let's go out and find some giants or walking dead to fight. I'm sick of Janice Avery."

OMG I had no idea that "Walking Dead" was a phrase that's forty some years old!

He helped May Belle wrap her wretched little gifts and even sang "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" with her and Joyce Ann. Then Joyce Ann cried because they had no fireplace and Santa wouldn't be able to find the way, and suddenly he felt sorry for her going to Millsburg Plaza and seeing all those things and hoping that some guy in a red suit would give her all her dreams.

The longing of a little kid, that longing that never goes away.

"That whole Jesus thing is really interesting, isn't it?"

"What d'you mean?"

"All those people wanting to kill him when he hadn't done anything to hurt them." She hesitated. "It's really kind of a beautiful story-like Abraham Lincoln or Socrates -- or Aslan."

And yet another testiment to the horror in human nature.

He wondered what it would be like to have a mother whose stories were inside her head instead of marching across the television screen all day long.

A commentary on television from the 1970s, imagine what it would be like to have a life that wasn't about consuming but about producing. It is quite wonderful, tbh.

You think it's so great to die and make everyone cry and carry on. Well, it ain't.

Leslie had died, and Jess was angry at her.

He, Jess, was the only one who really cared for Leslie. But Leslie had failed him. She went and died just when he needed her the most. She went and left him. She went swinging on that rope just to show him that she was no coward. So there, Jess Aarons. She was probably somewhere fight now laughing at him. Making fun of him like he was Mrs. Myers. She had tricked him. She had made him leave his old self behind and come into her world, and then before he was really at home in it but too late to go back, she had left him stranded there like an astronaut wandering about on the moon. Alone.

And this is where I did allow myself to cry a bit.

"Everybody gets seared sometimes, May Belle. You don't have to be ashamed." He saw a flash of Leslie's eyes as she was going in to the girls' room to see Janice Avery. "Everybody gets scared."

...

She looked at him in disbelief. "But you weren't scared."

"Lord, May Belle, I was shaking like Jello."

"You're just saying that."

Sometimes like the Barbie doll you need to give people something that's for them, not just something that makes you feel good giving it.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Book Notes

Okay, I have had a copy of this book in my to-read pile since about six months after it was published. For those of you who have access to the internet, you can figure out I have had this book since around November of 2003. Bharat handed me his copy, I still have his copy. I still feel guilty about having his copy, as he is one of those friends who dropped out of my life and I haven't spoken with except for an awkward moment at an ultimate game four years ago except that I don't think I actually spoke to him, I just took a picture of him and his girlfriend before I even knew he was divorced.

So.

Yeah, I read it.

This is the third book I've read recently that has an autistic protagonist. The first book was entertaining (the sequel less so, as it dealt with people in power abusing it). The second one (-ish) was about autistic people in adult situations, but everything works out.

This book was about an autistic teen, but portrays the difficulties of those around an autistic person actually dealing with said autistic person. A mother who can't hug her son. A father doing his best. And a teenager driving everyone around him batshit mad, angry, frustrated. Yes, they still love him, of course his parents love him, but dealing with an autistic person is not an easy task, and this book made me incredibly uncomfortable with the clarity of that experience. We want to believe that parents of autistic kids are angels, but they are human like everyone else. This book gives the reader a glimpse of how hard their lives can be.

Mom liked the book. Pretty sure she recommends it. I think I do, but am kinda iffy on it. For entertainment, no. For perspective, yes.

Now to get the book back to Bharat.

The Midnight Line

Book Notes

When this book dropped, I pinged Mom to let her know the next Reacher book was out. I'm not sure if she's still reading the Reacher books, but I am (just not watching the movies what a HORRIBLE casting, Cruise? MF so f'ing wrong, let me list the ways: not 6'5" even in lifts, not built like a line backer, not charismatic enough, too much hair, and did I mention not 6'5" built like a f'ing truck?).

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. Half way through I pinged Mom to let her know that even if she had stopped reading the Reacher books, this was a good one worth reading. Because it is. It didn't have the obvious plot holes, it didn't give a bunch of stuff away, you aren't saying LOOK RIGHT OVER THERE, the action moves along, and Child got many of the elements of addiction just right.

Getting hit was a rare event for Reacher. And he intended to keep it rare. Not just vanity. Getting hit was inefficient. It degraded future performance.
Page 23

“How frequently do you move around?”

“Constantly.”

“Do you think that’s a fitting way for a West Pointer to live?”

“I think it’s perfectly fitting.”

“In what sense?”

“We fought for freedom. This is what freedom looks like.”
Page 57

“That’s all we’ve got. You think she went back there?”

“Depends,” Reacher said. “For some people, home is the first place they go. For others, it’s the last. What was she like?”

"She was pretty close to outstanding, without ever quite getting there. Never in the top five, always in the top ten. That kind of person."
Page 60

Teddy Roosevelt, Reacher supposed, not Franklin. The great naturalist, except for when he was shooting things like tigers and elephants. People were complicated.
Page 105

“You took a risk coming here.”

“Getting up in the morning is a risk. Anything could happen.”
Page 122

"She never said what she was doing. They could go three months without talking.”

“Is that usual for twins?”

“Twins are siblings, same as anyone else.”
Page 124

He propped himself on the pillow and watched his reflection in the mirror on the opposite wall. A distant figure. One of those days. Not just a military thing. Plenty of other professions felt the same way. Sometimes you woke up, and you knew for sure, from history and experience and weary intuition, that the brand new day would bring nothing good at all.
Page 224

“I’m on the inside looking out. I can’t see myself. Sometimes I forget.”

“What did the shrinks say?”

“What would the 110th say?”

“Deal with it,” Reacher said. “It happened. It can’t un-happen. Most folks aren’t going to like it. Deep down humans haven’t been modern very long. But some won’t care. You’ll find them.”
Page 365

The Girl From The Well

Book Notes

Okay, I'm pretty sure this book came from some Book Riot list. I'm also pretty sure that if I'm ever going to conquer my reading list, I should stop looking at the Book Riot website. No, what am I saying, that won't help either.

I read this book quickly. It has Stephen-King-scare-the-crap-out-of-me moments in it. Totally scared myself awake to keep reading it moments.

The book is a mystery / horror book, with elements of the Ring movie in it. It draws on a Japanese legend that I had to look up, and was like, "Oh, of course there are a kabillion of these stories I don't know." I wouldn't recommend this book to my mom, who doesn't really like the suspenseful type of books, but I would recommend it to anyone who likes the gripping books of early King.

