Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Books I Read in 2017

I am usually late to the party when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions; 2017 was no different for me.
A few weeks into the new year, I decided that I want to read more books in one year than I had ever read before.  I believe that before 2017 I had never read more than seven or so books front to back in a calendar year.  The allure of video games, movies, social media scrolling, and shorter articles normally nabbed my sedentary hours.  I set my sights high and aimed for 25 books. Any book counted towards the goal as long as I read the entire book.This is not a particularly stellar goal as I know of people who read nearly 200 books a year, but I believe everybody fights their own battles and we must set our goals commensurate to our unique experience in this world. Here follows the list of books I read from front to back in the year of our Lord MMXVII, including my nominations for book of the year.

·        Big Ideas: The Sociology Book (Dorling Kindersley)
·        Sex at Dawn (Chris Ryan, Cacilda Jetha)
·        The Evolution of Desire (David M. Buss)
·        Over the Edge of the World (Laurence Bergreen)
·        Captain James Cook: An Biography (Richard Hough)
·        The Autography of Charles Darwin (Charles Darwin)
·        Churchill’s Wit (Richard M. Langworth)
·        Upside: The New Science of Post-traumatic Growth (Jim Rendon)
·        Sport, Physical Activity, and the Law (Alan Goldberger, Linda Carpenter, Neil Dougherty)
·        Anxious: Using the brain to understand and treat fear and anxiety (Joseph LeDoux)
·        Originals: How non-conformists move the world (Adam Grant)
·        The Wisest One in the Room: How You can Benefit from Social Psychology’s Most Powerful Insights (Lee Ross, Thomas Gilovich)
·        A History of the English-speaking Peoples (Winston Churchill)
·        Meditations (Marcus Aurelius)
·        The Prince (Niccolo Machiavelli)
·        On Liberty (John Stuart Mill)
·        The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx, Fredrich Engels)
·        Freakonomics (Stephen Dubner, Steven Levitt)
·        Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell)
·        The Operator (Robert O’Neil)
·        Tools of Titans (Tim Ferriss)
·        Zero to One (Peter Thiel)
·        Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (Jared Diamond)
·        Jan Smuts: Unafraid of Greatness
·        Hillbilly Elegy (JD Vance)
·        Code of the Street (Elijah Anderson)
·        Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi)
·        Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson)
·        The Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson)
·        The Super Afrikaners (Ivor Wilkins, Hans Strydom)

3    30 books in all, I achieved my goal!

I will allow you to draw your own conclusions of my interests based on my reading list, but I think one thing worth pointing out is that I only read three works of fiction (27, 28, 29).  I probably should invest more time into reading fiction to balance out my psyche.

The top three books for me this year: In third place, The Operator by Robert O’Neill.  I suppose like most males I am interested in military things even though I do not see myself ever joining the military.  I loved the inside look into Navy SEAL life and the exposition of the authenticity of dealing with the good and bad of being the man who got Osama bin Laden.

In the second place, Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen.  In times past, when I engaged with history I would always wonder what it was like when groups of people who never contacted each other would finally meet.  This book enlightened me in this regard and also showed me how difficult life on a ship could be.
The best book I read in 2017… Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Human Sexuality by  Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha.  This is an academic argument written for a general audience and I believe it is an argument made brilliantly well.  Are humans monogamous?  Probably not.  Based on my reading of the book, I understood that humans are actually polyamorous beings.  This understanding strikes at the core of my Christian upbringing where one man was meant for one woman.  Although, I still believe trust in my Christian upbringing I now have more understanding for those who struggle with the cultural standard of monogamy.

On a different note, the best movie I saw this year was The Class Castle.  The best band of 2017 for was The National with Gospel being the song of the year.

To everyone around the world, may God bless your 2018 and may you read numerous good books.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Mutt I Didn't Think I Would Be

There you have it: my DNA results from  I waited nearly two and a half months and spent my birthday money for this late birthday present.  Yes, I am the type of person who buys a DNA test for himself for his birthday. 

Whatever the case may be, I am, just like everyone who takes the test it seems, surprised at the result. However, I would say my surprise might be greater than your average chap or lass who takes the test.  I will tell you about my surprise.

I grew up an Afrikaner.  I am of the people who came from the Netherlands to start a refreshment post at the foot of Africa for the Dutch East India Company.  I am of the people who crossed the harsh interior and Drakensberg mountains of South Africa barefoot and lugging their whole lives on ox carts.  I am of the people who fought a bitter, failed war of independence against imperial Britain.  I am of the people who oppressed millions of Africans in the name of ethnic superiority.  I am of the people who are few, but who, like the Jews, managed to make an indelible impact on history for good and evil. 
My last name has strong German roots.  My mother's and grandmothers' last names alluded to French and Dutch ancestry.  As far as I know, my paternal lineage of ancestors have been living in South Africa since before the year 1700.

At least, I THOUGHT I was all these things.

With the test from AncestryDNA, all of the above gets thrown on its head.  I find out that I am nearly two-thirds the imperialists my ancestors struggled so bitterly against.  I find out that I am merely 1% Western European, when all the last names were pointing to this region.  I find out that my blond is not a Germanic blond, but a Scandinavian blonde.  I find out that my tendency to speak with the hands in one-on-one communication must be because of that 11% Italian/Greek descent.  I find out that I am only 97% white - the old hands during the Apartheid regime would hardly have thought this sufficient for a white in a one-drop-rule society.  I find out that, somewhere along the way, a Melanesian fought his/her way into my ancestry alongside a Kazakh and a native Southern African. 

The conversations and enquiry into my past has only just begun.  God knows how this may affect my future and thoughts about the world.  The only sure thing at this point in time is that I am not the mutt I thought I would be.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

On His Twenty and Third

Life has a way of running about.  Of this day you marvel at the much that is yet to come and of the other you lament all that has been - that which could have been and that which should never have been.  Yet, through the daily meditations and considerations of the now, life never ceases to abound round about the pondering.  To the point, it seems, where we may ask what is even the purpose of reflection?  Why remove yourself from the ceaseless whirl that is life in all its richness?
I answer, with mere twenty and three years of wisdom, with a theory, certain to amend to tomorrow's lore, which calls upon the modern meanderer to consider the goings of the times, of people, of nature at the odd stop.  Consider and ponder their significance from every viewpoint that the mind can conjure up.  Let it teach you as no other could.  Ere you be consumed, do proceed away.  Proceed away with the richness of experience, with the richness of feeling so deeply and join again ceaseless whirl of life and all.  Man was meant to traverse, to sample, but also to grow.  So paradoxical is movement and stasis, traversing and laying down roots, that logic fails to comprehend.  Yet, such is the story of mankind - a juxtaposition of logic - but uniquely, truly, unequivocally human.