Monday, December 26, 2016

What If?

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical QuestionsWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you want to know trivia about space, physics, genes, or anything and everything that could blow up earth, you should peruse this book. It is science, but in set in extremes it becomes entertainment. My favorite is what a mole of moles would look like, because, really, who hasn't wondered that? I will probably forget most of this, but in the meantime, I am making small talk about bullets with the density of a neutron star.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Maman

I am a mother.
I am a widow.
I am a hunter.
I am a weaver.
I am a seductress
And a maneater.
I am an artist
And an architect.

Those eight eyes
    unblinking,
    unseeing.
Eight legs splayed like a crown
Atop a crystal castle I have built
Running in endless circles,
Trailing gossamer,
Exhaling venom.
Like any tightrope walker,
I keep my head up,
But my chin down.

When that buzzing bastard
Tries to break my walls,
I'll bleed him dry.

Lexicon

LexiconLexicon by Max Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I immensely enjoyed this book. It had great characters, thrilling plot, mystery, love, and WORDS! Words wield immense power in this present day sci-fi thriller, and there were little nuggets of word histories and mythologies spread throughout. The action and pacing were superb...one of the few books I read this year that I literally could not put down. Only a couple of vague plot points and inconsistencies keep this from being outstanding....my main gripe: if poets (the people who know how to wield words like weapons) are in such control of their emotions, reactions, and words, then there should not be the voluminous amount of swearing. Swearing is crude, reactive, and frankly not creative, so seems completely out of character for poets to use.


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Rogue Lawyer

Rogue LawyerRogue Lawyer by John Grisham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sebastian is a rogue lawyer who is constantly reminding the reader that people want to kill him, though you get the feeling he is proud of that fact. He is self-righteous, sanctimonious, impatient, and overused the word "clown" to describe those he sees as idiots (which is pretty much everyone else). Oh, and he has a pony tail, which I can just never respect. Yet somehow he grows on you and what seems like a serial of cases get all inter-tangled at the end to make a satisfying if not particularly memorable read. It's all basically a rant on the deterioration of the justice system, but somehow it was highly entertaining after all. And a bonus I realized post-read: despite working with miscreants and criminals and being a cantankerous old fart himself, the book was basically clean...no swear words! :)


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The Summer Guest

The Summer GuestThe Summer Guest by Alison Anderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

These are the things I liked: I liked the character of Zinaida and her sisters. I thought a family of daughter doctors and teachers was fascinating at that time, and to have access to other artistic and intellectual minds through her musical brother George and their guests, the Chekovs would be amazing.
Yes, I think that is it. I found the plot implausible, the action passive, and the twist was not a twist for the reader (at least this reader). Even the conversations between Anton and Z. were not unique or especially enlightening. The two contemporary characters were boring and depressing. One final rant: the lack of quotation marks was confusing and maddening.


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Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Little Life

A Little LifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"x=x "is the most tragic sentence I have ever read. It comes about half way through the book, and it hit with a powerful gut punch that left you gasping for air. The story should have stopped at that point. Up until then, the story of four college kids was beautifully unfurled as each of them start embarking on their careers. The story comes to center on Jude, one of the four who refuses to reveal his past (which you know must be ugly), and is slightly physically disabled from a "car injury". Somehow he finds himself not only included but a person for whom the most thoughtful of kindnesses are done for him, especially by his best friend, William. But halfway through the book Jude finds himself in tragic circumstances....if we were to end the book there, it wouldn't be happy, but from that point on the dynamic writing of the first half changes to a sort of plodding exposition of life; it dilutes the the power of the first half. The narrative gets smaller, and the other characters lives are only revealed through interactions with Jude. Even Williams point of view chapters only reveal interactions with Jude, only touching briefly on what his life as an actor is like. Nothing really changes from that point on, anyway-- in the end, it is as though the book had stopped at 50% anyway.
Also, while the narrative is admittedly beautifully written, the plot points seem rather far fetched. Jude's life seems overbearingly tragic. The four end up fabulously successful and wealthy. (Really, all four?) And the characters are amazingly brutal or incredibly, unbelieveably kind. JB is the only character who has any kind of growth arch, or complicated feeleings/motives...perhaps Yangihara could write a sequel about him?

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his family was happy when he was happy, and so his only obligation to them was to be happy, to live exactly the life he wanted, on the terms he wanted.

When did pursuing your ambitions cross the line from brave into foolhardy? How did you know when to stop?

But these were days of self-fulfillment, where settling for something that was not quite your first choice of a life seemed weak-willed and ignoble. Somewhere, surrendering to what seemed to be your fate had changed from being dignified to being a sign of your own cowardice. There were times when the pressure to achieve happiness felt almost oppressive, as if happiness were something that everyone should and could attain, and that any sort of compromise in its pursuit was somehow your fault.

