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20190127 – The Most Dangerous Branch

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The main idea here is to review history, especially the most recent, of Supreme Court and demonstrate that it had acquired the huge power of final legislative decision maker that was not granted to it by constitution and impact of this circumstance on the American republic. The main point author is making is that cases decided to support leftist ideology should be considered legitimate court interference, even if they are deeply flowed as Roe, but cases decided in support of conservative ideology could not be considered legitimate exercise of court power, so now, when court seems to be moving to reliable conservative majority, its powers should be restricted.


Introduction: The End of the World as They Knew It

The introduction starts with the story of Justice Kennedy resignation and brief discussion about its meaning as change from 4-1-4 balance of power to 5-4 conservative advantage.

Prologue: Death at the Ranch

Correspondingly prologue uses the story of Scalia’s death to discuss how Supreme Court become supreme branch of power and how it led to highly politicized selection process for justices.

Part I: Characters

Chapter 1: The Marble Temple

This chapter discusses decorum of Supreme Court including the building; justices’ patterns of behavior, their travel, public norms, and refusal allow TV to transmit proceedings. Then author discusses contrast in outlook between some justices.

Chapter 2: No.9

This chapter is about the new justice Gorsuch, who, as conservative, is clearly disapproved by the author.  Helpfully author narrates his fear for the fate of Chevron, which required deference of the courts to unconstitutional administrative state. Another issue author discusses is Gorsuch’s careful avoidance of abortion issue. At the end author reviews in details Gorsuch selection process and role of Federalist society.

Chapter 3: Confirmation World

This chapter probably qualifies as howl of democratic soul hurt by Republican senate rejection of Obama’s appointee Garland. In author’s opinion it was painful for Obama compromise that, nevertheless, was rejected by evil republicans. After that author goes a bit into history of confirmation and how it became so polarized by borking Bork. Author admits that it was not fair and that Teddy Kennedy was disgusting, but somehow justifies it by Bork’s behavior and overall need to have democrats in power.

Chapter 4: Deploying the Warhead

In this chapter author moves to the nature and story of filibuster and how democrats killed it for lower level court, creating opening for republicans to kill it for Supreme Court. All this supplemented by details of Gorsuch confirmation.

Chapter 5: The Institutionalist and the Notorious Chapter

Here author moves to personalities, discussing Roberts as an Institutionalist and Ginsburg as Supreme Court’s rock star. He also mentions left’s attempt to push her out due to the age and health that were unsuccessful. As usual for liberals RBG prefer to do what she believes is best for her despite paying lip service to common goals.

6: The Left Flank

In this chapter author discusses left flank, which includes Breyer, “wise Latina” Sotomyor, and Elena Kagan whom author somewhat accuse of being too smart and not sufficient tolerant to others who are to so much.

Chapter 7: The Right Flank

The right flank is Thomas, who author consider not very influent on the court. As usual author stresses Thomas’ usual reluctance to ask question during hearing and allocates lots of time to confirmation disaster and Anita Hill.

The second man on the right flank is Sam Alito. Author discusses his selection and confirmation then somewhat laments the fact that Alito came as substitute to semi-liberal O’Connor.

Chapter 8: Deus Ex Machina

The Deus here is justice Kennedy who had decisive vote that he used in some cases siding with conservatives and in some cases with liberals, but in all cases becoming key decision maker.

Part II: Cases

Here author moves from personalities of justices to most important cases that practically change laws the way court want it either to the left or to the right.

Chapter 9: Sleeping Giant

This is the story of Supreme Court usurping power not granted to it by the Constitution. It started with Marbury vs. Madison in 1803 then was somewhat subdued with court mainly seeking to mediate power distribution between federal and states powers, mainly siding with federal all the way to the allowing overriding state laws, creating foundation for the future Civil War between North and South. After the war it somewhat retreated, but then came back in force first siding with conservatives at the beginning of XX century with Lochner vs. New York and even stopping Roosevelt excesses of the New Deal in Schechter, only later being forced to move to liberal side where it resided through 1970s.

