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:

The Little House On The Prairie

Book Review

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 Review

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.



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 Review

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 Review

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.


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 Review

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?”


“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 Review

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 Review

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 Review

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."


"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 Review

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 Review

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?”


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 Review

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 Review

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


Book Review

I really don't know where I heard of this book, or why I picked it up. I bought it in ebook format and made it through maybe 20 pages before I put it down, walked down to Powells, and bought a hardback copy of the book. This is the way I read books now: ebook from the library if I can, tree book if I can't, purchased ebook if neither of those. If I like the book, if it is a book I want to loan out, have on my bookshelf, or reread, I will buy it in paper format. If I want to keep it forever (for a short definition of "forever"), I will buy a hardback version. I knew in the first 20 pages, I wanted this one in hardback.

It did not disappoint.

This book is about finding what is essential in your life, and committing to only that, rejecting the parts that do not help you on your journey to what you find essential. Saying no is hard. Defining that is essential is hard. Having a good life is hard. This book helps in that journey. This book gives you permission, if you need it, to discard all the parts of your life holding you back, not helping, not worth your limited time.

I can't say I'm following all of the advice in the book, nor can I say all the advice or rah-rah-rah stories in the book are relevant to everyone or anyone. I found the book inspiring and life-changing. Let me buy you a copy.

The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. —Lin Yutang
Page 1

One reason is that in our society we are punished for good behavior (saying no) and rewarded for bad behavior (saying yes). The former is often awkward in the moment, and the latter is often celebrated in the moment.
Page 12

It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.
Page 15

This requires, not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials, and not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but cutting out some really good opportunities as well.
Page 16

As Peter Drucker said, “People are effective because they say ‘no,’ because they say, ‘this isn’t for me.’ ”
Page 23

To eliminate nonessentials means saying no to someone. Often. It means pushing against social expectations. To do it well takes courage and compassion. So eliminating the nonessentials isn’t just about mental discipline. It’s about the emotional discipline necessary to say no to social pressure.
Page 23

What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and being undersold the value of having less?
Page 26

To harness the courage we need to get on the right path, it pays to reflect on how short life really is and what we want to accomplish in the little time we have left. As poet Mary Oliver wrote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
Part I: Essence: What is the core mind-set of an Essentialist?
Page 26

There are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist: “I have to,” “It’s all important,” and “I can do both.” Like mythological sirens, these assumptions are as dangerous as they are seductive. They draw us in and drown us in shallow waters.
Page 32

To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.” These simple truths awaken us from our nonessential stupor. They free us to pursue what really matters. They enable us to live at our highest level of contribution.
Page 32

“If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do?”
Page 34

We often think of choice as a thing. But a choice is not a thing. Our options may be things, but a choice—a choice is an action. It is not just something we have but something we do.
Page 35

Have you ever felt stuck because you believed you did not really have a choice? Have you ever felt the stress that comes from simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs: “I can’t do this” and “I have to do this”? Have you ever given up your power to choose bit by bit until you allowed yourself to blindly follow a path prescribed by another person?
Page 35

I’ll be the first to admit that choices are hard. By definition they involve saying no to something or several somethings, and that can feel like a loss.
Page 38

William James once wrote, “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”
Page 40

Most people have heard of the “Pareto Principle,” the idea, introduced as far back as the 1790s by Vilfredo Pareto, that 20 percent of our efforts produce 80 percent of results.
Page 43

As John Maxwell has written, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
Page 45

It was an example of his Essentialist thinking at work when he said: “You have to look at every opportunity and say, ‘Well, no … I’m sorry. We’re not going to do a thousand different things that really won’t contribute much to the end result we are trying to achieve.’ ”
Page 50

In the simplest terms, straddling means keeping your existing strategy intact while simultaneously also trying to adopt the strategy of a competitor.
Page 50

The reality is, saying yes to any opportunity by definition requires saying no to several others.
Page 52

“We value passion, innovation, execution, and leadership.” One of several problems with the list is, Who doesn’t value these things? Another problem is that this tells employees nothing about what the company values most. It says nothing about what choices employees should be making when these values are at odds.
Page 52

To say they value equally everyone they interact with leaves management with no clear guidance on what to do when faced with trade-offs between the people they serve.
Page 53

Unlike most corporate mission statements, the Credo actually lists the constituents of the company in priority order. Customers are first; shareholders are last.
Page 53

As painful as they can sometimes be, trade-offs represent a significant opportunity. By forcing us to weigh both options and strategically select
Page 55

the best one for us, we significantly increase our chance of achieving the outcome we want.
Page 55

Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” The cumulative impact of this small change in thinking can be profound.
Part II: Explore: How can we discern the trivial many from the vital few?
Page 56

Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking. But their exploration is not an end in itself. The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.
Page 62

In this space he is able to think about the essential questions: what the company will look like in three to five years; what’s the best way to improve an already popular product or address an unmet customer need; how to widen a competitive advantage or close a competitive gap. He also uses the space he creates to recharge himself emotionally. This allows him to shift between problem-solving mode and the coaching mode expected of him as a leader.
Page 69

“In that instant,” Ephron recalls, “I realized that journalism was not just about regurgitating the facts but about figuring out the point. It wasn’t enough to know the who, what, when, and where; you had to understand what it meant. And why it mattered.”
Page 74

anyone. The best journalists do not simply relay information. Their value is in discovering what really matters to people.
Page 75

Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyper-focusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture.
Page 75

The best journalists, as Friedman shared later with me, listen for what others do not hear.
Page 76

I also suggest that once every ninety days or so you take an hour to read your journal entries from that period.
Page 78

Capture the headline. Look for the lead in your day, your week, your life. Small, incremental changes are hard to see in the moment but over time can have a huge cumulative effect.
Page 78

Play, which I would define as anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than as a means to an end—
Page 85

Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has studied what are called the play histories. “Play,” he says, “leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity.” As he succinctly puts it, “Nothing fires up the brain like play.”
Page 85

First, play broadens the range of options available to us. It helps us to see possibilities we otherwise wouldn’t have seen and make connections we would otherwise not have made.
Page 86

