Archive | September 2012

Delivered to My Kindle 9/25/2012

Here’s a book  I found for free at Amazon. Keep in mind that some ebooks are only free for a week or two and then they cost money, so you must be quick about it if you want to own these without subtracting from your wallet. DISCLAIMER: I don’t know how good these books actually are, all I know is that they sound interesting and they’re free.

 
Legacy Road by Graham Garrison: I’m a little weary about this one, but hey, might as well read something different. I usually don’t read much regarding relationships from a male point-o-view. It has 4 stars on Amazon and 3.74 on Goodreads

Description: Wes Watkins’s journalism career took off when he was asked to eulogize Michael Gavin, a stranger to Wes but a hometown hero to the humble folks of Talking Creek, Georgia. While researching Gavin’s life, Wes was confronted with an estranged relationship of his own that he wasn’t prepared to address, having ignored for years the occasional letters from his imprisoned father. Wes has chosen to focus instead on his growing career and his budding relationship with Emmy. His life is looking up . . . until his marriage proposal to Emmy goes south.

I did find three other books, but they’ve already gone up in price. It was just good luck for me :/. The other three were Springtime of the Spirit (The Great War)by Maureen Lang, Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde, and To Journey in the Year of the Tiger (Tails from the Upper Kingdom) by H. Leighton Dickson. I’ll have to find more free books next time. Still, I hope you enjoy this one.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

Overview: The first book to use the unexpected discoveries of neuroscience to help us make the best decisions

Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate, or we “blink” and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the mind’s black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they’re discovering that this is not how the mind works. Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason—and the precise mix depends on the situation. When buying a house, for example, it’s best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables. But when we’re picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray. The trick is to determine when to use the different parts of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think.

Jonah Lehrer arms us with the tools we need, drawing on cutting-edge research as well as the real-world experiences of a wide range of “deciders”—from airplane pilots and hedge fund investors to serial killers and poker players.

Lehrer shows how people are taking advantage of the new science to make better television shows, win more football games, and improve military intelligence. His goal is to answer two questions that are of interest to just about anyone, from CEOs to firefighters: How does the human mind make decisions? And how can we make those decisions better?

My thoughts: This book was very taxing to read since it took me forever to get through and my brain kept shouting, “NO!” at every scientific inconsistency.

Writing style wise, the book is captivating. Lehrer uses lots of stories to connect the psychological ideas with real-life. He’s a great storyteller. It’s easy to read, and very entertaining. I would’ve rated this book higher if it wasn’t for his bad science. If you’re not a big science person and would just like to enlighten yourself about decision-making, this may be a good book for you.

Now, to explain the taxing of the book and my brain’s reaction. I’m a psychology major, so I know many of the concepts that Lehrer is talking about. My brain just wants to facepalm itself every time he introduces a new idea. He takes an idea and then stretches it beyond its max, such that the idea is no longer valid. Let’s take the missile example. The man chose to signal an alert even though the enemy missile looked the same as an ally ship. Why? Lehrer claims it’s his emotions. The truth is, it’s the connections in his brain that has formed overtime from practice-and not emotions-that allow the man to make the right decision. Yes, it’s mostly unconscious, but the fact is it’s not an emotional decision. We don’t have the technology to probe the unconscious to know if it’s an emotion or not, but we do know neural connections influence unconscious decisions.

Let’s take another example: chapter 7 “The Brain is an Argument.” In this, Lehrer basically describes what social psychologists call the Confirmation Bias, but he never calls it that. It’s a phenomenon due to the way the brain is structured and not an emotional response. Emotions may be a symptom of Confirmation Bias, but it’s not the reason why people always support what they think is right. Many psychologists think that people use Confirmation Bias to increase their confidence and increase their confidence of their level of survival since theoretically you’re more likely to survive if you’re not experiencing a threat.

What’s funnier is that Lehrer says what every good scientist says, “Correlation does not equal causation,” yet he takes correlations and makes them into causation to support his ideas. He’s using the Confirmation Bias, not emotional reasoning.

I’m not sure what his definition of emotion is. It’s not clearly defined. He quotes it as physiological symptoms (sweating, heartrate), as neurotransmitters (dopamine), and as neural structures in the brain (amygdala), as intuition or just some “feeling?” He doesn’t fully explain how all of these aspects are connected, basically just claiming that we’re unconscious of it all. However, we can explain a good bit of our emotions (we know failing a task will make us feel miserable), so I don’t think all of his claims are valid. The biggest problem with this book is that most of the research he quotes is still under investigation. We don’t know enough about the unconscious and intuition to be able to say, “Yes, this is how emotions work.” There are so many variables in humans that science hasn’t been able to clearly classify emotions with strict definitions. To say that we can decide with “feelings” is preposterous because that word could mean so many different things. Sometimes, these “feelings” aren’t just feelings, but our brain making connections that we aren’t thinking about because we’re not practicing meta-cognition (thinking about our thinking).

To sum up his book in a more scientific way, we make decisions using experience from past events (connections between neurons formed due to learning and practice), meta-cognition, and neurotransmitters activating certain regions in our brains. None of these things fully explain emotions unless you think emotions are all biological and have no other components. However, emotions and decisions are more complex than what he claims.

I found this book in my college library.

Delivered to My Kindle 9/17/12

I’m going to try something new. Due to my work load, I can’t review books as often as I like. Therefore, I’ll post free ebooks that I’ve found on Amazon. Unfortunately for Nook owners, you’ll have to download a kindle reader to your computer/phone and then download the books for free or find them on Barnes&Noble, but for all you kindle owners, you should be able to download them directly to your kindles from Amazon. Keep in mind that some ebooks are only free for a week or two and then they cost money, so you must be quick about it if you want to own these without subtracting from your wallet. DISCLAIMER: I don’t know how good these books actually are, all I know is that they sound interesting and they’re free.

