Book Review: Animal Spirits

Often when I read a book I look at the preface or introduction.  Notice I didn’t say “read” the preface.  I look at it to see if it is just a bunch of thank yous and self-praises hidden in there.  If I see any of that I don’t bother reading it.  Not so with Animal Spirits, by Akerlof and Shiller.  My copy is the paperback edition published in 2010, there are two prefaces, one for the paperback and one for the original hardback from the year before.  They were interesting and informative.  These prefaces tell you straight out that they believe in Keynesian economics, that most people don’t understand Keynes because it has been watered down and used inappropriately, and that they might not know sarcasm when they hear it.  For the latter I refer to the remark about Milton Friedman.  Read the book if you want to know.  The authors also explain what the book is about and what information you can expect from each of its parts.

The authors of Animal Spirits liken the government to The Cat in the Hat, and to the owners of an amusement park where economics are concerned.  In the first case, readers are to believe that since the cat in the hat tried plan a, b, c and so on, to get the job done, so should the government until the economy is repaired and running smoothly.   As for the amusement park owner, the government is the absent minded owner and, like in The Cat in the Hat, we are all powerless children who don’t know they are on a roller coaster ride with no brakes and no ambulance.  According to Akerlof and Shiller, we don’t know what is in our best interest and the government should be mindful to take steps to protect us from our own irrational thoughts.

The next part of the book, chapters 1 through 5, consists of history lessons and reviews of economic theory, theorists, and policies.  The next chapters discuss their own questions to which they provide their own answers.  The last chapter is the conclusion in which they restate some of their questions and statements from the book.  In particular, they wrote, “How can we understand this crisis when it seems to have come out of the blue with no cause?”  Their own response to this is, “Failing to incorporate animal spirits into the model can blind us to the real sources of trouble.”  In short, this book basically says that the economy is held hostage to the whims of a public who may or may not be angry at the government, who may or may not have confidence in the banking system or in corporations.  It assumes the people are innately childlike and don’t see trouble when it is headed down the pike.  It seems to forget that the mortgage loan crisis was not unforeseen.  Indeed, many people warned congress not to allow the changes in regulation that started the ball rolling.  Congress chose to do it anyway.  We all knew it was coming.   We were just those child like people Akerlof and Shiller talked about, and still we knew decades ago when the A.R.M.s were being made popular and income requirements were lowered, that people would lose their homes.  We were just surprised it took so long.  My final thought on this book is that it is yet another justification of Keynes economic theory.  It’s about how to use tax and spend economics to temporarily control the economic cycles that have been going on since the beginning of recorded economic history.   They did after all, in my interpretation, state it in the preface to the paperback edition.

Book Review: ten dollar Dinners

ten dollar DINNERS by Melissa d’Arabian is as fun to use as it is peruse.  Being an accomplished cook and my children are grown, I didn’t really think I “needed” this book.  But, since regularly watching her show on Food Network, I just had to have it.  I don’t “need” to put meals on the table for under $10 but I want to as part of my financial responsibility quest for financial independence.

The photography is incredible.  Not only does the food look scrumptious but you get a glimpse into who she is and a little peak at her family.  Few cookbooks offer that connection.  d’Arabian allows her readers into her life with that personal touch.  Seeing her family enjoying the recipes makes you want to cook them for your own family.  Since most cookbooks are recipes,  and sometimes a picture, but d’Arabian hit a home run.

Right from the beginning she throws down a challenge.  She gives a top ten list “strategies for saving”.    I have to admit, I knew some of them but didn’t practice them.  Others she restated in such a way that I had not thought of which changed the way I look at everything from apricots to shrimp.  d’Arabian started off with “Try a clear-the-pantry week”.

Thinking about my pantry,  which she reminded me includes my large chest freezer, it will take more than a week to clear it.  As a matter of fact, that freezer is so full, it will take a long time to get it cleared.

The most difficult part is deciding which recipes to  make first and which recipes to group for a meal.  Her recipe “Roasted Tomato Winter Gazpacho”  looks like a good candidate for a first recipe.  I already know I’ll do some things differently than written, but that is what cooking is all about.  d’Arabian intends for us to learn from her and to make these recipes our own.

She developed a unique system of marking the recipes according to cost, but did not fix dollar amounts to them because she recognizes each market is different and prices change over time.  Beyond that, the system allows you to easily pair cheaper foods with pricey foods to manage the budget more effectively.

Although unwritten, one of the key factors of making ten dollar DINNERS work for you is to plate the meal and serve appropriate portions.  When you serve the meals in this fashion, like a restaurant, you will see a change in your wallet and waistline.  While plating the food might seem strange to some of us, in the end it is worth doing.

Book Review: The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine

The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine by Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph. D. was published in 1986.  I know!  Why am I reviewing a book published over 25 years ago?  Because the book has important information and was never taken seriously by the general public back then.  Pharmaceutical companies were  trying everything they could to delay or completely undermine the acceptance of herbal medicines by the general population in western societies while in the back room they were researching how to take the herbs and make them into “medicine” and lobby the FDA to control them as drugs.  It was during this climate that The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine was written.  More on that topic later.

Usually, I skip prefaces and introductions in books.  Let’s face it.  They are usually boring.  Don’t skip them in this book.  They are full of important historical information that some people need to understand before their next trip to the pharmacy or doctor.  It also makes a few good points about science and the thought processes of people.

The meat of the book starts with an article “How to Use this Book”.  I almost skipped it but quickly found that it was better and easier to understand all the bold and other typefaces scattered through the pages after reading the how-to.

Most books about herbal medicine start with a list of herbs to be defined and which ailments the herb has benefits.  Not The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine.  It starts with the ailment and provides not only a list of herbs but also how to use them. Each ailment article also has an impressive list of references from some of the most impressive journals and books not only about herbal medicine but also main stream medicine world wide.  Often writers will only include research found in readily available texts and journals.  Anyone can look those up and write about it.  But  Mowrey’s research includes research articles from around the world.  It shows that he went to great depths to find the best and most recent (at the time) information to share with us.

And so it goes for the entire book.  It covers everything from Arthritis to weight loss.  While I will be reading more recent publications,  this is certainly going to be one of my go-to books for natural remedies  to common problems to bolster my physical condition and to counter balance the effects of some of the pharmaceuticals ingested as part of a regular medical routine.

I found my copy on Amazon for $0.01 cent.  The shipping was $3.99 and the book claimed to be used, but the binding had not been cracked and it looked brand new.