Play stimulates the parts of the brain involved in both careful, logical reasoning and carefree, unbound exploration.
Page 87

In his book, Brown includes a primer to help readers reconnect with play. He suggests that readers mine their past
7. Play: Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child >Page 90

Here’s a simple, systematic process you can use to apply selective criteria to opportunities that come your way. First, write down the opportunity. Second, write down a list of three “minimum criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered. Third, write down a list of three ideal or “extreme criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered. By definition, if the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria, the answer is obviously no. But if it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no.
Page 111

Instead, why not conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: “What am I deeply passionate about?” and “What taps my talent?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?”
Page 112

Ask the more essential question that will inform every future decision you will ever make: “If we could be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?”
Page 127

Have you ever felt a tension between what you felt was right and what someone was pressuring you to do? Have you ever felt the conflict between your internal conviction and an external action? Have you ever said yes when you meant no simply to avoid conflict or friction? Have you ever felt too scared or timid to turn down an invitation or request from a boss, colleague, friend, neighbor, or family member for fear of disappointing them?

If you have, you’re not alone. Navigating these moments with courage and grace is one of the most important skills to master in becoming an Essentialist—and one of the hardest.
Page 132

So why is it so hard in the moment to dare to choose what is essential over what is nonessential? One simple answer is we are unclear about what is essential. When this happens we become defenseless. On the other hand, when we have strong internal clarity it is almost as if we have a force field protecting us from the nonessentials coming at us from all directions. With Rosa it was her deep moral clarity that gave her unusual courage of conviction.
Page 134

You can apply zero-based budgeting to your own endeavors. Instead of trying to budget your time on the basis of existing commitments, assume that all bets are off. All previous commitments are gone. Then begin from scratch, asking which you would add today. You can do this with everything from the financial obligations you have to projects you are committed to, even relationships you are in. Every use of time, energy, or resources has to justify itself anew. If it no longer fits, eliminate it altogether.
Page 152

By quietly eliminating or at least scaling back an activity for a few days or weeks you might be able to assess whether it is really making a difference or whether no one really cares.
Page 154

Becoming an editor in our lives also includes knowing when to show restraint. One way we can do this is by editing our tendency to step in. When we are added onto an e-mail thread, for example, we can resist our usual temptation to be the first to reply all. When sitting in a meeting, we can resist the urge to add our two cents. We can wait. We can observe. We can see how things develop. Doing less is not just a powerful Essentialist strategy, it’s a powerful editorial one as well.
Page 162

The question is this: What is the “slowest hiker” in your job or your life? What is the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you? By systematically identifying and removing this “constraint” you’ll be able to significantly reduce the friction keeping you from executing what is essential.
Page 187

After On

Book Review

Okay, whatever you do, do not read this book. The writing of this book is so verbose, so desperately in need of an editor, so as to be nearly unreadable. Couple that with the location of the book, Silicon Valley, and the somewhat accurate portrayal of the places in Silicon Valley, of the stunningly stupid ideas that get funded, of the pervasive sense of entitlement, and of the vulgar pursuit of winning the IPO jackpot instead of actually building something meaningful, and you have a book that just screams crap.

Did I mention the verbosity?

Yeah, well the editing is worse. If you want to experience this book, listen to it on audiobook. At three times speed. Keep the pain as short as possible.

I was exporting some of the parts I thought might be worth quoting, and gave up. I just don't like this book. Moazam didn't either. I was on a road trip for 40 hours, I was a captive audience. Moazam wasn't. He couldn't finish it. Not recommended.

Upon it, an image of numerous foggy, craggy acres was rendered. “Do you recognize this terrain?” Dr. Phillips inquired. To the untrained eye, it might have been a region of the Scottish Highlands, or the maritime reaches of Oregon, or a temperate sector of Alaska.
Page 19

There, with plenty of smart, attractive women on hand, Mitchell’s like a kid in a candy store. A penniless, ravenous kid. One who can look all he wants, but that’s it. Or maybe “a meat-loving vegan at a cookout” maps better, because his hunger is principled, and self-imposed (and also, more primal than a grumpy sweet tooth). The thing is, Mitchell has essentially opted out of romance. It’s a long story.
Page 21

“Yes, they’ll say that,” Kuba agrees. “And they won’t be entirely wrong. Cynical. But not wrong. Because the tech itself could be used for practically anything, good or bad. It’s as value neutral as a smartphone. Or a computer.”
Page 27

But the biggest-paying advertiser, brand manager, and spin doctor will ultimately be us, the Phluttr user base. There are gold mines to extract from our desperate urge to be heard!
Page 31

You see, Fortune’s a bitch with a great sense of humor...
Page 37

Of course, all companies make hiring boo-boos. But when the true greats make them really early on, some real knuckleheads can get moronically rich. This effect produces plenty of accidental tech millionaires. Some accidental gazillionaires, too—but only a smattering of Pugwashes, and the man is rather famous. Some take his exquisite luck almost personally. Not merely those who worked far harder for far lesser bonanzai (although to be clear, those folks’re plenty pissed). But also those who are even richer still through their own godsends of timing, genetics, or happenstance, and have since fetishized a vision of the industry as an immaculate meritocracy. Those who fancy that they earned every dime of their tech fortunes through talent, toil, and daring (which is almost everyone who has one) regard any whiff of the lottery (Pugwash, for instance) as a PR liability.
Page 37

Because certain problems are completely resistant to increased rumination. But things are different for a diplomat who has spent years engaged in Russian-American relations. Not because he knows more facts and figures, because that stuff’s available to all of us via Google, now. But because his framework includes lots of intuition. Educated guesses. Vague rules of thumb that have just kind of worked over the years—that sort of thing.
Page 40

“Precisely. And by mastering Synthetic Biology and Nanotechnology, it will likewise be functionally omnipotent! As such, it could preclude the creation of any subsequent ‘me-too’ Super AI as easily as a Harvard Trained Biochemist could stop a helpless bacterium from reproducing in a petri dish!”
Page 50

