“Lab Girl” Book Review

Lab GirlLab Girl by Hope Jahren

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

DNF. First of all let me state that I have lived in Scandinavia for over 10 years, although I am originally from Australia. I grew up myself in the middle of a protected rainforest; actually the first rainforest ever to be saved from logging by protest. It would not be an overstatement to say that I absolutely love the environment and that plants have a very special place in my heart. I am also very interested in studying a degree in environmental science and plant biology. It is for these reasons plus some others that I picked up this book.

So you can imagine my frustration when I got 34% into this book and I am given only a few breadcrumbs (albeit: beautifully described and almost poetic breadcrumbs) of facts and information about plants and such. 80% of the book can be classified as dismissive whining and at times even even paranoid ramblings (the scene where Hope takes a 3-inch wrench with her as “protection” from a supposed ‘angry male’ when she wanted to use the x-ray machine for her PhD studies).

Chapters in the book about her personal life drone on-and-on and I felt increasingly starved for the beautifully written descriptions of plant facts and anatomy. I constantly ran into lengthy descriptions of how self-critical Hope is of not only her success but even her thoughts. At times I tried skipping chapters to find more about the plants but there is just so much personal pensive reflection or contemplation (melancholia) that it feels inescapable whilst reading.

In short, the book is so little about Hope’s achievements or even the plants that she supposedly loves so much and is basically just a long-drawn-out tale about her friendship with Bill; the guy who likes to dig holes, chain-smoke and follow Hope around everywhere.

I did at times feel quite bad for Hope and her anxiety issues but at the end of the day, I read this book out of an interest for plants and biology. I was expecting to hear about the grueling task one would have to undergo if they wanted to own your own labs and study things of their own interest and not apply to work under governmental and political bodies. However, I did not expect the book to be almost completely centered around this subject.

Ultimately, from living in Scandinavia for over a decade I can relate to her sheltered upbringing and related themes but this does not mean that reading through so much of this material is ‘engrossing’ or ‘entertaining’. This and the constant whining and how Hope felt her gender made her a victim in the ‘science realm’ was just too much for me.

Honestly I feel like 2 stars might even be a bit too much on this review. As, if I don’t finish something it’s generally because I don’t think that it was remotely worth my time. I did however, learn some nice facts and the parts which detailed plants were beautifully written and captured the feelings of awe I already have for plants, completely. Unfortunately they are far and few in between and cannot save the overall ‘slog’ of a read this book was for me.

Read the book if you are interested in long bouts of whining, a constant and persistent feminist undertone and a tale of two oddities and their conversations in the labs. Do not read this if you are expecting to hear remotely any detail about what made Dr. Jahren ‘famous’, or if you want to learn a lot of rich information about plant biology or if you are interested on how to break into the environmental and plant-based sciences scene.

I’m off to find something that is more science and less anxious moaning.

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Oh Bethesda… why so greedy?

I’ve been telling people for YEARS what a bad company Bethesda is. I’ve been telling people for years, that their main niche is creating sequels based from the same inherently flawed system. I’ve been saying for years, that in order to cover up their lazy coding they have used the gigantic modding community and left it up to actual players to fix game related problems and ultimately do the developer’s jobs for them.

Of course no one listened to me. In fact, basically every game Bethesda released consistently ended up with a GOTY (Game of the Year Edition). Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. All of these games were re-released multiple times with prior DLC included and small patches added that most of the time modders had fixed years ago.

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Bethesda’s long list of “happy customers”

Bethesda has made 2 quite large releases at the time of this writing. The first being Skyrim – Ultimate Edition, which has a whole array of completely freaking pointless “upgrades” but thankfully was released for free for anyone who owned Skyrim previously. The second is a massive update to Fallout 4 that wait for it- “is a 2GB patch that adds PAID MODS to a full priced singleplayer game.” Yes, you heard that right.

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Expert game design right here

Now I just quoted someone else there, but what have I been saying this entire time? Bethesda games are inherently the same systems, re-skinned and re-released at full price (€59.99 not including obvious season passes for the Fallout series). Skyrim Ultimate edition was basically that, they re-released Skyrim with all of the DLC included in the main game (as they had done already once before) but with only the main change that now you HAVE TO use THEIR modding system. That is, you need to re-release mods on their own platform despite the fact that we all like and love ‘Nexusmods’ and don’t need or want another platform to do this on.

