Egads! The New Horizons mission (on its way to Pluto right now! and led by principal investigator Alan Stern co-author of this book) is cool, space exEgads! The New Horizons mission (on its way to Pluto right now! and led by principal investigator Alan Stern co-author of this book) is cool, space exploration is cool, science is cool — this book though...Whew, it's pretty tedious and the writing style, aimed at making this more accessible, employs some annoying metaphors and turns of phrase.
This is all the science that they don't show in movies: The long slog of discovery before getting to the end result. Seems like writing a novel, in process a lot of desk work, before the exciting (hopefully) end result. Do you really want to peer behind the curtain?
If you do and you want to know about Pluto and Charon, in all the nitty-gritty detail, this is the book.
This is a great book with a smart premise. But you're not going to like it. How to be great at doing good? The answer: crunch the numbers. Nick CooneyThis is a great book with a smart premise. But you're not going to like it. How to be great at doing good? The answer: crunch the numbers. Nick Cooney advocates taking a data-driven approach to charitable giving.
The idea is that the point of giving is not to feel good, it's to make a difference — save lives and prevent suffering. In that case, it makes sense to try to give and volunteer in such a way that you are helping to save the most lives and prevent the largest amount of suffering.
"If we are smart, calculated, and committed in our approach to charity, we can do a truly incredible amount of good: sparing hundreds of people from blindness or sparing tens of thousands of animals from a lifetime of pain are just two examples."
This sounds great until you realize that this means giving to Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, the Make a Wish Foundation, your local theater group or college or the organization you volunteer for might not make the cut.
You're probably not going to like hearing this and may be very resistant to the ideas in this book. And that's too bad.
"Compassion and kindness will accomplish relatively little on their own. Only when we add in self-awareness, critical thinking, and mental discipline will we be able to truly succeed at bringing about the change we want to see. "
As the effective altruism movement, rooted in a philosophy of practical ethics, gains more traction, receptiveness to this way of thinking about charity will increase.
What this idea needs right now is: more data. Imagine a Kickstarter type project where you could see how much money was being raised toward a specific goal: the amount of money needed to save a certain number of animals or people or, miraculously, a big goal to actually end hunger or poverty. If people could see that they were making a difference and track how much progress, they would be more inspired to make the sacrifices this book suggests.
Pairs well with:The Most Good You Can Do (2015), by Peter Singer and, forthcoming in August, Doing Good Better, by William MacAskill.
A fun story of planet hunting! Astronomer Mike Brown narrates his account helping map, discover and name our galaxy.
As someone with only passing familA fun story of planet hunting! Astronomer Mike Brown narrates his account helping map, discover and name our galaxy.
As someone with only passing familiarity with the objects and events described, it was fun to get an up close account of their discovery and the earthly events surrounding them. It was informative, but not overly technical. Great storytelling.
With apologies to everyone who liked the movie Interstellar because of "the science," I much preferred and could relate to Brown's description of what I think of as a more realistic description of science: a guy staring at the stars, staring alone at night on a mountain into a telescope, staring hunched over at his desk at photographs (the same photographs that some other guy has already stared at), and doing a lot of meticulous grunt work and grind to find things that no one else thinks exists (and maybe don't!).
There's the excitement of discovery too: "A planet. I had discovered a planet!"
I also liked how, unexpectedly, this book contained a bit of a love story: that of a father for his newborn daughter. The author's daughter, Lilah, was born during his searches and she fascinates him as much as — even more than — the stars. From his description of her fetus, "It looks like the Venera lander pictures of the surface of Venus." to teaching her to look for Jupiter as it wanders across the sky — it adds a delightful and dear perspective.
Quotable: "In my scientific life, most of the discoveries come as the result of seeing something for the first time."
"She is exceptional, because early childhood development is about the most exceptional thing that takes place in the universe. Stars, planets, galaxies, quasars are all incredible and fascinating things, with behaviors and properties that we will be uncovering for years and years, but none of them is as thoroughly astounding as the development of thought, the development of language. Who would not believe that their child is exceptional? All children are, compared to the remainder of the silent universe around them."
Writers, read this for: a well done memoir, and also to note and enjoy the parallels between the process of writing a novel and the work of looking for planets. Lots of risk and skepticism, dubious or no rewards, it takes a lot of "bum glue" and even a successful hunt may not yield the sought-after results. But it's an irresistible quest!
Notable: • Can't wait to find out the size of Pluto when New Horizons flies by this year (2015)!
• Because planets are named after creation myths (from around the world): planetology meets mythology. You could write a book like Neil Gaiman's American Gods set in space — Milky Way Gods.
• This is one of the few books I've read for pleasure that says some interesting things about my profession (media relations) i.e. the timing and writing of press releases. I really enjoyed the part where Brown prepared four different versions of a press release to prepare for a news announcement and press conference.