Grown-up that he is, Mitchell can get a bit homesick when the chips are down, the weather’s blandly OK-ish for the bazillionth day in a row, and he’s gone yet another month without meeting a single fellow hockey fan. Even a lot homesick.
Page 51

Just as you rarely see something that’s perfectly blue in nature, unadulterated joy seems to be rare in human minds. More likely, we’ll see nine or ten happy motes, with other things mixed in.
Page 55

Fear comes in lots of flavors, but they’re all a mix of sadness and surprise, often with a dash of anger. Another example is indignation. That’s lots of anger, and a bit of surprise, with some sadness mixed in. And also, some happiness. Which makes sense when you consider that some folks really seem
Page 55

to enjoy being offended!
Page 55

And if you tried to heed every photon, sound wave, and nerve ending that you can access at once, you wouldn’t really be aware of any of it.” “You’re saying I’d be functionally unconscious.” “Exactly! Which is why you’re not currently registering the color of the ninth cookbook from the far left of the fourth shelf over my shoulder. You’re perceiving it. But you’re not heeding it.
Page 58

When he wasn’t incredibly bummed (rare, but it also happened)! Or, unbelievably pissed off (rarer still, but also happened)! His psyche was all binge and no purge—hammering either the gas or the brakes at all times!!!
Page 93

Man, talk about how I react.

“Is that Phluttr’s release about… Norway, is it?” Mitchell guesses. He’s been meaning to look it up himself.

“Iceland,” Kuba says, holding out the computer.

“You realize you’re about to physically hand me a digital article,” Mitchell points out, “and how very odd that is. Are you sure you don’t just want to print it and fax it to me?”

“I want to see your reaction to this in person.
Page 114

This cracked me up.

Parable of the Sower

Book Review

Yes, I finished this book at 3:06 in the morning.

This book has been on my to-read stack for a while, mostly on Claire's recommendation. Claire's recommendations haven't been off yet, so I picked up this Butler book, and was more than a little stunned at how, well, prophetic Butler was.

The first part of the book, the set up for the disaster and the plot that follows, reminded me of just how unprepared I am for a disaster (human-made or otherwise). The world we live in is more fragile than we think.

It is also more resilient than we realize. Even as things go bad, and the world becomes more and more authoritarian, Butler doesn't see it as falling apart. There is some level of civilization and technology, unlike, say, A Canticle for Leibowitz.

Other aspects I found interesting was the assumption of commonplace violence. These days, we are still horrified by casual violence. In this book, few people are, it is so integrated into the world.

I wrote a couple more notes when I was reading the book. The corporate take-over of communities, and the disparate levels of protection (if you pay, the police will actually investigate, otherwise, you're out of luck) really aren't that difficult to see from our current society.

The part that struck home, however, is the understand that water is a scarce resource. That. Yeah.

This book is way worth reading, not only because of discomfort revealed in the dystopia that Butler describes, but for the warning that comes with that world. One almost wishes the religion Butler describes could exist.

PRODIGY IS, AT ITS essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all.

Page 2

Three smart sons and one dumb one, and it’s the dumb one she loves best.
Page 9

I get a lot of grief that doesn’t belong to me, and that isn’t real. But it hurts.
Page 12

Keith says God is just the adults’ way of trying to scare you into doing what they want.
Page 14

In the book of Job, God says he made everything and he knows everything so no one has any right to question what he does with any of it. Okay. That works. That Old Testament God doesn’t violate the way things are now. But that God sounds a lot like Zeus—a super-powerful man, playing with his toys the way my youngest brothers play with toy soldiers. Bang, bang! Seven toys fall dead. If they’re yours, you make the rules. Who cares what the toys think. Wipe out a toy’s family, then give it a brand new family. Toy children, like Job’s children, are interchangeable.
Page 16

To me, dead bodies are disgusting. They stink, and if they’re old enough, there are maggots. But what the hell? They’re dead. They aren’t suffering, and if you didn’t like them when they were alive, why get so upset about their being dead?
Page 23

God can’t be resisted or stopped, but can be shaped and focused. This means God is not to be prayed to. Prayers only help the person doing the praying, and then, only if they strengthen and focus that persons resolve. If they’re used that way, they can help us in our only real relationship with God. They help us to shape God and to accept and work with the shapes that God imposes on us. God is power, and in the end, God prevails.
Page 25

But we can rig the game in our own favor if we understand that God exists to be shaped, and will be shaped, with or without our forethought, with or without our intent.
Page 25

Every one knows that change is inevitable. From the second law of thermodynamics to Darwinian evolution, from Buddhism’s insistence that nothing is permanent and all suffering results from our delusions of permanence to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes (“ To everything there is a season”), change is part of life, of existence, of the common wisdom.
Page 26

Of course, no one called the fire department. No one would take on fire service fees just to save an unoccupied garage.
Page 32

At first there were a few neighbors who didn’t like that—older ones who said it was the job of the police to protect them, younger ones who worried that their little children would find their guns, and religious ones who didn’t think a minister of the gospel should need guns. This was several years ago.
Page 39

But my room is still mine. It’s the one place in the world where I can go and not be followed by anyone I don’t invite in.
Page 51

felt on the verge of talking to her about things I hadn’t talked about before. I’d written about them. Sometimes I write to keep from going crazy. There’s a world of things I don’t feel free to talk to anyone about.
Page 52

But even superficial comfort is better than none, I guess. I tried another tactic.
Page 56

Three books on survival in the wilderness, three on guns and shooting, two each on handling medical emergencies, California native and naturalized plants and their uses, and basic living: logcabin-building, livestock raising, plant cultivation, soap making—that
Page 57

“Maybe it’s time to look down. Time to look for some hand and foot holds before we just get pushed in.”
Page 66

"And, of course, some won’t do anything at all. There are always people who won’t do anything.”
Page 66

I still feel inclined to trust her. But I can’t. I don’t. She has no idea how much she could have hurt me if I had given her just a few more words to use against me. I don’t think I’ll ever trust her again,
Page 68