Chapter 10: The Runaway Court

This chapter is clearly painful for author who as liberal hates it, but as reasonably thoughtful person had to admit legal, intellectual, and even logical deficiencies of super liberal court of early 1970s that brought usRoe vs. Wade and following abortion laws. Author believes that it was a mistake that turned country to support republicans and eventually led to the Court that was mainly appointed by republican presidents, who actually did extremely lousy job selecting justices who whether were or became later of liberal persuasion.

Chapter 11: Revenge of the Right

Here author discusses one of the most painful for the left case – Gore vs. Bush. He does it in relatively honest way, noting that Gore demanded recount only in democratic precincts.  However his sympathy is shown very clearly.

Chapter 12: James Madison Made Us Do It

Here author discusses 2ndAmendment starting with Roosevelt National Firearms Act – the first massive intervention of government against right to be armed.  Author refers to Miller, which in 1938 confirmed government ability to limit firearms, claiming that the main point of amendment was militia, not individual right. The author jumps to 60s Gun Control Act, and finally brings in Reagan as the initiator of fight for individual right to be armed. The balance of chapter dedicated to discussion of Hellerand political fight around it.

Chapter 13: For the Love of Money

This is about another case of semi conservative majority of the court deciding important issue related to the 1stamendment – Citizens United which rejected attempt to regulate political speech under disguise of limiting role of money in politics. The decisive vote again was Kennedy who believed that this is an attempt to establish censorship.

Chapter 14: A Disdain for Democracy

Here author moves to voting rights, affirmative actions, and other issues related to left efforts to “stop discrimination” by implementing more discrimination and creating special and superior rights for democratic constituencies. The latest case in this prolonged saga is Shelby County decision of 2013 that rejected entitlements based on race.

Chapter 15: Roe by Any Other Name:

The final chapter is about fight for or against homosexuality and elevation of gay sexual relationships institutionally to the same status as heterosexual marriage. Author reviews decades of this struggle, first for legalization of homosexuality and then for its equalization. It was decided in Obergefellwith Kennedy voting with liberals with non-existing constitutional reasoning similarly to Roe.

Epilogue: A Less Dangerous Branch

Here author reviews the current state of Supreme Court and concludes that with advance of conservative majority, it should be limited and become less dangerous branch of government. He specifically states that after Kennedy leaving the best hope of left is John Roberts who in his decisions about Obamacare indicated that he maybe in process of maintaining tradition of justices appointed by the weak republican presidents converting to liberal persuasion.


I think that idea of court being supreme decision maker in the country is so deeply flowed that it becoming more and more untenable. Even if it is becoming conservative, meaning more inclined to comply with constitution, it is still not good enough, especially when it has such judges as “wise Latina” who are capable discuss limitation of presidential constitutional power based on whether justices consider motivation of presidential actions good or bad. Somehow such people fail to understand that government, which is always based on violence and coercion, can do it peacefully only if overwhelming majority of population believes that these coercive actions are based on established rules (laws). Moving coercive action away from rules common for everybody would inevitably lead losing party to respond with violence as soon a its aggravation coincides with support of at least significant part of individuals who control means of violence: army and police. The idea that democratic president Obama has legal rights to issue executive order that republican president Trump has no legal right to cancel moves country to the state of lawlessness that cannot be resolved by any way other than one side violently suppressing the other. Unlike 1860 it is not conflict between states that led to incorrectly named Civil War, but rather the true conflict within society between ideologies of individuals. One should hope that country remains in the state of relative lawfulness, so ideological conflict could be resolved peacefully, but current leftist movement acts daily in such way that this hope is diminishing.

As to Supreme Court I think that USA needs constitutional Amendment, which would remove legislative power of the court, limiting it to expressing technical legal opinion. With top legal experts of both main ideological persuasions on the court, the decision on constitutionality of the issue should be decided with overwhelming majority of the court. However, if justices split on decision, either because they are driven by ideologies or due to any other reason, each side should provide suggestion for constitutional amendment clarifying and confirming their opinion, which then should go to amendment process on condition of necessity to accept either one or another interpretation of constitution. This way any ridiculous and unreasonable change to constitution will be applied with transparency and discussion and, if proved untenable, as for example was prohibition, quickly change using the same process, without long struggle for change of personalities on the court.


