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I just finished Three Cups of Tea. I was disappointed in that tea is really pretty secondary to the story of a guy from Minnesota building school for kids in Pakistan. If you can get passed that it’s actually a pretty good read. The book may lead to contemplating quitting your job (if your the kind of person who has one) and helping strangers.

WFS seal of approval.

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Everybody is putting their top 5 lists on Facebook, which I find annoying. I don’t think it’s annoying for blog posts, so without putting too much thought into it, here are some top 5’s.

Albums

  • Ben Harper – Fight For Your Mind
  • The Roots – Phrenology
  • Radiohead – The Bends
  • Damien Rice – O
  • DJ Shadow – The Private Press

Nothing too recent here, perhaps I’m set in my ways in my old age, or maybe I just need more time to realize how great the las Jonas Brother CD is.

Movies

  • Pulp Fiction
  • The Big Lebowski
  • The Departed
  • Braveheart
  • No Country For Old Men

Tough one to narrow down. Like the Oscar voters, I think I’m biased toward certain types of movies here. I really like comedys, but don’t think of them as ‘great’ no matter how hard they make me laugh. Sorry Superbad.

Books (Fiction)

  • Fight Club – Chuck Paleniuk
  • Hocus Pocus – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut

I couldn’t think of a fifth book to add. I’ve really read more than four books, and if I was going to be completely honest this list should be Fight Club and four more Vonnegut books, but that wouldn’t be too interesting. I’ll try and remember to update when I think of another book I really loved, other than Stewart’s Calculus.

As I write these, I wonder if I’m being completely honest with you (and myself), or if I skew my lists away from how I actually feel towards stuff that I enjoyed but also think will make me look cooler/smarter/whatever.

There are a lot of books in the world, and it takes a while to read one, so I’ve come up with these guidelines to whittle down my options. These are my guidelines (not rules) that reflect my personal taste.

  • Go to Borders or Barnes and Noble, if you have good local bookstores go there, but I live in San Diego, so that’s not an option for me. Wander around until a book catches your eye. This is by far the weekest part of my process, since it leads me to read only books with good cover art. I guess it’s nice to have a book collection with good cover art for aesthetics in the home, but I don’t think it leads to reading the best books.
  • Check the length, more important for fiction than non-fiction. I have often said that no story cannot be told better in under 300 pages than over. If you like writers who go into endless detail and frequently get off point, you might want to go for shorter books instead.
  • Is the author a woman? If so put the book down! I don’t do this based on any sort of opinions about the inherent writing ability of men and women, but because years ago I realized my favorite books were all written by men, and furthermore couldn’t think of a book I really like that was written by a women. If I had to throw one out I’d say Harry Potter, and that wouldn’t make my top 100.
  • Ignore the quotes about how good the book is. Every book is recommended by someone, and it doesn’t mean anything one way or the other. Sometimes I’ll see one from an author I like, these can be misleading. Just because someone writes books your into doesn’t mean he reads books you’ll be into. I especially stay clear of comparisons to authors I like. A lot of dudes get compared to Kurt Vonnegut these days, I have yet to read a book were the comparison is apt. The exception to this rule is a book recommended by Oprah, I won’t read those, even though they often look like very good books.
  • Now I’ve decided if I’d like to read the book or not, at this point you can go buy it like a sucker (you probably have a job too, chump). I usually take a picture of the cover with my phone to remember it and then go see if I can get it from the library. If I’m not in need of reading material at the moment I’ll save it on my amazon wish list for future reference.

Now that I’ve got them written down, I’m not sure if I’d really recommend the use of these guidelines by anyone, but there you go.

The bloggin has been slow lately, mostly due to a lack of blog worthy activity. A perfect storm of dullness has swept into my day to day life. I’ve been getting my Scrooge McDuck on to try and save $$ for the coming grad school storm. I’ve been following through on the much talked ofbut often put off decrease in cold beverage consumption. All of this, in the past would’ve pushed me into a couple hours a day of exercise, but I’m taking one last stab at going easy on the shoulder before resigning to a life time of mild shoulder pain and no racket sports. I never even learned to play squash.