There's a follow-up book by the same author. I'm inclined to buy it, I enjoyed this one enough to warrant it. I have, however, Mount Books, and will likely read from there for a while.

We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.
Page 1 · Location 57

Talking about ghosts, love the reference.

... but when the image does not repeat itself soon, he begins to think and then to argue and then to dismiss, the way people do when they are seeking explanations for things that cannot be explained.
Page 4 · Location 90

When the dead are young and have once known love, they bring no malice.
Page 8 · Location 134

Collars are as much a form of slavery whether they encircle necks or wrists, whether they are as heavy as lead or as light as a ropestring.
Page 12 · Location 166

The previous owners left nothing of themselves here: no happiness, no grief, no pain. It is the best anyone can wish for in a place to stay.
Page 16 · Location 220

The great writer Motojirou-san said it best: ‘Sakura no ki no shita ni wa shitai ga umatte iru.’ - Dead bodies lie under the cherry tree.
Page 53 · Location 654

There is a thrill in relishing the suffering of strangers, and they hide their interest with worried faces.
Page 62 · Location 749

Ashes fall to ashes, and dust falls to dust whether bodies are buried with full honors underneath the earth or thrown onto the wayside and left to rot. Funerals seem less about comforting the souls of these dearly departed than about comforting the people they leave behind.
Page 111 · Location 1298

Yep. Hand the ghost a copy of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

Few people attend the cremation services. Few people in this part of the world knew the woman, and few are willing to look into those flames and be reminded of their own fragility.
Page 111 · Location 1302

But I have often found that people are strange because they have something most others lack.
Page 170 · Location 2003

"... But I don’t know what to do. I never asked to be a part of this.”
Page 171 · Location 2007

Few people have been asked to be a part of most not good things in their lives.

The Core

Book Notes

This is the final book in the Demon Cycle, and I enjoyed it.

It was longer than I expected it to be, but I had fair warning that it was going to be long, perhaps too many words. For the record, as wordy as Brett is, he doesn't compare to Rowling and her wordiness. Let's be clear, though, there was a lot of the book that could have been left out.

Told in the style of many different story lines all interweaving, cough Wheel of Time cough, cough Song of Ice and Fire cough, there were a couple story lines that just didn't add to the story. Ashia and Abban? "He still has a part to play." What part? There was no part. That entire storyline could have been dropped from the book, shortening the book by 17% (I made up that number), and increasing the reader's enjoyment by 11% (made that one up, too).

The part I found the most fascinating about the book, however, was my reactions to Renna. I did NOT want the hero of the story to be the uneducated, hick-in-the-derogatory-way, reckless, female character. I didn't want that AT ALL. There were no repercussions for her continually bad choices. Things "worked out." Yes, fiction, yes, good for her, yes, go Brett for making the woman the hero, but why did I have this reaction? That why is a fascinating topic for me to explore.

I liked this book more than the previous one. I'm annoyed a bit at the ending, but we all saw it coming, so I didn't end up throwing the book across the room which is good. Still. Not a fan of the ending.

If I were recommending these books, I'd suggest read the first book. If you're a HUGE fan, keep reading, otherwise, enjoy that you enjoyed the first book.

"None could prove they’d taken you to bed, but folk don’t need proof to whisper.”

“They never have,” Leesha said.
Page 34

He considered himself above reproach and was offended by her mistrust.
Page 38

Briar was Briar, and that wasn’t going to change. The path that made him who he was could not be unwalked.
Page 65

How... stunningly stoic.

"Write our own destinies, Leesh, long as we got the stones to do it.”
Location 3579

“Don’t think anything will,” Arlen said. “Belief is stubborn as a rock demon.”
Location 3678

Arlen looked at him, incredulous. “Taught me yourself Deliverers don’t exist.”

“I taught no such thing,” Ragen said. “I said when humanity needed them, great generals rose to lead us. Their existence is documented, Arlen. It’s a fact. The Creator didn’t come down from Heaven to confirm it then, and I don’t expect He will now, but that doesn’t change the fact that our whole world has shifted because Arlen Bales had a stubborn streak.”
Location 3682

“How you gonna cry over someone you barely knew?” Renna asked.

“Oh, sister,” Shanvah said sadly. “Tears are never hard to find. Tell me of the son of Jessum.”
Location 3846

"... A portion of infinity remains infinite.”
Location 4133

She ran to him, weeping with joy, and he returned the embrace as she threw her arms around him. For a moment, he allowed himself to forget his purpose, to be her son one last time, safe in his mother’s arms.
Location 4643

I understand this, even as an adult these many years, the safety one can feel in one's mother's arms.

Jardir scowled. “I was a fool to leave Hasik alive. Every time I have shown him mercy, I have regretted it.”

“Mercy should never be cause for regret,” Inevera said.
Location 4931

Her aura was as bright as any Jardir had seen short of the Par’chin and his jiwah, but… clean. Unburdened by compromise, failure, or shame.
Location 5027

Can you imagine? An aura unburdened?

“How long ago was that?” Arlen asked.

Norine shrugged. “Fifty years, give or take.”

“Long time to carry a grudge,” Arlen said.

“Hard feelings only get heavier with the years,” Jeph said. “Till the weight of it breaks you, and you snap.”
Location 5491

“You listen to me, Jeph Young,” Arlen said. “As your brother and your elder. Ent no such thing as a Deliverer. That’s work every man and woman’s got to do for themselves. Can’t count on someone to save you from the demons. Learn to save yourself—and others, when you can.”
Location 5519

“All have our low moments,” Arlen said. “Things we carry even when folk around us forget, or never knew.”
Location 5671

“Had every right to carry a grudge,” Jeph said.

“Ay, maybe, but grudges never made anyone a better man,” Arlen said.
Location 5676

“Mistakes are easy to see, when you look back.”
Location 5776

Amon was no more receptive than the station officers. “Harden’s Grove has stood for a hundred years, Ragen. We’re not going to abandon everything we’ve built over some demon attacks a week’s ride to the south.”
Location 6068

Okay, this is a complete logic fallacy. "It hasn't happened, so it won't happen." Hand the man a copy of The Black Swan, please.

