Guillen's book is a fascinating overview of the five minds and mathematical equations that have changed the world. Each chapter is dedicated to a scieGuillen's book is a fascinating overview of the five minds and mathematical equations that have changed the world. Each chapter is dedicated to a scientist and his equation, such as Newton's Universal Law Of Gravity or Clausius' Second Law of Thermodynamics. Guillen uses a Veni, Vidi, Vici approach to explain how the scientist arrived at his subject, how the subject area became enigmatic, and how the scientist overcame the problem.
This work is not bogged down in complex equations and it is not written for the advanced physics student. Instead, it is a popular guide to monumental moments in mathematical history. (That's a lot of M's.) Guillen paints a human picture of his subjects and the world in which they lived. We see them overcome issues not just with mathematical mysteries, but with faith, family, politics, and themselves. When equations are provided, the author is sure to explain them in detail so that the layman can understand the language of the mathematics. Importantly, Guillen leaves the reader with a deeper understanding of his subjects and how these revolutionary paradigm shifts have molded our modern world. ...more
Rather than writing the typical political memoir, Gordon Brown has opted to record how his office approached the 2007 world financial meltdown. ThereRather than writing the typical political memoir, Gordon Brown has opted to record how his office approached the 2007 world financial meltdown. There are moments where he accepts blame and credit as he worked with world leaders to contain the damage wrought by a financial system that went into free fall. Overall, Brown believes that he did thwart a lot of the contagion from destroying the UK economy compared to how the rest of Europe has fared.
That said, this book is more than just a reflection of the crisis. Brown has taken a hard look at the major players in world finance and the roles that they should play in the future. The US, China, Europe, BRICs, Europe, and Africa are all feeling the growing pains brought upon by globalization. Brown feels that governments need to work together to maximize their potential, otherwise countries may seek the failures of isolation that were so prevalent during the Great Depression. Also, Brown strongly argues that morality must be brought back in the focus of finance and globalization.
Truth be told, I have never been a fan of Brown's public figure. Therefore, I was quite surprised that I enjoyed this memoir as much as I did. His idealism is hard to criticize and I found myself nodding along with him more often than not. Yet, it is the implementation of his beliefs that will prove more difficult. Brown is a follower of Keynes and believer of strong government interaction with the economy. It goes without saying that governments don't always have the strongest track record of working together when times are tough.
All in all, a very worthwhile read (in spite of it's New Labour origins). Gordon provides a good behind the scenes view of the crisis and a fair summary of where we are now. My major issue is that his vision of adding morality back into financial markets is commendable, but hardly something that is measurable or attainable....more
(Full disclosure: I watch Squawk Box every morning.) Joe Kernen is the host of CNBC's Squawk Box, a financial news show on before Wall Street's openin(Full disclosure: I watch Squawk Box every morning.) Joe Kernen is the host of CNBC's Squawk Box, a financial news show on before Wall Street's opening bell. This book stemmed from conversations with his ten-year old daughter about what she was learning in school. Kernen was quick to realize that his daughter, Blake, was being fed unfiltered Progressive stances on everything from the economy to the environment. As a free market capitalist, Kernen wanted his daughter to understand that there were two sides to every story - the right one (free markets) and the wrong one (Progressivism).
In a free market, people make decisions. They choose where they want to work, what they want to buy, and how they want to live. Progressives believe that government action is better suited to make the daily decisions of its populace. They do this through the wonders of regulation. Wages, production, prices, etc. all are all written into laws. As a result, free markets are no longer guided by Adam Smith's invisible hand, because that hand was effectively chopped off.
Kernen's book is a primer for those that want to know more about economics and finance as delivered by a believer of free market capitalism. Throughout the book, he takes on the media, environmentalists, unions, and lawmakers that choose to micromanage every detail of life. This book is not just for parents that want to "defend kids from the liberal assault on capitalism." Rather, Kernen is demonstrating that even children can understand the arguments between capitalists and progressives when framed outside the usual governmental techno-garble.
A very worthwhile (and quick) read. Kudos, Joe. In the future, I wonder if Blake will write a book called, "Sh#t My Teachers Say."...more
Acharya, Richardson, Van Nieuwerburgh, and White are professors at NYU's Stern School of Business. Individually, they are experts in the field of econAcharya, Richardson, Van Nieuwerburgh, and White are professors at NYU's Stern School of Business. Individually, they are experts in the field of economics. Collectively, they are authors of the finest book on the collapse of the American mortgage market. Acharya et al. take aim at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as they describe the series of events that led to their downfall. These events were the result of decades of policy abuses, greed, and mismanagement. As a result, American subprime mortgage defaults ended up crashing financial markets throughout the world.
