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Posts Labeled with ‘books’

Testosterone as a Weapon?

I saw a book review from Wired magazine that hooked me and reeled me in.

Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World
Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World by Malcolm Potts

The wired article interview had a very provocative statement. One of the authors of the book considers testosterone to be the perfect weapon of mass destruction. Ha! OK, my interest is piqued. I gotta get this book.


Three Men In A Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog

In case you think that I like everything I read, I’ll blog about a book that I can’t rave about. I didn’t really like Three Men In A Boat. This book was heralded as a classic and a prime example of British humor. I found it while perusing a bookshelf of modern classics that included the likes of Italo Calvino and F Scott Fitzgerald. So, perhaps my expectations were out of whack… but I swear that I kept turning the pages searching for whatever it was that made smarter people than me think that this book was so great. I never found it.

That said, there are some cute quips, such as the following:
“It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

Three Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (Dover Value Editions) Three Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (Dover Value Editions) by Jerome K. Jerome


Ooh, that book looks interesting

I just read a review for the book: Fatal Mis-conceptions; The Struggle to Control World Population. I am very interested in reading this one. It is written by a historian from Columbia, so that’s (check 1), and it is written by someone who struggles with this topic being that he’s from a big family (check 2). Yeah, my interest is piqued. But the book is just released and still too expensive. I’ll probably wait a few months.

Excerpt from The Economist review (in case you don’t get the online edition):
“When…Mr Connelly began his own book on population growth, he still thought of the topic as a way to offer a broader understanding of world security. He ended up writing a very different—and angry—book, one about people who looked at the human race reproducing itself and saw what a gardener sees when looking at a prize plant: something to be encouraged to bloom in some places and pruned in others.”


On Truth

This is a short, pithy, philosophy book argues that truth isn’t necessarily some objective, external thing. Rather, it is a personal mechanism for conceptualizing reality in a way that is fundamental to self-knowledge, and distinctions of self from other (I/Not I). Thus, every person (even liars) are intrinsically concerned with truth and all human societal endeavors require some common reference to truth in order to function.

I read this book about a month ago, but I’m finally getting around to the review, so I can only say that this is the main message of the book that stuck with me. Other people might get something different/more out of it.

On Truth On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt


Einstein’s Dream

Over the weekend, I read a very interesting book that was a gift from a colleague of mine a while back and I finally got around to reading it. Despite the title, it is not at all scientific. It’s poetic, and a little philosophical in that the author plays with the different human postures towards conceiving of time.

My favorite chapter of the (short) book relates to time being sticky. Here’s an excerpt:
“A spinster sees the face of the young man who loved her in the mirror of her bedroom, on the ceiling of the bakery, on the surface of the lake, in the sky.
The tragedy of this world is that no one is happy, whether stuck in a time of pain or of joy. The tragedy of this world is that everyone is alone. For a life in the past cannot be shared with the present. Each person who gets stuck in time gets stuck alone.”

Einstein's Dreams Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman


No Shortcuts to the Top

We just finished listening to the audio-book version of No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks by Ed Viesturs.

The book is good, but it has an odd pacing. I wonder if Ed and the editor were trying to approximate the acclimatization process of climbing a big peak. He’d describe being close to the summit, then go back several years to an earlier basecamp story, then go forward to set up high camp in a third location. I longed for a contiguous story, but the only thing holding it all together was the story of Ed’s prudently-executed passion for climbing and completing the circuit of 8000 meter peaks, in line with the motto that “Getting to the summit is optional; getting down is mandatory.”

In case you didn’t know, I am a little bit of an Everest buff. I can’t help but be drawn into the drama that accompanies most of the ascents. In my assessment, the mountaineering done by Westerners in the Himalayas is often executed with the utmost hubris. I cringe at the folly of the weekend warriors that attempt to buy their way to the top. I shake my head at the lack of instincts that, when combined with the natural disorientation of high altitude thinking, leads people to push too hard with too little mental, physical, and oxygen reserves left to return even to high camp. Yes, I am an armchair mountaineer, but it is in favor of prudence and respect for the limits of our biology. I do not advocate inordinate risktaking. I do not advocate the fact that these places of unparalleled beauty have become littered and fouled with human waste, and frozen human remains. All of it smacks of human/western arrogance.

That said, I admire Ed Viesturs. He climbed the mountains admirably: without oxygen, with prudence, and with respect for the mountain. But the popularization of the sport will undoubtedly have unintended consequences. Others will attempt to follow in his footsteps and will do a poor imitation. As the popularity of high-altitude mountaineering increases, future climbing seasons will undoubtedly be sullied with multiple deaths as those Himalayan peaks rebuke human impertinence.

There is an remote possibility that I might have an opportunity to meet Ed Viesturs. He is a Seattle-ite, living on Bainbridge Island. If I ever did meet Ed I’d be honored to be in the presence of someone who lived his dreams, and achieved all he set out to do. That kind of ambition and follow-through is unbelievably rare, regardless of the venue.

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