The thing is, even with my writing problems, every time I understand a little more, I wonder why it’s taken me so long—why there was ever a time when I didn’t understand a thing so obvious and real and true.
Page 78

There’s always a lot to do before you get to go to heaven.
Page 85

Waiting is terrible. Waiting to be older is worse than other kinds of waiting because there’s nothing you can do to make it happen faster.
Page 89

My brother isn’t very smart, but he makes up for it in pure stubbornness. My father is smart and stubborn. Keith didn’t have a chance, but he made Dad work for his victory.
Page 93

I don't know what she's talking about. *whistles*

CIVILIZATION IS TO GROUPS what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation. Civilization, like intelligence, may serve well, serve adequately, or fail to serve its adaptive function. When civilization fails to serve, it must disintegrate unless it is acted upon by unifying internal or external forces.
Page 102

And they knew the cops liked to solve cases by “discovering” evidence against whomever they decided must be guilty. Best to give them nothing. They never helped when people called for help. They came later, and more often than not, made a bad situation worse.
Page 114

But if everyone could feel everyone else’s pain, who would torture? Who would cause anyone unnecessary pain?
Page 115

A biological conscience is better than no conscience at all.
Page 115

"You think it’s going to get sane? It’s never been sane. You just have to go ahead and live, no matter what.”
Page 142

People are setting fires to get rid of whomever they dislike from personal enemies to anyone who looks or sounds foreign or racially different. People are setting fires because they’re frustrated, angry, hopeless. They have no power to improve their lives, but they have the power to make others even more miserable. And the only way to prove to yourself that you have power is to use it.
Page 143

But people who have no homes will build fires. Even people like us who know what fire can do will build them. They give comfort, hot food, and a false sense of security.
Page 180

I showed him four verses in all—gentle, brief verses that might take hold of him without his realizing it and live in his memory without his intending that they should. Bits of the Bible had done that to me, staying with me even after I stopped believing.
Page 199

Worship is no good without action. With action, it’s only useful if it steadies you, focuses your efforts, eases your mind.”
Page 219

“That isn’t what God is for, but there are times when that’s what prayer is for. And there are times when that’s what these verses are for. God is Change, and in the end, God prevails. But there’s hope in understanding the nature of God—not punishing or jealous, but infinitely malleable. There’s comfort in realizing that everyone and everything yields to God. There’s power in knowing that God can be focused, diverted, shaped by anyone at all. But there’s no power in having strength and brains, and yet waiting for God to fix things for you or take revenge for you. You know that. You knew it when you took your family and got the hell out of your boss’s house. God will shape us all every day of our lives. Best to understand that and return the effort: Shape God.”
Page 220

I would love to teach Dominic Earthseed as he grows up. I would teach him and he would teach me. The questions little children ask drive you insane because they never stop. But they also make you think.
Page 221

We aren’t gang types. I don’t want gang types with their need to dominate, rob and terrorize. And yet we might have to dominate. We might have to rob to survive, and even terrorize to scare off or kill enemies. We’ll have to be very careful how we allow our needs to shape us.
Page 223

The nice thing about sitting and working alongside someone you don’t know very well, someone you’d like to know much better, is that you can talk with him or be quiet with him. You can get comfortable with him and with the awareness that you’ll soon be making love to him.
Page 260

"Her religion was important to her, so I went along. I saw how it comforted her, and I wanted to believe, but I never could.”
Page 261

“Stumbling across the truth isn’t the same as making things up.”
Page 261

“It sounds like some combination of Buddhism, existentialism, Sufism, and I don’t know what else,” he said. “Buddhism doesn’t make a god of the concept of change, but the impermanence of everything is a basic Buddhist principle.”
Page 261

“Human beings are good at creating hells for themselves even out of richness.”
Page 261

“I mean it’s too … straightforward. If you get people to accept it, they’ll make it more complicated, more open to interpretation, more mystical, and more comforting.”
Page 262

Strange how normal it’s become for us to lie on the ground and listen while nearby, people try to kill each other.
Page 269

“I’ll tell you, though, if we can convince ex-slaves that they can have freedom with us, no one will fight harder to keep it. We need better guns, though."
Page 292

Strange Dogs

Book Review

Oh, look!

An Expanse book! (And another book with a title that I confuse for another title, this one I read as "Strange Days" the entire time, until I wrote this review.)

OF COURSE I'm going to read it.

Okay, maybe not. I read this one because it was an Expanse book, knowing it might not have Holden in the plot. It didn't. I didn't find the main character particularly compelling, so this book took me a little longer to read than the Holden books do, even though it's a novella instead of a full novel.

The book is an on-the-ground, back story on one of the planets through the Ring. It left more questions than it exposed with the characters and dialogue, which might be the point of it, as a lead-in into the next book.

At this point, if not a hard-core, I'm-going-to-read-everything-Expanse fan, skip this one.

Her mother said that honey was better than molasses, but there weren’t any bees on Laconia. Cara had only ever seen pictures of them, and based on those, she didn’t like honey at all.
Location: 87

I giggled at this when I read it. Small children often don't like foods just because they are different from what they know. Except that adults do this, too, and spend a large amount of effort justifying why they don't like something, when, in reality, they don't know enough to know they don't like said something.

The focus of the family spotlight had moved past her. Momma bird was over. She couldn’t put her thumb on why that bothered her.
Location: 154

One of the hardest things about death is that life goes on.

She wondered if the windowless room was like being on a spaceship. Months or years without ever once going outside or hearing the rain tapping into puddles or being able to get away from Xan and her parents. Never being alone. Never feeling the sunlight on her face. Nothing changing. Nothing new. It sounded awful.
Location: 301

Oh, wow, yes, that would be awful, never having Alone Time.

She wondered if the dogs would want to be captured and studied. She thought not, and they’d already done more for her than the soldiers ever had.
Location: 468

Who is good and who is bad is often based on which perspective you see first. Not always, as some whos and many acts are simply evil. Excepting the obvious of those, who helped you, who talked with you first, who you interacted with last, these influence which side you end up on quite a bit.