“Perhaps I will try.” She reached for a stalk and took a bite. The herb was bitter, but so were many things in life.
Location 7590

“My master used to say Everam draws power from our courage. Will is the one gift we can give to aid Him in His never-ending battle against Nie. Everam guides us, but the choice to be fearless or a coward, to fight or flee,” Ashia reached out, touching his chest, “this comes from within.”
Location 7810

“’Sides.” The Par’chin shook his head. “Startin’ to think it don’t matter if Everam’s in the sky or in your imagination. It’s a voice that tells you to act right, and that’s more than most folk have.”
Location 8494

Nonetheless, the Krasians to her left made her nervous. Favah was not one to wear trousers or sit atop a horse. She was carried across the Hollow on a palanquin borne by six muscular eunuchs in Sharum black, their wrists and ankles bound in golden shackles. The men ran in perfect unison, easily keeping pace with the horses. None was breathing hard as they set the palanquin down and opened the curtains for the ancient dama’ting. The six slaves were a gesture of defiance from Favah, a reminder that she would not be bullied, even if she had agreed to Leesha’s terms. There is no slavery in the Hollow, Favah had been told, but she paraded the men before the Hollowers, daring a confrontation. Leesha knew better than to take the bait. The men, mutilated and conditioned by the dama’ting, did not wish for freedom. Indeed, their auras sang with pride. In addition to their mistress’ weight, the men carried spears and shields of warded glass, and Creator only knew how many other weapons about their person. If Leesha or anyone else tried to free them, there would be blood.
Location 9223

Conditioning from childhood is hard to break. Ask me about Jesus being the son of God, and I'll explain.

“Too good, yet never good enough. I’ve made my peace with it, but it never stops stinging.”

Erny shook his head. “I love her, Leesha. Always have, always will. There’s never been another woman in the world to me. I’m not going anywhere. Not from this bench, not from this marriage. We said our vows…”

“But only you keep them,” Leesha said.

Erny looked at her. “Is that the only time we should keep our promises, Leesha? When others do? I taught you better than that.”
Location 10848

“I answered your every question truthfully, Explorer. Blame yourself if you did not ask enough. I am your prisoner, not your friend.”

“Demons don’t have friends,” Renna growled.

“And we’re stronger for it.” Shanjat eyed Jardir. “No wasted sentiment leading to foolish action.”
Location 10997

“There is always choice, Renna am’Bales,” Inevera said. “It is the ultimate power, what makes the infinite futures finite. But Everam guides us to the right ones, like pieces on the board.” Renna rolled her eyes but said no more.
Location 11211

“Never in my adult life have I been without your counsel,” Jardir said. “I did not realize how much I had come to depend on it.”

“Is that your way of saying you miss me?”

“It is my way of saying I am afraid, jiwah. And that when you are near, I am less so.”
Location 11274

“A Sharum must always be ready to die, mistress,” Micha said. “We keep thoughts of it close to remember to always be prepared, to keep our spirits pure. To know that life is a fleeting gift of Everam, and death comes for us all. Inevera, when the lonely path opens to me, I will walk it without looking back.”
Location 11713

Thamos’ words came to her. There are times a leader must remain firm, even when they are in the wrong. Leesha hadn’t agreed at the time, but she saw the wisdom in it now.
Location 11935

Even the palm weeps, when the storm washes over it, Enkido once told her. The tears of Everam’s spear sisters are all the more precious for how seldom they fall.
Location 12902

Sleeping Giants

Book Notes

This is book 1 of The Themis Files

This book was on my Amazon Wish List from a year or so ago. It was on some reading list I had read, likely a book riot list, but not on my immediate to-read stack. Sagan had it on our road trip, which is when I started reading it. I didn't finish it on the trip, so kept it to finish later. And, today was later.

I enjoyed this book. It is told in the piece-together reports from different people, told in an interview style, as popularized by World War Z. The characters were written well enough for me to "GRRRRRR!" at a couple, which is great. The ending was a surprise, but likely shouldn't have been given this is book one of a (planned) three book series.

I'll read the next book when it comes out.

"Most people don't really have a purpose, a sense of purpose anyway, beyond their immediate surroundings. They're important to their family, but it doesn't go much beyond that. Everyone is replaceable at work. Friendships come and go.
Part 3: 3: Headhunting File No. 120

"Love makes people do some crazy things."
Part 3: 3: Headhunting File No. 120

"One thing is certain. You are a survivor, Doctor Hans. You are definitely not one to throw away your life, your family, and your career, for something as petty as principles."
File No. 121

"They're bluffing. You know that."

"So are we. Bluffing doesn't mean what it used to. No one wants an all out war, and everyone knows it. Both sides know the other side doesn't want to fight so we push each other against the wall, a tiny bit further every time. It's all about saving face, but basically we're playing chicken, and both sides think they can do whatever they want because the other guy will never use its nuclear arsenal. It probably won't be today, but someday, someday, one of us is going to be terribly wrong."
File No. 129

"I never understand the merits of proportional response."

"I'm not sure there are any. It's just what we call human nature for people with too much firepower in their hands."
File No. 129

"I can understand your desire to distance yourself from this decision, given the current state of affairs, but you did make a choice. That choice will not cease to be yours because a lot of people might die as a result."
File No. 129

"Your an asshole, you know that? Isn't that a bit arbitrary?"

"Of course it is. Most things are."
File No. 129

"What he did, however horrifying, doesn't have to negate every other day of his life."
File No. 141

"What did you do then?"

"Nothin'. Our other boat stopped. We waited. Submarines are slow, clumsy things. A lot of what we do is just sit and wait. We're good at that."
File No. 143

"They told me she'd be courtmartialed. She must have been right, about her orders, I mean."

"I thought you said she would be ..."

"They also made it very clear to me that none of this ever happened. I don't think they'll put anyone on trial for something that didn't happen."

"Are you always this cynical? You seem to doubt a lot of what you were told."

