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Book Review: Granted, by John David Anderson

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Granted, it's a pretty good book. ;-) That might be the worst pun ever.

Wow, where do I start?

With the basics.

Title: Granted
Author: John David Anderson
Pages: 352
Original Publication Date: 2019
Genre: Middle School Fantasy

Alright. Now about everything else.

Ophelia is a fairy. All her life, she's wanted to be a granter -- someone who goes out into the human world to grant the wishes that people make as they blow out candles, toss coins into water, and see the first star. Now, after lots of training, waiting, and planning, Ophelia finally gets her wish granted. After she's given her assignment, Ophelia heads out with lots of optimism and a little too much confidence.

But nothing goes as planned. And finally, Ophelia will have to choose between following the rules of the job she loves, or doing what she knows is right.

Disguised as a charming piece of children's fantasy, Granted is a fascinating look at a question that has plagued people and governments for centuries: can the human conscience be trusted, or does it need to be regulated?

Rating: 10/10

Book Review: Double Star, by Robert A. Heinlein

I've read a lot of fiction, yes, but I haven't branched out that much. Most of it was by a few select authors that I was already comfortable with -- such as Kathryn Lasky, Brandon Sanderson, or Shannon Hale. But I decided to take a leap and try something by an author that I had never even heard of before, in a genre I wasn't the most comfortable with.

Title: Double Star
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Pages: 167
Original Publication Date: 1956
Genre: Science Fiction

Wow. Just wow.

It's an incredible, masterful, thought-provoking work of fiction that I'll definitely be reading again!

Laurence Smith is an actor down on his luck, wasting his life in a bar when a stranger enters, buys him a drink, and offers him a job. Slightly sus, to use some Gen Z slang ;-). Laurence Smith looks into the offer and ends up accepting it, but he has no clue what he's getting into.

It turns out that Bonforte, the giant, the statesman, the linchpin of a movement for respectful inter-planetary relationships, has been kidnapped, and Laurence Smith must impersonate him.

And that's just the beginning.

I won't tell the rest, but it's a fantastic book and I highly recommend you go check it out!

Rating: 10/10

Book Review: The Price of Freedom, by Calvin Coolidge

There are a lot of great books out there. A lot. More than I will ever be able to read in my lifetime! However, truly exceptional literature is a lot more rare. Today I am going to review a truly exceptional piece of literature, The Price of Freedom, which is a collection of speeches by Calvin Coolidge. I'm pretty sure it was compiled by Calvin Coolidge too. Yup, that's right -- Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States of America. And, in my opinion, one of the best presidents this nation has ever had.

Now, about the book.

Title: The Price of Freedom: Speeches and Addresses
Author: Calvin Coolidge
Pages: 407
Original Publication Date: 1924

I've read a lot of books, and I have a lot of favorite books, but this is definitely in my top five! (I'll do a post about my top five fiction and nonfiction in the future.) In fact, when I first read this book, I was like, "It could be canonized as TJEd scripture!" (TJEd, as in Thomas Jefferson Education, a method of leadership education that is fantastic!) Seriously, it's that good.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from The Price of Freedom and the speeches they can be found in:

"Of course there is a need of a better understanding of the American form of government. Self-government is still government. There is no such thing as liberty without restraint. My rights are always represented by the duties of others. My freedom is always represented by the obedience of others. Their rights and their freedom are represented by my duties and my obedience."

"There are evil forces at work now. They are apparently organized and seek the disintegration of society. They can always be recognized by a direct appeal to selfishness and nothing else... the answer to this lies in a knowledge of past human experience and a realization of what man is."

"Mankind has always had classics. They always will. That is only another way of saying they have always set up ideals and always will. Always the question has been, always the question will be, what are those ideals to be, what are to be the classics?"

"Independence is exceedingly exacting, self-control is arduous, self-government is difficult. Always there is the temptation that some element of these should be surrendered in exchange for security and ease."

"The fundamental principles on which American institutions rest ought to be clearly understood. Being so understood, the can never lack for defenders."

"We review the past not in order that we may return to it but that we may find in what direction, straight and clear, it points into the future."


Conclusion:

Rating: 15/10

Tech And Statesmanship

Many of the technical choices we’re about to make will be strikingly political. Who has access to what data? Where is the line between human choice and machine intelligence? Why is one computer architecture better than another? These decisions — and the people who make them — will determine power’s new aspects. Banal technical choices will reverberate through the our future with the same influence that the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, the Analects of Confucius, and the Koran retain long after they were first written down. The real contests ahead will concern networks — but this means, in fact, a deeper conflict over values. Networks are like churches or schools or congresses; they reflect the aims and ethics of the people who build them. The price of meshing so many passionately held aims and sensibilities, hopes and hatreds, will be high.” — The Seventh Sense, pages 51-52.

