Category Archives: Uncategorized

Review: Fat

Fat by Rob Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb on the back of the book implies that it’s set in a near-future dystopian society where fat is soon to be illegal. The book teases you early on with the mention of Well Farms, which are (voluntary) camps for fat people to be thinned down, and I’m sure you can imagine the slippery dystopian slope that could slide down. Instead, what the book gives you is three characters who exist in a world which is exactly like the world we actually live in. None of the characters get a satisfying ending, but none of them were likable to begin with so you don’t feel too cheated.

The writing is light and enjoyable to read, and I did feel interested in what’s going on with each character. Enough to keep me going to the end, and enough to earn 3 stars.

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Review: What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty

What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty
What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty by John Brockman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Out of the hundred or so essays in this book, only about five were thought-provoking. Around half were something like ‘God does not exist’ or ‘string theory is very complicated,’ both of which are things I could probably have predicted these people (psychologists, physicists, etc.) would say anyway.

The most interesting belief presented was that humans are not conscious – that is, we don’t actually make decisions. We act by instinct, in the same complex ways that ants and bees do, but we also happen to be able to think about the way we’re acting, and have convinced ourselves that we’re actually in control of it all.

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Review: The Iron Heel

The Iron Heel
The Iron Heel by Jack London
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For me, the best dystopian books make me feel sadness because everything is so terrible. 1984 crushed my soul, especially with the twist. This book makes me feel sadness as well, but in a different way – sadness for the way things could have been, how the world could have eventually been a better place if the Brotherhood of Man actually existed.

If you’re looking for a story, though, I advise you to skip this. There’s a little story, but not much. If you’re looking for a political manifesto, also skip it, because again there’s not much. If you’re looking for some sort of combination of both of those, though, then this might be what you’re after.

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The Quest for Juice – Free Everywhere

You want a great book but can’t find 100 pennies? Then today might be the best day ever for you (so far (this month)). To celebrate reaching the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, The Quest for Juice ebook is now free (completely free, I won’t break into your house later and steal food as payment) on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and mostly anywhere else you can get an ebook. Download it, read it, print it out and use the back of the pages for stick figure drawings.

I Am Not the Arctic Tundra

Although I suppose I can see the resemblance. (source: WM Commons)

Although I suppose I can see the resemblance.
(source: WM Commons)

Why does everything need a scent? My shampoo is made from coconuts, apparently. My shower gel1 smells like apples. My conditioner2 wafts around the lovely scent of licorice (I don’t use conditioner, this is just an example). If I brush my teeth then for a week anyone I talk to is going to think I’ve been chewing eucalyptus bark. What’s so wrong with smelling like a human, and why is it somehow better to smell like a dandelion (not that there is any dandelion-scented product as far as I know, but there will be as soon as they read this post and realize the huge untapped market for it)? Continue reading

Review: F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way

F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way
F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way by John C. Parkin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The message of this book is essentially the same as many other things you’ve probably read or heard. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, parts of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Sane New World, Song of Solomon; it’s all there. Those are all great works, and it doesn’t do the message any harm to hear it again in a different way – rather, it reinforces it. The message, by the way, is be mindful of what you’re doing, breathe slowly, and don’t worry so much about stuff because none of it really matters anyway.

I did get something new from this book, though: a new definition of a selfless act. Anything you do that you get joy from is not selfless, because you’re getting joy from it. There’s nothing wrong with that – Mother Theresa no doubt got joy from saving orphaned children, and that was great, but it wasn’t selfless. It was a win-win situation for both her and the orphans. A selfless act is something you do for someone else when you *don’t* want to do it, and only they get a benefit. Generally, selfless acts are a bad idea, then, because it’s just going to build resentment or anger or perhaps a feeling of unappreciation within you that’s going to come out on that person later, so what seems like a lose-win situation is actually a lose-lose situation. For this reason, you shouldn’t subordinate your desires to someone else’s except in the most exceptional circumstances.

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You Are Three People, and One of Them Needs Forgiveness

Don't beat yourself up like this guy. (photo by istolethetv)

Don’t beat yourself up like this guy. (photo by istolethetv)

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
– Buddha

I’m very good at forgiving. Use my credit card to buy pizza without my permission – I’ll forgive you*. Poke me in the eye – I’ll forgive you. Steal my prized possession and sell it so you can buy drugs – I’ll forgive you. And not just that I wouldn’t punch you in the face, but I wouldn’t hold a grudge. I’d move completely past it and be your best friend afterwards. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that I am the Gandhi, or perhaps the Jesus, of forgiveness. If someone made a movie of my life, people would say “Why is this movie about Jesus called ‘JD’ instead of ‘JC’?” My point is, I’ve never had any trouble forgiving people, and I certainly wouldn’t have thought I needed any help with it. Continue reading

My Book of Advice

BookCoverPreviewFor years now, I’ve had a small collection of inspirational, advice, and self-help books. A couple books about parenting, a book of Zen proverbs, books about writing, books about living simply, etc. Every now and then I’d read through one of them to remind myself of the useful or inspiring things I read the first time, to be sure they were always in my mind. 

Lots of self-help books are mostly filler, though, so I might read a hundred pages and only get ten pages of what I want. With the Zen proverbs book, there are only a few I particularly like but I had to keep the whole book for them. And of course, with so many books, I couldn’t stay regularly updated on them all.

About a month ago I got the idea that I’d compile a book of advice/inspiration/help for myself, made of the most useful things from those books and also what’s in my head. Continue reading

To Be Five Years Old Again

(You can sit naked on people and they don't even mind.)

As a child, you can sit naked on people and they’re totally cool with it.

I lay in bed for hours, turning this way and that. Now I’m too cold. Now the pillow is too hot. The LED lights on my computer are simply too bright for me to sleep, so I have to get up and cover them with electrician’s tape. My arm has gone to sleep. My leg has a cramp. Earlier, my 5 year old nephew, Ethan, has gone to sleep after lying in bed for about three minutes and having his back rubbed by me.

Not only has he gone to sleep instantly, but he didn’t even feel tired before. Sure, he was cranky. He cried when I suggested that he watch 30 minutes of TV and then do his homework. He sat for a quarter of an hour and sulked over a spoonful of macaroni & cheese he had to eat. Tired, though? Not him – as far as he knows, anyway. Children don’t know they’re tired. You can see it, you can see how their body rebels against them running around every waking moment. (My body certainly rebels against that kind of thing, so I spend most of the day at a computer chair or on a couch.) Continue reading

How does Christmas work?

(Photo by Christmas Stock Images)

(Photo by Christmas Stock Images)

I get the general idea – jolly red guy brings you presents, drink eggnog until you vomit, peace unto all, etc. etc.

What about the pile of presents, though, how does that work? When I was growing up, my family didn’t celebrate Christmas. When I got married, my wife and her kids were the Christmas-celebrating type. Not wanting to ruin their lives by making them give up their well-loved traditions, I accepted their strange way of life instead. Continue reading