"It's all cockamamie, if you ask me. Military intelligence. They'd come up with these really farfetched stories, and just because we don't ask questions they think we're actually buying it. They forget they're talking to people who were trained not to ask questions. If it were up to me, I'd rather they just didn't tell me anything. It's less insulting than to be lied to."
File No. 143

"People often confuse leadership with managerial skills. I agree with their assessment. You certainly have the ability to inspire people. Minutae on the other hand might not be your forte."
File No. 229

"It's one thing to risk your own life. It's fairly easy to rationalize the deaths of strangers. To shoulder the death of a friend, someone you know, that's a completely different thing."
File No. 229

"I feel numb... After something this intense, everything else just... things that would have you up in arms before now seem so utterly trivial. Nothing really matters. You start to ignore little things because they're little things. You compromise, you rationalize. Soon you look at yourself in the mirror and you don't recognize the person staring back at you. But, you know, I'm alive, I'm okay. I wake up every day and I get out of bed thinking today might be just a bit better than yesterday. Most of the time it is."
File No. 229

"Most of their days are never going to change, no matter what. I suppose that's why people are disenchanted with politics. They expect whoever they elect to change their lives."
File No. 233

"... My deepest wish is for this discovery to redefine alterity for all of us."

"Alterity?"

"The concept of otherness. What I am is very much a function of what I am not. If the other is the Muslim world, then I am the Judeo-Christian world. If the other is from thousands of light years away, I am simply human. Redefined alterity and you erase boundaries."
File No. 233

"It pains me to say it, but I have always been thoroughly bewildered by North Korea. They cannot be threatened, as they feel themselves superior to the one making the threat. They cannot be reasoned with, and most importantly, they are one hundred percent convinced of their righteousness, so they cannot be bought. Meglomaniacs with delusions of granduer are notoriously difficult to handle, but how generations could follow one another is beyond me."
File No. 233

"If you fall love with someone, there is a good chance the person won't love you back. Hatred, though, is usually mutual. If you despise someone, it's pretty much a given they're also not your biggest fan."
File No. 250

"... I guess what I'm saying is, it's easier to be just one more soldier in a giant army than being the whole army by yourself."

"It does not matter if you are all alone or one in an army of thousands. You have a choice. You have always had a choice. You should be grateful to be in a position to make it when the stakes are so clear. They rarely are."

"I'm not sure I understand."

"You are in control of a formidable weapon, but one that is designed for close combat. This means that you will always see whomever you choose to kill. That is a clear choice. Destroying a bridge in a night incursion is a much harder decision to make, you just never took the time to think about it. Removing it could prevent enemy reinforcements from reaching the front line, that bridge could also be the only escape route for civilians. How many people will you save? How many will you send to their deaths? That is a complicated decision to make."
File No. 250

"I will say one more thing before you go. Stop worrying so much. Are you doing your best?"

"I fear my best may not be enough."

"Then you should come to peace with whatever comes. All you can do is try your best."
File No. 255

Countdown to Zero Day

Book Notes

Whoa. Another non-fiction book. It's like my goal to finish all my started books is demonstrating I'm not a big fan of non-fiction books, post-school.

Or something.

This book describes the exposure and investigation of the Stuxnet computer virus. Because the book is describing the virus, and its subsequent children, parents, and cousins, it has to give some background of the world as it existed when the virus was released. This particular form of story-telling, the form of chronological progression, makes the first part of this book slooooooooooooow. Rob warned me when he handed me the book, told me to keep going, it'll get better. The fact that I started this book in December of 2015, and am only now finishing it, testifies somewhat to how slow I found the beginning of the book.

The middle of the book, however, and the end, those went much faster. Around chapter eight or so, the story line picks up and becomes interesting and engaging.

If you have a good library and interest in this book, I recommend starting out with the audiobook version, to get through the first part, then switch to reading. The whole story is politically and technically fascinating.

That there are people who believe in making the computing world safe for the rest of us, despite some of the bad guys being on our own team, helps me sleep better at night. Not well, but better. That the world described in the book still exists and that we have Cheetoh instead of Obama is a terrifying prospect.

In amassing zero-day exploits for the government to use in attacks, instead of passing the information about holes to vendors to be fixed, the government has put critical-infrastructure owners and computer users in the United States at risk of attack from criminal hackers, corporate spies, and foreign intelligence agencies who no doubt will discover and use the same vulnerabilities for their own operations.
Location 4019

But it’s a government model that relies on keeping everyone vulnerable so that a targeted few can be attacked — the equivalent of withholding a vaccination from an entire population so that a select few can be infected with a virus.
Location 4032

Dagan was known to favor assassination as a political weapon.
Location 4433

Bencsáth’s heart was pounding as he clicked Send to e-mail the report. “I was really excited,” he says. “You throw down something from the hill, and you don’t know what type of avalanche there will be [ as a result ].”
Location 4686

On one, he’d circled the URL of a website he’d visited that contained the letters “en/us” — proof that the US government was watching his computer, he ...
Location 4702

Okay, I laughed out loud at this one. en/us is a designation to display a web page with US English, instead of say, Canadian English or UK English (you know, that color versus colour thing).

Another correspondent, a female cookbook author, sent Chien a few e-mails via Hushmail — an anonymous encrypted e-mail service used by activists and criminals to hide their identity.
Location 4704

I have to wonder why the "female" part of the author's identity had to be explicitly stated. Because male cookbook authors aren't technically clueless? Something about the balls make male cooks more technically sophisticated than women cooks?

A nuclear-armed Iran, he said, would be “a grave threat” to peace not just in the Middle East, but around the world. 37 He promised that under his leadership all options would remain on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Although in essence this meant a military option as well, Obama, like Bush, wanted to avoid a military engagement at all costs.
Location 6048

"Avoid a military engagement at all costs."

This isn't something I think I hear nearly enough. The cost of war is incredible. It destroys people, the victors and the defeated. Everyone but the arms dealers who don't see the results of their product are damaged in some way.

But don't tell my dead brother that. He thinks violence solves all problems.

“Together with the international community, the United States acknowledges your right to peaceful nuclear energy — we insist only that you adhere to the same responsibilities that apply to other nations,” he said. “We are familiar with your grievances from the past — we have our own grievances as well, but we are prepared to move forward. We know what you’re against; now tell us what you’re for.”
Location 6392

“Faced with an extended hand,” Obama said, “Iran’s leaders have shown only a clenched fist.”
Location 6396

US military and intelligence agencies had been penetrating foreign systems in Iran and elsewhere, building stockpiles of digital weapons, and ushering in a new age of warfare, all without public discussion about the rules of engagement for conducting such attacks or the consequences of doing so.
Location 6907

Of all the nations that have a cyberwarfare program, however, the United States and Israel are the only ones known to have unleashed a destructive cyberweapon against another sovereign nation — a nation with whom it was not at war. In doing so, it lost the moral high ground from which to criticize other nations for doing the same and set a dangerous precedent for legitimizing the use of digital attacks to further political or national security goals.
Location 6926