“Because I hate feeling powerless,” he said. “I hate being reminded that the universe is so much bigger than I am. And that I can’t always protect people.”
Location: 542

The strangest thing was how normal they sounded. How much grief sounded like regular life.
Location: 581

Again, one of the hardest things about death is that life goes on.

Night on Earth was bright. That’s what they said. Their moon shone like a kind of second, crappy sun. Cities were big enough to drown out the stars with their extra glow.
Location: 616

Second, crappy sun. *snort*

Cara dropped to her knees and threw her arms around the dog, hugging the strange, too-solid flesh close to her. It was warm against her cheek, and rough. It smelled like cardamom and soil. It went still, like it wasn’t sure what do with her affection and joy, and it stayed still until she released it.
Location: 646

This scene reminded me of Bella, and of Chase. Both of those dogs were/are incredibly tolerant of my snuggling them.

There wasn’t a perfect answer, but she didn’t need a perfect one. Good enough was good enough. Making her way home was harder than leaving had been, which made some sense to her. Going away from a point, there were any number of paths, and all of them were right. Going back to the point, most paths were wrong.
Location: 700

Daemons are Forever

Book Review

Book 2 of the Secret Histories series.

Having read the first book in this series, and Green's Nightside series (and really liking the Nightside series), I was excited to start this book. The last book seemed to be the start of a long adventure, but still self-contained.

So, this book was a bit of the "I have just finished a grand adventure, I have power, what do I do with all this new power?" Well, you don't handle it well, you ignore those who supported you in your uphill battle, you do a lot of things wrong, and you become a jerk.

Based on how long-winded Green is in this book, and the reviews of subsequent books commenting about how the main character becomes cruel, I'm choosing not to continue reading this series. When I finished the first book, I was somewhat excited about this one. I'm not excited about this plot at all. I recommend the Nightside series over this one, by a long shot.

Maybe this is an okay book to read if you're a Green fan, but I'm not sure. I don't recommend it. Leave your memories of Eddie with the first book.

"When you work as a field agent, you learn pretty fast you can’t trust anyone."

“Not even those close to you?” said Molly, studying me solemnly with her huge dark eyes.

“Especially those. You always know where you are with an enemy; it’s only friends and loved ones who can betray you.”
Page: 6

The truth might set you free, but there’s nothing that says you have to be grateful.
Page: 6

“Never get attached to possessions,” Molly said briskly. “They’re just things, and you can always get more things.”
Page: 6

"Do you believe in karma, Molly?”

“My karma ran over my dogma.”
Page: 12

And you can’t ever be really close to anyone, when the life you share is a lie.
Page: 13

“If you start getting maudlin on me,” Molly said firmly, “I will slap you, and it will hurt. I told you; never look back. All you ever see are mistakes, failures, and missed opportunities. Concentrate on the here and now!"
Page: 14

“My world used to be so simple,” I said. “I knew who I was, and what I was, and what I was supposed to do with my life.”

“No,” said Molly, not raising her head from my shoulder. “You only thought you did. Welcome to the real world, Eddie. Hateful place, isn’t it?”
Page: 14

... a lot of them wanted to denounce other people as being against progress, or in favour of the wrong kind of progress, or just guilty of the sin of not agreeing with the speaker’s ideas.
Page: 27

Start as you mean to go on, or they’ll walk all over you.
Page: 33

“To keep me honest,” I said. “To tell me the things I need to know, whether I want to hear them or not. To rein me in when I go too far, try to make changes too quickly. Or to spur me on if I start dithering. You’ve always been the sensible one, Penny. A terrible thing to hear, I know, but facts are facts. If I can’t convince you something is right or necessary, maybe it isn’t. And . . . you know a hell of a lot more about running things and organising people than I do.”
Page: 40

So I chose people to advise me who I could trust to tell me the truth, whether I wanted to hear it or not; and who together might just be a match for me, if I looked like getting out of control.
Page: 47

No, he was Merlin Satanspawn, the Devil’s only begotten son. Born to be the Antichrist, but he refused the honour. He always had to go his own way.
Page: 56

This cracked me up, as Merlin Satanspawn is in the Nightside series, too.

There’s always someone we’d like to speak to in the past. Friends and relatives and loved ones, gone too soon, before we could say all the things we meant to say to them. The things we put off saying, because we always thought there’d be time . . . until suddenly there wasn’t.
Page: 58

“There are two main threats to humanity,” the Armourer said ponderously, slipping into his lecture mode. “Doesn’t matter whether they’re scientific or magical in origin, mythical or political or biblical; all of humanity’s enemies can be separated into two distinct kinds. Those who do us harm because they hope to gain something from it; these we call demons. And those who are too big to care about us, but who might do us harm just because we’re in the way; those we call gods, for want of a better word. The family is trained and equipped to deal with demons. The gods are best handled delicately, from a safe distance, and through as many intermediaries as possible.”
Page: 59

"You want them destroyed almost as much as I do, and the enemy of my enemy can be my ally, if not my friend.”
Page: 75

“You can’t trust anything he says. Hell always lies, except when a truth can hurt you more.”
Page: 76

“You are allowed to hold me when you’re feeling down, you know,” said Molly. “It’s allowed, when you’re in a relationship.”

“So we are definitely in one of those relationship things, are we?” I said.

“Yeah. It sneaked up on me when I wasn’t looking. You can squeeze my boobies, if you like.”

“Good to know.”
Page: 83


Look forward, never back. And never get too attached to anything or anyone, because the enemy will use that against you.
Page: 85

“Not everything that happens here is part of some conspiracy; it just seems that way."
Page: 99

The cemetery was dominated by Victorian styles, with oversized tombs and mausoleums, and fancy graves. That whole period was fascinated with death and all its trappings, and the graveyard was positively littered with statues of weeping angels, mourning cherubs, and enough morbid carvings and engravings to make even an undertaker shout Jesus! Get a life, dammit!
Page: 129

“Never look back, boy,” the Armourer said gruffly. “Concentrate on what you’re going to do next. Doesn’t matter if you lose a battle, as long as you win the war."
Page: 168

“There’s more to being a leader than being right,” said Penny. “You have to inspire, to motivate . . . and to know when to play politics with the right people.”
Page: 194

"The principles of waging war are really quite simple: divide and conquer, identify and strike at weak spots, and most of all, get everyone else so confused they don’t dare do anything for fear of doing the wrong thing.”
Page: 224

Failing that . . . you kill me, while I’m still me. Before I become something we’d both hate.”

