For some reason I had a little bit of trouble getting into the early chapters of this book, despite having devoured the first volume of the series preFor some reason I had a little bit of trouble getting into the early chapters of this book, despite having devoured the first volume of the series pretty much in one sitting. But yesterday, I sat down to read a bit of it, and ended up devouring the last three-quarters of the book pretty much in one sitting.
Like the first book in the series, this book presents a wonderful portrait of life in Laos in the early days of communist rule. It also does a remarkably good job of combining the tropes of a good old fashioned detective story with elements of the supernatural, two things that I don't normally think go well together. And the characters are wonderful - I especially like that this book gives a larger role to Siri's assistant, Dtui, because she's one of my favorite characters. ...more
So, full disclosure: I'm a friend of the author and am thanked in the acknowledgements for tromping around the California Academy of Sciences with herSo, full disclosure: I'm a friend of the author and am thanked in the acknowledgements for tromping around the California Academy of Sciences with her as part of the research for this book.
This book offers more of the unique blend of urban fantasy and superhero hijinx provided by the first book. Plus it has multiple kick-ass female characters, creepy blood beetles and mannequins in wedding dresses that save the day, and some revelations that will leave you hungry for the next book. As a bonus, the book makes wonderful use of its San Francisco Bay Area setting - definitely a treat if you live in the area or know it well. ...more
Probably one of the most comprehensive overviews of the causes of procrastination that I've read. I think this book does a really good job of demonstrProbably one of the most comprehensive overviews of the causes of procrastination that I've read. I think this book does a really good job of demonstrating that procrastination is a complex thing, with many possible causes behind it. I particularly liked the discussion of how some procrastinators have a different relationship with time than non-procrastinators - I've personally found that a lot of my procrastination comes not so much from a reluctance to do a task but from things like vastly underestimating the amount of time it will take, assuming there will be time "later" to do it, or just getting completely caught up in something else and losing track of time.
The second half of the book, the "what to do about it" part, goes over slightly more familiar territory, with recommendations to do things like break tasks into smaller pieces, give yourself rewards, and enlist social support.
I won't say that the book is life changing, but having a better understanding of the reasons why I procrastinate has helped me tweak my anti-procrastination strategies to be a bit more effective. Which is enough for me - my procrastination is not bad enough to be crippling, although it does annoy me sometimes.
Finally, I just want to say that I've seen several reviews dissing the authors for admitting to their own struggles with procrastination. I don't get it - why would you read a book on overcoming procrastination written by people who had never struggled with procrastination? (Come to think of it, although I've used words like "non-procrastinators" and "people who have never struggled with procrastination", I'm not sure that such people exist. If you can honestly say that you've never procrastinated on anything, I would be fascinated to hear your experiences.)...more
Taibbi writes with a very distinctive style - he has a gift for outlandish and vivid metaphors, and a taste for highly emotive language. Sometimes, ITaibbi writes with a very distinctive style - he has a gift for outlandish and vivid metaphors, and a taste for highly emotive language. Sometimes, I wish he would cool it a little, because as a reader I'm wary of being manipulated. And there's plenty of stuff in this book where the bare clinical facts are entirely sufficient to produce outrage, and I don't need the author metaphorically poking me in the ribs saying, "Hey! Hey! Are you angry yet?"
And this book will definitely make you angry (and depressed), but it's an important read. Taibbi does an excellent job of dissecting two trends in the American justice system. First, the extent to which corporate fraud and other financial crimes are prosecuted very gingerly, if at all, and second, the extent to which (often poor, often non-white) individuals can routinely have the full force of the court system thrown at them for relatively minor offenses. The causes behind this are many. There's a big dollop of flawed legal precedent: the tale of the Holder memo is an amazing case study in unintended consequences from a policy that wasn't thoroughly thought through. There are lots of skewed institutional incentives: it turns out that if you evaluate police performance on a metric of number of arrests, police will find ways to make arrests at any cost. And if you tell the Justice Department that the thing that matters most is successful prosecutions, you can pretty much guarantee that the Justice Department will only prosecute slam-dunk cases. There's a whole lot of political theater in the form of politicians scoring cheap points by going after welfare recipients and undocumented immigrants. And a great big chunk of simple racism.
I don't think that there are simple solutions to any of these causes, but having read this book, I now feel much better informed about what the causes are, and ready to join the discussion of how to address them. ...more
This is a nice, short, generally readable introduction to the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
I did struggle a bit with the author's decision to tell the stoThis is a nice, short, generally readable introduction to the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
I did struggle a bit with the author's decision to tell the story out of chronological order. I understand why he did it, because it allowed for easy contrasting of geographically or thematically similar events that occurred at different times, but I really think I would have found the book easier to follow if events had been presented chronologically. (Although the book does have a handy timeline at the front that helps keep things straight.)
Second, I would have liked a book that really delved more into the nuances of Japanese politics at the time. The book makes it absolutely clear that Tokugawa was very good at using a judicious combination of military force, political influence, and personal connections to build up his power and the legitimacy of his rule, so that over the course of his lifetime he was able to rise from being a relatively minor political player to the founder of a shogunal dynasty that lasted over 2 centuries. But if you asked me, "Why did a particular daimyo decide to throw in his lot with (or oppose) Tokugawa at a given point in time?" I mostly wouldn't be able to tell you.
Third, for a lot of the book, Tokugawa's personality doesn't come across all that vividly in this biography. That may not be the author's fault - it's clear that while Tokugawa was a voluminous correspondent, he wrote mostly about practical matters and was pretty cagey about revealing himself. Honestly, Oda Nobunaga comes across as a much more vivid personality even in the brief glimpse we get of him in this book. Alas, I think good English-language biographies of Nobunaga are even thinner on the ground than those of Tokugawa. ...more