“Your assignment is to write an essay on the ethics of editing human DNA,” my biology teacher said.

As some of you know, I started going to a charter school, Leadership Academy of Utah (which sounds a lot better than it actually is) when I entered highschool. I dutifully took the classes I was supposed to take, did the assignments I was supposed to be, and said what I was supposed to say. The first year was fantastic. The second year was frustrating. The third year was bad enough that I dropped out and dedicated myself wholly and completely to TJEd.

I took biology in my second year, during Tenth grade. The teacher was spectacular, the class itself was fine. But mostly, it just felt completely irrelevant. Especially once we started talking about editing human DNA and creepy stuff like that. So when I was assigned to write an essay on the ethics of editing human DNA, I balked. That’s just for scientists, I thought, and I’m definitely never going to be a scientist.

So I raised my hand and asked that eternal question: “Why? When am I ever going to use this in real life?”

Now, my teacher knew me pretty well. ‘Teacher’ doesn’t really even describe him; he is a mentor first, and a teacher second. So he just looked at me with wide, horrified eyes for a second, then said, “You want to be a politician, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “So what?”

What he said next completely changed my perspective: “The future and limits of science are not created by the scientists, but by the government. Scientists push the limits of reality, but the government decides what science is ethical.”

Hmm… well, when it’s put that way… let’s just say that essay was written with gusto.

#MentorMoment

This doesn’t just apply to the ethics of editing human DNA. It also extends to the ethics of technology and networks. To paraphrase The Seventh Sense, congresses reflect the aims and ethics of the people who build them. So while the people have a ton of sway in the debate, in one sense, the verdict is up to the legislature.

So of course, it’s going to be a deeply political argument. Everything that happens in the government is deeply political at this point. Censorship? Political. The Bill of Rights? Political. The Constitution? Political. Education? Political. Technology? Political.

Though they may seem inconsequential or trivial now, these decisions – decisions that will be made in a fourth turning – will change the course of history. They will play a major role in the cycles of history; their answers will help determine whether we have a forceshift or a freedomshift.

However, “The price of meshing so many passionately held aims and sensibilities, hopes and hatreds, will be high.”

There is danger to letting the government make the decision. If they choose wrong – a forceshift, and a precedent for even more government control. If they choose right – a freedomshift, possibly; but along with it, the creation of a precedence that says yes, the government is allowed to legislate about these sorts of things.

It kinda feels like there is no right answer, only dozens of wrong ones.

But, well, that’s the intricacies of freedom.

And that’s the power of statesmen.

Ten Books You Should Read in 2021

2020 has been an absolutely insane year. A lot of stuff has happened, including CoViD19, the 2020 election, BLM protests, CHAZ, and libraries being temporarily closed.

So what could be better than some good books to read? Especially if they're inspiring, insightful, and take longer than two seconds to read ;-)

1. Macbeth. This is an incredible play by William Shakespeare about a man who assassinates the King and then takes the throne. He's told by three witches that he will keep his kingdom until the forest marches against him. So he's safe, right?

2. Mao: The Real Story. This is a super huge biography of Mao Zedong, who made China communist. It's well written, insightful, and gives you a whole new point of view of the Cultural Revolution.

3. Intelligence. What if there was only one way to stop a communist alliance from taking over the world? But what if that one way is by subjecting your own people? Then what? Intelligence, Eliza DeMille Robinson's debut novel, has such deep and insightful thoughts on freedom, the fight for freedom, what it means to be free, and the individual's mission. The writing, character building, and plot weaving is outstanding. It's the first in a series (the second in the series is on the printer now but I haven't been able to read it yet) and I highly recommend Intelligence!

4. The 5000 Year Leap. W Cleon Skousen, who served in the FBI for 16 years, has incredible insights into how our nation was made, why it's survived, and how it can be fixed. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about freedom.

5. Coolidge. Calvin Coolidge is my second favorite president of the USA, and this is definitely my favorite biography of him! It's a bit long, but very insightful, detailed, and inspiring.

6. Tyrant: Shakespeare On Politics. Some people say, "those who can't do, write." I don't think this is necessarily true, and I think that Shakespeare is proof of it. His understanding of human nature is unbelievable, and sorely needed today.

7-9. The Reckoners. This fictional trilogy by Brandon Sanderson is an intriguing exploration of power, abilities, and the duty of citizens and people.