20190120 – Oceans Ventured

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The main idea of this book is to describe how American Navy managed to arise from decline and neglect of post WWII when it lost ships, funding and general support from political class. It came to the point when Soviet Navy was becoming capable to challenge American, so naval superiority of USA was not assured any more, at least on the long run. The turn around came with Reagan’s administration aggressive approach that allowed Navy to challenge Soviets in areas where they believed they have complete control and provided significant factor in winning Cold War.



Author, former Navy secretary, presents here this book as the story of America overcoming serious decline of its Naval force due to president Carter and his party anti-military approach combined with massive successful espionage operation that gave USSR real advantages. It was not only American Navy decline, but also raise of the Soviet fleet that was fed by massive allocation of resources and legal and often illegal technology transfer from the West.

  1. American Naval Strategy and Operations in the Cold War

Author starts this chapter not from the beginning of Cold war, but rather from the end of XIX century and works of Mahan and others who promoted idea of Navy as the critical component of state military power. Only after revisiting Spanish war, WWI, and WWII author moves to the Cold war. Author retell the story of American Navy that was mainly demobilized after WWII, partially resurrected during Korean war, and then bogged down during Vietnam war. Author also provides quite detailed account of inter services fight for resources and how Air force and Army tried to push Navy nearly out of existence die to believe that in Nuclear age it become mainly outdated.

  1. Ocean Venture’ 81: A Bold New Strategic Operation

The next chapter is about Reagan’s initiative to start Ocean Venture 81, massive Navy exercise that was very unusual because Navy moved up North close to Soviet bases and very aggressively used all its assets in order to quickly obtain experience of acting in cold weather and close to Soviets. Author describes assets and their movements that made Soviets very nervous and clearly demonstrated that Carter’s meekness is gone.

  1. Taking a New National Strategy to Sea: Sending a Message

This chapter is about two important developments. The first was public relation offence that used Hollywood and other cultural venues to promote Navy and its value and valor. Another equally important was development of new military technology such as Tomahawks and Los Angeles and Ohio types submarines to achieve technological superiority. Author also briefly discusses events of the time like Hezbollah’s attack and Falklands war.

  1. Soviet Panic: Misreading the Message: The Mobilization of 1983

This chapter is about Soviet reaction to appearance of the new and quit aggressive American Navy and overall policy. Soviets did not take Reagan seriously and believed that his rhetoric was just that, so real actions were a big surprise. On the practical level they started more actively use aviation during American Navy exercises, trying intimidating and/or demonstrating their capabilities. However it was not an easy task, partially because of technological inferiority of Soviet forces. Author discusses problems with the first Soviet aircraft carrier Kiev. Despite this and other problems, Soviet Navy continued to grow exponentially and author reviews various new assets that it acquired during 1970s and 80s.

  1. Gaining Global Velocity, 1983-1985

This chapter describes developments that become possible due to increase of funding and expansion of the Navy. These included expansion of training, new technological developments that among other things allowed finding the rack of Titanic, and also, very important, American support for Chinese Navy, that was considered somewhat of an ally against Soviets. Author also refers to important political developments of the period: reelection of Reagan and Gorbachev’s taking power in USSR.

  1. The Beginning of the End: Northern Wedding, 1886

Here author describes multiple high scale exercises of Navy across the globe from Arctic to Pacific designed to demonstrate and test new equipment and develop corresponding tactic that put Soviet Navy under constant pressure, especially in environment when Gorbachev was looking to save economy at least partially by decreasing military expenses. Author also details a small-scale conflict with Libya where aggressive use of American power finally cut down Kaddafi ambitions and, in process, demonstrated superiority of American equipment over Soviet equipment provided to Libya.

  1. The Soviets (and Others) Get the Message, 1986-1988: The Cold War Hurtles Toward Its End

In this chapter author continue narrative about successful large-scale exercises and ability of American Navy to outplay Soviets. However much more attention is allocated to internal Soviet political developments that greatly decreased power of their military and diplomatic events that not only start decreasing pressure of Cold War, but also indicated that it could end.

