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Posts Tagged ‘Recommended Reading’

Another comic book collection from my son, James.  This is the re-boot of the Justice League of America as the “Justice League International: vol 1“, (2008©).  Does it work?  Yeah.  Is it great?  No, not really.
 

To start off with, the book is kind of drawn from the early 60’s method.  The book is hard-bound, rather than just thick paper like most of these “modern” collections.  And it’s done on old school paper, not the glossy stuff they put everything one these days.  Overall effect – I liked it!!
 

Now, meat and potatoes – the art work itself is good – old school, so not the super-heroic, ultra-muscle drawing so common today.  The story is well put together and has a decent flow.  It doesn’t jump all over the place like an Ang Lee movie.  As a first introduction to many of these characters, the book was well done.  Some of the characters are “old”, like Green Lantern, but he’s not the Hal Jordan character I grew up with.  Also, Batman is a very interesting character / leader in this version of the League.  I found that intriguing, because I was always used to Batman being the loner.  Finally, I appreciated how the various heroes have personality quirks which cause them to rub each other the wrong way.  That made for group dynamics I don’t remember ever seeing in DC Comics before.
 

Bottom line:  recommended reading.

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One of the books I’ve recently completed is: “The Roving Mind“, by Isaac Asimov (New Edition 1997©) originally copyrighted 1983©.   The book is a collection of articles published over a 15 year span and covering a wide range of topics including Religion, Science, Population, the Future and some personal stories.  The book is sort of mini-tribute to the author as it has brief tributes/forwards by some of the greatest science and science fiction writers of all time as an addition to the “new edition”.
 

Whenever you think of Science Fiction, you should think of the BIG three: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein.  But of these, Clarke and Asimov wrote about both fiction and science fact.  I personally feel the comparison ends there.  Asimov wrote over 500 books in his lifetime!!  Many were fiction (science fiction), but he also wrote about history, philosophy, and basic sciences (math, chemistry and physics).  But, stop for a minute and think about that – 500 books!  That’s more than most people read in their lifetime, let alone write. 
 

Anyway, I digress – as usual.  If anyone could convince me to become either an agnostic or an atheist (they can’t, but if they could), it would be Asimov.  For me, his writing is so clean and his reasoning and explanations so clear, it is hard for me to imagine there being anything in science or philosophy which Asimov could not turn into a popularized title for the general public.
 

This book has 62 articles and the first section (of six articles) is titled: “The Religious Radicals“.  If you want to see where the country is headed and how the current path was predictable as early as 1983, this section is worth the price of the book itself.  It is a bone-chilling, frightening indictment of anti-science / fundamental Christian faith in America which, if anything, is more true today than it was in 1983.
 

I grew up reading Asimov.  When I was a teen I read his hundredth book: “Opus 100“, which was a book similar to this in that it was a collection of works.  I was amazed back then that anyone could write 100 books.  Forty odd years later, Asimov continues to amaze me and make me think.  Asimov passed away in 1992 and we may never see his like again…
 

Highly recommended!!
 

 