A bibliomemoir about the effects of reading a classic on one's life. An enjoyable way to learning more about George Eliot who began Middlemarch at ageA bibliomemoir about the effects of reading a classic on one's life. An enjoyable way to learning more about George Eliot who began Middlemarch at age 51, her contemporaries, her meliorist philosophy ("The conviction that, through the small, beneficent actions and intentions of individuals, the world might gradually grow to be a better place.) and how she worked on and revised her work. Insightful how her relationship with George Henry Lewes ("They read widely, wrote copiously, talked endlessly.") affected her fiction and hearing how an earlier line of Middlemarch compared with the revision.
My quandary now: Which Eliot to read next: The Mill on the Floss, Silas Mariner, Adam Bede, Daniel Deronda? Or re-read Middlemarch instead?
Quotable from Middlemarch "That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil -- widening the skirts of lights and making the struggle with darkness narrower."
"But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
Quotable from My Life in Middlemarch: "Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it's a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself."
"Her best work began in being beloved, while middle age granted her an expansion rather than a diminishment of possibility."
"Her aspiration was not for literary immortality — although she got that — but for a kind of encompassing empathy that would make the punishing experience of egoism shrink and dwindle. She believed that growth depends upon complex connections and openness to others, and does not derive from a solitary swelling of the self. She became great because she recognized that she was small."
Oh dear, this book just did not sit well with me, on three counts:
1. While a faithful account of a man's life and his notable achievement, even nonfi
Oh dear, this book just did not sit well with me, on three counts:
1. While a faithful account of a man's life and his notable achievement, even nonfiction (perhaps especially nonfiction!) ought to have some storytelling involved to hone the narration. Instead, it reads very like a spoken account where a person recalling their life might linger on certain details and emphasize certain events without context, intent or thought to the listener. 2. With the book written as though for family members, friends or, certainly, contemporaries of Joe Rantz, I felt frustrated as a reader. In some places, the book assumed knowledge I didn't have (i.e. significance of Olympic athletes of the 1930s). In others, it seemed to ignore knowledge I did have (historical significance of Nazi Germany and events and atrocities that occurred). It was weird and often creepy and eerie reading about this man's life with little context or acknowledgement of the larger stage. 3. Ultimately, my biggest issue was that I felt my response to be strongly at odds with the author's intent. While this book focuses on the story of a poor man succeeding in a quest by focusing on harmony, accommodation and unwavering trust with his brothers in pursuit of a single goal, it read to me as a cautionary tale. Myopically focusing on a goal (or the back of the neck of the boy ahead of you) and missing the larger picture all around you costs and ruins lives. In fact, it seems a caution for the continued unworldliness of the United States where we focus on our own friends, families and localities instead of expanding our circle of compassion overseas and saving lives with inexpensive vaccines or deworming medication. Horrifically, the book almost seems to support a similar "fall in line" message to the one that led Germans so far astray. Toward the end, the book talks about the British coxswain John Noel Duckworth and recounts his heroism during the World War II and, I'm thinking, well, there's your story!
I appreciate that the book is well researched and I appreciated the Seattle-setting and history lesson.
However, in retrospect, it seems clear from the book:
• We should boycotted those Olympics! And Sochi?! Repeating mistakes?!! • Gosh, crew (while fun sport and cool) isn't very relevant these days. • Sport can be a horrible diversion while lives are being destroyed. The 1936 Olympics were totally used for propaganda. And it worked! Crap!
It does make me curious to read Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit or Unbroken for comparison. It also made me think of dear Anne Frank and want to reread her diary. Also, hats off to Jamie Ford for his novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, set in Seattle in the 1940s.
Writers, read this for: an example of the perils and rewards of research
"...and when the entire nation all but shuts down for a virtual national holiday on Super Bowl Sunday, it's hard to fully appreciate how important the rising prominence of the University of Washington's crew was to the people of Seattle in 1935." Yep.
"You will eat no fried meats. You will eat no pastries, but you will eat plenty of vegetables. You will eat good, substantial, wholesome food—the kind of food your mother makes." Favorite.
"As Royal Brougham climbed into the train, he noted that he had never seen a crew leave town "with as much cheerful determination and optimism. These lads feel it in they're bones....they're practically shaking hands with Hitler right now." No, no, no! ...more
Applause! Applause! A fantastic collection of seven essays on feminism by a thoughtful and hopeful activist author and lovely writer. Yes, you can reaApplause! Applause! A fantastic collection of seven essays on feminism by a thoughtful and hopeful activist author and lovely writer. Yes, you can read much of this work online and a lot of it at tomdispatch.com, but it's a delight of a book interspersed with images by artist Ana Teresa Fernandez. Spend some time with it in your hands. Read the pieces all together. Enjoy it on the shelf in your writing room. Pass it around to friends....more
Rebecca Solnit is my author crush of the year. Wanderlust does not have the lyrical inventiveness of The Faraway Nearby. It's a straightforward nonficRebecca Solnit is my author crush of the year. Wanderlust does not have the lyrical inventiveness of The Faraway Nearby. It's a straightforward nonfiction read by someone who has nerded out on research — more along the lines of Solnit's "A Paradise Built in Hell," but it's fascinating nonetheless.