“I couldn’t do that,” I said.

“You have to, Eddie. Just in case I’m not strong enough to do it myself.”
Page: 280

This is a fascinating theme to me. Kay had a similar concept in the Fionavar Trilogy: a death by the hand of a loved one is better than a death by the hand of an enemy.

We talked some more, but didn’t really say anything. Just the normal, reassuring things you say when you’re afraid in the dark.
Page: 280

"You can never trust politicians to do the right thing, Edwin, because at heart all they really care about is staying in power. They live in the present; it’s up to us to take the long view.”
Page: 288

“He knows that,” I said. “But hope springs eternal in the deluded heart."
Page: 299

It does.

“Everyone has to grow up eventually. All it took for me was an other-dimensional parasite infecting my body and eating my soul.”
Page: 306

“I’m scared, Eddie. Scared of becoming less and less me, and becoming something that won’t even care what it’s lost. I won’t even care that I don’t love you anymore."
Page: 307

“We all have things in our life that we would wish undone,” William said carefully. He clearly wanted very much to swallow, but didn’t dare. “But sins can never be undone. Only pardoned.”
Page: 320

Ever since he retired from field work, Uncle Jack had not so much lost his people skills as thrown them away.
Page: 323

The Sarjeant-at-Arms made his guns disappear again, and folded his arms tightly with a definite Look at me I’m not sulking even though I have cause expression on his face.
Page: 357

The weapon didn’t actually look like much, but then, the really nasty ones often don’t.
Page: 359

“It’s really very simple,” said Jay.

“No it isn’t,” I said. “No explanation that begins that way ever is.”
Page: 363

“This . . . is how I die. Jacob finally remembered. I don’t mind, really. It’s . . . a good death. Spitting in the face of the enemy, saving the innocent; for the family. A Drood’s death.”
Page: 363

"Some things . . . just are. Because they’re needed.”
Page: 365

“This is the place where quests fail,” Subway Sue said quietly. “Where love is always unrequited, promises are broken, and only bad dreams come true.”
Page: 369

“Always a good idea to have a little surprise in reserve. For when you absolutely have to kill every living thing that annoys you.”
Page: 373

"A trained soldier with a blade is a match for any number of unarmed rabble.”
Page: 373

There were so many things I wished I’d done, or said. So many things I meant to do . . . but I suppose that’s always true, no matter when you die.
Page: 373

“It’s just another place,” he said. “The details change, but that’s all. You can cope. You can adapt. Because you’re human, and that’s what humans do. We roll with the punch, and we come back fighting. If you can’t cope with what you’re seeing, let your mind translate it into something you can cope with. You’re stronger than you think, Eddie, Molly. No matter how weird things get here, remember; it’s just another place.”
Page: 390

It might be a very small thing to be human, in this largest of worlds, but even the smallest insect can pack a deadly sting.
Page: 390

“Manifest Destiny is an idea, a philosophy. It’ll always be around, in some form or another. There’ll always be small, bitter people ready to follow some charismatic leader who promises them peace and happiness through justified violence and the killing of scapegoats.”
Page: 400

What good would it do? Sometimes love is in the things we don’t tell each other.
Page: 403

Power of Habit

Book Review

My in-progress progress notes included:

This is the third book in a row I've read that has a story about Rosa Parks in it. When she came up in one book, I wondered if I had read this book before. When she came up in this book, honestly, I had to roll my eyes a bit. Not at Parks in particular, but at the different interpretations, meanings, and explanations of her refusal, arrest, courage, and trial.

I liked the first third of this book.

As a fan of BJ Fogg and his research, I am fascinated and interested in habits and how they can improve people's lives. I actively try to fix my bad habits, and have been for years. I actively try to create good habits, and have been for years. Fogg's Tiny Habits workshop was instrumental in my journey.

So, when I was hit with a particular bad depression, my routines helped me cope. When I mentioned the depression, and the depth of it, Matthew handed me his copy of this book. I realized I already had a copy, so I read it instead.

Which is to say, I finished it this time.

The first third of the book is good. It has applicable information on how someone can improve their life (gah, the plural possessive for a singular noun! killing me!) by recognizing and improving their habits. The first third of the book is fantastic.

The middle third was okay. The last third was pretty much filler. I would argue a new reader could ignore the last two thirds and still take away the best parts of this book.

That said, the book is still worth reading. Especially if you have no history or background in the power of habits and habitual thinking.

At boot camp, he had absorbed habits for loading his weapon, falling asleep in a war zone, maintaining focus amid the chaos of battle, and making decisions while exhausted and overwhelmed. He had attended classes that taught him habits for saving money, exercising each day, and communicating with bunkmates. As he moved up the ranks, he learned the importance of organizational habits in ensuring that subordinates could make decisions without constantly asking permission, and how the right routines made it easier to work alongside people he normally couldn’t stand. And now, as an impromptu nation builder, he was seeing how crowds and cultures abided by many of the same rules. In some sense, he said, a community was a giant collection of habits occurring among thousands of people...
Location: 164

So he sought help from a physician whose tolerance for experimentation outweighed his fear of malpractice.
Location: 258

This is a rare individual indeed. One could argue, a physician who does the right thing.

Parks’s husband was opposed to the idea. “The white folks will kill you, Rosa,” he told her.
Location: 3,402

This is the third book in a row that gives a different description of what Rosa Park went through. I find the different portrayals fascinating. I also find her being quoted / discussed so frequently fascinating.

