This book would have been better if it was structured as two short novels, one about his life and the other about the mathematics he has worked on, inThis book would have been better if it was structured as two short novels, one about his life and the other about the mathematics he has worked on, instead of one interwoven book. The author provides suggestions for skipping chapters heavy on math but I feel that weakens the author's goal of wanting to create a book about mathematics that could be enjoyed by those terrified of math. As the book progresses the math gets more complex and the examples and analogies for it get fewer. As a reader I got lost, started skimming, and had to agree with the author that only a handful of people in the world understand what he works on. Unfortunately as a result I didn't come away with an impression or appreciation for the beauty of mathematics like I have for the double helix of DNA even though I don't understand the biology behind DNA. What I did enjoy about the book was the author's struggle and journey through life. As a persecuted Jewish boy in Russia he managed to overcome multiple roadblocks, with the help of an amazing cast of mentors, in order to pursue his love of mathematics once he discovered that was his true calling. Given the recentness of many events in the book it is an inspiring story worth reading and makes up for the book's other shortcomings....more
This books offers a great overview of the capabilities of Node.js. Starting with core concepts of the platform the book builds upon itself until you aThis books offers a great overview of the capabilities of Node.js. Starting with core concepts of the platform the book builds upon itself until you are handling modern single page web applications using Node.js as the glue between browsers, databases, file systems, and anything else you might need to access. Along the way it teaches good architecture, common Node.js coding patterns, and how to leverage the rich ecosystem around Node.js. While no topic is covered in extensive detail, if you've been wanting to try Node.js and get beyond simple Hello World examples, this is a great read....more
An enlightening exploration of zoonoses and what it could mean to the future survival of humans. Diseases such as Hendra, Nipah, SARS, West Nile, HIV/An enlightening exploration of zoonoses and what it could mean to the future survival of humans. Diseases such as Hendra, Nipah, SARS, West Nile, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Marburg, malaria, and Lyme are examined to understand what we know and don't know about each of them. Understanding how they transfer from animals to humans, what reservoir hosts they lurk in, possible transmission vectors, the role of amplifier hosts, super spreaders, and a wide range of other topics are woven throughout the narrative. Between the authors' first hand experiences, interviews with scientists working in the field, and discussion of previously published research papers, I got a great overview of zoonosis and why some RNA based virus might likely be the next big one that affects humans. As the author summarizes, "The purpose of this book is not to make you more worried. The purpose of this book is to make you more smart.", and indeed it does....more
A fitting conclusion to the Silo Saga. It felt a little rushed towards the end but that may have also been my not wanting the story to end. Taken as aA fitting conclusion to the Silo Saga. It felt a little rushed towards the end but that may have also been my not wanting the story to end. Taken as a whole the entire saga was amazing and this was a very fitting end....more
An excellent prequel to Wool. Learning about the genesis of the silos and the players involved was riveting reading as much of it felt on the cusp ofAn excellent prequel to Wool. Learning about the genesis of the silos and the players involved was riveting reading as much of it felt on the cusp of plausibility....more
A meandering and amusing reflection from Alan Alda about his life. Having grown up watching reruns of M*A*S*H, it was great to understand more about tA meandering and amusing reflection from Alan Alda about his life. Having grown up watching reruns of M*A*S*H, it was great to understand more about the man behind the character of Hawkeye. He didn't have an easy path to stardom or dealing with his family. In the end it all worked out and his thoughts on how he navigated those paths make for a good read....more
An entertaining mix of travel memoir, autobiography, and microfinance. Bob Harris recounts his transformation from a globe trotting travel writer, toAn entertaining mix of travel memoir, autobiography, and microfinance. Bob Harris recounts his transformation from a globe trotting travel writer, to becoming a Kiva lender, and traveling the world again to understand how microfinance was impacting the lives of individuals. Along the way he delights with vignettes from his colorful life, bits of history and context for the regions he is visiting, and poignant observations about how disproportionate access to basic necessitates let alone financial services exist throughout the world. Recommended for anyone interested in learning more about microfinancing or Kiva in particular....more
A great book exploring the difference between how science is perceived and how it is pursued. The central theme is that scientific progress is made byA great book exploring the difference between how science is perceived and how it is pursued. The central theme is that scientific progress is made by finding the right questions that reveal our ignorance and then trying to find answers to those questions. The author makes a case that a hypothesis isn't what he's interested in, unless experiments prove that hypothesis wrong and reveal new ignorance. Besides the philosophical discussion about ignorance the case studies, which make up the second half of the book, offer great insight into how much scientists still don't know despite how much has been discoverd. An easy, informative, and thought provoking read....more
This book is primarily a collection of essays that have previously appeared in various other magazines and publications. The essays cover a wide rangeThis book is primarily a collection of essays that have previously appeared in various other magazines and publications. The essays cover a wide range of topics and range from his personal observations about being a scientist to short biographies about other scientists. Overall I didn't find the book that engaging. While the essays were organized well, I didn't find themes that followed through all of them to really tie the book together. They felt just like a collection that had been repackaged together.