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I’ve been mostly in bed all week (since last Friday) with a flu-like bug which has morphed into an inner-ear infection which has resulted in pretty bad dizziness (vertigo), a hacking cough, sinus headaches and all-around misery.  Sunday and Monday I was running a pretty good fever which finally crested at 102.5 and then broke about 10:00 PM on Monday night.   If I could just get rid of this dizziness, I’d be feeling pretty decent today.  Still, I shouldn’t complain.  I’m a lot better than I was…
Today was my first day back on my feet for any real length of time.  I went to the doctor’s office yesterday, but that was getting driven to and from (by Hil) and then sitting in the front office chair until they squeezed me in.  Then straight back to bed…  Anyway, this morning I was up long enough to make myself some new “Green-Juice” in my juicer.  I don’t know if it’ll help me get better, faster, but it was nice to move around a bit.
I’m trying out a new “blend” today.  This one isn’t near the hodge-podge I’ve been throwing together.  This one is: 1 bunch Kale, 1 bunch Celery, 1/2 white onion, 2 in of ginger, 2 apples, 8 large carrots – all juiced, with a bag of spinach and a bag of salad greens (mostly Romain lettuce) blended in.  I then added a slosh of lemon concentrate, a cup of apple juice, a cup of lemonade and a cup of orange juice.  This made two 64 oz bottles of “Green-Juice”.  The taste is a LOT better than the last batch I made which included various greens, radishes and beetroots and it doesn’t taste like dirt.  It DOES taste a lot like freshly cut and blended grass with onion and a twist of lemon.  …Which isn’t too bad actually!
You just have to keep telling yourself, “It’s good for me!”
I also made a 64 oz bottle of fruit juice from apple juice, four apples, two ripe bananas, lemon concentrate, lemonade, and orange juice.  That’s blended (not juiced) and it has a nice banana smoothie taste and texture.
It all took a while, because I feel like I’m moving in treacle, and I pretty much collapsed into a chair for rest afterwards.
So, now I’ve struggled over to my desktop to do this bit of blogging…
Believe it or not, I’ve managed to plough through three books so far this week.  The are: “That First Season“, “Marshall” and “Introducing Mathematics“.   Now I don’t promise my recollection of them to be all that great a week from now, but today I feel like I still remember the gist of each of the books.  So, here goes the review for each:
That First Season” is written by John Eisenberg (2009©).  The book traces the 1959 season of the Green Bay Packers.  This was Vince Lombardi’s first year as a head coach in the National Football League and how he turned his team around from the worst team in the league the prior year to a competitive team (they finished with a record of 9 wins and 5 losses).
The following decade, the 1960’s, was the Packer’s dynasty which included winning the first two (ever) SuperBowls.  Looking back, Lombardi was probably (definitely) one of the dominant professional coaches of my youth.  His supposed quote: “Winning isn’t the most important thing.  Winning is everything!” is probably the most iconic quote from my childhood years.
This book is about the year when it (the dynasty) could have gone another direction (and never been).  Obviously, it didn’t go the other way and this book attempts to capture the spirit of the man, the team and the town as the dynasty is created.  And, I must admit, does a very good job of it.  I’ve read several books about American football over the last couple of years and this is definitely the best of the lot.  This book is NOT about “X’s” and “O’s”, but you can, in fact, pick out quite a bit of theory if you read carefully.  Instead this book is about a time in history and a sport, a man, a town, a team and a season.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in sport, leadership or even as a study in chaos theory – where a small change of a starting factor can have a profound impact on a larger event.
The second book is “Marshall” (2010©), written by H. Paul Jeffers with Alan Axelrod.  This book is one of the “Great General Series” about “Lessons In Leadership“.  The book traces the life and legacy of General George C. Marshall.  Marshall is probably the greatest strategic, diplomatic and effective logistician America has ever produced.  In addition to being the top non-civilian commander throughout World War II, he was also the prime architect of the rebuilding of Europe and Japan after the war.  For his plan (the “Marshall Plan“), General Marshal, who was then U.S. Secretary of State was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.  He remains the only military commander to have been awarded the Peace Prize.
What follows is a mixed review.  That is because this is a very good book about a great man, however, I struggle to describe anything which makes it useful as a lesson in leadership.  General Marshall was an extremely private man, so merely tracing his life does little to provide insight into how he became a leader or what he considered in making his decisions.  One is left with simply observing the decisions and actions and attempting to derive the leadership lessons from the observations.  For some, this is more than enough.  For the General, I do not get this sense.
What is the reader left with then?  (This is redundant…)  A very private, dedicated man striving to achieve personal excellence in order to protect his nation; a man who returns to service for his country despite the petty attacks from those who are unfit to polish his shoes (Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin); and, a man who is the ultimate logistical problem solver at a global scale.  It’s too bad there wasn’t more information on how he did things or the what he thought about things before deciding to do them.  This is the second book I’ve read (recently) on the General, and unfortunately, I don’t believe there is any such work.  I already own another biography (so far, unread) on Marshall and am contemplating purchasing the four volume “Forrest Pogue” set which is considered the definitive version.  Why?  Because the idea of such a great leader and also such a great American …  fascinates me!!  Again, a very good read and highly recommended!
The third book is: “Introducing Mathematics”  (1999©) by Ziauddin Sardar, Jerry Ravetz and Rorin Van Loon.  This is another in the “Introducing” series which hopes to bring an overview of any given topic via a series of pictures and brief sentences/paragraphs about the great people and ideas related to the topic.  This time, the topic is math and the explanation covers from the dawn of civilization to the present and all of civilization (Eastern, Western, Egyptian, American Indian, Arabic, etc) too.  If you want a broad based overview of a lot of the main topics under math – including the people and timeframes – this is the book for you.  If you’re looking for in depth coverage and knowledge, it’s only a springboard.  In either case, it’s more than satisfactory and I highly recommend it, too.
How’s that for an unlikely trilogy?  Three high recommends…
And now, back to bed I stagger… (whew)
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This week I completed two books – one very good and one not very good.
The very good book is titled: “On Becoming A Leader” (2003©) and was written by Warren Bennis  – updated version from the original published in 1989.  Bennis is considered to be the “father” of the developed leader school.  His mantra is that leaders are not born, they are made.  Some are made by history, but Bennis goes farther in that he believes many (if not most) make themselves.  They (leaders in process) have various ways of “making” themselves, but ultimately they follow similar paths to becoming a leader.  The book is meant to lend framework to the path – partly to define the framework, but mostly to lay out the map for readers (leaders in process).
Shakespeare states: “Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”  This is a quote often seen when discussing how great leaders come to be.  I believe all three are true for “historic” leaders and am not convinced that any one is more prevalent than the other two.  I do feel that history and luck play the biggest role in “greatness”, though.
Bennis is firmly in the “achieving” camp.  It should be pointed out there is a difference between “greatness” and “leadership” and Bennis is concerned with the latter and not the former.  This book is his version of “how” to become a leader – the personal traits you need to develop, how you should lead, and how you must form your organization or how it will form you.  There is a statement that great leaders understand themselves and “express” their nature fully.  This is the part where I start to fall away from Bennis.  While I can understand “warm-fuzzy psycho-babble”, it’s not my cup of tea.  It simply doesn’t “resonate” with me.  This may simply be because I’m not a “great” leader and I’m therefore not  able to feel the “expressive” nature of great leadership hidden away in me.  (But, I doubt it…)
Anyway, as negative as the preceding paragraphs sound, this is actually a VERY good book and I highly recommend it – not because I believe everything Bennis says, but rather because I love his use of language.  I probably hope that being “fully expressive” is all it takes to be a great leader, because this implies I may still develop into a great leader myself.  (But, I doubt it…)
By the way, this was another $2 clearance book at Half-Price Books (and worth ten times as much), and you’ll be seeing frequent quotes from the book in future posts.
The second book is titled: “Marathoning A-Z” and was written by Hal Higdon (2002©).  The book is sub-titled: “500 Ways to Run Better, Faster,and Smarter“.  The book is a series of alphabetically sorted snippets from his question and answer columns and emails about running.  The book is a very fast read.  This is partly because each offering truly is a snippet and partly because there is almost nothing stated which makes one pause to think.  As such, I could not recommend this book to any but the most rank beginner of a runner.  Even then I’d qualify the book to them by stating at least 20 to 30 of the items are repeated in a different alphabet letter.  I’m not sure if this was meant to introduce humor or simply filler because you’ve promised the publisher 500 items.  (I have a feeling it’s the latter…)  Sadly, this was NOT a $2 book for me.  It was $4.95 and I was over-charged about $4 in value vs cost.  Save your money and check this out of a library.  Better yet, just go out and start jogging.  You’ll get more from jogging yourself than you will ever get from this book.