Civil War general Robert E. Lee said famously that it was a good thing war was so terrible, “otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” The horrors and costs of war encourage countries to choose diplomacy over battle, but when cyberattacks eliminate many of these costs and consequences, and the perpetrators can remain anonymous, it becomes much more tempting to launch a digital attack than engage in rounds of diplomacy that might never produce results.
Location 6932

The targets most in danger from a digital attack in the United States are not just military systems but civilian ones — transportation, communication, and financial networks; food manufacturing and chemical plants; gas pipelines, water, and electric utilities; even uranium enrichment plants. 13
Location 6970

Any future use of digital weapons will likely be as an enhancement to conventional battle, not as a replacement for it. Critics of digital doomsayers also point to the fact that no catastrophic attack has occurred to date as evidence that the warnings are overblown. But others argue that no passenger jets had been flown into skyscrapers, either, before 9 / 11.
Location 7051

“For cyber deterrence to work,” Cartwright said in 2012, “you have to believe a few things : One, that we have the intent; two, that we have the capability; and three, that we practice — and people know that we practice.”
Location 7065

But while deterrence of this sort might work for some nations — as long as they believe an attack could be attributed to them — irrational actors, such as rogue states and terrorist groups, aren’t deterred by the same things that deter others.
Location 7069

Though one can argue that the 9 / 11 attacks required at least as much planning and coordination as a destructive cyberattack would require, a well-planned digital assault — even a physically destructive one — would likely never match the visual impact or frightening emotional effect that jets flying into the Twin Towers had.
Location 7097

Richard Clarke, former cybersecurity czar under the Bush administration and a member of the panel, later explained the rationale for highlighting the use of zero days in their report. “If the US government finds a zero-day vulnerability, its first obligation is to tell the American people so that they can patch it, not to run off [ and use it ] to break into the Beijing telephone system,” he said at a security conference. “The first obligation of government is to defend.” 40
Location 7167

Under the new policy, any time the NSA discovers a major flaw in software, it must disclose the vulnerability to vendors and others so the flaw can be patched. But the policy falls far short of what the review board had recommended and contains loopholes. 43 It applies only to flaws discovered by the NSA, without mentioning ones found by government contractors, and any flaw that has “a clear national security or law enforcement” use can still be kept secret by the government and exploited. The review board had said exploits should be used only on a temporary basis and only for “high priority intelligence collection” before being disclosed.
Location 7181

Then in 2012, the president signed a secret directive establishing some policies for computer network attacks, the details of which we know about only because Edward Snowden leaked the classified document. 50 Under the directive, the use of a cyberweapon outside a declaration of war requires presidential approval, but in times of war, military leaders have advance approval to take quick action at their discretion.
Location 7265

The presidential directive addresses only the military’s use of digital operations, however. A list of exceptions in the document excludes intelligence agencies like the NSA and CIA from it, as well as law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Secret Service.
Location 7281

The Western Star

Book Notes

Really now, the previous book I read cured me of my current non-fiction streak (of five books! wow!). I really needed a good, fun read to put the enjoyment back in my obsessive daily reading. I had little surprise that Johnson's Longmire would do the trick.

I enjoyed the book. I read a few reviews of the book where the readers were complaining about the cliff-hanger at the end. It didn't bother me. There were two intertwined plots happening in the book, one from 1972 on the Western Star, a train, and the other in contemporary time, which was a continuation of the previous arch-nemesis Longmire books. The first plot's mystery was clever, with a few good misdirections. That Longmire knew more than the reader is fine. The modern-time plot is fine, nothing terribly surprising.

There were fewer hit-you-in-the-gut quotable lines in this book, which is also fine. I enjoyed the book. I'll keep reading the Longmire series. The TV series? Garbage, not watching that any more, as it ruins the book Longmire.

“I can reconcile my devotion to the law and the knowledge that a lawful course can sometimes be immoral.”
Page 144

“You want to know what I learned in Vietnam? I learned that if you’re lucky, I mean really lucky, you find the one thing you want in life and then you go after it; you give up everything else because all the rest of that stuff really doesn’t matter.”
Page 151

“Then what should I do?” He dropped the remains of his unsatisfactory sandwich into a brown paper bag and wiped the corner of his mouth with a folded paper towel.

“The hardest thing in the world—nothing. The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine.”
Page 157

“You may not always win the war, Walt, but it’s good to know you fought the battle.”
Page 158

“Trees teach us patience, but grass teaches us persistence.”

“And what did grapes teach you?”

“Wine, which assists with both.”
Page 168

“Where you headed, and what are you gonna do?” I stood there for a moment and then forcefully placed the star in his hand, before walking away.

“Nowhere and nothing.”

He called after me. “Well, there ain’t no hurry about nowhere and nothing—they’re always out there waitin’.”
Page 177

“In my limited experience with politicians, I have learned that you do not have to be right all the time, but that it is absolutely essential to never appear wrong.”
Page 192

“Was he a good guy?” I leaned against the side of her truck and studied her.

“Your grandfather?”

“Yeah.”

I glanced back at Vic and Henry, leaning on the fender of the rental car parked just behind Pamela’s trailer. “Yep, he was one of the best.”
Page 217

“My mother hardly ever talked about him.”

“Sometimes that’s the way people deal with the pain of losing a loved one.”
Page 217

“Would you like to call her?” Vic pointed at the utility. “There’s a phone with a cord but it is nonrotary—do you need me to push the buttons for you?”
Page 233

They filed out after giving me hard looks, but I’d had hard looks thrown at me before and had found they bounced off pretty easily.
Page 240

I remembered my father telling me that you knew you were a man when everything went bad and suddenly all eyes were on you for help.
Page 269

I’d found that few people give up the chance to explain themselves, no matter what the reason or environs.
Page 276

“Most people go through their lives doin’ whatever it is that comes along, but every once in a while we stumble onto what it is we’re supposed to do.”
Page 288

The Rational Optimist

Book Notes

This book is awful.

As far as I can tell, anyone who really likes this book, who reads it crtically and tries to follow up with the data presented, is suffering from the Murray Gell-Mann amnesia effect. I can't explain why so many people like and even recommend this book otherwise.

It is full of wild, unsupported statements, blatant lies, and far-fetched predictions. After having recently read The Black Swan, I'm even more disgusted by this book and Ridley's predictions and arguments for everything is great.

