I really enjoyed this classic, read for the first time, but was still disappointed. If I was not familiar with Brian Greene and MichA tower of turtles
I really enjoyed this classic, read for the first time, but was still disappointed. If I was not familiar with Brian Greene and Michiko Kaku's work, I would have been terribly confused by the latter half of the book.
To the uninitiated, this represents a condensation of slightly too much in too little space. After you reach the chapter about black holes, the abstractions and wordplay and analogies are more likely to confuse you then instill you with a sense of beauty and awe about our universe. At times, Hawking tries to simplify concepts so utterly that he renders them unintelligible. A must read, but I cannot help but judge it by the standards of popular physics writing of 2014....more
To borrow a cloying Auri-ism, this book is all unkilter. It details a week in the life of the enigmatic charaThe Slow Demise of a Mysterious Character
To borrow a cloying Auri-ism, this book is all unkilter. It details a week in the life of the enigmatic character Auri, a mysterious subterranean character in Patrick Rothfuss’ otherwise strong Kingkiller Chronicle (Book 1:The Name of the Wind)
Things begin amiably. We see Auri’s world from her vantage point. Every chamber in her underground world has a name. Days and inanimate objects are personified. She has a constant sense of “balance” or “rightness” or “purity” about the arrangement of objects in space, on shelves, etc. It was nice to develop her perspective and the precious way she interprets the world. There is a near-spiritual dimension to her treatment of objects and patterns.
Unfortunately, 150 faltering pages pass and the book proves itself a one-trick-pony. Auri simply goes about her business, collecting objects, traversing rooms which she has named, perseverating about things being out of place and so on. The character study was successfully effected after 20 pages. To drag it out into an entire novella, seemingly for no particular reason, was aimless in my eyes. Rothfuss didn’t add much to the KC storyline, nor was he trying to. If anything, the repetitive banality of Auri’s life, her lack of introspection, and the strict pedestrianism of it all drains her character of some of its mysterious beauty.
As an aside, I like Rothfuss and his writing, and patiently I await “The Doors of Stone.” However, in his blogs, public speaking, and now foreword and afterword to this novella, he is too self-referential. He makes generalizations about “people who like my books”, but he has only published two novels. He has a warning to prospective readers in the beginning of “Slow Regard”: that new readers shouldn’t start here, and this book is for those who like “words and mysteries and secrets.” Since when do fantasy authors provide awkward disclaimers about the accessibility of their stories? As readers, we are more than capable of determining what is done well and what is not. This one was unnecessary and weak. ...more
Everyone can multitask, but no one can concentrate on two things at once.
Most of us are nonessentialists. We cram our day with as much as possible, sEveryone can multitask, but no one can concentrate on two things at once.
Most of us are nonessentialists. We cram our day with as much as possible, striving to achieve achieve achieve and wring every ounce from ourselves (William Deresiewicz calls this being an “achievement machine” in the adolescent/college age population).
Greg McKeown has written a nice little book imploring us to achieve more by doing less. Politely say “no “to unimportant tasks or unrealistic expectations of bosses. By doing so, you can prioritize family. Plan ahead for every eventuality. Cut the fat out of your schedule. The answer to every question should be “hell yeah!” or “no”, and you should not accept tasks for which you have merely mild enthusiasm.
The book is brief and at times repetitive, but is ultimately useful. Most of its tenets are most easily applicable to a business employee, for whom there is a corporate ladder or hierarchical demands being made. Still, there are some extensions to medicine, where my interest lies. Much of the advice herein presupposes that you have reached a status in your work life in which you can control your own schedule, and afford to say “no.”...more
“The dull predictability of prescribed elite career paths is, if nothing else, repugnant as a moral spectacle.”
The thesis is simple: achievement, mere“The dull predictability of prescribed elite career paths is, if nothing else, repugnant as a moral spectacle.”
The thesis is simple: achievement, merely for its own sake, is hurting the education of our young people. A high school student shoehorns ten extracurricular activites on his application, because Yale won’t take you seriously if you only have seven. He takes as many AP courses as he can. Getting into the Ivies and elite universities is the goal. WASPy elitism, the upper echelon of the upper-middle class, is the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, for most of these kids, they are only seeking to maintain their position there. Going to Ohio State and being a doctor in the MidWest is a fate worse than death.
Deresiewicz doesn’t overplay his hand. He was on the Yale admissions committee, is an elitist himself, and finds that the students he has been judging for years have now become “achievement machines.” They don’t know how to think or act, but are engaged in an ultra-competitive resume arms race of triple majors and outdoing their peers. Their education is lacking because it has become an exercise in packing the CV with as many lines as possible. This thesis dovetails well with Chris Hayes’ Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, in which he argues that so many failures in our modern society (governmental, educational, scientific) stem from the inadequacies of the people at the very top. The very subjects of Excellent Sheep. Think George W. Bush.
The book is highly critical of the controversial “Tiger Mother” parenting style of Amy Chua. Tireless encouragement of your children and academic prioritization is of course important. Demeaning your kids if they aren't "perfect" is quite another. Deresiewicz characterizes her book as “status-mongering at it’s most unreflective."
If you read this, you will cringe at the junior careerism. Kids who interview at Harvard saying “they decided to Harvard in middle school.” Is this healthy?
Granted, the middle and final thirds of the book are a bit meandering. Deresiewicz makes sweeping generalizations about our society in general, and loses his path a bit. He makes several religious analogies as glaring non-sequiturs. Yet he’ll remind us that “a smart poor kid is much less likely to get a college degree than a dumb rich kid,” and I’m right back with him.
