Windfall is an enlightening read about those seeking economic opportunity in our changing climate. From the Canadian government reinforcing its territWindfall is an enlightening read about those seeking economic opportunity in our changing climate. From the Canadian government reinforcing its territorial claims in the melting arctic, to ex-Wall Street execs in massive agricultural land deals with African warlords, Funk treats his subjects fairly and his reporting is not overladen with judgment. The book’s supposition is ultimately frustrating as Funk establishes that with a truly global problem that will take decades to reach its apex, real action to combat global warming is slow to materialize, yet when you combine this procrastination with economic models demonstrating that the wealthy northern states (e.g. the U.S., Canada, and Northern Europe) may actually experience more growth with climate change, the problem becomes completely intractable. The final chapter of Windfall covers geoengineering schemes that feel like they are straight out of a science fiction novel but which may be Earth’s salvation. Of course, they could also make things markedly worse....more
When Mark Watney, an astronaut on NASA’s third expedition to Mars, is reluctantly abandoned by his crewmates and presumed dead, he is left with the taWhen Mark Watney, an astronaut on NASA’s third expedition to Mars, is reluctantly abandoned by his crewmates and presumed dead, he is left with the task of figuring out how to survive alone on an inhospitable planet until the fourth mission arrives in four years. This book was eye-opening to the seemingly infinite number of obstacles that mankind faces in the exploration of our solar system. Thankfully, Weir is able to inject enough levity and movement into its pages to endear the reader to its protagonist and not drag the progression of the story into a series of problem solving exercises. The sheer scale of what Watney faces would give me a panic attack, but he handles his situation with good humor and optimism which would probably be vital to anyone having to endure this daunting scenario. I’m pretty sure I learned something new on every other page of this book which, combined with a fun plot, makes The Martian truly unique....more
**spoiler alert** A fascinating mystery involving the murder of an American communist sympathizer and the setup of a Soviet school teacher gets interr**spoiler alert** A fascinating mystery involving the murder of an American communist sympathizer and the setup of a Soviet school teacher gets interrupted 1/3 of the way through Agent 6 in order to follow the teacher's ex-KGB husband's opium-hazed adventure through the warzones of Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. The story eventually gets back to its original plotline at the end, and although I found the Afghanistan arc exciting, I couldn't see what any of it had to do with the murder. It was a fun yet completely unnecessary distraction....more
**spoiler alert** This seemed to be mostly a transitional book between the first and third. The relationships between major characters remained playfu**spoiler alert** This seemed to be mostly a transitional book between the first and third. The relationships between major characters remained playful and amusing, and the group in the North being led by Threetrees and Colonel West towards war with Bethod kept the quick pace of the first book. In my view, however, Before They Are Hanged, was hurt by the storylines in the West and Dagoska. Glokta ventures to Dagoska to investigate the disappearance of a fellow inquisitor, the city comes under siege, and he leaves before it falls. Logen, Ferro, Bayaz, Quai, Longfellow, and Jezal slog across the western continent through the ashes of a once-great empire in search of a magical artifact hidden by one of the sons of Euz. They finally arrive where the Seed should be, but it isn’t, so they go back to where they started. Frustrating for them; frustrating for the reader. Perhaps these trials will have greater importance and purpose in the third book, but, until then, it was kind of a let down....more
I was disappointed with this one having read it immediately after Vowell’s excellent Assassination Vacation. Vowell’s wit and earnest attempt to experI was disappointed with this one having read it immediately after Vowell’s excellent Assassination Vacation. Vowell’s wit and earnest attempt to experience history however possible is what drew me to her work but is largely absent in Unfamiliar Fishes which with the exception of too sparse personal asides comes off as a straightforward history of the American conquest of Hawaii....more
Hm. I guess the concept of superheroes vs zombies raised my hopes quite a bit. How could that not be fantastic? But, in retrospect, my expectations shHm. I guess the concept of superheroes vs zombies raised my hopes quite a bit. How could that not be fantastic? But, in retrospect, my expectations shouldn’t have been so high because the only thing that makes zombies compelling is the fact that they can hurt you. If they can’t hurt you, then it’s just Rocky boxing in meat locker. ...more
Examining the lives and relationships found within contemporary traditional tribal societies (mostly in Papua New Guinea), Jared Diamond argues that wExamining the lives and relationships found within contemporary traditional tribal societies (mostly in Papua New Guinea), Jared Diamond argues that we in developed, state-governed societies would benefit from adopting traditional practices related to childcare, respect of the elderly, dispute resolution, and many other areas of modern life. Diamond manages to make his point while not being encumbered by the oversentimentality towards traditional life that tends to drag down many other books of this ilk. He does so by balancing the benevolent qualities of tribal societies with the often brutal reality of behaviors necessitated by spare resources in the most remote places on Earth (infanticide, abandoning of the elderly, constant tribal warfare). Just as there are costs and benefits of living in modern society, so too are there in traditional society, but we in the modern world have the option to adopt many of the positive traits of the traditional world.
The World Until Yesterday was fascinating but could have been much tighter. Its entire final part, Religion, Language, and Health was unessential. For religion, Diamond first spends many pages sussing out an exact definition of religion then bizarrely proceeds to explain the evolutionary biology of the electric eel. Next, he tells readers that tribal societies tend to be multilingual and cites research that demonstrates that bi- and multilingualism isn’t harmful and that it might… might be beneficial to executive brain function; although, it doesn’t seem that the scientific community is completely sure about that conclusion since Diamond keeps hedging his argument using works like “might”, “may”, and “could”. Lastly, Diamond tells us that the developed world eats too much salt. Thanks, we know; other authors have written far more convincingly about dietary changes throughout human civilization. Stick to what you know.
I think if I wouldn’t have read that damned Part V, I would have given this book 4 stars, but Diamond just had to be as needlessly comprehensive as possible and closed this otherwise good book on a bland recitation of the conventional wisdom of the last 20 years. ...more