The main take aways from this book:

1. Specialization encouraged innovation.
2. Relatively easy commerce is the road to a better future.
3. Because we haven't run out of finite resources yet, we won't run out of finite resources.

Yeah, that last one was more than a little surprising to me, too. Yet, chapter after chapter, this is the underlying message he brings.

Here's the ad hominem attack, just to get it out of the way: Ridley appears to suck as a scientific editor and an economist. Based on his work history, he lost a lot of money because he was unable to accurately assess risks. Based on this book, he doesn't understand how good science works, where you have a hypothesis, you find reproducable evidence to support your hypothesis, you look for evidence that refutes your hypothesis, then you conclude with a working theory. Instead, Ridley likes the Gladwell approach to sounding scientific: make claims using stories as support. As Ben commented, the plural of anecdote is not data.

That out of the way, the way that Ridley either fails to provide a citation for his statement, hides his citations making them difficult to verify, or cites works that don't provide data for review makes even the statements that I want to believe suspect.

I disliked this book so much. It is the first book I've finished that I rate "burn" since I published my book reviews scale. So, why did I finish it? I was hoping that because this book was so highly recommended, it would redeem itself in the end. It did not.

Burn every copy you find.

Extracted parts of the book with my commentary. Too long for this page.

The Black Swan

Book Notes

Okay, this book is one that I believe every person should read. If you want to read this book, and you don't have access to the book from your library, in paper, digital, or audiobook format, and I know you some way, I will loan you my copy or buy you a copy. If you arewere my older brother, I will express ship this book to you, as I believe you would benefit greatly from this book.

Taleb talks about how statistics lie, but specifically how events so far outside of the normal, or our experience, cannot be predicted. He talks about how the Black Swan events, those rare experiences that can't be predicted, demonstrate how

And he goes into a number of logic fallacies that everyone should know, but really most people don't. He shows how even when we think we're aware of them, we often aren't. Which really means we're human. And fallable.

One of the features of this book that I found annoying was the self-references to "this book." I'm not a fan of the "In this book, I am going to describe" style of writing, or the "hey, I'm going to mention this thing, but not talk about it until later" way of introducing related topics. It's how this book is written, and while I find it annoying, once I accepted it (after the second occurance), it was fine.

Again, strongly recommend, let me buy you a copy of, this book.

The central idea of this book concerns our blindness with respect to randomness, particularly the large deviations: Why do we, scientists or nonscientists, hotshots or regular Joes, tend to see the pennies instead of the dollars? Why do we keep focusing on the minutiae, not the possible significant large events, in spite of the obvious evidence of their huge influence?
Location 302

See? Even before the prologue is fully underway, we have "this book." I am giggling at it already.

Isn’t it strange to see an event happening precisely because it was not supposed to happen?
Location 316

Think about the “secret recipe” to making a killing in the restaurant business. If it were known and obvious, then someone next door would have already come up with the idea and it would have become generic.
Location 320

Taleb is talking about how we justify things looking backward, a hindsight fallacy of sources.

Consider the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. Had it been expected, it would not have caused the damage it did— the areas affected would have been less populated, an early warning system would have been put in place. What you know cannot really hurt you.
Location 326

Another example.

What is surprising is not the magnitude of our forecast errors, but our absence of awareness of it. This is all the more worrisome when we engage in deadly conflicts: wars are fundamentally unpredictable (and we do not know it).
Location 333

And BOOM. This.

We will see that, contrary to social-science wisdom, almost no discovery, no technologies of note, came from design and planning— they were just Black Swans. The strategy for the discoverers and entrepreneurs is to rely less on top-down planning and focus on maximum tinkering and recognizing opportunities when they present themselves.
Location 344

Who gets rewarded, the central banker who avoids a recession or the one who comes to “correct” his predecessors’ faults and happens to be there during some economic recovery? Who is more valuable, the politician who avoids a war or the one who starts a new one (and is lucky enough to win)?
Location 393

This question is illustrative of a fundamental problem of incentives. One isn't incentivized to prevent ills, one is incentivized to fix them.

What I call Platonicity, after the ideas (and personality) of the philosopher Plato, is our tendency to mistake the map for the territory, to focus on pure and well-defined “forms,” whether objects, like triangles, or social notions, like utopias (societies built according to some blueprint of what “makes sense”), even nationalities. When these ideas and crisp constructs inhabit our minds, we privilege them over other less elegant objects, those with messier and less tractable structures (an idea that I will elaborate progressively throughout this book).
Location 419

Note that I am not relying in this book on the beastly method of collecting selective “corroborating evidence.” For reasons I explain in Chapter 5, I call this overload of examples naïve empiricism— successions of anecdotes selected to fit a story do not constitute evidence. Anyone looking for confirmation will find enough of it to deceive himself— and no doubt his peers.* The Black Swan idea is based on the structure of randomness in empirical reality.
Location 462

O. M. G. A book NOT in Gladwell's style? SIGN. ME. UP.

Also, likely part of the reason I like this book so much. It doesn't rely on anecdotes to prove things. It uses stories to move the book along and tie different elements together, but not as "proof" of things.

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others— a very small minority— who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.
Location 512

An anti-library.

Um... yes, that's what I'm building.

We thus managed to live in peace for more than a millennium almost devoid of bloodshed: our last true problem was the later troublemaking crusaders, not the Moslem Arabs. The Arabs, who seemed interested only in warfare (and poetry) and, later, the Ottoman Turks, who seemed only concerned with warfare (and pleasure), left to us the uninteresting pursuit of commerce and the less dangerous one of scholarship (like the translation of Aramaic and Greek texts).
Location 562

Unheard of!

I recall being at the center of the riot, and feeling a huge satisfaction upon my capture while my friends were scared of both prison and their parents. We frightened the government so much that we were granted amnesty.

...