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Today I finished reading “The Runner And The Path“, by Dean Ottati (2002).  This is another of the $2 books I’ve picked up at Half-Price Books on the outside rack.  I bought it on the strength of 1) it’s about running; 2) the author/runner lives locally (in Walnut Creek); and, 3) from the inside the cover notes the book came across as quasi-philosophical.  The book is all three and more. 
 

The author is an account manager (an “executive”) in a technology company.  Feeling a bit out of shape, he takes up running as a hobby and discovers that over time, it shows him an entirely new side of himself which he never made time to observe before.  The author learns (between running and talking with his running friends) to listen to his own heart.  Not the the physical heart beating away in his chest, but the heart beating away in his soul.
 

The book is a mild indictment of corporate America, because the author ultimately decides (after his review,) that he doesn’t always want to be fighting on the corporate ladder and that there is more to life than “just” more – more money, more authority, more stuff.  The author does admit he has been lucky and he’s fortunate enough to be in a position to back off of the rat race so his conclusions “ring” true, however, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope for the non-executives (regular workers) or those who can’t step off the ladder.
 

Other than those minor comments, I found the book to be very enjoyable – like talking with a new acquaintance whom you discover you have a lot in common with.  The authors writing style, even when he lapses into philosophy, is conversational and therefore a quick read.  And he does have a way with words, which means you’ll be seeing quotes from this book from time to time.
 

All in all, I recommend the book for those who have never really looked up from their “path” to see where it is actually taking them.
 

Finally, I must admit I kept waiting for a reference to Frost’s “The Road Not Taken“, but it never came.  An opportunity missed by the author…
 

 

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This morning I’ve added two new entries to my Poems page: Trees and Time Is…
 

“Trees” is, of course, a wonderful little poem – particularly for re-incarnated “Ents” (like me!).  I believe it was Robert Heinlein who said everyone should plant a tree at some point in their life.  I completely agree.  Planting trees is like having children.  It is a commitment to the future.  It is an expression of hope.  Time passing, seasons turning, growth rings and bark – just like life.
 

