75 Books 36-40: Meyer, George, Sharlet, Chabris and Simons, Hines

I have just finished book 41, which puts me a bit ahead of the game for the year.  Which is good since TAM will be a non-reading sort of a place.  Though the flights will be good reading time.

 

36. The Tudors – GJ Meyer

This is a history of the entirety of the Tudors, which in reality isn’t that big —  just over 100 years.  Henry 7, 8, Edward 6, Mary, and Elizabeth.  Unfortunately, despite claiming to be a history of all the Tudors, it was probably 3/4ths devoted to Henry VIII.  There was almost nothing about Henry VII, and not nearly enough on Edward, Mary, or Elizabeth.  I appreciate that there’s a lot written about all of them elsewhere, but the comprehensive claim the book makes is absurd.  It should have been called Henry VIII and Family.

One thing I really liked about the book was that between each chapter about the Tudors, there was a chapter giving background on general life in England or Europe at the time.  It was very helpful.  I also liked the fact that, unlike most writers, Meyer had a fairly negative view of the Tudors — a very interesting shift in perspective.

B-

37. Princess of the Midnight Ball – Jessica Day George

I have two favorite fairy tales: Donkey Skin and The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  This is based on the latter.  The book is fairly similar to the original telling, just much expanded.  I enjoyed George’s writing style, and I particularly liked how much she weaved knitting into the story.  Seriously, the book has knitting patterns in the back for the knitting that took place within the story.  Goofy?  Yes.  Awesome?  Probably.

B+

38. The Family – Jeff Sharlet

I have been reading this for like 4 months.  It is a slog, and incredibly depressing.  Not bad, mind you, just dense.  The book follows three basic stories: the rise of fundamentalism, the power the family has in American and World Politics, and the importance of political power to Christianity.  I particularly enjoyed the parts about Ted Haggard, who was an even bigger player behind the scenes than I had realized, and Hillary Clinton, who I am horrified to know actually has worked with the Family on numerous occasions.  As Sharlet says, in the US there is only one party, they just are smart enough to pretend like people have choices.  The information is important, but not terribly well-organized, and it can be difficult to read at times.  It seems to flop back and forth between third and first person too much.

B

39. The Invisible Gorilla – Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

Non-fiction usually takes me a long time to get through.  I guess because there’s no plot, or maybe because writers don’t think they have to be entertaining or provide forward motion for a book that’s mostly about facts.  This book was the first non-fiction book I’ve read in a while that was easy to get through.  It’s a fascinating exploration of how terrible our minds are at a lot of different things.  We’re bad at noticing unexpected things we aren’t paying attention to, we’re bad at remembering things accurately, we’re bad at differentiating between confidence and skill — our intuition about our brains is usually wrong.

They talk about film editing and continuity, which I found very interesting because we know we can get away with a lot.  When you’re editing, particularly non-scripted, you use a lot of stuff that has horrible continuity errors.  Have people talking to each other when they’re not even in the same room, cut to a different day and pretend it’s the same one because the shirts look close enough, cut from the exterior of one car to the interior of a different car.  We do some blatant crap in the editing room, and it’s almost always missed.

Another interesting thing about this book is that, during this whole Elevatorgate thing, Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear has come up a few times.  I was required to read the book for a self-defense class I took in college.  It was, I thought, fairly useful — though depressing, since it was basically aimed at women because women need to be vigilant at all times.  It is truly a gripping book, but it talks a lot about relying on intuition, which is sort of funny next to a book that says how wrong our intuitions are.  I suppose when in a situation where you feel threatened, it’s better to get out of it than to try to clinically dissect whether you’re being reasonable or not.

Not that The Invisible Gorilla really addresses anything like that, it’s just fairly anti-intuition.  Anyway, the book was a fantastic read, and I recommend it highly.  Particularly to anyone who thinks they’ve got an accurate memory.

A

40. Goblin Quest – Jim C Hines

This book is like reading a Dungeons & Dragons game play out, except it doesn’t suck.  I know, that’s very confusing to you, it was confusing for me too.  Basically, in a sort of Pratchett-esque way, it tells a very good adventure quest story while making fun of all of the conventions of adventure quest stories.  Sort of meta like that.  It was very entertaining, easy to read, and my only real disappointment with it was the ending, which I felt was abrupt and unnecessarily got rid of interesting characters.  The interesting characters only matters because there are sequels.  I did like that the end sort of emphasized how miserable it is to return to your small life after living a larger than life adventure.  It’s difficult to grow and change and have everyone you know stay the same.  I’m upset that my library has only the first and last in the series.  I’m going to have to buy the middle one.

A-

Women’s World Cup 2011: Updated Predictions

OK, so wow, France is doing much better than expected, and my US team is looking like their number 1 rank is deserved.  I am relieved and will go forth being overly optimistic for them because I love them so much.