We all need to decide what education means to us, and for our children. Maybe encouraging a rat race is good preparation for life. On the other hand, maybe it’s selfish, mercenary, and achievement by proxy. As the author says:
"We mandate “activities,” so we reward joiners. We insist on “leadership,” so we reward climbers. We value those who give us what we want, so we reward manipulators. We punish those who will not play the game. We are robbing children of their childhood and teenagers of their adolescence. We have engineered a vast regimentation of youth." ...more
Without waxing too rhapsodic, Sam Harris’ 2004 book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason changed my life. Previously apathetic about religiosity, I became impassioned by the surgical venom he has for faith-based claims, and his uncanny way of riposting bad arguments. He is an intellectual hero of sorts.
Harris has since acquired a PhD in neuroscience and is hailed and reviled as a “New Atheist”, a term he finds unhelpful (as the label “atheist” shouldn’t really exist, he argues). He has a longstanding interest in the human mind and its trappings. And he has had many spiritual experiences, both at the hands of psychedelic drugs and at the feet of eastern gurus of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This new book deals primarily with the eastern “spiritual” traditions of nonduality and shedding the ego, specifically Dzogchen and Advaita.
A reader’s interest in this book’s subject will be in direct proportion to her interest in those questions, generally. Human beings are constantly barraged by work deadlines, life details, TV shows, weddings, thoughts, and every other trapping of ego. Is it fun/interesting/cleansing to shed that feeling of “I”, even momentarily? Sam thinks so, even if the neurophysiology isn’t entirely explicable (yet). He believes in the power of meditation and what it might reveal about human experience. Herein, there are even some prescriptive techniques by which you might clear your mind.
Myself, these questions aren’t interesting enough to pursue with personal exploration. I have been raised and have lived in a culture and in a time where the little details of my life are everything, and I am not so unfulfilled that I want to know what it is like to shed awareness of my duality. I love my television and books and girlfriend and job and so on. I, I, I. Even if I am missing something essential about the nature of self and consciousness, this is a rare instance where I maintain willful ignorance. At least for now. I am not denying the truth or importance of any of his claims or suggestions.
In my opinion, Harris is best when he is knocking down particular arguments or charlatans. The neurosurgeon Eben Alexander (author of Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey Into the Afterlife) has made fantastic claims that are woefully ill supported by evidence or sense. A child could expose his willful misinterpretations of dreams during a coma. Sam is delightful in his skewering of Alexander. This brings up an essential point lost to most readers of a book like Proof of Heaven: surgeons and MDs are almost never scientists. Not really. A neurosurgeon doesn’t understand the workings of the brain like a neuroscientist. I am an orthopaedic surgeon but would never claim authority over musculoskeletal biology – my knowledge is serviceable and practical. Not only is Harris qualified to speak on these matters, he does so with delightful, biting wit. I suspect that is why most of us picked up the book in the first place. ...more
Number one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on other’s righNumber one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on other’s rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it’s to protect those you’ve sworn to protect. ~Neill Franklin, policeman
Noticing (or not) the militarization of our police is critical, I now realize. The change in the nature and scope of police power has changed insidiously prior to and during my lifetime. Radley Balko gives a well-researched, focused look at the inflexion points of this change. He offers sharp contextualization of the history of American police in the wake of the earliest western police forces. And the book is brimming with interesting facts.
Sheriff? Comes from the reeves (law officials) overseeing English shires = shire reeves.
Bobbies? Robert Peel was an early English sheriff who consolidated the first true police forces. His men were “Bobbies”.
Little Rock, Arkansas had federal supervision of its compliance (or lack thereof) of the ruling Brown v. Board of Education until 2007!
And so on.
He also establishes first principles: how and why are police constitutional?
Now is a critical time to read and appreciate this book. The tide is turning on social issues (equality in marriage) and on decriminalizing non-violent behavior, like marijuana use. Much of the first half of “Rise” deals with the Nixonian/Reaganite crusade to dismantle the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure) and its corollary the Exclusionary Rule (illegally obtained evidence – i.e. no warrant – is inadmissible). There are many examples of needless killing, beating, arresting, or scaring nonviolent drug users. In other cases, innocent citizens have their homes raided, at gunpoint by S.W.A.T. teams, because they might be growing marijuana or cooking LSD. Dogs are shot. Children are shot.
Both political parties raced in the 1980s to empower police and dismantle personal liberty. The War on Terror, so called, has birthed a new era of police power and armament, and every effort is made to convince the American people that such is necessary and that the world is growing more dangerous. This books serves as a thesis to the contrary.
Donald Santarelli, deviser of the “no-knock raid” (the evil of which will be obvious should you read this book) would regret his role in polite brutality, having this to say:
“I don’t think it’s possible to roll any of this back now . . . It would take leadership, probably from nobody less than the president. It would take a huge scandal, which doesn’t seem likely . . . But we’re not given to revolutionary action in this country. Each generation is a little more removed from the deep-seated concerns about liberty of the generation before. We just don’t seem to value privacy and freedom anymore.” ...more
A man dies. His life is recapitulated, briefly, mostly the adult years spent between hospital admissions, three wives, and cheating on thosePerishable
A man dies. His life is recapitulated, briefly, mostly the adult years spent between hospital admissions, three wives, and cheating on those wives. There is much ruminating on the difficulties that accompany aging, of meeting death, and regret over mistakes made. The entire proceeding is suffused with melancholy but relatable sequences about love and family.
There is nothing strictly wrong about this novel from Philip Roth. There were passages that I really enjoyed. Perhaps I’m too young to appreciate this stage of life or the wrong turns we make as we age. Particularly in relationships. If I could point to one problem that preventing me from being absorbed: the main, nameless character is never really characterized. He is sometimes a kind and thoughtful man, sometimes a virile 50 year-old obsessed with extramarital anal sex, and sometimes a skilled amateur painter. None of these stuck. But perhaps that’s true of Everyman. I will have to read it when I am older and consider. ...more