Notes for review: there are few things more dangerous to a reader than an entertaining book about what a clever person has read. A few decades ago we...moreNotes for review: there are few things more dangerous to a reader than an entertaining book about what a clever person has read. A few decades ago we were all reading Helene H.'s "84 Charing Cross Road". Just recently I have been strongly tempted by Prof. Flynn's book he wrote to his students (in fact, I'm buying two classics just based on the sample chapter I found on his website, and I almost never actually buy books).
Hornby's essays here are explicitly crafted to wreak mayhem on one's reading list. Bad man!
And— Five stars, but don't go thinking this is a life-changing opus. (Or even life-ruining, despite what Hornby might desire.) These are bite-sized essays that will leave you smiling, looking forward to more, and inspired to read read read, which to us is like telling an addict that the heroin is on the house. What it promises, it delivers.(less)
The author gave a talk on experimental physics and the contributions of the under-acclaimed Emmy Noether at one of the local Science Cafés. The chat w...moreThe author gave a talk on experimental physics and the contributions of the under-acclaimed Emmy Noether at one of the local Science Cafés. The chat was a bit too dense to accumulate all at once, but helped clarify contemporary physics somewhat. Featured — and quite intriguing — was the role of Noether's theorem in the exploration of symmetry and the derivation of... er... the laws that are, uh, implied? By that symmetry. Or something. Gauge theories were also mentioned, and we ended up with Higgs and his eponymous field and boson.
If Kurzweil is right and I end up living forever, I swear I'm going to study math until I get this stuff. But Tensor algebra comes first, just because the name sounds so cool.
Much to my astonishment and delight, the professor I learned IPE from finally got around to writing this textbook after teaching the stuff for well ov...moreMuch to my astonishment and delight, the professor I learned IPE from finally got around to writing this textbook after teaching the stuff for well over forty years. The class was so well taught and the complex material presented so clearly that I signed up to TA his class twice after taking it.
I've order a copy, but simply based on what I learned in his class, I'm giving this a tentative five-star review. After I get it I might discover some disappointment, but from the single review over on Amazon I infer that I won't.
The obvious question is: is this a biased recommendation? No: this text was written ten years after I left the university, which was the last time I spoke to the good professor.
We'll, yeah. This has been on my "currently reading" shelf for years. It's near the bottom of the stack on my bedside table. I keep it there on fond remembrance of the author, my professor in International Political Economy. I want to say that if anyone wants to understand, as deeply as *necessary*, our contemporary economics, this is a great textbook.
But since I haven't read the whole thing, I'm basing that conclusion on his classroom lectures. Is this that good? I hope it is...(less)
Does anyone out there have access to the Indiana Magazine of History?
Apparently there was a review of Woodard's book in Vol. 108, No. 4 (December 201...moreDoes anyone out there have access to the Indiana Magazine of History?
Apparently there was a review of Woodard's book in Vol. 108, No. 4 (December 2012), pp. 424-426, by James Rubenstein. I've been trying to find reviews by historians to see if there are any substantial complaints of the history that he portrays here, but haven't found much yet.
Buying the book and formulating review. But: get a copy of this. It will explain so much of what is perplexing in U.S. politics and culture, as well as illuminate some of the contrary-to-received-history of the founding of the country — such as: the word "United" in "United States" was more wishful thinking than realistic. Fascinating. Very highly recommended.
Okay, yeah, I finished this eons ago. Then I bought a copy (I first read it as a library loan), with the intention of re-reading and writing a Big Rev...moreOkay, yeah, I finished this eons ago. Then I bought a copy (I first read it as a library loan), with the intention of re-reading and writing a Big Review. Now I'm behind by at least four (five?) Big Reviews. But this could change you life — even give you years more of health and life. Read it, even if I never get around to writing that Big Review.
David Brooks, the New York Times pet almost-a-conservative, claims about this book, “I’ll be shocked if there’s another book this year as important as...moreDavid Brooks, the New York Times pet almost-a-conservative, claims about this book, “I’ll be shocked if there’s another book this year as important as Charles Murray’s Coming Apart.” Yeah, it looks seminal. See his review at The Great Divorce (I’m a little curious about whether there’s some hidden linkage to the C.S. Lewis book).
Brooks is an editorialist; so it isn’t surprising that the New York Times Sunday Book Review would also cover this book. The article, Tramps Like Them leads me to believe the book is even better than Brooks averred.