There’s a natural instinct embedded in friendship, a sympathy that makes us willing to fight for someone we like when they are treated unjustly.
Location: 3,419

Studies show that people have no problem ignoring strangers’ injuries, but when a friend is insulted, our sense of outrage is enough to overcome the inertia that usually makes protests hard to organize.
Location: 3,420

Our weak-tie acquaintances are often as influential—if not more—than our close-tie friends.
Location: 3,456

Skin Game

Book Review

The Dresden Files, book 15

This is the third of my three favorite Dresden Files books, along with Dead Beat, book 7, and Changes, book 12.

All three of these books have the common theme of Harry being reflective of his choices, of contemplation of his part is the larger scheme of things, and self-doubt without the self-immobilization that often accompanies self-doubt.

Also in this book, ADVENTURE!


And romance! Okay, less this one, but still some of this one.

The twist at the end, the mystery of the why of the plot, is great. As is the double twist of Goodman Grey. I hope he comes back in future books.

One of the difficulties with the arc of Dresden, however, is that he keeps getting stronger. He was already in the top six wizards in terms of raw strength. With his training of Molly, he developed finesse. And with the alliance with Mab, he has the power. Where do you go from here? I don't know, but I'll keep reading. If only Butcher would keep writing them. It's been three years and he's off onto a different series.

Strongly recommended if you're a Dresden fan, this is one of the good books. I, of course, believe the series is worth reading, just get through the first couple books to really enjoy them.

“Scared that some bug-eyed freak is going to come calling and kill innocent people because they happen to be in my havoc radius.”
Page 28

You always fear what you don’t know, what you don’t understand, and the first step to having understanding of something is to know what to call it.
Location: 1,104

The dead don’t need justice. That’s for those of us who are left looking down at the remains.
Location: 2,311

"I can’t figure out where I could have . . . what else I might have done . . .” I swallowed. “I’m lost. I know every step I took to get here, and I’m still lost.”
Page 148

I understand this confusion. You make the best choices you can, with the information you have at the moment, and, after a while look up, not recognizing where you are or who you've become.

“That’s arrogance, Harry,” he said gently. “On a level so deep you don’t even realize it exists. And do you know why it’s there?”

“No?” I asked.

He smiled again. “Because you have set a higher standard for yourself. You think that because you have more power than others, you have to do more with it.”
Page 150

“The damned don’t care, Harry. The only way to go beyond redemption is to choose to take yourself there. The only way to do it is to stop caring.”
Page 150

“One ought not hire an expert and then ignore his opinion,”
Page 170


“Because... fear is a terrible, insidious thing, Waldo. It taints and stains everything it touches. If you let fear start driving some of your decisions, sooner or later, it will drive them all."
Location: 3,153

I would rather have faith in the people I care about than allow my fears to change them — in my own eyes, if nowhere else.
Location: 3,157

“You need to decide which side of the road you’re going to walk on,” she said gently. “Turn aside from your fears—or grab onto them and run with them. But you need to make the call. You keep trying to walk down the middle, you’re going to get yourself torn apart.”
Location: 3,163

“It’s about knowing yourself. About understanding why you make the choices you do. Once you know that, you know where to walk, too.”
Location: 3,166

“Things are not always as bad as they seem. Sometimes, the darkness only makes it easier to see the light.”
Location: 4,137

Focus on the task at hand, Harry. Sort the rest out when you have time. Yeah, sure. But isn’t that the kind of thinking that got me into this mess in the first place?
Location: 4,285

Doesn’t matter how pretty you are. What’s important is how pretty you feel. No one feels pretty when they hear “no” often enough.
Location: 4,751

“Complicated?” she asked. She shook her head. “It isn’t complicated. You just open up and let someone in. And whatever comes after that, you face it together.”
Location: 4,769

“Lava quod est sordium!”
Location: 5,042

“You think your power is what shapes the world you walk in. But that is an illusion. Your choices shape your world. You think your power will protect you from the consequences of those choices. But you are wrong. You create your own rewards. There is a Judge. There is Justice in this world. And one day you will receive what you have earned. Choose carefully.”
Location: 5,070

“The world always thinks that the destruction of a physical vessel is victory,”
Page 406

“Sometimes the bad guys win one.”

“Sometimes they seem to. But only for a time.”
Page 406

“How can you know that?”

“I can’t know,” he said, his face lighting with a sudden smile. “That’s why they call it faith, Harry. You’ll see.”
Page 406

Hope lets you do things you would otherwise never be able to do, gives strength when everything is darkest.
Page 426

“Belief in a story,” Uriel said, “of good confronting evil, of light overcoming darkness, of love transcending hate.” He tilted his head. “Isn’t that where all faith begins?”
Page 441

“Terrifying,” he said, smiling. “And for a little while . . . like being young again. Full of energy and expectation. It was amazing.”
Page 451

Sometimes you realize you’re standing at a crossroads. That there are two paths stretching out ahead of you, and you have to pick one of them.
Page 454

Cold Days

Book Review

The Dresden Files, book 14

While this isn't in the top three of my favorite Dresden books (those all have Harry thinking about past actions, about life and the choices one makes, and about maturing during those reflections), this is a good, action-packed Harry Dresden book.

I enjoyed it the first time I read it. And the second. And the third. I'm unsure what the count is for this read, but it is at least the fourth read. Yay Butcher.

Aspects I really like about the book revolve around Demonreach and Kris Kringle (I mean, hello, Dresden has freaking Santa Claus on his side, how cool is that?). The major aspect I didn't like about the book is the lack of reset on Harry's powers. I mean, think about it, he died. Before he died he was becoming more and more and more powerful. He was already the sixth strongest wizard alive in the first book, at this point, with his growing into his power and other wizards dying off, he's probably closer to the top spot (but isn't, hello, Merlin). Dying could be a huge reset button, allowing more growth.

But that's not how it is. Instead, he's still mighty powerful, and still attracting even more powerful enemies, and, well, isn't that how Dresden likes it, poking his finger in the eye of the enemy?

Definite read is you're a Dresden fan. Marsters narration is amazing, if you like audio books.

“Life’s about more than breaking even,” I said.
Location: 1,963

“Sometimes I think that’s where most of us are,” I said. “Fighting off the crazy as best we can. Trying to become something better than we were. It’s that second bit that’s important.”
Location: 2,264

I missed my dog. I missed the familiarity of having a place that I knew, that was a shelter.