In many of the essays I found the author's frequent digressions to be distracting and superfluous as they didn't offer any support of the main topic. With all of that said there are nuggets of reflection buried throughout the book that I found myself agreeing with and broadening my own perceptions. The concept of the "creative moment" isn't something I have felt to the same degree as Mr. Lightman I have briefly touched its outer edge and agree with his description. Overall the book's short essay format makes for quick reading with one or two small nuggets to be gleamed from each piece. ...more
I've recently finished devouring this book. It has been awhile since I've found a book so riveting that I had trouble putting it down. The author's noI've recently finished devouring this book. It has been awhile since I've found a book so riveting that I had trouble putting it down. The author's note at the beginning sets the tone "However strange or macabre some of the following incidents may seem, this is not a work of fiction".
The story follows two men and is set around the 1893 World's Fair that was held in Chicago. The first man is the architect behind the World's Fair. The second is a gruesome serial killer who played upon people coming to see the World's Fair. The city of Chicago itself also takes center stage throughout the book with the author's vivid descriptions and auxiliary people that are tied into the two main men.
To read about a city trying to assert itself and America through the fair then be stricken along with the rest of the country as the economy took a downturn only makes the success that the fair achieved even more phenomenal. That success would not have been possible without the men and women behind the fair all of which are captured in the book. Likewise the cunning dastardly deeds of the killer provide a somber backdrop to the excitement of the fair. A truly remarkable, approachable, educational, and entertaining book.
An entertaining book for reasons different from most fiction I read. The writing in the book is superb and was the primary reason that I kept readingAn entertaining book for reasons different from most fiction I read. The writing in the book is superb and was the primary reason that I kept reading it. Unlike most fiction books where the draw to keep reading is that I've found a character I relate to or a character I empathize with, in this book I hated them all. If ever there was a text book example of victim mentality, the characters in this book fit it to a tee. The dichotomy of loving to hate the characters doesn't remind me of any other books I've read lately which helps it stand out. I'm not sure what I else I can say without getting caught up in all of the storyline, so I'll keep it short. Great book worth the read....more
It isn't often that I read a book that I find truly speaks to me. Some books are engaging in that I find the material of interest while other books arIt isn't often that I read a book that I find truly speaks to me. Some books are engaging in that I find the material of interest while other books are written well and I find myself wanting to see what happens next. For a book to really speak to me it has to be something different. After reading an article in a magazine I went to buy Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters.
The idea of the urban tribe, and let me say right now I'm badly paraphrasing most of the rest of this, is a group of never-married friends, having a high clustering coefficient, that are experiencing and sharing life together. My generation (and I use that term loosely since I don't have a better one) has chosen to delay marriage long past the point that our parents did. While politicians bemoan this breakdown of traditional family values, my generation has chosen to create their own values one of which is to question the traditional trajectory of marriage.
Courtship is all but dead. Parents may still try to set us up, but the role that they play in helping us find our marriage partner has all but gone away. My generation also looks at our parents and sees the coin-flip chances that a marriage will last and wonders is there a way to improve our chances. The book argues that the urban tribe has changed the middle years between leaving our parent's house and starting married life, for the better.
