Thursday, August 30, 2018

Monarchy of Fear

Liberals met the election of Donald Trump with "fear". The author attempts to analyze her own fear as well as the roll of fear in human society and development. She had grown up in a conservative "by the bootstraps" family, and then married into judaism, adopting the social justice tenants into her life, and retaining the identity even after divorcing.
Young human infants are born more helpless than most animals, and are driven by fear to make their demands on their caregivers.
I was somewhat disappointed that the focus tended to be on "other people's fear". The meat of the book was spent analyzing the "right wing fear" that has driven the election of Trump. The fear of "liberal fear" that the author felt upon the election of Trump was given only brief coverage at the start and end. The author cited a number of ancient philosophers in the discussion of modern fear, but the focus seemed to be "a liberal's interpretation of Trump supporter's fear" rather than a general fear in society. Trump supporters are portrayed as an extension of white, protestant men who see their privilege being eroded by the gains of other minorities. They are shown as driven by disgust of others and taking out their feelings against "others". However, very little time was spent putting this in context. There was also a curious group argument. A woman was "expected" to vote for Hillary Clinton unless there was a strong reason otherwise. Why? Would people just be required to vote for the person that looked most like them? What drives the liberal fear of Trump? Are the angry white men really in a position of privilege? Or are they poor people that have always been at the bottom of a social ladder that keeps getting raised higher as other groups are "built up?" There are so many different areas that could be explored. Alas, this book primarily focuses on their fear of women in the workforce, gays and minorities. Are these really what drives the Trump support? Or are these just groups the left aligns with and thus "sees" as driving support. The other tries to delve into fear in general, but could use more effort to focus on the personal.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Story of Electricity

History has been understood to some extent long before Franklin and his kit flying. There was some confusion in how it worked (with Amber and electricity seeming similar.) This audiobook presents a quick run through of the discovery and understanding of electricity. A basic understanding was used for a traveling sideshow performances. (Of course - entertainment is the first venue for new tech.) The audiobook provides dramatized voicing to help enliven the history. Unfortunately, it comes across as just a rushed recitation of facts rather than a coherent story.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

When posits the thesis that "when" you do something can be as a more important than how you do it (or what you do.) Sometimes, bad timing can result in significantly different outcomes. Somebody that begins their career during a recession is likely to end up significantly behind somebody that started during an economic boom. Similarly, time of day can impact the decision making process. (Perhaps the Lucitania was sunk because the captain was not thinking well during the afternoon.) Different people have different times of peak decision making ability. Finding the time can help to make better decisions. Naps can also be very helpful in increasing productivity. (The author laments the ending of the Spanish siesta.) People like to hear the "bad news" first before hearing the good - yet we tend to preface bad news by telling the good. There are many other areas that can be helped by paying head to "when" things are done.

I was Especially interested in the books on time that he recommended:
168 hours - laura candercamp
A geography of time - Robert V Levine
Daily Rituals. How artists work
Internal Time
The Dance of Life - Edward T Hall

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a sappy tween love story that yanks on the heart strings. The story alternates between Seattle during World War II and Seattle of the mid 80s. Henry Lee is the son of strong Chinese nationalist father. He gets a "scholarship" to a white school, where he works in the kitchen with a Japanese girl, Keiko. Their friendship develops, much to the chagrin of his father. However, the Japanese internment separates the two. He manages to visit her in the camp on the Washington State fairgrounds as well as in Idaho. In the future, Henry has recently buried his wife and is watching his son come of age as he is graduating from college. Artifacts are discovered in the Panama hotel, and he searches through them to find remembrances of his youth.
The plot moves quickly and is loaded with vivid descriptions and street locations of Seattle of the 1940s. It makes you want to jump out and explore the International District (and wonder what was destroyed with the Freeway running right through there.) The Japanese Internment plays a big role in the story, with the emphasis on the decisions of individual people. There are few "evil" characters involved, yet some people's understanding of the "right thing" could be very harmful to others. Those who seek out the positive can remain happy regardless of the circumstances. The little bit of hope that is obtained can go a long way towards continuing on the path of happiness even when things appear miserable. (The Japanese do seem to be the master of making the best of a bad situation - It reminds me of the impeccable stadium and locker room after the Japanese soccer team lost.)
The love story stands well on its own. Two young kids are "forced" to advance their friendship by the circumstances of war. However, the same thing that hurries the relationship on also causes it to reach its premature end. Both are happy living their new life apart and with others. There is no need to look back at what had been. However, there is still opportunity to come back and celebrate the later life.
There is a complicated theme of family relationships. Fathers try to do what is best for their children. However, they can often pass along their own "bad behaviors" to their children even as they try to avoid them. There is also the relationship between Henry and a jazz street saxaphonist that winds its way through the story. They meet as Henry is going to the white school. They become friends and help each other out. The jazz music becomes a special unifying force among all of them.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive

Oathbringer is a long book, even by Brandon Sanderson standards. The story centers around the arrival of the voidbringers, and the negative implications on society. The world consists of humans as well as other living beings with different attributes. In this universe, eye color determines social class. Even after a great upheaval that would negate any previous social standings, people would still revert back to their old ways.
I was confused with the various characters in the story. There seemed to be a few different groups that were fighting against each other, along with a few competing religions, with some magical deities. Despite being in some fantasy world, many concerns of modern society are displayed. Some people discover that a woman may in fact be the best leader. People eventually find out that their homeland was actually taken from another people. There are questions over what is right and ethical based on the their current situation. (There is a ton of violence, ranging form the destruction of a town to the "end of the world".)