Had I concealed my participation in the riot (as many friends did) and been discovered, instead of being openly defiant, I am certain that I would have been treated as a black sheep. It is one thing to be cosmetically defiant of authority by wearing unconventional clothes— what social scientists and economists call “cheap signaling”— and another to prove willingness to translate belief into action.
Location 597

It may be that the invention of gunfire and powerful weapons turned what, in the age of the sword, would have been just tense conditions into a spiral of uncontrollable tit-for-tat warfare.
Location 611

This duration blindness in the middle-aged exile is quite a widespread disease. Later, when I decided to avoid the exile’s obsession with his roots (exiles’ roots penetrate their personalities a bit too deeply), I studied exile literature precisely to avoid the traps of a consuming and obsessive nostalgia. These exiles seemed to have become prisoners of their memory of idyllic origin— they sat together with other prisoners of the past and spoke about the old country, and ate their traditional food while some of their folk music played in the background. They continuously ran counterfactuals in their minds, generating alternative scenarios that could have happened and prevented these historical ruptures, such as “if the Shah had not named this incompetent man as prime minister, we would still be there.” It was as if the historical rupture had a specific cause, and that the catastrophe could have been averted by removing that specific cause. So I pumped every displaced person I could find for information on their behavior during exile. Almost all act in the same way.
Location 645

I felt closer to my roots during times of trouble and experienced the urge to come back and show support to those left behind who were often demoralized by the departures— and envious of the fair-weather friends who could seek economic and personal safety only to return for vacations during these occasional lulls in the conflict. I was unable to work or read when I was outside Lebanon while people were dying, but, paradoxically, I was less concerned by the events and able to pursue my intellectual interests guilt-free when I was inside Lebanon.
Location 674

Categorizing is necessary for humans, but it becomes pathological when the category is seen as definitive, preventing people from considering the fuzziness of boundaries, let alone revising their categories.
Location 759

The problem of overcausation does not lie with the journalist, but with the public. Nobody would pay one dollar to buy a series of abstract statistics reminiscent of a boring college lecture. We want to be told stories, and there is nothing wrong with that— except that we should check more thoroughly whether the story provides consequential distortions of reality.
Location 1859

We learn from repetition — at the expense of events that have not happened before. Events that are nonrepeatable are ignored before their occurrence, and overestimated after (for a while). After a Black Swan, such as September 11, 2001, people expect it to recur when in fact the odds of that happening have arguably been lowered. We like to think about specific and known Black Swans when in fact the very nature of randomness lies in its abstraction.
Location 1921

Update: this is what is happening to my older brother. CLEAR TEXT BOOK CASE.

We are often told that we humans have an optimistic bent, and that it is supposed to be good for us. This argument appears to justify general risk taking as a positive enterprise, and one that is glorified in the common culture. Hey, look, our ancestors took the challenges— while you, NNT, are encouraging us to do nothing (I am not). We have enough evidence to confirm that, indeed, we humans are an extremely lucky species, and that we got the genes of the risk takers. The foolish risk takers, that is. In fact, the Casanovas who survived.
Location 2596

The reference point argument is as follows: do not compute odds from the vantage point of the winning gambler (or the lucky Casanova, or the endlessly bouncing back New York City, or the invincible Carthage), but from all those who started in the cohort.
Location 2654

I wish people would understand this about statistics and luck and experiments. You can't look at only success, you have to look at failures, too.

We have to accept the fuzziness of the familiar “because” no matter how queasy it makes us feel (and it does makes us queasy to remove the analgesic illusion of causality). I repeat that we are explanation-seeking animals who tend to think that everything has an identifiable cause and grab the most apparent one as the explanation. Yet there may not be a visible because; to the contrary, frequently there is nothing, not even a spectrum of possible explanations. But silent evidence masks this fact. Whenever our survival is in play, the very notion of because is severely weakened. The condition of survival drowns all possible explanations.
Location 2662

And it is why we have Black Swans and never learn from their occurrence, because the ones that did not happen were too abstract.
Location 2885

We love the tangible, the confirmation, the palpable, the real, the visible, the concrete, the known, the seen, the vivid, the visual, the social, the embedded, the emotionally laden, the salient, the stereotypical, the moving, the theatrical, the romanced, the cosmetic, the official, the scholarly-sounding verbiage (b******t), the pompous Gaussian economist, the mathematicized crap, the pomp, the Académie Française, Harvard Business School, the Nobel Prize, dark business suits with white shirts and Ferragamo ties, the moving discourse, and the lurid. Most of all we favor the narrated.

Alas, we are not manufactured, in our current edition of the human race, to understand abstract matters— we need context. Randomness and uncertainty are abstractions. We respect what has happened, ignoring what could have happened. In other words, we are naturally shallow and superficial— and we do not know it. This is not a psychological problem; it comes from the main property of information. The dark side of the moon is harder to see; beaming light on it costs energy. In the same way, beaming light on the unseen is costly in both computational and mental effort.
Location 2891

First, we are demonstrably arrogant about what we think we know. We certainly know a lot, but we have a built-in tendency to think that we know a little bit more than we actually do, enough of that little bit to occasionally get into serious trouble. We shall see how you can verify, even measure, such arrogance in your own living room.
Location 2974

I remind the reader that I am not testing how much people know, but assessing the difference between what people actually know and how much they think they know.
Location 3028

The simple test above suggests the presence of an ingrained tendency in humans to underestimate outliers— or Black Swans. Left to our own devices, we tend to think that what happens every decade in fact only happens once every century, and, furthermore, that we know what’s going on.
Location 3034

.. additional knowledge of the minutiae of daily business can be useless, even actually toxic, ...
Location 3083

Show two groups of people a blurry image of a fire hydrant, blurry enough for them not to recognize what it is. For one group, increase the resolution slowly, in ten steps. For the second, do it faster, in five steps. Stop at a point where both groups have been presented an identical image and ask each of them to identify what they see. The members of the group that saw fewer intermediate steps are likely to recognize the hydrant much faster. Moral? The more information you give someone, the more hypotheses they will formulate along the way, and the worse off they will be. They see more random noise and mistake it for information.
Location 3087

Our forecast errors have traditionally been enormous, and there may be no reasons for us to believe that we are suddenly in a more privileged position to see into the future compared to our blind predecessors. Forecasting by bureaucrats tends to be used for anxiety relief rather than for adequate policy making.
Location 3429

Even if you agree with a given forecast, you have to worry about the real possibility of significant divergence from it.
Location 3435

We build toys. Some of those toys change the world.
Location 3569

What we call here soft historical sciences are narrative dependent studies. Popper’s central argument is that in order to predict historical events you need to predict technological innovation, itself fundamentally unpredictable. “Fundamentally” unpredictable? I will explain what he means using a modern framework. Consider the following property of knowledge: If you expect that you will know tomorrow with certainty that your boyfriend has been cheating on you all this time, then you know today with certainty that your boyfriend is cheating on you and will take action today, say, by grabbing a pair of scissors and angrily cutting all his Ferragamo ties in half. You won’t tell yourself, This is what I will figure out tomorrow, but today is different so I will ignore the information and have a pleasant dinner. This point can be generalized to all forms of knowledge. There is actually a law in statistics called the law of iterated expectations, which I outline here in its strong form: if I expect to expect something at some date in the future, then I already expect that something at present.
Location 3596