  1. The Cold War Ends, 1989: The East European Bloc Disintegrates

The final chapter describes mainly diplomatic and political events that led to dissolution of Soviet block and USSR itself.


The epilogue is mainly about contemporary situation when lessons of Cold war were generally forgotten and once again American politicians let military decline by refusing funding and necessary support. All this happens at the time when Russia and China dramatically increase their efforts to build military and naval power not only capable to challenge American power, but overcome it and win conflict. Author nicely summarizes his attitude by bringing quote from Winston Churchill from 1935: “Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong— these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”



It is an interesting history, but I think author overestimate role of American Navy and overall American politics in decline and fall of the Soviet Union. He seems to be missing a point that Soviet Union fall apart not because of pressure of military expense, but actually for opposite reason: the attempt of true believers in socialism and communist ideology such as Gorbachev to deliver high quality of live promised by this ideology. It was impossible task because collectivistic planned economy could not possibly deliver goods and services that people want. However, despite not being a decisive factor, the change in American military posture played its role in convincing enough of Soviet leaders that time when American politicians paid little attention to Soviet military growth and aggression in the third world was ending.

The newly aggressive USA put Soviets before dilemma: either go all the way in confrontation risking war, suppressing all dissent, and forcing further deterioration of wellbeing of population or try to turn to economy and modernized outdated and barely working planned economy into something else.

It is hard to overestimate believes of soviet leaders at the time into superiority of planned economy that led to rejection of militaristic approach. These leaders were educated in Soviet Union on the ideas of superiority of Marxism, were completely ignorant in realities of market economy, had no idea that both theoretically and practically Marxism was completely debunked, and, finally, they were deceived by easily found infinite amount of support in western academia. The result was the absence of any doubt that turn to economic development would quickly put them into superior position to chaotic market economy of the West. They paid for this illusion with complete failure and dissolution of their society.

20190113 – Simplexity

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The main idea of this book is to look at notions of complex and simple not in static, but in dynamic way and demonstrate that these notions are pretty much dependent on the point of view of observer.  To support this thesis author reviews stories from epidemiology, stock market, human interaction, sport, and what not.



This starts with the story of discovery of source of disease in water well in London in 1854, which was the first known case of successful use of epidemiological methods. Then it switches to the story of bookstore owners who successfully compete with Amazon by using their superior knowledge and understanding of their customers and books. Using these 2 examples author raises question of complexity and simplicity of the world stating that seemingly simple could be very complex and visa versa so the key is to define, which is which. Author defines it as a research on complexity – the new field of science and his work as an attempt to present its finding to reader.

Chapter One: why is the stock market so hard to predict? Confused by Everyone Else

Here author retells story of market crash of 1987 and then moves to studies of complexity in Santa Fe Institute (SFI) under Murray Gell-Mann Nobel laureate in physics. These studies cover range from complete robustness to complete chaos, trying understand how complexity is created somewhere in between these extremes. Here a useful graph explaining this:

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Then author returns to stock market and attempts to modeling it by using statistical equations from physics. In process author discusses “wisdom of crowds”, market vs. planning, and need to ideas diversity increase in order to obtain solution for complex problems. One of interesting pieces here is description of research that demonstrated that historically traders pay a lot less attention to news than usually believed. Another important part of traders’ behavior turned out to be sense of fair play. Author refers to ultimate game to discuss how it works. The final part is discussion on interplay between people’s behavior when mimicking one another would have deleterious impact on reasons for behavior in the first place. Author example is movement to suburbs to avoid congestion that in turn leads to congestion in suburbs.