10. Glenn Beck's Common Sense. The original Common Sense, written by Patrick Henry, advocated the separation of the colonies from the British Empire. Beck's Common Sense advocates the return to sensibility, an understanding of what makes the USA the USA, and the importance of returning to what we had in the original Constitution.

And There Was Light: #TalesOfYoungHeroes

Jacques is blind, totally blind. It happened when he was seven, and changed his life forever. But despite being blind, or perhaps because of it, he was able to lead a resistance to the Nazi occupation of France at the young age of seventeen.

His autobiography, And There Was Light, is one of the most inspiring, beautiful, stories ever, and you should definitely read it!

#TalesOfYoungHeroes

Defying Hitler: The Germans Who Resisted Nazi Rule: A Review

While on a week-long camping trip, I took the opportunity to finally read "Defying Hitler," which I had been meaning to get around for quite some time.

Well, I finished it, and holy cow it was so good! I highly recommend it. (You can find it HERE on amazon)

It follows the stories of roughly twenty or so Germans who defied Hitler, both men and women, Jews and non-Jews, ordinary citizens and military commanders, in their quest to resist the Nazis. Some want to assassinate Hitler, some wanted to have a military coup and remove Hitler and give him a trial, and still other thought it would be impossible to remove him. Regardless, they all were united in their efforts to resist.

It's a very easy, engaging read, almost like a novel. It is full of stories about people and crazy assassination attempts gone awry.

For example, there are three extremely memorable assassination attempts in the book, although there were tons more.

One time, a guy offered to be a suicide bomber. He had a bomb on a ten-minute fuse under his vest, and was showing Hitler around... I think it was a museum? and then Hitler left abruptly in the middle of the tour, and then the guy had like two minutes to dismantle the bomb in the bathroom before it blew him up. So Hitler survived that attempt because the bomb never had the chance to go off.

Another time, there was going to have been a bomb in a military meeting, except at the last minute, it was decided that junior officers couldn't attend, and because the man with the bomb was only a junior officer, he couldn't get into the meeting and blow up Hitler. So Hitler survived that plot as well.

And another time, a bomb was smuggled into a meeting in a suitcase, and a few minutes before it was going to go off, the man who brought it in left the building, and drove home, and the bomb went off. It totally destroyed the table, and completely shredded Hitler's pants, and wounded some of his officers, but Hitler was totally fine, only a few bruises. Well, and a ruined pair of pants. But Hitler survived that attempt as well!

And guess what, after the attempt that demolished Hitler's pants, he got on the radio to assure the German people that he was still alive and well. He said that his survival must be a sign from providence that he was meant to continue with his plans! So, that plan super back-fired!

However, in the end, almost none of the conspirators survived. Almost all of them (I think all but two, but I can't exactly remember) got executed or sent to the concentration camps. They had risked everything -their fortunes, their lives, their family's lives. And they still didn't succeed.

Which makes me wonder, if a ruthless dictator took over America and started doing what Hitler did, would I be brave enough to resist? Or would I be one of those who kept their heads down and waited for it all to blow over?

And how could Hitler take over a nation? Sure there were resistors, but not enough to prevent his taking power. Not enough to prevent a second world war. Not enough to prevent the mass murder of six million Jews.

Ultimately, I think Hitler could not have come to power and did what he did if:

(1) the German people had been classically educated, instead of trained on the conveyor belt.
(2) people had not been timid in their resistance but instead have acted decisively.
(3) people would not have let Hitler get little victories, like boycotting Jewish shops, and making Jews wear arm bands. Hitler had to do the little things before he could do the big things, like killing people in the concentration camps.

In conclusion, "Defying Hitler" was a really great book that was very thought-provoking, very fun to discuss, and highly relate-able to our world today.

Camp Na-No-Wri-Mo Update

This month, I've been writing the first draft of a 65,000 word novel with ywp.nanowrimo.org, which is a really amazing writing platform that people under the age of 18 can use.

I have written 21750 words so far and am 33% of the way done. I'm super excited about this, I don't think I've ever reached past the 17,000 word mark when writing a "novel" before (at that length, it's more of a novelette than a novel or a novella).

Hero Education: A Scholar Phase Guidebook For Teens, Parents, and Mentors

If you guys didn't know... I'm going to Leadership Academy of Utah. It's this really cool, leadership-minded school that is based online but now has in-person learning centers scattered throughout Utah.

But before that, I was homeschooled. I still call myself homeschooled, BTW. LAU is so much a homeschooling community... it was even founded by homeschoolers... it's like homeschooling gone public.

