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What book have you finished recently? - Part 1

Snowless

<font color="97DCE2">Forget what objects you have before you</font>
Moderator
I just reread The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Obviously read it before, but not since seventh grade.

I think it’s great YA fiction. The unreliability of the narrator is done well. At the core of it, it’s just a bunch of mostly scared kids, not really knowing what they’re doing, most of them not able to see past their life. And a few, smart insightful characters really elevate the storytelling. For being teen fiction, I think it really speaks to the human condition and circumstance. It does enough to make its points obvious, without beating you over the head with them, yet still lives a little room for interpretation. I wasn’t a fan of how they felt the need to spell out the meaning of “Stay gold, Ponyboy,” though. It was more impactful and a little less insulting to the reader up to that point.
Overall, I liked it a lot.
 

Snowless

<font color="97DCE2">Forget what objects you have before you</font>
Moderator
Monet's Cathedral by Joachim Pissarro.

Monet's Cathedral series has always really struck me. The book definitely helped to deepen my appreciation of what went into them, what Monet was trying to achieve, the historical context, the subject matter's significance (or insignificance), and the difficulty and maybe impossibility of finishing the series. The book also contained full-page spreads of most of them, so you can go and look at them after finishing it and appreciate them through a newfound lens. With that said, there was a section in the book that seemed unnecessary (a comparison of the intent of Monet and the original Gothic architects of the cathedral), a conclusion or two with which I disagreed, overly verbose language, and biased language, such as calling critics' arguments "clumsy," when I didn't think they were at all. It was also written by Joachim Pisssarro, grandson of fellow Impressionist Camille Pissarro. The most recurring point of comparison to Monet was indeed Camille Pissarro, to the point where the author claimed the years leading up to this series consisted largely of a pictorial dialogue between the two, ultimately culminating in it. I can't help but wonder if the significance and relevance of Pissarro in helping Monet to land on this motif, as well as in the context of the series as a whole, is overstated, particularly in light of the fact that Monet himself stated that a motif is nothing more than a vehicle to draw the air and the fact that Monet purposefully ignored other contemporary and historical artists. Still, worth reading if you like the series.
 

Snowless

<font color="97DCE2">Forget what objects you have before you</font>
Moderator
The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence Krauss

I suppose I'll start this by saying I used to really like Lawrence Krauss, but after it came out that he was kind of a creep to his female students, my opinion of him as a person has plummeted. That said, he's still a great physicist and I bought this used, as to not financially support him. The book is divided into two halves. The first eloquently, logically, and comprehensibly builds up the necessary intuitive understanding of relevant concepts in physics and weaves Star Trek concepts like the transporter and inertial dampeners throughout. It's thought-provoking and interesting. The second section is more of a mixed bag. It further delves into Star Trek physics, which is fine, but then it also spends a fair amount of time just talking about physics in general, unrelated to Star Trek. Maybe it's just me, but if I wanted that I would have just read a physics textbook. I was interested in physics, specifically as it relates to Star Trek. A few of the talking points were also about moments so fleeting in the series that I fail to remember them after the reading the book and I wonder how worthwhile they were to include. The book was also written in '95. Some elements, like its discussion of computer science and of the "upcoming" CERN facility are obviously dated. The issue is that I don't know what other physical concepts discussed are dated. Is there new math describing more (or less) possible orientations of spacetime that make time-travel theoretically possible? I don't know. With that said, it's a fun read for a Star Trek fan.
 

martryn

Dick in hand
Hawke's Green Beret Survival Manual
The review I posted on Facebook:
Spoiler:

