All posts by M Sheffner

Happy New Year

Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous year.






“There is never a stop to the sunrise. Sunrise happens all day long. Somewhere on this earth the sun is rising. Somewhere on this earth the sun is setting. That was just where YOU were. It never stops. It keeps happening all day long. And what is your night, somewhere is daylight.”

December meeting report

At our December meeting, we discussed most of part 3 – up to the end of “Attributes of Summer”.

Next time (January 17th), we’ll discuss from “Aryan Shopkeeper” and as far into Part Four as we can.

Some topics discussed today:

  • Stalingrad. From Wikipedia: “Marked by fierce close quarters combat and direct assaults on civilians in air raids, it is often regarded as one of the single largest (nearly 2.2 million personnel) and bloodiest (1.7–2 million killed, wounded or captured) battles in the history of warfare. It was an extremely costly defeat for German forces, and the Army High Command had to withdraw vast military forces from the West to replace their losses.”
  • false dichotomy (or false dilemma): Either you’re with us or ...”

November meeting report

Updated Nov. 2nd

At our November meeting, we discussed part 3  2 of “The Book Thief”. It was a very lively discussion and the time went by very fast.

Our next session will be the first Wednesday in December, when we will finish discussing part 3  2 (from Hitler’s Birthday) and go on to talk about  part 3.

Some matters we discussed in the November session were

  • the Reichstag fire of 1933 (see also Goring’s commentary and  as archetype
  • false flag attacks
  • synasthesia (in Japanese 共感覚): there are examples of this throughout the book. Two examples we read today was “music has the colour of darkness”, and “speak colours”.
  • the burning of synagogues and writing slurs on Jewish shops in Nazi Germany:
    • By 1934, all Jewish shops were marked with the yellow Star of David or had the word “Juden” written on the window. SA men stood outside the shops to deter anyone from entering.
    • Krystalnacht – The Night of the Broken Glass. In November 1938, a Nazi ‘diplomat’ was shot dead by a Jew in Paris. Hitler ordered a seven day campaign of terror against the Jews in Germany to be organised by Himmler and the SS. On the 10th November, the campaign started. 10,000 shops owned by Jews were destroyed and their contents stolen. Homes and synagogues were set on fire and left to burn. The fire brigades showed their loyalty to Hitler by assuming that the buildings would burn down anyway, so why try to prevent it? A huge amount of damage was done to Jewish property but the Jewish community was ordered to pay a one billion mark fine to pay for the eventual clear-up. Jews were forced to scrub the streets clean. (From Jews in Nazi Germany)
  • German reactions to the Treaty of Versailles which ended WWI
    • How did Germany react to the Treaty?
      • Reactions to the Treaty in Germany were very negative. There were protests in the German Reichstag (Parliament) and out on the streets. It is not hard to see why Germans were outraged. Germany lost 10% of its land, all its overseas colonies, 12.5% of its population, 16% of its coal and 48% of its iron industry. There were also the humiliating terms, which made Germany accept blame for the war, limit their armed forces and pay reparations.
    • The German feelings of betrayal after WWI
    • The Hitler Jugend
    • Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics:
      • Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events and became the most successful athlete to compete in Berlin. (From Wikipedia
      • .. Nazi Germany used the 1936 Olympic Games for propaganda purposes. The Nazis promoted an image of a new, strong, and united Germany while masking the regime’s targeting of Jews and Roma (Gypsies) as well as Germany’s growing militarism.  (From The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936)

October meeting announcement

Our next meeting is Oct. 4th.  For next time, we will read up to the end of Part One – The Gravedigger’s Handbook.

At our next meeting, nstead of reading through this part, I suggest that we each choose one or two sections or images or ideas to read aloud and discuss.

Below are some questions that might help you organize your thoughts.

  • Summary. How would you briefly summarize the main points of this section?  If you had to tell someone what this section is about in less than a minute, what would you say?
  • Insights. What were the key insights you gleaned from this section?
  • What were your main disagreements with the author (if any)? Reading is an active exercise, and disagreement is part of what stimulates our own growth and development.
  • Holes. What did you feel was missing from the section? No book is perfect.
  • Takeaways. What did you “get” from this section? Try to list two or three things you learned .
  • Snippet. What are the sentences or images or events that you found most memorable?

September meeting report

At our August meeting, we read and discussed chapter 1 – “Arrival on Himmel Street” up to chapter 2 “Saumensch” of “The Book Thief”.  The page references in this blog are to the 10th anniversary Black Swan edition  of 2016.

