Book Review: Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris

True to the title, this autobiography does allow you to choose your own path for reading, with several false endings (though they are typically only 1-2 pages long, each).  "You" traverse through Neil's life, which ends up being quite eventful, and overall, enjoyable.  Although I did enjoy the "choose your own adventure" books as a child, I recalled them being quite painful to retrace and explore all of the branching possibilities.  As a result, I elected to read straight through, with minimal repercussions--I was only mildly confused a couple of times as the book remained in roughly chronological order (Bonus: there are two pages that are not accessible following the books instructions).  Intermixed with his story, there are several magic tricks, instructions for making a couple of Neil's favorite drinks, a bolognese recipe, and a crossword puzzle.

It was an interesting experience to read about Neil's coming out, and generally being a gay man, in second person.  Well played, NPH.  Also, the description of his partner and children were pretty adorable.  And now, for my favorite alternate ending, to give you some flavor of the book (hopefully I can post this much under fair use):

On the evening of September 22, 2012, you, Neil Patrick Harris, feel a sudden, overwhelming urge to commit murder.  It's not the first time you've felt it.  Not at all.  Truth be told, at no point in your life have you not sporadically been gripped by the need, the craving, the hunger to watch the life drain away from a man's face. 
It has taken all the discipline and strength of will you could muster to stifle those cravings and channel those murderous impulses. But you have, and all that sublimated rage has paid off in the form of a successful acting career and a sterling reputation as a genial on-air presence and all-around nice guy.
But you, Neil Patrick Harris, are not an all-around nice guy. Deep in your soul you are little more than a craven hunter of human meat.
And tonight, as you drive home from the set of How I Met Your Mother, you are determined to finally give in to those dark instincts.
And that's when you see the hitchhiker.
The next morning you're sitting at the breakfast table.
"Did you see this?" asks David. "They found a headless body just off the road in Laurel Canyon this morning. Isn't that right on your way home from work?"
"Yes," you remark. "Freaky. Any suspects?"
"None," he says. "No fingerprints, no ID, nothing. And no sign of the head. By the way, where were you last night?"
"Oh, I was...bowling."
"Bowling?" says David, dubiously. "Since when do you bowl?"
"Since last night."
"Well, I suppose that would explain that new bowling ball bag I saw by the front door this morning."
"I suppose it would." You laugh. "By the way, you didn't, that bag, did you? See its contents?"
"No," says David, "I didn't. But congratulations on your new hobby, Neil. Bowling. Maybe you'll earn yourself another trophy."
"I already have my trophy," you respond quietly, chuckling to yourself.
But David doesn't hear you. He has gone to the front door to unzip the bag and remove its contents... ordinary bowling ball.
Then he returns to the kitchen, sneaks up behind you, and beats you to death with it.
"I hate bowling," says David. "Almost as much as I hated that guy whose head I cut off in Laurel Canyon last night."

Book Review: Stories for Nighttime and Some for The Day

Stories for Nighttime and Some for The Day - Ben Loory

This was a fun book I distracted myself with for an hour or so.  A lot of short stories, mostly with a horror twist.  Many of them were just confusing to me (perhaps my inability to interpret what was going on).  Overall pretty fun though.

However, I'd generally recommend Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card instead, for the same feel.

Book Review: Free Will

Free Will - Sam Harris

Over the past few days, I've watched 5-6 hours of Sam Harris and read his short book, Free Will.  I enjoyed it, although it does leave one feeling rather helpless.  On the other hand, even if we do not, in fact, have free will, which seems to be the case, we are still left with the fact that we still have to "make" choices and live our lives.

As usual, here are some quotes that I enjoyed from the book:
In fact, we can be very poor witnesses to experience itself.  By merely glancing at your face or listening to your tone of voice, others are often more aware of your state of mind and motivations than you are.
One fact now seems indisputable: Some moments before you are aware of what you will do next--a time in which you subjectively appear to have complete freedom to behave however you please--your brain has already determined what you will do.  You then become conscious of this "decision" and believe that you are in the process of making it. 
Decisions, intentions, efforts, goals, willpower, etc., are causal states of the brain, leading to specific behaviors, and behaviors lead to outcomes in the world.  Human choice, therefore, is as important as fanciers of free will believe.  But the next choice you make will come out of the darkness of prior causes that you, the conscious witness of your experience, did not bring into being.
You might have a story to tell about why things were different this time around, but it would be nothing more than a post hoc description of events that you did not control.
You are not in control of your mind--because you, as a conscious agent, are only part of your mind living at the mercy of other parts. 
To declare my "freedom" is tantamount to saying, "I don't know why I did it, but it's the sort of thing I tend to do, and I don't mind doing it."
You can consider your first marriage, which ended in divorce, to be a "failure," or you can view it as a circumstance that caused you to grow in ways that were crucial to your future happiness. 
 Of course, I could tell a story about why I'm doing what I'm doing--which would amount to my telling you why I think such training is a good idea, why I enjoy it, etc.--but the actual explanation for my behavior is hidden from me.
As a bonus, here is a link to Sam Harris discussing his thesis (1:30 long):
Sam Harris discusses Free Will

Financial Essay: Why Hold Cash?

Why Hold Cash? - Published by Joel Stevens on November 15, 2014

This essay relates to determining if and how much cash should be held in a portfolio to produce superior long-term results. In particular, the essay is devoted to determining whether or not it makes sense to hold cash when compelling investment opportunities still exist, e.g., in order to take advantage of an upcoming downturn, based on valuation metrics, etc.

Recommended Meditation Videos

I really enjoyed watching "The Buddha - A Documentary Story of The Buddha's Life" (warning: 2 hours long!).

Even better though, I just finished watching an hour long interview between Sam Harris and Dan Harris on Sam's Waking Up, which I posted about earlier.  I can't recommend it enough.