The urban tribe provides a support structure like a traditional family, friends to help you when you are feeling down, friends to help you celebrate the good times, friends to lend a hand with projects, and friends just to hang out with. The difference between a standard group of friends and an urban tribe is that high clustering coefficient, everyone in the tribe is friends with everyone else in the core cluster. Some of the friendships maybe deeper than other, but it is almost always a fully connected cluster.
Since the tribe is so close, it offers an arena of safety to help one grow and become a better person. You can do stupid stuff and the tribe will be there to help fix things. You can use them as a sounding board for ideas and the tribe will tell you when you are being silly, stupid, or dumb. The tribe knows what you are capable of and will help steer you towards that better self. Instead of experiencing that discovery within the contexts of traditional relationships, which carry much more emotional turmoil, the tribe helps you improve in a more relaxed setting.
Not all is golden with urban tribes though. Since the group is a central part of your life it is hard to break free. The urban tribe doesn't want its members to leave and as such the group can almost sabotage those that try to. What is important to keep in mind is that the nature of the relationship must change at some point. Just like moving out of your parent's house, you need to move out of your tribe to take the next step in your life which in this context is usually marriage.
I agree with the author that "Single people tend to see themselves as a failure in the marriage game until they found themselves in a relationship headed for the alter. They perceived little gray area in their love lives - things were either going great or badly." I find hope in the fact that there are others out there like me and that our time for love will come....more
Greg for over a decade has been working to build schools in remote areas of Pakistan and other out of the way places in that part of the world.
The booGreg for over a decade has been working to build schools in remote areas of Pakistan and other out of the way places in that part of the world.
The book chronicles the experiences that led up to him starting this monumental task, the trials in getting the first school built, and the role his work has played in the area post 9/11. Yes it is possible for the determination of one person to change the lives of so many. He has had many people help and continue to help him along his journey but by and large without Greg the schools would not exist. Which also plays into the only negative aspect mentioned in the book, that without Greg this work would not continue. I can only hope that through this book others leaders capable of building the relations and trust can carry on what the Central Asia Institute has done, since having others in the field with the determination Greg has would only further expand the impact that can be made.
Greg's life is an inspiration for all of us and I truly do believe that he is a modern day hero....more
This is an enjoyable read and it does a great job of capturing the race for wireless communication set against the scientific bickering of London andThis is an enjoyable read and it does a great job of capturing the race for wireless communication set against the scientific bickering of London and intertwines the mysterious murder committed by Dr. Crippen. What it didn't do is draw me into both stories.
It might be my scientific nature but the Marconi story line had a richer feel to it and I felt fully engrossed in the drive to communicate without wires. The story of Crippen, while told well, didn't have the depth that the killer did in The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. The additional background on Crippen helped flesh out the character but it felt more like back filling the story from the incredible chase across the Atlantic which tied the two stories together.
The descriptions of London around the 1900s are neat, but feel more like digressions then central to the story. Likewise the author even asks "to forgive my passion for digression." I believe that such comments can add flavor and context to the main story, but in this case the digressions feel like they are the story and the main characters the digression. Overall it is a fun and quick read....more
This is a quick read. It's also a fluffy read. The book leaves many questions unanswered including some surrounding the main character, such as if andThis is a quick read. It's also a fluffy read. The book leaves many questions unanswered including some surrounding the main character, such as if and when he ever told his family what he did, which could have been answered. It also ends on too clean of a climax, with the purple poker chip on the table, making me think that certain aspects of the book were over embellished. The mystery of who sold the team out is only touched on and never explores the opinions of the characters. Having also read Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids: How a Gang of Geeks Beat the Odds and Stormed Las Vegas both books follow a similar vein. New team blackjack system that works for awhile in Vegas, the casinos catch on and they end up exploring other casinos which leads to trouble and the operation basically goes belly up. Neither book I felt did a good job of really exploring the subject, instead both were light treatments of the characters involved. Both are good plane reading material but nothing that great....more