For next time, we will read up to the end of Part One – The Gravedigger’s Handbook. Next time will be Wednesday October 4th.

Some of the ideas and themes we discussed in our August meeting were:

  • the final solution, an expression which now has only one, stark, meaning for all Jews and Europeans everywhere.
  • “the nothingness of life moving on with a shuffle” (p.28) is perhaps a reference to Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” speech in which he says

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause”

August meeting report


At our August meeting, we read the Prologue of “The Book Thief“.

Our next meeting will be on September 6th, where we will read and discuss chapter 1 – “Arrival on Himmel Street” up to chapter 2 “Saumensch”.

Many thanks to Okuda-san for making all those copies at the last minute.

Our August meeting will be held on Aug. 2nd at the usual place and time. We may have a few new people joining us today.

I apologize for not contact you all earlier. I was very busy with classes and final exams until Monday 31st.

As for the choice of book, not everyone commented, but it seems “The Book Thief” is the popular choice, so we will go with that.

Could those people who have the book “The Book Thief” make a copy of chapter 1 in case people attend who do not have a copy of the book? I only have a digital version of “The Book Thief”.

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.

June/July meeting

Our June meeting was held July 5th. Our next meeting will be August 2nd at 15:15 in Rifuan as usual. We may have some new visitors.

We read and discussed chapter 5 of “How an Economy Grows and how it Crashes”.

We discussed what to read next, but could not come to any decision. Please leave your suggestion in the comments.

The titles suggested are below:

  1. 84, Charing Cross Road 1,595 yen. 112 pages.   Japanese translation 2,808 yen
  2. The Book Thief: 10th Anniversary Edition  1,372 yen. 576 pages.
    1. Okuda-san’s comment: “I bought The Book Thief, which consists of 536 pages.I read  about 50 pages so far and find the book is relatively easy to read,and more importantly, very enjoyable, so much fun to read.” Japanese translation is a little expensive , from 3,000 yen up.
  3. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything  1,054 yen. 384 pages.  Japanese translation 1 yen, 568 pages.

Also mentioned was The Signature of All Things 592 pages, 919 yen.  This does not appear to have been translated into Japanese yet.

May meeting report

Today we read chapter 4 of “How an Economy Grows and How it Crashes”. Next time we will read chapter 5.

Next month’s meeting will be held on the first Wednesday of June, June 7th.

Today we also discussed what to read after chapter 5 and several novels were suggested. We will decide at the next meeting which one to read.

The titles suggested today are below:

  1. 84, Charing Cross Road
  2. The Book Thief: 10th Anniversary Edition
  3. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything

Also mentioned was The Signature of All Things

See you next time. Until then, enjoy this beautiful season.



April meeting report

In our April meeting, we finished reading “The Tuttle Twins and the Road to Surfdom”. It was judged to be an easy and interesting introduction to basic economic ideas.

Our May meeting will be held on May 10, and we will read chapter 4 of “How an Economy Grows and How it Crashes”. After that, we will take a break from economics books for a while.

Hope you are enjoying Golden Week.

March meeting report

April meeting: April 11th sorry 12th (Wednesday) at 15:15 as usual. We will read the beginning of “The Road to Surfdom” and chapter 4 of “How an Economy Grows and how it Crashes”.

(The Road to Surfdom is a simplification of the ideas in Friedrich Hayek’s classic, “The Road to Serfdom.”  Here’s a short video that introduces the book’s key ideas:   )

We read “The Tuttle Twins and the Miraculous Pencil” and discussed some  key economic terms. Have you already read the book? Be sure to read the original essay or watch the video!

Rapeseed oil (also called Canola) was mentioned. Where does the name come  from? Wikipedia tells us: “The name derives from the Latin for turnip, rāpa or rāpum, and is first recorded in English at the end of the 14th century”.

Here are the key concepts from the book:

central planning: control and regulation of the masses by a limited number of people using government to enforce their decisions and alter the behavior of other individuals.

Competition: multiple producers or service providers trying to attract more customers by lowering their price, improving their product or service, or otherwise setting themselves apart.

Economy: a network of individuals who produce, distribute, and use goods and services.

Division of labour: a production process involving many different people, each of whom specializes in and works on a different task, thereby collaborating to do something greater than any one of them could do alone.

Spontaneous order: when social harmony and market efficiency  are achieved through the independent decisions of countless individuals, each guided by their own desires and self-interest.