Eye of the Witch (Detective Marcella Witch’s series, book 2 by Dona Donovan). I know…I know…The series may not make sense if you start at book 2. I agree with that. However, the second one is free and the first one is only $2.99 if you wish to buy it. I figured that since it’s a detective series, you can probably read the second one without losing anything, much like Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew, though I admit I could be wrong. The book has a four star rating on Amazon and a 3 star rating on Goodreads. Odds are it may be good for some people.

Description from Amazon: Pride, paranoia and paranormal forces all conspire to derail Detective Marcella’s investigation into a series of suspicious suicides in New Castle, Massachusetts. In this sequel to The Witch’s Ladder, Marcella learns that because of the ties that bind their pasts, every potential victim is also a possible suspect.

 

Never Buried (Leigh Koslow Mystery Seres) by Edie Claire. I don’t know what it is about me and mystery books, but this one sounded interesting, too. It was actually first published in print in 1999. It has 4 stars on Amazon and 3 stars on goodreads, but most of the reviews I’m reading say that the book was entertaining. In general, I don’t do scary things at all, but this one sounds really interesting due to Leigh’s characterization in the description. I feel like I can get along with her, but that may change once I read it.

Description from Amazon: Advertising copywriter Leigh Koslow doesn’t pack heat–just a few extra pounds. And she doesn’t go looking for trouble. When she moved into her cousin Cara’s refurbished Victorian house, she wasn’t planning on discovering a corpse–certainly not one that had been embalmed ten years before. But as anyone in the small Pittsburgh borough of Avalon could tell her, her cousin’s house has a history attached. A history dating back to two mysterious deaths in the summer of 1949.

Someone wants Leigh and Cara out of the house–someone who has something to hide. But that someone doesn’t know Leigh’s impetuous cousin, and when Cara digs her heels in, Leigh looks to her old college chum, local policewoman Maura Polanski, for help. But the answers the trio find only point to more questions. Were the scandalous deaths of fifty years ago really an accident and a suicide? Or were they murder?

The nearer the women get to the truth, the more desperate someone becomes. Because some secrets are better off kept. Especially when they hit close to home!

 

Bah, Humbug! (A Romantic Comedy Christmas Novella) by Heather Horrocks. Romance novels aren’t  my thing at all. However, this one included the words comedy, so I thought hey, maybe it’s not a stereotypical romance. Besides that, it has 4 stars on Amazon and 3 stars on Goodreads. It sounds a bit corny, but I like Christmas things. This one may be a good holiday read
Description from Amazon: Lexi Anderson is an up-and-coming, Martha Stewart-type TV hostess whose two kids love the Jared Strong adventure novels, which happen to be written by their new neighbor, Kyle Miller.

For the first time in his writing career, Kyle has writer’s block–until he sees the snowman on his lawn and realizes it’s the perfect solution to his plot problem. He digs in and discovers two things: one, his villain’s weapon will fit inside a snowman’s body, and two, this particular snowman was supposed to be the backdrop for Lexi’s next show.

From this improbable beginning comes friendship, but can there be a happy ending for a woman who is afraid to get close again and a man who has shadows from his childhood?

Families join together and hearts are healed as this couple goes walking in a winter wonderland.

It’s a novella of about 100 pages. The paperback version will be available soon.

 

Free To Die by Bob McElwain. This one is also free at Amazon, but its reviews aren’t so positive, so I would approaching it with caution. It has 3 stars on Goodreads and 4 on Amazon, but some people complain that the characters don’t develop well. The story is a bit darker, but the thrill sounds like an interesting action movie with lots of guns, cars, and explosions. Though I don’t know if any of those things are actually in the story.

Description from Amazon: Brad Ashton fled three years ago to avoid a conviction for murder. Now he’s back. And his hope for freedom appears to be within reach.

Unfortunately there are those who have no interest in his legal status; they only want him dead or on the run once more.

But for Brad, running is no longer an option. It’s a table stakes game in which the risks are high. But he puts everything he has, including his life, on the table, then settles in, determined to win every hand.

Nostalgia

I haven’t finished a book in a while due to other obligations, such as work and studying. However, lately, I’ve been reading The Bad Beginning in The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. This got me thinking…I read a lot in elementary school, probably more than any other school period in my life. In fact, I read so much that it was hard to find books within my reading level that I hadn’t read already. Here are some of those books and series:

 

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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brienwas one of my favorite books. I picked it up randomly, having nothing else to read, and ever since, I’m always excited to see it anywhere. This book started my fascination with animals as characters and only added to my love for them.

 

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I remember reading all of the Nancy Drew books in the library. Our school had one row of books dedicated to just Nancy Drew. Right below those were the Hardy Boys’ Books. I never read any of the Hardy Boys series just because I thought the covers of just two boys’ faces looked kinda silly. I haven’t watched any of the movies or new series related to Nancy Drew even though I wanted to. It’s time to pick up these books again and see what I liked about them.

 

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The Ramona series also had their own shelf in our library. I read through most of them, but eventually outgrew them by sixth grade. When teachers used to ask, “Who’s your favorite author?” I’d write down Beverly Clearly. Besides Ramona, I also enjoyed the author’s Ralph S. Mouse series.

 

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Farewell to Manzanar: the book that captured my soul. I don’t remember when I read this book, but I know it was either in high school or middle school. Outside of elementary school, this is the only book that I can remember making an impact on me. Later, I used it as a basis and did research on the interment of Asian Americans during World War II. That research cultivated into a ten page research paper in 10th grade–my first ever ten page research paper.

 

 

What did you read when you were young that you can still remember?