Charles C. Mann – The wizard and the prophet

Excellent book, but only for specific readers.

And no, it not a fantasy novel. (By the way, my favourite fantasy book is – sorry for being conventional – ‚Lord of the rings‘. Although I have to admit that fantasy is not my most read genre, maybe because of Grandmaster Tolkien…)

Charles C. Mann is journalist and author and did some thorough research for this one. It is a mix of 2 autobiographies, science, philosophy and politics and circles around one question: How can humanity provide food for 10 million people in 2050?

He does not give an answer to this question but rather shows the approach from two opposite school of thoughts. On the one hand we have the ‚wizards‘, the agroscientists, which believe that this problem can only be solved by raising the efficiency of agriculture. On the other hand we have the ‚prophets‘, the environmentalists, who say that humanity has to reduce consumption and generally speaking has to make the world a more ‚green‘ place.

To delve deeper into these two contradictory approaches he autobiographs two exemplary, relatively unknown persons: Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, the former being the ‚father‘ of agroscience, the latter being the ‚father‘ of environmentalism (well, in the eyes of Mann of course, but he may not be far off). So the first part of the book is about the life of these two men, from childhood to death with an emphasis on how they found their believes and grew into their fields of study. And these two stories alone would make excellent books. Mann seriously has a hand for writing.

The second part explains the scientific backgrounds for the schools of thoughts, never losing touch with Borlaug and Vogt and also details the political, environmental and economic influences on the topic of environmentalism. I think you may find flaws in some of the facts and argumentation chains but overall this also would make a very good book on the topic.

If there is one thing I would critizise it is that the book is in parts dry and stiff to read. Overall it is exemplary for illuminating all aspects of one of the most important question mankind has to solve. As I said, he doesn´t answer the question, he doesn´t take sides (which is another excellent feature of this book). The question of how to feed the world may be far off the normal lives we all live (like climate change) but if you want to have an understanding not only of the scientific framework but also where the mindsets of protagonists from both sides come from – this is the book you have to read, no doubt.

Reversing forced right-handedness I – Introduction

A topic came up in my mind during the last months and during the last days I found that I have to delve deeper into it – I´m a left-hander being trained from youth on to use make the right hand the dominating one. And I found that this may explain some of my characteristics, some good ones and some bad ones and what I want to do now is to reverse this process, meaning training my left hand to complete task which I would normally do with my right hand.

My motivation is to test what effect this will have on me, I´ll basically do this for the experience and because I think it will have a positive effect, not in the sense that I´ll become a better person but that I can be in better accordance with my own, to better understand myself.

I´ve know that I´m a left-hander since my childhood, it´s something which has been clear to me my whole life but so far I didn´t pay much attention to it. I write with my right hand (and have a terrible handwriting), I clean dishes with my right, use cutlery like a right-hander, use the mouse on the right side, I use right-hander stuff, it´s normal for me to use my right hands for almost all tasks. But I play table-tennis or badminton with my left and I´m left-footed and this shows that originally my left side is my dominant one, the stuff I do with my right was trained (or I would even say ‘forced’, but this is too harsh since it was not done on purpose as I´ll explain in a second.) on me as a child. But before you think this goes in the wrong direction I want to make a statement here:

Point 1: I don´t blame anybody, not my parents, not the society, not my teachers, nobody. Things were as they were and are now as they are, there´s no point in looking back and feel grief or hate.

Life consists of events which are influenced by fate and one´s decisions. And what I´ve learned this year is that fate can be provoked by doing lots of stuff, take a risk once in a while, to make events happen. Sure, I´ll fall sometimes, make mistakes and feel bad about things once in while, but this is better than doing nothing, taking the easy road and just letting time pass. You only life once, there is no such thing as a second chance. Enough kitchen philosophy for now, back to the task.

So what I´ll do the next days and weeks is using my left hand for mundane tasks, practice writing with my left but also read deeper into the topic and let you know about the results.

If you are interested into the topic rummage in the net for “forced dextrality” “forced right-handedness” or similar and let me know, I´m interested in knowing more.

If you find yourself in the same situation and want to try this too I have a word of advice though: Having read a bit into the topic, trying to switch back to the left hand may not be without risk and there are warning signs from psychologists that this should not be done without professional aid since it is an intrusion into the brain structure and can have severe consequences.

Now I´m not afraid of messing with my brain – I have done this my whole life – and am doing this without any help, because I know myself best and can evaluate things on my own. But maybe you shouldn´t do this on your own – just saying.

Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram

I visited a schoolmate this weekend and had no book with me (which happens once in a blue moon), which was perfect because browsing through his shelf I found „Shantaram“ which another friend of mine proposed to me. So I took and started it and well, the story seems interesting, I like the style of Roberts but most importantly on page 25 there are sentences which blew me away. In the story the main guy meets a woman on the streets and his thoughts go like this:

„The ancient Sanskrit legends speak of a destined love, a karmic connection between souls that are fated to meet and collide and enrapture one another. The legends say that the loved one is instantly recognised because she´s loved in every gesture, every expression of thought, every movement, every sound, and every mood that prays in her eyes. The legends say that we know her by her wings – the wings that only we can see – and because wanting her kills every other desire of love.

The same legends also carry warnings that such fated love may, sometimes, be the possession and the obsession of one, and only one, of the two souls twinned by destiny. But wisdom, in one sense, is the oppposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn´t wise.“

Wow. Except for the wingy thing I think that this is true and having read a bit further, the book seems to contain more of such insights. Looks like a great read.

Anyways, now I have a nice book for the trainride to Kiew later this month, I already thought I´d have to take the Ulysses with me.


Let me calculate: I started it beginning of July, finished beginning of November – 5 months for this 900 page behemoth of a book. I feel ambivalent about it.

Roberts definetly has a story to tell, a story about love, hate, crime, redemption, adventure, revenge, forgiveness, hardship, death, joy etc etc. and his style keeps you very close to him and the story. And on every second page you´ll find sentences of wisdom like the one above, most of them quite agreeable, some nah. But on the other hand, honestly after 500 or 600 pages it got me bored quite much and I had to make a decision – leave it at that or try to finish it. And well, I decided or the latter and regret this a little bit because its all repetetive and the story also lacks depth and turns.

Should I recommend it? Don´t know. It´s a great adventurous story which sucks you in the first 200, 300 pages but then… I don´t know, honestly.