Anyways, the method of homeschooling my family uses is called Thomas Jefferson Education, or, TJEd. It's founding father style "created" by the DeMille family. Well, Oliver DeMille, father of the DeMille family, wrote this really cool book called "Hero Education: A Scholar Phase Guidebook For Teens, Parents, and Mentors." It's so good!

I've taken the time to re-read it today and was once again wowed by it's simple yet profound wisdom. Okay, well, maybe I skimmed it. But as C S Lewis said, "It is a very silly idea that in reading a book you must never 'skip.' All sensible people skip freely when they come to a chapter which they find is going to be no use to them" at the present, at least.

Let me just tell you:

Our education matters. It's not about grades, college, or good-paying jobs.

It's about freedom vrs tyranny; it's about influence; it's about mission and purpose.

Education is not books and dates and facts and more facts and tests to make sure you know those facts.

It's about gaining wisdom-- knowledge, applied in your life to better you and others. As Mark Twain said, "I never let my schooling interfere with my education."

Your mission matters. And because your mission matters, your education matters.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen And The Churchill Club

Knud Pedersen was a normal boy living in Denmark. Then his whole world changed when Hitler invaded and the Danish government surrendered to the invaders the same day.

His whole world changed then. German soldiers were everywhere, Denmark captive. Knud knew this was not right. But the adults in his world made no move to stop the Germans, to free Denmark.

What was left to do? Oh, nothing really... just start his own resistance with his friends.

"The Boys Who Challenged Hitler" is a fascinating biography about the boy resistors of Denmark, boys who had been willing to risk literally everything for their country.

I highly recommend this read! It's very engaging, intense, hard to put own, and super inspiring!

"How To Stop Worrying And Start Living:Time-Tested Methods for Conquering Worry" by Dale Carnegie

The American culture has some serious issues. We eat too much junk food, have too must stuff, and stress far too much.

Well, the cure to one of those problems is found within an amazing audiobook that I recently discovered. Titled "How To Stop Worrying And Start Living:Time-Tested Methods for Conquering Worry," it is by Dale Carnegie, author of "How To Win Friends And Influence People."

I have finished listening to disc one of nine, but it's so good and there is so much wisdom that could totally change my life if I chose to act on it! (Which, ahem, I will...:-))

For those of you interested in listening to it, you can find it here.

How To Fight A Hydra

Here is another quick update for "new way to read." It's been going good, but with quarantine and everything, I do have a smaller limit on books I can check out, so #ProjectOtulissa is being put aside for now.

However, I am deciding to notch up all of my reading by approaching books with a question in mind. For this book I just barely finished (How To Fight A Hydra), the question was, "how can I combat overwhelm and start achieving my dreams?"

And yeah, I got answers. I love books! :-) :-) :-)

And yes, I highly recommend How To Fight A Hydra, it's a really quick and enjoyable read but also a super deep parable.

Here are the seven lessons I got out of it:

~Just follow your dreams! People are going to try to stop you; don't listen to them. They don't know how capable you are.

~Learn from the great people of the present/past.

~Getting a QUALITY EDUCATION matters!

~Your fears may be justified, but they are useful. Acknowledge them, then act in spite of them.

~Go slowly; don't go so fast that you get yourself "killed." Know what you're getting into. But also, don't spend your whole life planning! At some point, you have to stop researching and start doing.

~Learn to recognize your treasure and adapt your plans accordingly; it might not be exactly what you thought it would be, but it's still going to be amazing.

~And finally, take advice from those who have succeeded, not those who have failed or given up. Learn from those who know what they're talking about and use it in their own life!

Shakespeare Bootcamp Done

Sadly, the 2020 Spring Shakespeare Bootcamp is over. I had a lot of fun, understood a lot more Shakespeare, and had some god bonding time with Elisabeta. ;-)

Due to the success of the bootcamp, I think I am going to do something similar every year, although they might not all be Shakespeare based. For example, one year I could read something by Aristotle everyday; another year, I could sight-read through an original Beethoven piece everyday.

And my bootcamps will ALWAYS be in the first weeks of summer... because that's the best time to do it.

Twelfth Night

Elisabeta and I just finished another Shakespeare play... which she approved of more than the last (All's Well That Ends Well). Basically, it's another big tangled romance..... that ends happily.....

Honestly, it's hilarious! I'm not going to tell you plot.... you should just go watch it. I watched THIS production. The actors etc are AMAZING!

So... my favourite lines......

"Methink you are a fool."

"O time, thou must untangle this, not I; It is too hard a knot for me to untie."

"Ay, he does well enough if he be disposed"

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

"Be not afraid of greatness."

"There is no darkness but in ignorance."



And yeah, this play is such a comical mess.... :-) It's sooo funny.