A Month of Literary Gratitude, Day 30 - The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is one of those series whose characters are complex, flawed, and sometimes full of shit.






Harry Dresden is a wizard who lives in Chicago. In many ways, he's kind of a hot mess, and gets himself into far more trouble than is strictly warranted. He's opinionated and willful, powerful and vulnerable, and sometimes a complete dumbass.

But he and his companions try to fight the good fight. Even when they make mistakes - serious mistakes - they do so out of a desire to do good. The problem, of course, is that intention doesn't matter much when you kill someone, or change the course of their life in some fundamental, foundational way. What matters is the deed, and some of the deeds can be horrible, indeed.

The stories are interesting, and his overarching arc is getting more and more dreadful. Each book puts Harry deeper into a corner, until I fear he will run out of options eventually.

I look forward to each one, though, and want to find out what happens to Harry and his friends (and his enemies). And I love Mouse, who is far wiser than his owner, and a complete bad ass in his own right.

Don't annoy the Temple Dog.

Link Me Up, Scotty - Credibility Edition

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why Sesame Street finally allowed other cast members to "see" Mr. Snuffleupagus, instead of just Big Bird.
________

Outside the Beltway points out why losing graciously is such an important part of our political process here in the United States, and why Hillary's decision to do so makes her a more dedicated public servant that Trump could ever be. The money quote:
Clinton’s followers may take consolation that Hillary Clinton was the only major-party candidate in the 2016 election sufficiently devoted to her country to honor the electoral system, win or lose.   She was the only candidate who consistently held to the essential belief that democracy only works when vying candidates hold democratic elections to be more important than their ambition or ideology.   By her words and example in defeat she reaffirmed, and strengthened, the American way.  Let us then be grateful for gracious losers, for our losers no less than our winners carry forward the American experiment in self-rule. 
________

Author Barbara Kingsolver on our obligations as citizens and human beings during a Trump presidency. Let us not grow weary, indeed.
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Some suggestions on how to protest the alt right/white nationalists/actual nazis post election season. Stay strong and active, my brothers and sisters.
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Words can be, as my friend Kathy puts it, "bullets for the soul." I wish I had learned this lesson earlier in my life.
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Why do the whackadoos always feel they have the skills and expertise to represent themselves when their heinous acts bring them to trial? I don't approve of the death penalty as a matter of principle, but if the state is going to charge someone with a capital crime, then I don't think self-representation should be an option.
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The doucheweasel who is now Internet Famous for his 45 second President Cheeto rant aboard a Delta flight is now banned from flying Delta for the rest of his life. WTF, Delta? As much as I would like to smack the doucheweasel in the head with the Shovel of Doom™, he didn't do anything illegal, and quieted down once the flight attendant told him to STFU. This is the kind of shit that makes conservatives think liberals are big ole crybabies. He was offensive. So what? Lots of people offend me on airplanes with their shitty behaviors, but I don't think people should be banned for them.
________

Video of my Heart: How a Bookmobile saved the life and future of a young migrant worker. For me, this is the primary purpose of a library - to give hope, to inspire, to teach, to encourage people with limited options.


A Month of Literary Gratitude, Day 29 - The Secret Life of the Grown Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle Age Mind, by Barbara Strauch


Are you middle-aged? Is your once agile mind slower to learn new things? Is the mind that was once a steel trap more like a sieve these days?

Yeah, me, too.

Which is why I enjoyed this book so very much. The Secret Life of the Grown Up Brain by Barbara Strauch is one of those books that gives you hope and a sense that even though you might think you're losing your goddamn mind, you're really not. 






Strauch takes the idea that an aging brain is not valuable, not as smart as a younger brain and tips it on its head.

For many years, scientists thought that the human brain simply decayed over time and its dying cells led to memory slips, fuzzy logic, negative thinking, and even depression. But new research from neuroscien­tists and psychologists suggests that, in fact, the brain reorganizes, improves in important functions, and even helps us adopt a more optimistic outlook in middle age. Growth of white matter and brain connectors allow us to recognize patterns faster, make better judgments, and find unique solutions to problems. Scientists call these traits cognitive expertise and they reach their highest levels in middle age.
So even though you can't remember where you left your phone, your keys, or your glasses, there are other things for which your aging brain is just right. Go, brain, go. 

A Month of Literary Gratitude, Day 28 - Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes

Monday, November 28, 2016

I just loved Lauren Beukes' Zoo City.


Beukes is a South African author, and this fantasy story has interesting elements of her culture and country, which enriches her story. The writing is unique in that I would categorize some concepts in the story as weird fiction, and other supernatural aspects of this world are not explained at all.

In some ways, leaving these elements to the imagination makes me feel itchy and unfinished, but in other ways, it makes the story more compelling.

A great writer, and a great book.

A Month of Literary Gratitude, Day 27 - The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff was published shortly after I graduated from high school and turned eighteen.






This is a book about Taosim and its basic concepts told in the context of Winnie the Pooh and his forest friends. As a youngster, I loved Winnie the Pooh, and as a young adult, I had a lot of interest in Eastern religions. So of course I found this book delightful. 

The author uses the archetypes of Pooh's world to help western readers how to calm you mind, live in peace, and just be. 

I still haven't learned this lesson, of course. My mind is seldom still, I seldom feel peaceful. I don't resemble Pooh very much in this regard. But I can continue to try. 

A Month of Literary Gratitude, Day 26 - The Chief Inspector Gamache Series, by Louise Penny

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Chief Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny are a fairly recent find for me.


I listened to the first one several years ago, and then immediately recommended them to everyone I knew. Louise Penny has a way of writing that sucks you in, sort of a fireside chat narration where even though the narrative is somewhat low-key, you just can't stop reading.

Her main character, Chief Inspector Gamache, is smart, sneaky, and not to be trifled with. The people around him, both from his department and also in Three Pines (the town where most of the stories occur) are interesting, nuanced, and colorful.

These are not earth-shattering books. No fundamental epiphanies can be found between their pages, and reading them has not made a better, more educated human being.

What they are is a fine example of craft. Louise Penny is an extraordinarily gifted writer, and that's reason enough to read her books.



Random Thoughts and Words to Live By, Part 21

Friday, November 25, 2016

When someone begins their sentence with, "I don't want to sound racist, but..." what follows is almost invariably racist as fuck.