On the plus side I’ve been reading a banger of a book. Empire of Blue Water is part biography of Captain Morgan, part history of pirating in the Caribean (of course), and a very interesting take on the economics and polotics that caused all the swashbuckling. If you like pirates (and who doesn’t), I would recommend it.

A few other reviews of various things:

  • Lupe Fiasco – The Cool I really like the beats and Lupe’s rhymes, but the hooks tend to be uninspired R&B riffs. It’s pretty good, but seems like it could’ve been so much better.
  • Reign Down on Me – Adam Sandler/Don Cheedle in a dramedy that makes for good comedy and weak drama.
  • Renesaince – Cool flick, mostly cause of the interesting cartoon. The story is similar to blade runner, kind of a noir mystery set in the not too distant future. It took a while to get going, but a decent flick once it did.

I’m hoping to get my hands on a few discs of the Wire to pass the time, although I still haven’t gotten over how they did Wallace.

Via Marginal Revolution, this Virgil Griffith compared books college kids are reading here (based on Facebook) and the average SAT scores at that school. I thought this was interesting, because I have read many books, and will continue to read, and took the SATs in the past (sometime in the 90’s). Some of my thoughts

  • The Holy Bible is correlated to a lower SAT (900) score than the Bible (1050), and the book of Mormon (1050-1100) beats them both. Didn’t see the Koran, I guess Facebook isn’t big with Muslims.
  • Fight Club is around a 1000, I love this book, but I don’t suck at standardized test like other people who do.
  • Atlas shrugged is in the 1200. This is one of the worst books I have ever read (I didn’t finish it). Ayn Rands philosophy isn’t bad, but she is a horrid writer.
  • Freakonomics was 1250 to 1300. Another book I like and one I would expect to relate to high scores. I wouldn’t be suprised if their was a high Freakonomic reader to virginity correlation.
  • I don’t know what Zane is, but if you reading your not going to go to a good school (800 average SAT).
  • Books I would expect dumb people to read (cough, Nicholas Sparks, cough), unscientifically, correlated to low SAT scores. These are mostly fiction best seller.
  • On the pages FAQ, Virgil notes that more college students read Harry Potter than the Bible (counting both the Bible and the Holy Bible).

On a side note, I looked in Virgil’s data and checked the alma maters average score. Western Washington throws down a respectable (for a directional state school) 1105. And for the record, I did have the SATs for non-directional state school, but I make poor life choices, so I went to Western.

While, it’s not my new book yet, but I’m going to write it. It was inspired by Jonah Goldberg. He got himself on the Daily Show and is getting a bit of press from writing a stupid book with an inflammatory title: Liberal fascism.

He apparently (I have not, nor will I read the book) is trying to argue that  modern liberals are fascist. Like Hitler. If you are familiar with the basic ideologies behind fascism and liberalism, you already know that this is stupid. But it made for a great Daily Show interview, click on the link if you missed it. I also enjoyed this post on the book, which goes into a bit more detail about how silly it is.

And now I’m posting on the book, so I figure that you can write successful non-fiction in two ways, well thought out interesting ideas, which is a lot of work, or stupid ideas that will get people all worked up mostly because they are stupid. I’m already getting pre-orders for my book and I haven’t even posted this yet. It’s that stupid!

I just finished reading A Farewell to Alms because Tyler Cowen told me to. It was dense. It was interesting at times, but not as intersting as I’d hoped. Nor did it delivered the promised explanation for the divergence in wealth across countries since the industrial revolution.

The jist of the book (stop reading here if you’re going to read the book): before the industrial revolution, technological gains lead to larger populations, not richer ones. The industrial revolution happened, but it was more gradual and diffuse than is normally assumed. After the industrial revolution, people in some parts of the world got a lot richer, and some didn’t get any richer, and some might be poorer. The reason some are poorer is probably due to lower output per worker, but there’s no good explanation why. If I misintepreted the book, I apologize to Mr. Clark. If I didn’t I just savedd you 370 or so pages of reading. Your welcome.

I do like Mr. Cowen’s idea of blog book discussion, but I hope he picks something more interesting next time.