Chapter two: Why is it so hard to leave a burning building or an endangered city? Confused by Instincts

This chapter uses the story of escaping world trade center on 9/11 to demonstrate how seemingly trivial decision could lead to life or death consequences. Little known part of this story is that analysis of evacuation during the bomb scare a few years before, led to improvements in evacuation design, training and procedures that eventually did save lives. Another interesting fact is that in dealing with humans in crowds one needs to leave some space and maybe add some turbulence to allow crowd self-regulate.  Author discusses evacuation software developed using these ideas and human specifics that need to be taken into consideration for it to work. The next part is discussion of gridlock that is often resulting from human behavior more than real bottlenecks of the roads. Once again to add some bumps slowing movement of each car could increase overall speed by avoiding development of congestion points.  Here is how author characterizes these situations: “THE CHALLENGE IN all these situations is to start with the already complex repertoire of human behavior, introduce it into an even more complex environment, and figure out how in the world to manage this exponentially more complicated dynamic. The rules change according to the situation, but the stakes always stay high. “

Chapter Three: How does a single bullet start a world war? Confused by Social Structure

Contrary to expectations it starts not with WWI, but with leadership fight in the troop of macaques, which is as complex and challenging affair as it is in any other group of primates. After point that author makes in process of quite logical transition to discussing complexity of human nation-states governance, overall dynamics of coordinated actions, and how they are initiated. As part of explanation, author brings Markov’s chain of probabilities and then Arrow impossibility theorem.  He also discusses complexity of American election system and military resource allocation problem (Colonel Blotto).

Chapter Four: Why do the jobs that require the greatest skills often pay the least? Why do companies with the least to sell often earn the most? Confused by Payoffs

This is actually very interesting statement because it is clearly contradicts not only common sense, but also usual experience. Author discusses call centers and such returns/complexity disparities as job of supervisor (complex) and board member (not complex). Actually author provides definition: “One of the best measures for judging the true complexity of a job is how easily a machine can replace it.

He also provides graph of complexity:

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Chapter Five: Why do people, mice, and worlds die when they do? Confused by Scale

This starts with musing on death and then moves to physiological data such as stable number of heartbeats during lifetime with smaller creatures living faster and shorter lives (Kleiber law). Then he moves to Krebs cycle – characteristic of carbon dioxide transformation in living organism.  Then author tries to apply similar numerical “laws” to cities development.

Chapter Six: Why do bad teams win so many games and good teams lose so many? Confused by Objective

Here author moves to sporting competition and its rules that create high levels of complexity. Author specifically analyses how these rules can give advantage and wins to bad teams.

Chapter seven: Why do we always worry about the wrong things? Confused by Fear

Here author discusses risks, their real levels and human perception of such levels, as usual talking about 9/11 overestimated, while fall from staircase at home underestimated. He, also as usual, links it to amygdala and brings in work of Kahneman and other researchers working on risk estimates real and psychological.

Chapter Eight:  Why is a baby the best linguist in any room: Confused by Silence

Here author takes on another complex phenomenon – human language and its acquisition by babies. He describes a very interesting experiment with babies learning their own and foreign language phonemes that they are highly capable of doing for some period of time after which they become completely deaf to unfamiliar. Author discusses research that shows that perfect language and accent acquisition window start closing around 9 months. It is also very interesting that it requires living person to be present because acquisition via speaker just does not work. The process had to be highly socialized for it to work. All this discussion is used to demonstrate how complex things could be, because language is nearly the most complex thing known to humanity.

Chapter Nine: Why are your cell phone and camera SO absurdly complicated? Confused by Flexibility

This is about typical contemporary phenomenon of functionality creep – the situation when designers pack huge number of features in hardware and/or software, making it difficult to use.

Chapter Ten: Why are only 10 percent of the world’s medical resources used to treat 90 percent of its Ills? Confused by False Targets

Author starts this chapter not with medical issues, but with Muhammad Yunus and his micro lending. From here he moves to Pareto and his rule that applies to just about everything. Both are good examples of simple approach to complex issues that nevertheless work. This follows by somewhat lengthy diatribe about Western society that allocates resource to diseases specific to their population, rather than diseases of poor around the world before returning to the issue and discussion some simple solution to complicated medical issues such as rehydration fluid. Overall the point here is that often cheap and easy solutions are available for very complex problems.