Check out Politics, Odors and Soap by Nicholas Kristof, over at the New York Times. He writes a very enthusiastic little review of yet another book o...moreCheck out Politics, Odors and Soap by Nicholas Kristof, over at the New York Times. He writes a very enthusiastic little review of yet another book on the intersection of cognition and politics. No big surprise, it's by Jonathan Haidt, who's doing the pioneering research into how the brains of liberals and conservatives are wired in fundamentally different ways. Oh, also see the review in the Wall St. Journal, Conflicting Moralities. The longer, "official" Ney York Times review is at Why Won’t They Listen?, and explores the book in more detail.
Okay, yeah, this has to go on the to-be-read shelf. And the over-stuffed cognition shelf. Hey, at least I was reading Kahneman before he won that Nobe...moreOkay, yeah, this has to go on the to-be-read shelf. And the over-stuffed cognition shelf. Hey, at least I was reading Kahneman before he won that Nobel Prize, before he got really popular. But I have to admit I never actually finished his Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases — it was due back at the library when I was only halfway through. That is a slow, engrossing grind of an academic tome, though.
All the reviews have been glowing. Kahneman is golden, of course — he's ascended into the pantheon of the intelligentsia's demigods. The first one I read was from The Economist, then there was the one from the New York Times, and then I caught the one in The Wilson Quarterly, but what finally made really this the zeitgeist was when I came across a review in the fluffy “Paper” magazine (I was sitting in a coffeeshop waiting for some friends to finish a boardgame and picked up a free copy. More pop culture snuck into my brain in that twenty minutes than I permitted during the balance of 2011.)
Just memorializing a thought I stumbled upon; not a real review. Oh, and significant spoiler alert, I guess, although I'll use the <spoiler> ta...moreJust memorializing a thought I stumbled upon; not a real review. Oh, and significant spoiler alert, I guess, although I'll use the <spoiler> tags to hide the meat of that.
One of the pleasures I'm deriving from Martin's story is that he provides nice chewy illustrations of common cognitive and philosophical conundrums. There's a huge event that takes place in Book 3 that really gave me many hours of happy pondering, but here I refer to a lesser one, regarding Jon Snow.
(view spoiler)[Snow, from early in the story, is a sworn member of the black brotherhood, which means he took a sacred oath to obey certain restrictions and duties. Later, events force him to abrogate those, and the conflict causes him a great deal of heartache. Martin is especially clever in setting up events so that obeying the primary oath ultimately requires him to break the primary oath. Wondrous paradox of delightful circularity.
I was checking the wikipedia page for prima facie for other reasons, and I discovered that philosophers have long recognized the dilemma of conflicting oaths, and how to recognize and clearly state when they must be amended.
"I have a prima facie obligation to keep my promise and meet my friend" means that I am under an obligation, but this may yield to a more pressing duty. A more modern usage prefers the title pro tanto obligation: an obligation that may be later overruled by another more pressing one; it exists only pro tempore.
This provides no guidance to Jon Snow, or anyone else, which obligations are paramount and which are secondary, but it clarifies the situation by giving us the conceptual tools with which to consider the problem. That these tools appear to the casual observer to be nothing but fancy jargon also highlights why the clear understanding of the usage of a specialty's jargon can be so important. (hide spoiler)]
I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the books in Martin's series. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Steven Pinker certain ranges widely in intellectual circles. Although he is nominally a professor of psychology at Harvard, but even with specialties...moreSteven Pinker certain ranges widely in intellectual circles. Although he is nominally a professor of psychology at Harvard, but even with specialties (per Wikipedia) in experimental psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, he somehow dove into history to present one of the best TED Talks, back in 2007: Steven Pinker on the myth of violence (watch those nineteen minutes, if you haven't already).
Wonderfully, he has now followed that presentation up with an entire volume.
Peter Singer wrote the glowing review of this book for the New York Times, and that somewhat lengthy essay is itself well worth reading: Is Violence History?.
Update — the Autumn 2011 issue of the excellent pop sociology quarterly The Wilson Quarterly also enthusiastically recommends the book (with minor caveats) in Peace on Earth.
Update — Just got this from the library; must read within three weeks since the number of holds will prevent me from renewing. Curiously, the podcast I was listening to on the way to the library was on a related topic. The U.C. Berkeley School of Law professor (and socioologist) Franklin Zimring wrote an article back in August on the precipitous decline in crime in New York City, and was interviewed by the charming SciAm editor Steve Mirsky, The City That Became Safe: What New York Teaches about Urban Crime and Its Control. Check it out!