Good but a tad tiresome at in middle section...not sure if I will get back to it.
I got back to it and was glad I did. The last section much strongerGood but a tad tiresome at in middle section...not sure if I will get back to it.
I got back to it and was glad I did. The last section much stronger (though some quibbles with very last, small chapter on happiness) which gets at core issues, core questions about religion and science. Harris makes a powerful argument that science always has been and must be even more involved with questions of morality. ...more
His overarching idea is something I've always intuitively believed but find difficult to argue: success is not random but rather is predictable AND inHis overarching idea is something I've always intuitively believed but find difficult to argue: success is not random but rather is predictable AND intellect and achievement do not perfectly correlate.
What Gladwell gives us is specific studies which demonstrate this, the most compelling is his exploration oft he Matthew effect (most successful given most opportunity) where the birthday of Canadian hockey players basically determined whether they would make it on all-star teams and into the pros. Turns out that that most of these "successful" players are born from January to March; also turns out that the cut-off date for age-class hockey is January 1st which allows these boys born close to the cut-off date an advantage of being older, bigger, stronger. Hence, they get chosen for all-star teams, get more experiences, more time on the ice playing which isn't easy to get (one can't simply play a pick up game of hockey). ...more
Well, I really liked the 2nd half. First half was tedious as she enumerates every detail and uncle and move of her early life with nary a reflection.Well, I really liked the 2nd half. First half was tedious as she enumerates every detail and uncle and move of her early life with nary a reflection. But don't get bogged down (I skim read) because the second half is quite amazing. Hirsi Ali's transformation from submissive Muslim woman to a humanist Dutch member of parliament is stunning. Overall this book caused me to continue questioning (started when I read Sam Harris The End of Faith) my apologist view on Islam since 9/11. She makes a compelling argument that elements of Islam are simply not compatible with western modern democracy and must be re-envisioned. ...more
Physics all around--also watching the three part Nova series with youngest son about the fabric of the cosmos.
I'm most intrigued by Buchanan's discusPhysics all around--also watching the three part Nova series with youngest son about the fabric of the cosmos.
I'm most intrigued by Buchanan's discussion of instability, that many systems build up pressure of some sort and exist on what he calls the knife of instability. This critical state lends itself to occasional upheavals (an earthquake, massive extinctions, a war) with one small shift in the system. That is big events do not have big causes--how marvelously counterintuitive. His overriding metaphor is a sand pile which, surprisingly, physicists have spent much time playing in. And even more surprisingly, they have found that there is no "typical" size of an avalanche in a sand pile--sometimes only a few grains of sand, sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands. The avalanches appear to be completely random.
Yet if this is the case then it is nearly impossible, then, to predict these upheavals. Of course this is akin to chaos theory but he moves beyond early chaos theory to describe power laws which describe the "patterns" of upheavability. These power laws do not allow us to predict one particular event; instead they demonstrate that across many systems both geological and biological there is a correlation between the number of small events (e.g. small earthquakes) and the number of large upheavals (e.g. massive earthquakes).
So while these power laws do not have much practical value at this point, they do, as physics often does, point to an underlying system which is not random yet is also not predictable. Finally he uses these theories to (which will undoubtedly disturb some) history where he argues against the great person or genius theories of history. Of course, as he admits, many historians have already questioned this analysis of history. What Buchanan adds is that nonequalibrium physics is the proper field to describe what will happen--not just in sand piles and earthquakes but in the most complex of human systems. ...more
I took many notes on 4x6 cards while reading this. I remember when I read it I was trying to reconcile my own faith and science. Once interesting quotI took many notes on 4x6 cards while reading this. I remember when I read it I was trying to reconcile my own faith and science. Once interesting quote I noted was "science is not an alternative to God but only a codification." Hmm, not so sure I'd buy that now.
Was probably my first introduction into the details of Newton....more
Must have read this when we were trying to understand a good friend suffering from anorexia. Maybe her husband suggested it--can't quite remember. OneMust have read this when we were trying to understand a good friend suffering from anorexia. Maybe her husband suggested it--can't quite remember. One quote survives on my 4x6 card: "I don't want to die, but I don't know how to want to live." That's wallop of quote. ...more
We invited the author to our student conference. In an 8 minute drive from her hotel to the conference, she was able to articulate a position concerniWe invited the author to our student conference. In an 8 minute drive from her hotel to the conference, she was able to articulate a position concerning fragmented religious identity, particularly fundamentalism, which gave me hope.
Her book carefully and engagingly explains the 10th parallel, the line separating christians and Muslims through Africa and Asia. It's mostly report, "objective journalism" as that is her game, but we finally meet her and her religious past 117 pages in. An intriguing encounter with Billy Graham's son in the Sudan when he asks her if she is a believer or not. Griswold shows her anger and fear of this "God" who demanded so much of her father and now demanded something from her. And she separates herself from Graham for she had not accepted Jesus as her savior and most memorably, later back in the states "absentminded[ly]" leaves the Bible he had giver her behind. ...more
I purchased this book for full price (a rare thing for me) right after hearing Scott Carrier read from the book at our faculty convention. He is an inI purchased this book for full price (a rare thing for me) right after hearing Scott Carrier read from the book at our faculty convention. He is an interesting character, hard to define into a neat category--and so is this book.