So, my predictions for the rest of the group games.

Group A

France and Germany are tied on points, but France has a much better goal differential, meaning that all they have to do is tie Germany to move forward as the winners.  Germany is the favorite, but France has looked much better on the field — something I definitely did not predict.  I’d like France to win and that, more than anything, is leading me to say that France will win the group, and Germany will be second.

Group B

Japan is definitely going forward, so the competition is between Mexico and England.  England is well ahead in goal differential, so they can lose to Japan and still move forward, which is exactly what I think is going to happen.  Japan first, England second.

Group C

This is as fun as Group A, because the US and Sweden are literally fighting for the number one slot.  Like France, all the US has to do is tie to win the group.  I think they’re going to outright beat Sweden, or at least that is my hope.  US number 1, Sweden number 2.

Group D

I simply cannot see Brazil not creaming Equatorial Guinea, which may be very fun to watch, so the competition is now  for second place between Australia and Norway.  Norway has not been impressive, but Australia’s defense has been lax.  Australia just has to tie Norway to move on, and I think they’ve got that in them.  I’m saying Brazil 1, Australia 2.

So if the games followed this prediction, we’d end up with the following matches.

Match 25
France vs England

I’m tempted to say France, as surprised as I am by that.  This seems like a very close match to me.

Match 26
Japan vs Germany

Should be a great game as well, but I think Japan is going to be tough to beat.

Match 27
US vs Australia

This should be an easy win for the US.

Match 28
Brazil vs Sweden

This should be an easy win for Brazil.

SemiFinal A/B
France vs Japan

I think this is Japan’s.

SemiFinal C/D
US vs Brazil

Man, this is tough.  I don’t know.  They are my two favorite teams.  I think Brazil is weak in their defense and the US could exploit it, but sometimes it seems like the US barely even shows up.  I’m going to say the US, but I would be thrilled to see either one of these teams in the final.

3rd Place
France vs Brazil

Brazil.

Final
US vs Japan

US

Wow, Richard Dawkins is Clueless

I love Richard Dawkins.  I like his books, I love watching him read his hate mail, I loved listening to him talk at TAM last year, I loved watching him smirk about everything, I loved his documentary and I just like him in general.

But he doesn’t get what it’s like to be a woman.  Not that one would expect him to have a total understanding, he is not a woman, but you would think that he’d be able to empathize just a little with women.  Apparently not.  Apparently if your genitals aren’t being mutilated and you’re complaining about creepy behavior from men at conferences, you’re just complaining about nothing.  Wow, that’s great PR from a movement trying to get more women involved.

Have some background:

  1. Rebecca Watson was part of a panel about feminism.
  2. A stranger followed her into the elevator at four in the morning, waited for the doors to be closed, and tried to get her to go back to the room with him.
  3. She was creeped out majorly by this behavior. And was bothered that her talk had apparently made no difference and that her wish to go back to her room and sleep, which she said to a large room of people that included the stranger, was being ignored by someone who thought it was his right to hit on her regardless of what she wanted.
  4. Another female blogger, Stef McGraw, said she was overreacting.
  5. Rebecca Watson mentioned Stef, by name, in another panel.
  6. Stef then said it was abuse of power for Watson to call her out in a panel.
  7. A bunch of guys in the movement started protesting that if you can’t approach a stranger in the middle of the night (in an enclosed, inescapable space) then how will you ever meet anyone in the movement??? Plus, Freedom of Speech!
  8. PZ posted about it, which garnered much response and vitriol from various people.
  9. DAWKINS came into the comment thread and said basically that it was OK for guys to be creepy because some women get their genitals mutilated. That the creepy behavior was NO DIFFERENT from someone chewing gum on an elevator. Richard Dawkins said this, PZ confirmed it was actually him.
  10. My head exploded

Here’s some advice for guys: If a woman, particularly a complete stranger, can literally not get away from you, that’s not a good time to proposition her.  If you’ve got her trapped in a small space or are between her and her escape route, don’t imply, on any level, that you’d like to do things to her body.  Just don’t.

Why?  Because she doesn’t know if you’re a good guy or not and she’s trapped in a space suddenly with someone who doesn’t care about how safe she feels, and in this particular case, has already intentionally ignored her stated wishes.  Why on earth would she think you’re not going to ignore it when she says NO?  There are lots of opportunities to express interest in ways that don’t feel incredibly dangerous to a woman — if you put yourself in her shoes and think, “Would this seem safe if I was a woman who might get raped by a strange man?”  If the answer is anything but, “Yes,” DON’T DO IT.

Here is an amazing post about how not to make women feel scared shitless when you try to hit on them.  Don’t act like a threat!  Don’t ignore what people say!  Don’t ignore body language!  And don’t accuse women of complaining about meaningless crap when they’re afraid for their safety because some people have it worse!