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Midnight in Peking – Book Review

MidnightinPekingAuthor: Paul French

Publisher: Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, NY

Copyright: 2011, ISBN: [1431210008]

Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 28 September 2013

Summary:  Pamela Werner was killed in January 1937 in Peking. Her killer or killers were never caught. Paul French, relying heavily on detective work done by Edward Theodore Chalmers Werner, Palmela’s father, French comes up with the most likely suspect. Good peripheral history.


The fox spirits: The quaint mythology attached to the Fox Tower area in Peking where the mutilated body of twenty-year old Pamela Werner was found on Friday, January 8, 1937.  On page ten of MIDNIGHT IN PEKING, author Paul French says that the investigation into the murder would “consume, and in some ways define, the cold and final days of old Peking.”  It was the time between the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 and the eventual triumph of Mao and the communists in 1949. During this nearly sixty-year period, the world would experience the most surreal violence since the extinction of the dinosaurs. The unsolved, horrendous murder of a young British girl in Peking did not rise to the level of even a blip on any atrocity meter. Yet, it was a barometer, perhaps a small and far reaching barometer of what was to come after.

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Habit, The Power of: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Book Review

HabitsPowerTheAuthor: Charles Duhigg

Publisher: Random House, NY

Cover: Anton Loukhnovets

Copyright: 2012, ISBN: [9781400069266]

Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, September 13, 2013


Summary: Neuroscience light: The formation of habits from the view of psychology and neuroscience. Very useful discussion if you are into advertising.


The reason you are reading this is because of an unconscious series of events.  The events lead you inevitably to this blog and this review.  Or, a simpler way of putting it is that you are here because subliminal influences drove you here—though that’s another book. Hence, we begin our Angry Birds pursuit of brain-mind research.

You may take exception to the above assessment of predetermined action.  Charles Duhigg’s HABIT is a bit more circumspect than Leonard Mlodinow’s SUBLIMINAL (reviewed here in August) about human behavior. While Mlodinow pursues behavior as a result of subliminal influences from the environment, Duhigg looks at behavior as an interruption in the processes by which behaviors develop. In the emerging neuroscience view of brain-mind, Mlodinow’s unconscious influences and Duhigg’s arrested development viewpoint fits the mechanistic view of human behavior. Duhigg’s book goes farther in this direction than Mlodinow’s SUBLIMINAL. The base layer of their take on neuroscience research is the same. We are what we are because of the brain’s bio-electro chemistry.

While HABIT is not primarily about the brain and brain chemistry, it does rely upon the same science Mlodinow used for arriving at the view that subliminal stimulus is the dominate causative factor in human activity. With that as the foundation, Duhigg focuses on the mechanistic cue-routine-reward cycle of behaviors and thought. He provides examples of individual habit “loops” as well as expanding the examination and applying it to organizations.

According to Duhigg, the key to changing any behavior is to recognize the stimulus leading to the behavior.  The basis for behaviors is desires and cravings. Cravings originate from the biochemistry of the brain. He provides examples.  One day while under stress, you eat a doughnut. The fat and sugar of the doughnut alleviates the stress. Henceforth, you associate stress alleviation with eating a doughnut. A cue-routine-reward system is established. A habit is born; a craving is reinforced. To change the habit, you break the routine into parts. Perhaps by taking a time-out from the stressful situation and going through the motions of getting the doughnut, you can substitute the doughnut for something else—eating an apple and talking to a friend. In any event, you recognize the situation (cue) that leads to a routine and the reward that reinforces it. Then you change it. The craving for the doughnut will diminish over time since it is not being reinforced by eating a doughnut.

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