To me utopia is an epistemocracy, a society in which anyone of rank is an epistemocrat, and where epistemocrats manage to be elected. It would be a society governed from the basis of the awareness of ignorance, not knowledge. Alas, one cannot assert authority by accepting one’s own fallibility. Simply, people need to be blinded by knowledge— we are made to follow leaders who can gather people together because the advantages of being in groups trump the disadvantages of being alone. It has been more profitable for us to bind together in the wrong direction than to be alone in the right one.
Location 3967

But if you are dealing with aggregates, where magnitudes do matter, such as income, your wealth, return on a portfolio, or book sales, then you will have a problem and get the wrong distribution if you use the Gaussian, as it does not belong there. One single number can disrupt all your averages; one single loss can eradicate a century of profits.
Location 4864

We have moved from a simple bet to something completely abstract. We have moved from observations into the realm of mathematics. In mathematics things have a purity to them.
Location 4937

Likewise, the Gaussian bell curve is set so that 68.2 percent of the observations fall between minus one and plus one standard deviations away from the average. I repeat: do not even try to understand whether standard deviation is average deviation— it is not, and a large (too large) number of people using the word standard deviation do not understand this point. Standard deviation is just a number that you scale things to, a matter of mere correspondence if phenomena were Gaussian.
Location 4944

Recall our discussions in Chapter 14 on preferential attachment and cumulative advantage. Both theories assert that winning today makes you more likely to win in the future. Therefore, probabilities are dependent on history, and the first central assumption leading to the Gaussian bell curve fails in reality. In games, of course, past winnings are not supposed to translate into an increased probability of future gains— but not so in real life, which is why I worry about teaching probability from games. But when winning leads to more winning, you are far more likely to see forty wins in a row than with a proto-Gaussian.
Location 4963

Being on the receiving end of angry insults is not that bad; you can get quickly used to it and focus on what is not said. Pit traders are trained to handle angry rants. If you work in the chaotic pits, someone in a particularly bad mood from losing money might start cursing at you until he injures his vocal cords, then forget about it and, an hour later, invite you to his Christmas party. So you become numb to insults, particularly if you teach yourself to imagine that the person uttering them is a variant of a noisy ape with little personal control. Just keep your composure, smile, focus on analyzing the speaker not the message, and you’ll win the argument. An ad hominem attack against an intellectual, not against an idea, is highly flattering. It indicates that the person does not have anything intelligent to say about your message.
Location 5477

The only comment I found unacceptable was, “You are right; we need you to remind us of the weakness of these methods, but you cannot throw the baby out with the bath water,” meaning that I needed to accept their reductive Gaussian distribution while also accepting that large deviations could occur— they didn’t realize the incompatibility of the two approaches. It was as if one could be half dead. Not one of these users of portfolio theory in twenty years of debates, explained how they could accept the Gaussian framework as well as large deviations. Not one.
Location 5505

Along the way I saw enough of the confirmation error to make Karl Popper stand up with rage. People would find data in which there were no jumps or extreme events, and show me a “proof” that one could use the Gaussian.
Location 5507

The entire statistical business confused absence of proof with proof of absence.
Location 5509

Furthermore, people did not understand the elementary asymmetry involved: you need one single observation to reject the Gaussian, but millions of observations will not fully confirm the validity of its application. Why? Because the Gaussian bell curve disallows large deviations, but tools of Extremistan, the alternative, do not disallow long quiet stretches.
Location 5510

Now, elegant mathematics has this property: it is perfectly right, not 99 percent so. This property appeals to mechanistic minds who do not want to deal with ambiguities. Unfortunately you have to cheat somewhere to make the world fit perfect mathematics; and you have to fudge your assumptions somewhere.
Location 5537

This is where you learn from the minds of military people and those who have responsibilities in security. They do not care about “perfect” ludic reasoning; they want realistic ecological assumptions. In the end, they care about lives.
Location 5541

I am most often irritated by those who attack the bishop but somehow fall for the securities analyst— those who exercise their skepticism against religion but not against economists, social scientists, and phony statisticians. Using the confirmation bias, these people will tell you that religion was horrible for mankind by counting deaths from the Inquisition and various religious wars. But they will not show you how many people were killed by nationalism, social science, and political theory under Stalinism or during the Vietnam War. Even priests don’t go to bishops when they feel ill: their first stop is the doctor’s.
Location 5702

Half the time I hate Black Swans, the other half I love them. I like the randomness that produces the texture of life, the positive accidents, the success of Apelles the painter, the potential gifts you do not have to pay for. Few understand the beauty in the story of Apelles; in fact, most people exercise their error avoidance by repressing the Apelles in them.
Location 5726

I worry less about small failures, more about large, potentially terminal ones.
Location 5731

I worry less about advertised and sensational risks, more about the more vicious hidden ones. I worry less about terrorism than about diabetes, less about matters people usually worry about because they are obvious worries, and more about matters that lie outside our consciousness and common discourse
Location 5734

I worry less about embarrassment than about missing an opportunity.
Location 5737

Snub your destiny. I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule. This may seem a very small piece of advice, but it registered. In refusing to run to catch trains, I have felt the true value of elegance and aesthetics in behavior, a sense of being in control of my time, my schedule, and my life. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking.
Location 5753

You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside of it, if you do so by choice.
Location 5756

Quitting a high-paying position, if it is your decision, will seem a better payoff than the utility of the money involved (this may seem crazy, but I’ve tried it and it works). This is the first step toward the stoic’s throwing a four-letter word at fate. You have far more control over your life if you decide on your criterion by yourself.
Location 5757

Mother Nature has given us some defense mechanisms: as in Aesop’s fable, one of these is our ability to consider that the grapes we cannot (or did not) reach are sour. But an aggressively stoic prior disdain and rejection of the grapes is even more rewarding. Be aggressive; be the one to resign, if you have the guts.
Location 5760

It is more difficult to be a loser in a game you set up yourself. In Black Swan terms, this means that you are exposed to the improbable only if you let it control you. You always control what you do; so make this your end.
Location 5762

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