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Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Rebel

Why no real cover?

Bernard Cornwell’s Rebel brings us back to the start of the American civil war. Nathanial Starbuck is the son of a vehement anti-slavery preacher, but “Nate” as he is called does not like his snobby family. He starts to make friends among the “southrons,” and soon finds himself stuck in the war between the states.

As the first book of the Starbuck Chronicles, Rebel has the burden of having to introduce the characters. This gives it a slow start, but roughly halfway through I found myself back in the fast-paced action Bernard Cornwell can relay so well. This book delivered what I have come to expect of Cornwell: It is both interesting to read and, thanks to historical accuracy, educating at the same time.

Perfect for friends of historical adventure stories.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Do Feasible, Progressive Consumption Taxes Exist?

Recently, some article mentioned that some economists recommend replacing the income tax with a progressive consumption tax. They didn’t elaborate on that, and indeed, it was just a side sentence in a longer recommendation.

It made me stop, though, because if that actually existed—or rather, if a feasibly collected, progressive consumption tax would exist—it might solve a lot of problems in economics. Let me explain.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Energy Expenditure: Activity and Exercise (Weight Series Part 4)

Photo by familymwr on flickr

A large amount of scientific evidence supports positive effects of exercise,[1] and the recommendations of doing more exercise are pervasive. Yet a lot of people, and especially a number of dieters, do little to nothing. The question as to why that is the case is part of the central problem of figuring out why so many people are becoming overweight.

As we know, weight and body fat solely depend on the energy balance, that is, how many calories we take in as opposed to how many we expend.[2] While the last post in this series looked at the intake part of the equation,[3] this post will take a closer look at the benefits, myths and approaches to increasing energy expenditure.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Review: Ruthless Game

Ruthless Game
Warum kein richtiges Cover?

Christine Feehan’s Ruthless Game starts out with Kane Cannon and his team of psychic supersoldiers infiltrating a drug cartel owned town to liberate some hostages. During the mission, Kane finds out that the love of his life, Rose, is in the town. She is pregnant with his child which she got when the evil Dr. Whitney forced them to copulate to produce supersoldier offspring. Kane and Rose escape together and start a difficult path in discovering whether their love is genuine or just faked by the evil mastermind.

I’m not particularly impressed by the plot, but to make up for it, the writing of the book is quite good. In particular, the character development of Rose to actually trust her new friends is quite well done. Surprisingly for a romance, the action scenes are extensive and fast-paced. Even though psychic supersoldiers are not exactly my favorite topic, I enjoyed reading them.

My main gripe with the book, outside of it being romance, is the role model it perpetuates for women. Kane is a chauvinistic swine and incorporates pretty much every kind of stereotypical male role, and Rose either just puts up with his antics because she loves him, or gives some explanation on why she is different from normal women—implying that for other women, those expectations are quite ok. For example, the main reason she gives why she can’t be the house wife watching the kids while the husband is out working is not that that’s a pretty antiquated and horrible role model, but that she is a trained soldier and this special predicament means she has to do something else, too.

In real life, the interactions between the two would set the perfect beginning for an abusive relationship.

Another mind-numbing scene had “the girls” finally going out of the high-security building to enjoy their freedom. This was a good point in the story and nicely built up to. Rose has always been either imprisoned with no freedom, or on the run, so never could taste freedom like how the protection of her new friends allows her to.

So what do the three girls do? They go shopping. What do they shop for? Shoes of course. Why do they shop for shoes? So they can look sexy for their lovers. They sadly couldn’t go to the negligee shop to get Rose an outfit that would make Kane drool because that shop was a bit too far away. No, Ms. Feehan, the main purpose in life for a woman is not to find a partner and make him happy.

So, while the book is well-written, has some interesting character development and fast-paced action, it perpetuates horrible gender roles which are never challenged in and by themselves. Rose is only exempt from some of them because she is a special person. For this reason, I’d rather not recommend the book.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Energy Intake: Food, Diets and Nutrition (Weight Series Part 3)

Weight gain, maintenance and loss are solely dependent on whether we take in more energy than we expend.[1] This begs two questions: How do reduce the amount we take in, and how do we increase the amount we expend? This post will try to answer the first—that is, what kind of foods we should eat, and how much.

While a lot has been written on the topic and a lot of people are trying to make money with various diets, the common problem is that “under free-living conditions, the main determinant of long-term fat loss seems to be how well you stick to a diet, not which diet you choose.”[2] Hence, any look at diets should keep in mind that it will not be used in a clinical, fully-controlled environment, but by normal people out there who have a life and other things on their mind than to constantly worry about their food.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Buchrezension: Der Sommer des Kometen

Der Sommer des Kometen
Warum kein richtiges Cover?

Petra Oelkers Der Sommer des Kometen wird von einem Kometenbeschwörer auf dem Hamburger Marktplatz angekündigt. Nicht nur das, es werden auch in kurzer Folge drei Menschen ermordet. Und mit einem von den Opfern wollten die Komödianten um Rosina eigentlich sprechen. Rosina und der Kaufmann Claes setzen sich daran die Morde aufzuklären.

Bei einem weiteren Teil einer Reihe frage ich mich immer, was man neues erzählen kann. Petra Oelker schafft es auch diesmal wieder das Hamburg des 18. Jahrhunderts auf ganz herzliche Weise aufleben zu lassen. Die Protagonisten muss man einfach gern haben, während die Eigenheiten dieser Zeit weiterhin als ganz normal erzählt werden.

Wie auch die anderen Teile der Rosina und Claes-Reihe kann ich auch diesen nur jedem Freund von historischen Kriminalromanen wärmstens empfehlen.