Chapter Eleven: Why does complexity science fall flat in the arts? Confused by Loveliness

Here author moves discussion of complexity vs. simplicity to the area of art, starting with an anecdote about composer Ravel who had composition with requirements not really understood until one takes into account acoustic parameters of the apartment in which he worked on his music.  Author discusses some other examples of hidden meaning in artistic artifacts.


Here author returns to Santa Fe institute, discussing word plexus that means multiple and complex folding of meaning into the words.  Then he brings in discovery radio astronomy by Jansky during attempts to find source of interference with radio broadcasting in 1931.  The final and quite important point is that everything is complex and everything is simple depending on the level of analysis, so, for example, a simple newspaper article becomes hugely complex if looked at the level of black and white dots on paper, and even more complex if looked at the level of molecules and atoms.


This book is interesting mainly because it prompts one to think about importance of point of view of observer being taken into account if one want to develop picture of some artifact or phenomenon close enough to reality so to be meaningful. I think it is a great idea and it should be formally applied in all areas of intellectual activities, especially in economics and politics when neglecting to take it into account could easily create huge negative consequences.


20190106 – The How of Happiness

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The main idea of this book is to use results of author’s some 20 years of experience in psychological studies on happiness to develop and present patterns of behavior that are specific to people with high scores in happiness tests and present “to do” type of recommendations for achieving the same results. Generally these patterns are not new and even somewhat corny, but it turned out that they do work and could be used to achieve better state of well-being.


Part One: How to Attain Real and Lasting Happiness

  1. Is It Possible to Become Happier?

Here author analyses what people mean by happiness and how to obtain it. Then she provides results of research that indicate that it mostly comes from two sources: DNA and Personal effort, with circumstances of life giving some marginal addition:

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So author suggests concentrate not on wishful thinking about change in circumstances, but actively work on doing things that make people happy. Helpfully she provide results of research that itemizes what happy people do:

  • They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  • They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
  • They are often the first to offer helping hands to coworkers and passersby.
  • They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
  • They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
  • They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.
  • They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions (e.g., fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children their deeply held values). Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies.
  • They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I; but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.

At the end of chapter author asks somewhat strange question:”Why Be Happy” and replies about happy people: “they actually show more flexibility and ingenuity in their thinking and are more productive in their jobs. They are better leaders and negotiators and earn more money. They are more resilient in the face of hardship, have stronger immune systems, and are physically healthier. Happy people even live longer.

  1. How Happy Are You and Why?

Here author states that happiness, as everything else, is continuum, rather than discreet states Author also reviews methods of evaluation and provides questionnaires used to identify levels of happiness and/or depression. Next she defines and trying to debunk myths about happiness:

  1. Myth: Happiness must be “found”. Reply: “happiness, more than anything, is a state of mind, a way of perceiving and approaching ourselves and the world in which we reside.
  2. Myth: Lies in Changing our Circumstances. Reply:” Beyond minimally satisfactory level it is not important”.
  3. Myth: You Either Have it or you don’t. Reply:“ Happiness is teachable and learnable and this book will help”.

After that author goes through detailed explanation of why it is so for the following items:

  • Material Wealth and cost of materialism
  • Beauty
  • Phenomenon of Hedonic Adaptation
  • The Altar, the Lottery, and a House in the Burbs

Then author discusses research and anecdotal evidence of genetic component, inferring that it would constitute 50% of final level, providing set point for happiness, but after that human action could move it up or down depending on whether these action promote or depress happiness.

  1. How to Find Happiness Activities That Fit Your Interests, Your Values, and Your Needs

To find happiness author recommends using strategies that fit with source of unhappiness, one’s strengths, and lifestyle. In order to define what are these fits, author provides test questions for 12 activities that could bring happiness.

Part Two: Happiness Activities

Before going into details of activities’ application author provides The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire to identify current level of happiness.

  1. Practicing gratitude and Positive Thinking

This is about expressing gratitude and the ways in which it boosts happiness:

“First, grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences.

Second, expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem. When you realize how much people have done for you or how much you have accomplished, you feel more confident and efficacious.

Third, gratitude helps people cope with stress and trauma.

Fourth, the expression of gratitude encourages moral behavior.