As the name implies, Mykel Hawke was a former Green Beret and US Special Forces officer, apparently famous for his shows on Discovery channel: Man, Woman, Wild and One Man Army. The book was given to me several years ago as a birthday present, and I've, until now, only skimmed through it, reading the passages that caught my eye.
I've always been a fan of survival. In the Boy Scouts they have a merit badge for Wilderness Survival, and for the last decade or two I've tried to put into play several of the strategies I've learned. Calculating, I've probably spent a year of my life sleeping outdoors, either in a tent or under the stars. These skills would seem less and less practicable as technology increases, but in some ways those survival skills are more important, as humanity has a reliance on the luxuries of electricity, running water, and canned food, and these resources could quickly be denied us in any number of apocalyptic or survival scenarios.
Hawke's book does not delve too heavily into the details of survival, giving only a rough overview of a variety of survival situations one might find oneself. Details are easily forgotten, while the broad strokes stay with us longer. The book isn't intended for someone who already knows a lot about survival strategies, but rather for the layperson off the street, and in this respect it's a great book to recommend for almost anyone. I found about 60% of what Hawke covered to be familiar already, as the Boy Scouts, for all its flaws, did do a good job in instilling certain knowledge, most of which was reinforced over 9 summers of working at a summer camp and putting parts of it in play. For the casual weekend camper, though, this is great stuff, and it never hurts to have something like this as a refresher for people who already have a bit of knowledge.
The 40% of the book that was new to me was very useful information. Hawke isn't a great writer, but everything is neatly compartmentalized, and you could almost image him speaking the words straight off the page. And one thing Hawke does well is dispel many of the common survival myths, and he sets your expectations straight from the beginning. If something is going to kill you, he'll tell you that you're going to die. If something is going to be painful, he'll let you know. If something is going to make you sick, but you should do it anyway so you stay alive, he tells you to suck it up, buttercup, and just do it. It's down-to-earth, no-nonsense, practical lessons that we all need to hear. His introduction to the book comes out and tells you this.
The first chapter is all about the psychology of survival, where for over 30 pages Hawke basically tells you to never give up and to always choose life, over and over and over again, in so many different ways. He basically says that humans are strong, and that if we choose to live we can push our bodies so far past what we perceive as our limits that we can't even conceive that it's possible.
He then spends a chapter each on shelter, water, fire, and food. Nothing here was too surprising. He emphasizes principles more so than specifics in most cases. With water he talks about how you could, if you had to, drink your own urine, though he recommends making a urine solar still instead. Nothing in the fire starting chapter really surprised me, but in food he did go into details about the types of vitamins and minerals than humans need to survive, and that for everything except vitamin C you could basically get from meat. All mammals are basically good to eat, and meat will give you more energy than trying to live off of vegetable matter alone, so, basically, eat meat and stop being a vegan.
The chapter on tools had a lot of interesting tidbits in it, and has convinced me to learn how to make and use a sling. Practice makes perfect, so I might as well start now. The navigation chapter went into a lot of detail on map reading, which was mostly a refresher from the Orienteering merit badge in scouts, but he did talk a bit about navigating using the stars, which I thought was neat.
He had a small chapter on signaling, which was all common sense stuff. He posted the Morse Code chart, but then said that it likely wouldn't do any good to learn it, besides the SOS.
The most surprising chapter was the one on First Aid, as Hawke apparently has had a lot of experience in field medicine. It was this chapter that Hawke went super detailed about things, making recommendations that I assume has made him a prime candidate for numerous lawsuits. His philosophy, though, is do nothing and they'll definitely die, or do something and they'll only probably die. Very brutal. He goes into things like people with their eyes hanging out of their sockets, how to perform a cricothyroidectomy, how to recognize the difference between pneumothorax and hemothorax, and what to do about it, when it might be appropriate to use different types of medicines (praziquantel can be used to treat flukes, but it could help with tape worms if it's all you've got), etc. With the way the rest of the book was so general, getting hit with all this specific stuff makes me think I should study this chapter in more detail. The lesson is still the same: in most cases it is better to try something than to do nothing.
His last chapter, on nature, is a catchall for the topics that didn't really fit in other chapters, but it is also here that Hawke talks about wartime survival, including surviving in hostile territory, or amidst riots and warfare, what to do in the case of a nuclear or biological attack, etc. He finishes this chapter by putting the fear of god and the end of times in your head. The last few pages include a list of items he would keep in one of his three survival kits: the one he has on him at all times, the one he keeps in his coat or car glove box, and the bigger bug-out bag that is ready to go in a worst case scenario.
Overall, this was a fun read, and more people should adhere to the philosophy that the worst case scenario does sometimes happen, and it doesn't hurt to, as the scouts say, be prepared. There are people that wouldn't find this book interesting, mainly those that have already decided to give up in the end of days, like, I imagine, my poor mother. If there is no other takeaway, the thing to remember is that survival is a choice.
 
Novelette, i think it's called. Finished uh Sand Kings by GRRM. I knew about it from the film adaptation, saw on tv so decided to give the original a read. Loved it! Wish he had written more short stories of the Wo and Shade characters selling people dubious shit.

Working through the first Wheel of time books right now, but the intro stuff is kind of slow for me. :defeat I liked when he started to talk about the age of legends or whatever it's called.
 

Pilaf

The Man in the Rain
Finished Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster

One of the early, early Star Ears EU books. It was written after Star Wars came out but before Empire Strikes Back. It leans into the Luke/Leia ship and has a weird fight between Luke and Vader that couldn't be canonical to ESB but if you pretend only the first movie and this book exists and put it in its own micro-timeline it's easy to overlook stuff like this. It's well-written but slim. I burned through it in about five or six hours, mostly in a single day. Cheap paperback from Amazon. Money well spent. I'll read it again someday.
 
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