He had lost the ability to imagine anything.

suety yellow.

the Constitution itself is a contract, albeit a malleable contract, and the question of just how malleable it is, exactly, is where law intersects with politics

In this class you will learn the difference between what is fair and what is just, and, as important, between what is fair and what is necessary

 how they had left him to himself, a blank, faceless prairie under whose yellow surface earthworms and beetles wriggled through the black soil, and chips of bone calcified slowly into stone.

the U.S. Attorney himself would emerge onto the floor and all the assistant prosecutors would buzz toward him, mothlike, as a multitude of gray suits.

 “If I were a different kind of person, I might say that this whole incident is a metaphor for life in general: things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully. “Actually—maybe I am that kind of person after all.

 But what Andy never understood about him was this: he was an optimist. Every month, every week, he chose to open his eyes, to live another day in the world.

 would think how absurd it was that my child, that any child, could expect to survive this life. It seemed as improbable as the survival of one of those late-spring butterflies—you know, those little white ones—I sometimes saw wobbling through the air, always just millimeters away from smacking itself against a windshield.

 And let me tell you two other things I learned. The first is that it doesn’t matter how old that child is, or when or how he became yours. Once you decide to think of someone as your child, something changes, and everything you have previously enjoyed about them, everything you have previously felt for them, is preceded first by that fear. It’s not biological; it’s something extra-biological, less a determination to ensure the survival of one’s genetic code, and more a desire to prove oneself inviolable to the universe’s feints and challenges, to triumph over the things that want to destroy what’s yours.

 when it’s your child, a part of you, a very tiny but nonetheless unignorable part of you, also feels relief. Because finally, the moment you have been expecting, been dreading, been preparing yourself for since the day you became a parent, has come. Ah, you tell yourself, it’s arrived. Here it is. And after that, you have nothing to fear again.

“Fair” is never an answer, I would tell them. But it is always a consideration.

Failure also made people boring, but in a different way: failing people were constantly striving for one thing—success. But successful people were also only striving to maintain their success. It was the difference between running and running in place, and although running was boring no matter what, at least the person running was moving, through different scenery and past different vistas.

He is so lonely that he sometimes feels it physically, a sodden clump of dirty laundry pressing against his chest.

 the point of a child is not what you hope he will accomplish in your name but the pleasure that he will bring you, whatever form it comes in, even if it is a form that is barely recognizable as pleasure at all—and, more important, the pleasure you will be privileged to bring him.

 They all—Malcolm with his houses, Willem with his girlfriends, JB with his paints, he with his razors—sought comfort, something that was theirs alone, something to hold off the terrifying largeness, the impossibility, of the world, of the relentlessness of its minutes, its hours, its days.

 he was old enough now to know that within every relationship was something unfulfilled and disappointing, something that had to be sought elsewhere.

 now he knew: you always sacrificed something. The question was what you sacrificed.

 He now viewed a successful relationship as one in which both people had recognized the best of what the other person had to offer and had chosen to value it as well.

 his responsibility was not to make him better but to make him less sick.

And so he fears he is grieving not so much for Willem but for his own life: its smallness, its worthlessness.

was the determination to keep living not a choice at all, but an evolutionary implementation? Was there something in the mind itself, a constellation of neurons as toughened and scarred as tendon, that prevented humans from doing what logic so often argued they should?

Sisters in Law

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the WorldSisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found it fascinating how different these first two women judges were, yet the similarities and cooperation they did have was fascinating as well. The author obviously has very liberal feminist leanings and Ginsburg was a model activist for that perspective. That, along with more accessible personal documents made the book a bit lopsided toward Ginsburg. O'Connor still feels like a mystery to me. She didn't fit the mold of what the author thought a feminist should be, often acting and judging in ways that seemed to be anti-feminist (voting for tighter abortion retictions, for example), so the author would try to convince us and herself that she was just politically savvy, that too much too soon would put the movement in jeopardy, etc. it frustrated me that other theories weren't considered...that maybe she was a feminist that also considered the negative implications of being completely equal with men, or considered abortion as a moral issue and not as a rights issue. Over all, it was an interesting read on how women's rights were slowly granted by the courts (Ginsburg did most of the heavy lifting), and mostly by arguing cases against protections for women for men's benefits (like letting men into women's colleges, or letting men receive benefits from their wives workplaces). Because O'Connor and Ginsburg were so different politically, the times they did agree showed how important it is to have women in leadership positions. There should be a woman's voice represented in decisions that affect a population where more than half are women.

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Life would be “better,” to Ruth’s mentor, if people stopped using the language of patriotism to defend their privileges and the less powerful were free to speak against them.

Maybe someday women should be treated differently from men as opposed to being treated the same, Mill said in his landmark essay “The Subjection of Women” a century before Ginsburg set out on her quest, but first we must try equality. “Experience cannot possibly have decided between two courses, so long as there has only been experience of one.”


it took some hard looking to distinguish the cage of being stereotyped as dependent from the gilt of more benefits.