Even if I hadn't heard him speak, I would have known this was going to be a good read just 14 pages in, during the 3rd section called Momosphere, where he says "I used to resist the church. I spoke out against it whenever...I had a chance. But one day a question entered my head--'What if, with the wave of a hand, I could wipe out all of Mormon history...would I do it?' It took me five seconds to realize I would never do it. I'd miss their stories for their mythic value. I'd miss the temple, even though I can't go inside...My identity, the person I have become, is a non-Mormon, an outsider other. If the Mormons were gone then who would I be?"
This passage identifies what I respect in Carrier and seek in others: someone whose life experiences have made them less (not more) likely to sweep aside some culture or belief system which is irritating, wrong, even unjust and discriminatory. To me this is to recognize our interconnections and that meaning is never solid, a modernized object, but rather rhizomatic, tenuous, and corrupted by sin.
Carrier jumps back and forth from stories about Utah and Mormons to that of Islam in the Middle East--interesting parallels if uneven and stretched at times. But then he brings the two strands of fundamentalism together in the last and best section (the one he read from at our convention): "Najibullah in America." It is the story of young boy he meets in Afghanistan, who translates for him and helps Carrier get his stories. Several years later, now at UVU as a professor, Carrier gets Naji to come to Utah, to live amidst another kind of fundamentalism.
The last section might be called the education of Naji AND of Scott Carrier as he helps Naji navigate life in America and to write in a new language with new rules of engagement. But it's also about Carrier's learning as he "settles" for a time as a teacher, at first hating it and then growing to like it even though he is still surrounded by young idealistic and naive Mormons. But the convention is too much for him ultimately--he said in his reading that he is leaving UVU, and the comforts of a salary and health insurance, for the Middle East. I'm both fascinated and bewildered by a person like Carrier who lives on the fringes. Ultimately happy for his voice.
A voice that ends on a somewhat, for Carrier, optimistic note. He argues that there is something going on with his students, having seen the financial crisis and murky motivations for war, who "now come more willing to listen to [his] point of view because they can see they're fucked." A mini-enlightenment in Orem, Utah? Maybe. Still, he admits to the complex forces in a uniquely Carrier-like way: "It's fucking hard to be compassionate, to see our enemy as no different than ourselves."
And here we circle back: Who indeed would Carrier be without the Mormons? Who would Christian Westerners be without Islam? Even who would we be without Al-Queda? Compassion is certainly absolutely fucking hard. ...more
Read it as part of an independent study I'm doing with a student about the relationship between humans and animals--not my choice but still an interesRead it as part of an independent study I'm doing with a student about the relationship between humans and animals--not my choice but still an interesting read and a seminal piece in 1960 setting out a different type of relationship with animals, particularly the feared and hated lion.
There is, as to be expected, a lot of anthropomorphism as Adamson ascribes all sorts of human emotions to Elsa. Yet it is simply amazing what they pull off--raising a lion and then successfully introducing it into the wild. The intimacy with the lion is both admirable and disturbing: Elsa, even full grown, sucks Joy's fingers for comfort and as they introduce her to the wild she pulls dead carcasses into the tent where Elsa sleeps with George, Joy's husband. At one point they drive 52 hrs straight to find a better place to introduce Elsa to the wild. Both Joy and George are as committed to Elsa as a child. In fact Joy seems much more aware of Elsa's individuality than that of the Africans who she barely mentions and sometimes doesn't name. ...more
I couldn't help compare this PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) travelogue with Bill Bryson's *A Walk in the Woods* about hiking the AT (Appalachian Trail), aI couldn't help compare this PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) travelogue with Bill Bryson's *A Walk in the Woods* about hiking the AT (Appalachian Trail), a hilarious description of long-distancing hiking near the other coast. While there are many similarities, these narratives do not really fit into the same genre. Bryson's is a true travelogue, taking every opportunity to ramp up the humor, avoiding most opportunities to serious self-reflect; Strayed's is a true memoir, unabashedly exploring her identity and sexuality. But it was well-paced, moving easily back and forth from travelogue (both hilarious and nerve-wracking trail adventures) to poignant scenes from her past as when she and her brother put down her mother's horse a year or so after their mother's death.
And amazingly she does all this without the narrative feeling forced or overwrought. Even when I like a memoir, there are generally several places where it seem overdone--and I only remember one spot near the end where I questioned a passage about her mother and the river. It was a bit too nifty, too crafted, but easily forgiven. Strayed ends strongly for me in the last paragraph where she simply states after she had reflected on what she had learned through the years about those who she hiked with, "It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn't have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I'd done was true." ...more
More literary and less personal than I thought it would be and she does focus a lot on white male authors (Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner etc--though quitMore literary and less personal than I thought it would be and she does focus a lot on white male authors (Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner etc--though quite a lot on Virginia Wolf) as one goodreads reviewer points out; still a solid read about writing with a different angle than one usually gets (see Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird or Stephen Kings On writing). I found many compelling passages: "One is born not to suffer but to negotiate with suffering, to choose or invent forms to accommodate it" (67) or "writing, for me, is primarily remembering" (140).
This is not, though, a book for those wanting a pick-me-up, a motivational tract with inspirational quotations about writing (except for the predictable "Write your heart out." In fact many of the histories and tidbits are bound to chase a would-be writer away as when she cites Virginia Wolfe who declares that she lived in despair while writing and only found her books tolerable once she had forgotten what she had meant to write. ...more