Fifth, gratitude can help build social bonds, strengthening existing relationships and nurturing new ones.

Sixth, expressing gratitude tends to inhibit invidious comparisons with others.

Seventh, the practice of gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions and may actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness, and greed.

Last but not least, gratitude helps us thwart hedonic adaptation.

This is followed by “How to” recommendations.

The second Happiness Activity discussed in this chapter is “Cultivating Optimism”;

Number 3 Activity is “Avoid Overthinking and Social Comparison”.  Author provides data from laboratory experiments, some real life anecdotes, and recommendation s how to do it mainly by “Letting it go” and looking at the big picture.

  1. Investing in Social Connections

Here comes activity number 4: Practicing Acts of kindness. Author’s important point here is to do it in bulk rather than small staff daily, so that it could not become boring routine. Similarly number 5 is Nurturing Social Relationship. Here author makes a list of benefits from relationships from social support to minimizing hedonic adaptation and provides recommendation on how to obtain and maintain such relationships.

  1. Managing Stress, Hardship, and Trauma

The activity number 6 is strategy of coping with adversities. The main point here is that problem-focused coping works much better than emotion-focused coping. Author discusses 3 outcomes from making stronger to barely survival:

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One interesting point is discussion on the use of writing as method to overcome adversity.

The activity number 7 is forgiveness. The main point here is that forgiveness is important for victim as method to overcome concentration on damage, which prevents overcoming it and moving on.

7 Living in the Present

The activity number 8 – Increase flow experiences, which comes with concentration on present, especially during work or other meaningful and challenging activities that match individuals’ abilities at the level that allows increase of these abilities. Author provides recommendations on how to increase flow experiences.

The activity number 9 is about savoring life’s joys including ordinary experiences that come and go but will be missed when they passed. It is also useful to recollect good things in the past.

8 Happiness Activities No. 10: Committing to Your Goals

This chapter starts with very true statement that happy people have objectives that they are in process of working on to achieve. Author lists psychological benefits of commitments and defines what kind of goals could lead to more happiness. It should be intrinsic and authentic goals. Actually author expands this and comes up with simple table what kind of goals lead to happiness and what kind does not:

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  1. Taking Care of Your Body and Your Soul

Author here discusses psychological benefits of religiosity and spirituality, which she designates as activity number 11. She analyses when and why it is so beneficial, but also some specific cases when it is not. The final activity number 12 is taking good care about body by exercising, mediating, and, also important, behaving like a happy person. There is plenty of evidence that such behavior as smiling for no reason makes people happier. There is a link between facial expression and behavior which makes reinforcement loop in both directions so it is not only that happy person smiles, it is also true that smiling person becomes happy.

Part Three: Secrets to Abiding Happiness

Here author summarizes her recommendations on haw to achieve happiness or at least improve one’s psychological conditions.

  1. The Five Hows Behind Sustainable Happiness

The First How: Positive Emotion

The Second How: Optimal timing and variety

The Third How: Social Support

The Fourth How: Motivation, Effort, and Commitment

The Fifth How: Habit

The Promise of Abiding Happiness: An Afterword

Here author discusses how the writing of this book impacted her own condition quite positively and that she noticed that this impact was much more obvious in areas where she had some deficiencies specific to her personality, while a lot less obvious in areas where she already was acting as recommended. In short the main point here is that happiness is learnable and trainable condition that could be achieved if one is willing to learn and to work on it.


I find this presentation of positive psychology quite interesting and potential useful for anybody who would like to improve quality of his or her perceived condition of being. Interestingly enough I find some 90% of recommendations consistent with what I am doing in my own live with results that one would expect according to presentations in this book. Another interesting thing is that being of somewhat similar background with author, coming from USSR, albeit at different ages, I have similar attitude in some areas that I find as difficult implement as author. Author reports that when she tried to apply it despite her internal resistance, it did work and she did felt happier than before, but I think that my soviet background is so much entrenched in my psyche, that it probably does not even worth trying. Anyway it is nice to know that the way one lives his live is highly consistent with the way contemporary psychological science recommends to live in order to be happy.