While I was reading it I kept wondering, "Could there really be this much to say about walking?" but there was.
And then, "Am I really interested enough to read more?" but I was (fervently highlighting passages, pausing to read Henry David Thoreau's essay "Walking" and making notes for further reading as well).
Best of all, Solnit makes a case that walking is a creative, revolutionary act. It's empowering.
If you like to walk and read and create and change the world, this book is fuel.
I've been taking a lot of long walks and my joy in them is increased since reading this book. The way I move through space, through my community, with my love — it's amazing.
"I stride along with calm, with eyes, with shoes, / with fury, with forgetfulness" — Pablo Neruda
Quotes: "Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in the conversation together three notes suddenly making a chord."
"Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains."
"So stories are travels and travels are stories."
"To write is to carve a new path through the terrain of the imagination, or to point out new features on a familiar route."
"Walking is an indicator species for various kinds of freedoms and pleasures: free time, free and alluring space, and unhindered bodies." ...more
While there's nothing earth-shattering here, the book makes an excellent point that in order to relate better to our canine companions we ought to invWhile there's nothing earth-shattering here, the book makes an excellent point that in order to relate better to our canine companions we ought to invest more effort in thinking about how they perceive the world.
Perhaps that's the most surprising revelation here: how little scientific and purposeful thought we've given to how our dogs friends think and what makes them happy. While, dogs on the other hand, watch and respond sensitively to our every move and mood.
The book counters some conventional wisdom and wrong-thinking which has lead to misguided and harmful training techniques i.e. dogs do not behave like wolves. They do not need to be dominated and, in fact, this can cause them anxiety and fear.
This book is part of a growing and useful trend toward delving more into the emotional lives of animals, not in the sense of anthropormorphizing, but rather in perceiving the world in the way another species would. Dogs, for example, have a huge olfactory world available to them.
It's a helpful point of view. Bradshaw makes a strong case for the need to think about how to access and maximize the potential of the inner world of dogs to help them integrate and be our companions in modern society rather than simply breeding them to look a certain way - often to the detriment of their health and temperament.
The book ends on a pessimistic note about the fate of dogs, if their needs are not taken into consideration. As a dog lover, I have to feel more hopeful about the future of dogs. What would we do without them?
Loyal dog people will certainly read books like this and speak out to make changes (in training techniques, breeding, welfare) on the dogs' behalf. Won't they?
In the conclusion to the spring quarter 2013 class, Professor Banerjee made the point that policy against poverty (organization beyond occasional handouts) is very modern.
As such, "there is reason to be optimistic," that more informed research and development efforts aimed at eliminating poverty can make profound change.
Development strategies to help the poor have not historically been based on data and research scientifically conducted to pinpoint what works. This information can make a huge difference and highlight the best places to expend resources.
Some key takeaways:
Lack of cheap food (i.e. grain) is not the problem. "In terms of food availability, today we live in a world that is capable of feeding every person that lives on the planet." Nutrition, not hunger, is today's priority.
The poor make decisions on how to spend money (whether on food, small luxuries, preventative medicine, insurance, investment, savings) like everyone else — with a strong bias toward the present.
People, especially women, don't want to run small businesses. They don't want the risk and low reward of being self-employed. They would prefer stable, well-paid government jobs.
It makes sense for society to subsidize or enforce behaviors that have benefits for others i.e. vaccinations. Government and institutions play a huge role in individual well-being.
Wealthy peoples' real advantage comes from the many things that we take as given (clean water, toilets, banks etc.). Whereas, for the poor, these become daily struggles and decisions. For the poor, every year feels like being in the middle of a colossal financial crisis.
Making people richer and more educated can start a virtuous circle where good institutions will emerge. A little bit of hope and some reassurance and comfort can be a powerful incentive. It's hard to make the forward-thinking decisions that will ensure a brighter future without hope of one.
Breathtakingly beautiful insights and composed sentences. So lovely. Solnit's The Faraway Nearby (2013), surpasses this, but there is a similar lyriciBreathtakingly beautiful insights and composed sentences. So lovely. Solnit's The Faraway Nearby (2013), surpasses this, but there is a similar lyricism and craft here. The books in her more straightforward nonfiction style are definitely worth a read too, if the subject mater compels you, i.e. A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (2009) and Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000).
"...to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery."
"And there's another art of being at home in the unknown, so that being in its midst isn't cause for panic and suffering, of being at home with being lost."
"The question then is how to get lost. Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita between lies a life of discovery."
"Lose the whole world, he (Thoreau) asserts, get lost in it, and find your soul."