I missed my life.

I’d been away from home for what felt like a very long time.
Location: 2,420

I understand this very much.

“I know the world seems dark and ugly sometimes. But there are still good things in it. And good people."
Location: 2,460

So at the end of the day, I really didn’t know what was going to happen to me in the future. Heh. Why should I be any different?
Location: 2,532

“That I was your brother, Harry,” he said. “That I loved you. That I knew a few things about denying the dark parts of your nature. And that we would get through it.” He put his elbows on his knees and rested his forehead on his hands. “That we’d figure it out. That you weren’t alone.”
Location: 2,631

I always thought it would get easier to be a person as I aged. But it just gets more and more complicated.
Location: 2,642

“Like life is short,” he said. “Like you don’t know when it’s going to end. Like some things, left unsaid, can’t ever be said.”
Location: 2,672

Fire isn’t always an element of destruction. Classical alchemical doctrine teaches that it also has dominion over another province: change. The fire of my tribulations had not simply been pain to be endured. It had been an agent of transformation.
Location: 3,018

“He might not give you much choice.”

“There’s always a choice,” I said. “That’s the thing, man. There’s always, always a choice. My options might really, truly suck, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a choice.”
Location: 3,705

“Totally unfair.”

“I had this teacher who kept telling me that if I was ever in a fair fight, someone had made a mistake,” she said.
Location: 3,714

I reminded myself that just because someone is courteous, it does not necessarily mean that they aren’t planning to vivisect you. It just means that they’ll ask whether the ropes holding you down are comfortable before they pick up the scalpel.
Location: 3,813

“Maybe you’re right; I don’t know. But until I have a better idea, it’s smarter to keep reminding myself that I don’t know, rather than assuming that I do know, and then translating anything I learn to fit my preconceptions.”
Location: 4,407

“No one just starts giggling and wearing black and signs up to become a villainous monster. How the hell do you think it happens?” She shook her head, her eyes pained. “It happens to people. Just people. They make questionable choices, for what might be very good reasons. They make choice after choice, and none of them is slaughtering roomfuls of saints, or murdering hundreds of baby seals, or rubber-room irrational. But it adds up. And then one day they look around and realize that they’re so far over the line that they can’t remember where it was.”
Location: 5,231

Power corrupts — and the people being corrupted never seem to be aware that it’s happening.
Location: 5,252

"Will you not always be imperfect?”

“Now you’re catching on,” I said.
Location: 5,787

“I think it’s a cruel world. I think it’s hard to find love. I think we should all be happy when someone manages to do it.”
Location: 5,789

Graves aren’t for the dead. They’re for the loved ones the dead leave behind them. Once those loved ones have gone, once all the lives that have touched the occupant of any given grave had ended, then the grave’s purpose was fulfilled and ended.
Location: 5,876

“What value has life when it is so easily kept?”
Location: 5,991

"Nothing I have to say can possibly make this task any easier for you. The only way to do it is to do it.” He lifted his chin. “You don’t need help, Warden. You are the help.”
Location: 6,482

And that’s when it hit me. I mean, when it really, really hit me. It was up to me. There wasn’t a backup plan. There wasn’t a second option. There wasn’t any cavalry coming over the hill.
Location: 6,490

The only good thing about having your back to the wall is that it makes it really easy to choose which way you’re going to go.
Location: 6,502

When women have a conversation, they’re communicating on five levels. They follow the conversation that they’re actually having, the conversation that is specifically being avoided, the tone being applied to the overt conversation, the buried conversation that is being covered only in subtext, and finally the other person’s body language.
Location: 6,556

There were probably a lot of women who didn’t communicate on multiple wavelengths at once. There were probably men who could handle that many just fine.
Location: 6,563

“Later. Bad habit to get into,” Thomas said. “Life’s too short.”
Location: 7,218

Molly rode shotgun with me, holding her backpack on her lap. Molly was a big believer in shaping the future by way of carrying anything you might need in a backpack. Tonight it looked particularly stuffed.
Location: 7,349

I understand this.

But all things wither away eventually.
Location: 7,521

And this.

As if some freak who had never loved enough to know loss could tell me about pain.
Location: 7,847

That grain of sand might be the last remnant of what had once been a mountain, but that which it is, it is.
Location: 7,887

But you can’t go around changing your definition of right and wrong (or smart and stupid) just because doing the wrong thing happens to be really convenient. Sometimes it isn’t easy to be sane, smart, and responsible. Sometimes it sucks. Sucks wang. Camel wang. But that doesn’t turn wrong into right or stupid into smart.
Location: 8,208

You never know what you have until it’s gone. Peace and quiet and people I love. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
Location: 8,269

"If the balloon goes up, go after whoever I light up first. After that, improvise.”
Location: 8,380

Learn to fight naked and you can never be disarmed. Which is fine, I guess, as long as there aren’t mosquitoes.
Location: 8,456

Fire’s tricky and fickle. Without focus, it’s just chaos, the random release of stored chemical energy.
Location: 8,631

“No. You’re on the wrong side,” I said. “Maybe more than one.”

“That’s what every conflict sounds like,” he said. “Not everyone can be equally right, Harry.”

“But believe you me, everyone can be equally wrong,”
Location: 8,769

“Everyone wants to have a friend,” he said quietly. “Is that so bad?”
Location: 8,807

Winter’s nature was beautiful violence, stark clarity, the most feral needs and animal desires and killer instinct pitted against the season of cold and death—the will and desire to fight, to live, even when there was no shelter, no warmth, no respite, no hope, and no help.
Location: 8,883

“Being able to choose to tell lies isn’t a freaking superpower, Maeve,” I said. “Because it means you can always make the wrong choice. It means you can lie to yourself."
Location: 9,272

“But one does not place all one’s hopes with any one place, person, or plan."
Location: 9,343

Sometimes the things that are good for you, in the long run, hurt for a little while when you first get to them.
Location: 9,510