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‘Journey’ By James A. Michener — Strangely Unsatisfying, Didn’t Read Like A ‘Michener’.

by Anura Guruge


Click to access Amazon listing.


No, it wasn’t because it was atypically short for a Michener. It is true that the paperback, in its entirety, is under 190-pages!

But, I have read another short Michener: ‘Miracle in Seville‘. That was different.

During much of this book I was convinced that he had NOT written it. That he had just lent his name to it so that the publisher could make a quick buck. But, curiously, this book, as its last chapter per se, contains a lengthy stream of consciousness from Michener talking about how this book came to be. The story was culled from his ‘1,000-page’ ‘Alaska‘. It, set 99% in Canada, was out-of-place in that novel and they were trying to keep it from getting too long. So, they took this tale out of that book and eventually Michener got around the publishing it as a standalone.

Maybe that is why it reads strange. In parts he seems rushed. The story is not very well developed. It feels sloppy.

Yes, great characters and you can really relate to them — especially if you, like I, are British. But, in the end I was left unsatisfied, unfulfilled. Like they say about Chinese. In the end you didn’t feel full.

Not a Michener I would recommend. I have just ordered Alaska in paperback.

Maybe I have read too much Michener. This was the 5th Michener in the last 18-months — and they included ‘Hawaii’, ‘The Covenant‘ & ‘Tales of the South Pacific‘. That is a lot of words from the same person.

It will be a couple of weeks before I pick up ‘Alaska’.


The ‘Michener Corner’ in my study.
Separate from all the other books.


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by Anura Guruge


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‘The Book Of Air And Shadows’ By Michael Gruber — Best Imitation Of ‘The Da Vinci Code’?

by Anura Guruge



Click image to access the Amazon listing.


Quite the book, and quite the story. Incredibly clever, with twists within twists and a level of detail about so many diverse topics that leaves one in awe. I have never heard of Michael Gruber before but I have to acknowledge that he is one heck of a storyteller, writer and intellectual. Bravo. The sheer detail he just throws into the story reminded me, more than once, og one of my favorite authors, the incomparably brilliant, John Irving. That said, this book, intentionally or not, is very much ‘The Da Vinci Code‘ redux. Nothing wrong with that. I know that many have tried, but Gruber does a great job getting close.

Is it as good as ‘The Code’? Maybe not — but Dan Brown had a even more compelling and intriguing subject to base his story than William Shakespeare.

To be honest parts of the story and plot are too far-fetched, trite and totally implausible. Life is never that pat, neat or tidy. But, others parts make up for this failure.

I was surprised at how harsh some of the Amazon reviews were. I really don’t think it was that bad. Actually, it is a GOOD book. I already gave it to an English scholar and told her that she will enjoy it. Plus, I am, of course, recommending it here! And even that seems unnecessary. It was, as it says on the cover, a ‘New York Times Bestseller’. So, it sure doesn’t need my imprimatur.

If you enjoyed ‘The Code’ you should give this a try. I doubt whether you will totally regret it. A tad hard to get through the first chapter, BUT then it gets more compelling and towards the end it is indeed a page-turner.


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by Anura Guruge


‘The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey’ By Rinker Buck — Interesting, But Not As Compelling As I Had Hoped.

by Anura Guruge


Click to access Amazon book listing.


I had seen this book at a bookstore during our trip to ‘Moosehead Lake‘, Maine in April, but bought it, used, from Amazon as is my wont with books like this.

The ‘Oregon Trail’ and all stories of the 19th century Western migration intrigues I mainly because I was lucky enough to have read a few very compelling books on the topic, ket among them: James Michener’sCentennial‘, Irvin Stone’s mesmerizing ‘Men to Match My Mountains‘ and J.S. Holliday’s ‘The World Rushed In‘.

Well, I am glad I read this book. I learnt a LOT, about the history of the trail, about mules (that I knew next to nothing about), the seemingly incredible ‘Buck’ family and some American history. Given that I am a history buff (in my old age) this book had some wonderful information and insights.

But, this book left me ‘hungry’ — and a lot of that, quite literally, was because Rinker was so stingy with his details of how and what they ate! I kid you not. I was hoping that this would be more of a trail diary — maybe a journal. Lots of stuff, on a daily basis, about what they did, what they saw, how they got from A-to-B, what they ATE, where they slept etc. Well, there isn’t that much of it as I would have liked. That was the let down. It was also sparse on the exact route they took — whether they were on main roads, back country roads, dirt roads etc. I got two maps (below) to try and and follow the trail. I also used Google Maps.

It was OK. Obviously it was a bestseller. So, he obviously hit on the right formula. Good for him.

Yes, I will recommend it with a slight hesitation. Do what I did. Pick up a used copy. That way you won’t feel as bad if you felt let down by the entire trip narrative. SMILE.



 

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by Anura Guruge


‘Brain Wearables’ Are But Variations On ‘Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation’ (tDCS) Devices.

by Anura Guruge


Click image to access AXIOS original.


Click to ENLARGE.


Thanks to the popularity and success of fitness trackers and smartwatches — my Garmin MARQ Expedition an example — ‘wearables’ are trendy.

But, from what I can see, there are ‘wearables’ and then there are other ‘wearables’.

I would hate to equate these so called ‘brain wearables’ with a smartwatch or fitness tracker. To I there is a fundamental differences. Brain wearables are trying, via technology and some form of direct electromagnetic stimulation, to modify your behavior. A fitness tracker or smartwatch ONLY tries to ‘interfere’ with your behavior via motivation and/or shame. BIG difference.

I am familiar with tDCS technology. I have talked about it in my ‘Central Pain’ book. tDCS can work. But, with wearables the manufacturers have to be ULTRA cautious. They don’t want folks accidently frying their brains! So, they have to severely constrain the power output they deliver. And that is the crunch. tDCS, TMS or ECT administered under supervision can — and will — use significantly more juice. That in my opinion is what will cripple brain wearables. They will not be able to deliver adequate ‘juice’ to really make a difference.

Click to ENLARGE and read here.


So keep this in mind as you are reading about and evaluating brain wearables.


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by Anura Guruge


 

Sam Kean’s “The Disappearing Spoon” — One Heck Of A Mind Expanding Book.

by Anura Guruge


Click to access Amazon listing.



Click to access my post.


Click to access my post.


This is one heck of a book. I was going to say it was mind blowing, but that was, I realized, the wrong description. It is mind expanding. It is filled, chock-a-block with fascinating information and insights on every page. I learnt so much.

I already did two posts on subjects I learnt from this book: silver (and Argyria) & iodine.

I had never heard of him until this last March. Then, on a Sunday, on NPR, they read excerpts from his book “The Violinist’s Thumb“. I was hooked. I wanted to read the whole book. I went looking for it on Amazon and found all three of his books. As is my wont, when it comes to authors, I ordered all three.

I decided to start with the ‘Spoon‘ because I do have an affinity to elements.

Wow. I wish this book had been around 50-years ago when I was studying chemistry. I would have learnt so much more.

It should be a MUST READ for all high school kids doing chemistry. It will make chemistry that much more real.

Though well and amusingly written, it is NOT an easy book to read. It is technical and some of his very technical explanations are not as clearly explained by Sam. I ended up doing more research on my own.

If you like chemistry, do yourself a favor and read this book. It will enrich your life and expand your mind.


Sam Kean responded to this post on Twitter.

Click to ENLARGE. On my Twitter feed: @RealAnuraGuruge



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by Anura Guruge


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