The scorpion’s gate

Blech. I happily stranded this poorly written novel after a few pages. Rudimentary dialogue and sentence structure, I felt like I was reading one of my own written-in-6th-grade stories. I am trying to remember why I put this book on my To-Read list; I think Clarke was a Daily Show guest, which piqued my interest.
Syndetic Solutions classifies this as “Men’s Adventure” writing, but I’d have to clarify that as “Men Reading at a 4th grade level’s Adventure.”
A sample of Clarke’s “writing” is below, where you can see his overeagerness in getting into the story. He wants to tell all the details all at once. A better writer would tease us with this info over several pages. Suddenly, in the space of 2 paragraphs, we know his name, his bodyguards’ names, where he is, his title, who he works for, and what he’s done over the last 3 years. Crappy dialogue too… who names the person they are talking to?!
From Chapter 1:
‘Suddenly, Alec, one of Brian Douglas’s bodyguards, was over him. He wondered how long he had been down. Had he been out? “Does it hurt anywhere, sir?” Alec asked.
Brian now noticed that blood was dripping down from his scalp, matting his sandy hair. “No, Alec, somehow my luck has held once again” he said, getting up on one knee, grabbing the overturned table for support. Brian’s head spun like a carnival ride. He tried to wipe away some of the blood and dust and rubble from his face. “Where’s Ian?” For the three years that Brian Douglas had been Bahrain station chief of SIS, British intelligence, the staff at the station had insisted that he take two bodyguards with him wherever he went, driving to and from his house on Manama’s northern beach, going on trips elsewhere in the little country, or visiting the subordinate posts in the other Gulf states.’

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The Millionaire Next Door

This one was recommended by a myriad of financial blog sites, so I finally dug in and read it. Basic premise is no shocker– the wealthy do not flaunt their wealth– they’re the ones buying used Hondas and reasonably priced suits and modest housing. Instead of buying “stuff” they are investing in stocks, businesses, real estate. They are frugal.
Here are the seven factors of those who successfully build wealth:
1. Live well below your means.
2. Allocate time, energy, & money efficiently in ways conducive to building weath.
3. Believe that financial independence is more important than display of social status.
4. Parents did not provide economic outpatient care.
5. Children are economically self-sufficient.
6. Proficient in targeting market opps.
7. Choose the right occupation.
The book also touted the pursuit of occupations to serve the wealthy, such as estate and tax law, accountancy, brokerage.
How to determine if you’re wealthy:
Multiply age times realized pre-tax annual household income from all sources.
Divide by 10.
This is what your net worth should be. Got some work to do on this one too.
PAW (prodigious accumulator of wealth) vs. UAW (under-accumulator of wealth).
PAWs are worth twice their expected net worth.
Overall, not a bad book. Quick read, and reinforces ideas you probably already have (especially if you’re motivated to pick up the book).

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Top Picks of 2005

Here are my top picks for 2005.
The Winners
1. The Pacific by Mark Helprin
2. The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey
3. Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox
4. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
5. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
6. Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
The Honorable Mentions
1. Poet of the Appetities by Joan Reardon
2. The Middle Mind by Curtis White
3. Obsessive Genius by Barbara Goldsmith
4. The Light of Day by Graham Swift

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The River of Doubt

Gripping tale of Teddy Roosevelt’s journey along an unmapped 1000 mile river in the Amazon in 1914, originally named River of Doubt (Rio da Duvida), but renamed Rio Roosevelt after the expedition. They traveled across the Brazilian Highland to the origin of the river, then jettisoned most of their passengers and supplies, cramming 22 men and hundreds of pounds of equipment into 7 clumsy dugout canoes purchased at the river from a group of Indians.
Ably led by Colonel Rondon, the expedition originally mapped the river with time-consuming fixed-station surveying using a sextant and a lead canoe to place a sighting rod along a bank of each bend in the river. On the first day they set up the sighting rod 114 times, only travelling 6 miles. Roosevelt was joined by his son, Kermit, and naturalist Goerge Cherrie, as the only Americans. Most of the Brazilian contingent did the dirty work of paddling and lugging supplies during portage. They purged baggage 4 times along the way, but the “officers” kept all their books and other items I can’t imagine lugging through the Amazon.
The Cinta Larga Indians lurked everywhere, invisible in the jungle; the expedition left gifts and tried to show friendly intentions along the route, thus the Cinta Larga did not attack the party. There were 3 deaths– one camarada drowning in a whirlpool after Kermit disobeyed Rondon’s orders to halt, one camarada murdering another, then the party abandoning the murderer to the jungle where he most likely died.
Roosevelt contemplated sucide by morphine overdose which he always kept on himself, instead of dragging the party down with his illness. They were all dangerously ill by the time they met up with the relief party at the end of the journey, on April 26, 1914, after 2 months on the river. Roosevelt never fully recovered, and died less than 5 years later from an ailment stemming from his “old Brazilian trouble.”
The author interviewed Cinta Larga tribe members who have passed down the story of the expedition for the last 90 years, as a legendary interruption from the outside world.

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On Seeing and Noticing

I picked this book up at the famous bookshop, Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London. This pocket Penguin has served me well in the months since London– I have carried it with me and made the most of my time in waiting situations. I confess, I was lured by the Table of Contents, which I’ll reproduce here:
On the Pleasures of Sadness
On Going to the Airport
On Authenticity
On Work and Happiness
On Going to the Zoo
On Single Men
On the Charm of Boring Places
On Writing (and Trouts)
On Comedy
56 pages of blissful de Botton writing!
This is part of the 70 Pocket Penguin series, published to celebrate 70 years of Penguin paperback editions.

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