So despite this, what did Bethesda do. They realised that some people were charging actual money for mods for games Bethesda had created, and they had the great idea of thinking “Hey we can cash in on some of that too!” Now it’s one thing to give yours players the ability to write their own mods and patches for a game that you released and charged a whopping €59.99 or more, for. This would be fair. However, it’s another thing entirely to drop an update on one of your full priced titles that adds paid mods into the game because you want to further nickle and dime your customers.

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EA did it with the ridiculous scrap system in DeadSpace 3. Hell, Gearbox Software were one of the first companies to add micro-transactions into a game when they released Borderlands 2 and they went batshit crazy by putting a real money price on basically every single item in the game. It’s no secret that gamers are sick of this kind of shit, they are sick of being nickle and dimed for further progress and rewards in a full priced game. DLCs are one thing and sometimes they can add a good amount of content into a game and thus justify their price. Take the Witcher 3’s – Blood and Wine DLC expansion for example. However, there is a moral crime that shouldn’t be crossed when you charge full price for a game and then start slapping paywalls on things that used to be free.

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A mediocre improvement between Oblivion and Skyrim at best

I’ve been saying it forever. Bethesda is a greedy corporation run by greedy shareholders, if anything they are just as bad as EA. They have consistently re-skinned and re-released flawed environments and people keep buying their releases for some reason. Admittedly I bought Skyrim myself when it was on sale for only €5 and despite starting a new game something like 12 different times I still haven’t even so much as finished Skyrim. I have finished Oblivion though, at a whopping level 12. Despite the fact that the game is quite long and there are a huge amount of quests, I beat the last boss wearing leather armor because I hadn’t even levelled high enough to find anyone with Glass Armor yet, let alone Elven. This is just another example of how badly thought out the systems are in this game. I was able to exploit the ‘acrobatics’ skill in Oblivion just by consistantly mashing the spacebar whilst there was just enough space between my head and the roof that- oh just watch this video.

Anyway there you have it. A company that has absolutely no quality control not to mention decency, has royally fucked over fans once again and I get to say “I told you so!” Sadly it doesn’t come with any satisfaction though.

Turku

For those that don’t know Turku and could no more pronounce its name correctly, let alone pick it on a map. Turku is a little town on the southwest coast of Finland, with a population of about 180 thousand. Wikipedia states that only about 5.5% of the city’s inhabitants speak Swedish, but I personally think that it is much, much higher. In fact, I think if you want to hear Swedish in the south, it’s actually one of the biggest cities where you will consistently find people speaking Swedish.

The first time I went to Turku was probably back in 2013. At the time I was living in Oulu still and whilst I thought Turku was a lovely little city, I didn’t see much of a difference between it and Oulu. Actually, after living in Oulu for something like almost 4 years and travelling to most of the other major cities in Finland (Tampere, Kuopio, Joensuu, Rovaniemi) I felt like Turku wasn’t much different from all of them. In the coming years though I did end up changing my mind about this completely.

The following photos are all from 2013

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I think one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made when going to new places is not taking enough photos. I usually go through at least a portion of my old photos once a month or so. It used to be an issue that I’d take far too many pointless photos, and not enough of new places I went to. This sort of helped me towards not being able to appreciate the places that I had been. In recent years however I’ve fixed this mistake.

Funny thing is, I recently went to Turku again after many years. Actually I went twice and I only have TWO photos to show for it…

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These days people seem to be living more and more through their phones. At concerts or new locations I’ve found myself watching people spend like an hour just ‘experiencing’ everything through their phone or camera lens. So in some ways, spending more time in ‘the moment’ is nice. However, memory ultimately fades and that’s where it’s nice to have photos to look back upon.

Turku actually hasn’t actually changed much in the past few years. I wish I had some more photos to compare, and well actually I could take some. So I might do that sometime. My memories from 4 years ago are actually a bit hazy because that was the year that I saw most of the other cities in Finland and did a ton of travelling.

Having said all of this, I think I may have found a new appreciation for Turku. I really somewhat fell for the theme and pace the city currently has going for it. Life there feels a lot more relaxed and far less disconnected than somewhere like Helsinki. People also actually thank you when you move out of their way (I thought they only did that in Tampere haha). Being able to hear quite a bit of casual Swedish is also really nice too for a change. Sure, it’s a small bummer to not be able to clearly understand those speaking Swedish but I like Swedish so it’s nice for a change.