Have you hugged a tree lately?  As ridiculous as hugging trees may seem, it’s my experience that it’s very rare for someone to hug a tree and not leave it without a big smile on their face and usually a laugh (or chuckle) too.
 

Doesn’t everyone know the best cure for everything wrong with a person is hugs, smiles and laughter?   I think of them as living medicine.
 

“Time Is…” is actually a quote and not a poem.  But it has always had the “poem” feel to me.  I first read this quote when I was a youngster riding the San Francisco Muni bus to school.  They had a program to bring poetry and quotes to the masses.  I loved looking for the newest entry on each bus and occasionally you’d get on a bus which had multiple poems or all poems (instead of advertising)!  Then you had to move slowly down the length of the bus as you rode along to your destination.  If I ever had the money to do so, that’s one of the ways I’d pay-forward for the joy someone else gave me way back when.
 

Enjoy!
 

Book Review:
Yesterday, I completed my fourth book by Richard P. Feynman.  This one is titled: “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out” (1999©).  The book is a collection of short “works” (speeches, interviews, and writings) by Dr. Feynman and was edited by Jeffrey Robbins.  Some of the stories I’d already read in Feynman’s other books, but the writing is so clear and the thoughts so beautiful you’re not left feeling like you’ve paid for a new book and only got a re-hash.  Of course, there will be many quotes from this book appearing on this blog from time to time.  After all, I’m still working through the quotes from the other three books.
 

As usual (for this author), this book is book is both highly thought provoking and highly recommended.  I hate to admit it, but I’m really starting to feel compelled to buy and read some of his serious (non-story) books.  I feel as if I’ve met (and lost again) a long lost friend.  It’s a shame he’s passed away (back in 1988).

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Last Saturday I finished reading “The China Study“, by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II (2006©).   Basically, the book is about using a plant-based diet to extend your life and improve / maintain your health.  The title comes from an extensive study of diet (what people normally eat as opposed to what people eat to lose weight) in the majority of rural counties in China which the author believes found a correlation between the amount of animal protein consumed and the level of several diseases (heart disease, diabetes and various forms of cancer).
The author acknowledges that correlation is not causation, but he proposes that based on the results of the study, we should forego the traditional “Western Diet” of meat, eggs, dairy and oils and return to a simpler diet consisting exclusively of plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits and nuts) and preferably raw foods.
I got this book from my sister, who is currently a practicing vegetarian.  She loaned it to me because Hil and I were discussing the book “Eat To Live” with her.  (See my review here.)  Anyway, she said although she has not read “Eat To Live“, it sounds very much like a book she has read (“The China Study“).  So I appropriated it for the masses (or should I say massive – me).
I found the book fairly interesting (and quotable), but also a bit overbearing in parts.  The main problem with reading this kind of book is that if you’re already inclined to agree with the author, very little the author says will seem incorrect.  The three things I most agree with are 1.) excessive meat (beef, poultry, pork and fish) and dairy consumption can lead to poor health,  2) excessive reductionism in scientific research of complex systems can lead to faulty conclusions, and, 3) the government is not necessarily on the people’s side when it comes to nutrition and food.
The fundamental question is: “How much meat and dairy are too much?”  The author proposes any at all should be considered too much.  That’s a pretty tough standard.  At least in the “Eat To Live” book the author recognized almost nobody is going to go completely without meat.
Does the book, “prove” its claims.  No.  Does it make sense?  Yes, it feels intuitively correct (recognizing my personal bias going into the reading of the book).  Is the book worth reading?  I believe it is.  Will I ever stick to the recommendations?  Nope.  Not a chance…  I enjoy eating meat and will have it occasionally.  I will have it less frequently than before and when I do have meat in my meal, I will make an effort to eat less of it than I would before, but I can’t imagine going through the rest of my life with no meat whatsoever.
By the way, in my own personal struggle with weight and health – I do feel much better since moving to a “mostly” plant-based and “mostly” unprocessed foods diet.  I do seem to be losing weight slowly and I am still doing it while “mostly” not being hungry.  The down side is I can really feel the difference (mostly bloating) when I do indulge in meat, sugar or salt.  Still, while a “down side”, I’m not sure such cognitive recognition is a negative.  It’s kind of like my body saying, “See, this is the price you pay for eating that way…”  Only now, I can hear my body saying it much more clearly.
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