Fannie May and Freddie Mac (Government Sponsored Enterprises - GSEs) were originally government institutions. The Johnson administration wanted to clear them from the US balance sheets. Therefore, he opted to turn them into publicly traded companies in all ways but one. The GSE's were to retain the full financial backing of US government. This unique market position destroyed all prospects of a level playing field in the housing market. For example, investors didn't have to worry about risk because of the government backstop. Furthermore, it became impossible for other financial institutions to directly compete against Fannie and Freddie. Instead, they focused on buying securities from the GSEs and pursuing riskier mortgages outside of Fannie and Freddie's scope.
Over time, Fannie and Freddie had become "Frankenstein's monster." They were making money "hand over fist" for their executives and investors, while voraciously taking on risk. It was during the 1990s that the cracks began to show. The US government wanted GSEs to expand the housing market beyond their normal safe risks (conforming mortgages). As a result, they began to take on subprime (nonconforming) mortgages that further bloated their balance sheets. In turn, this forced other private companies to expand their markets to keep up. Finally, everyone was invested in everyone else along the way as a result of lending, derivatives, etc. As a result, the entire financial market was highly leveraged and relying on the US government as a backstop. When the bubble finally burst, we were left with the international market meltdown of 2007/2008.
Today, the GSEs are under government conservatorship. Acharya et al. provide various recommendations for where to go from here. Other industrialized countries have grown their housing markets with much less government intervention. As a result, the authors are proposing a hybrid solution of private and government interaction. The end goal is for the free markets to control the bulk of mortgages. The government would then transition Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into "boring" public utilities with the sole purpose of co-insuring credit risk of safe (conforming) mortgages. This tandem approach would prevent a government sponsored company from risking away the general public's tax dollars. Acharya et al. have done a brilliant job of tracing the how GSEs distort a free market and the need for the government to embark on an exit strategy.
There was no man better poised to witness the brink of disaster more so than Alistair Darling. His 1000 days at the Treasury bore witness not only toThere was no man better poised to witness the brink of disaster more so than Alistair Darling. His 1000 days at the Treasury bore witness not only to the collapse of international finance, but also to that of Blair and Brown's New Labour. Accusations and attacks are often the main component of political memoirs, but Darling is not attempting to settle scores with his memoir. Therefore when he does criticize colleagues and opponents, it comes off with a bit more validity. As far as politicians go, Darling is an honest and upfront man. This can be demonstrated by how he has come away relatively unscathed from one of the most pernicious periods in British politics.
A great deal of the book describes the back room discussions with bankers and regulators, compromises with finance ministers, the development of budgets (none of which he was truly happy with), and the back biting that existed in Brown's government. Yet, the crux of Darling's tenure at the Treasury could not have come with two larger obstacles: the 2007 financial crisis and Gordon Brown. Although many could argue with his methods, Darling did have a stabilizing effect of the economy. All the while, he worked in an environment where Brown attempted much micromanagement over the Treasury. First and foremost, Brown did not want Darling as his chancellor and he often treated him as a "stop gap" (Brown's first choice was Ed Balls). Furthermore, Brown himself was the previous chancellor during a boom for the British economy. As a result, Darling was under immense pressure not just to maintain his job but also to set himself apart from the previous chancellor.
Brown is depicted as difficult man on his best days. When Blair took over party leadership, Brown was able to take on an important support role as chancellor, but his real desire was always that of Prime Minister. Things really began to unravel when Blair stepped down. Darling had a front row view of the entire debacle. He watched as Brown's "management" style tore apart the party. Infighting and fear became part of a day's work. Darling was able to fend off much this by remaining independent within the government. He made hard decisions that often put him out of favor with Brown. As a result, he was able to put some distance between himself and Brown's legacy.
Darling still feels that New Labour can rise from the rubble. Despite the intolerable working conditions and the resentment he must have felt towards Brown, Darling's safe hands, dry wit, and love of Labour have come away intact. This can not be said of many other cabinet members of the time. From the relative safety of the backbenches, Darling can continues his work for the Labour party. Are we back from the brink or just heading towards another precipice? Only time will tell, but Darling's steady guidance prevented a full collapse. ...more
What is Lake Wobegon? Is it a place? Is it a state of mind? Is it nothing more than a nostalgic longing for times gone by? In his first Lake Wobegon nWhat is Lake Wobegon? Is it a place? Is it a state of mind? Is it nothing more than a nostalgic longing for times gone by? In his first Lake Wobegon novel, Garrison Keillor introduces us to his semi-autobiographical world of memory. He leaps between the present and past as he breathes life into his fictional Midwestern world. His characters are unique and interesting not because they are bigger than life, but because they could be your neighbor, your best friend, or even yourself. Lake Wobegon’s greatest success is that of its familiarity.
It would be hard to categorize Lake Wobegon Days as nothing more than a longing for simpler times. Often, Keillor’s characters wage internal wars about progress and principles. The characters that leave Wobegon for college have a tendency to develop feelings of superiority over those back home. They view the small town way of life and their earnestness as being intolerant and anti-intellectual. Of course, this tension and mistrust works both ways. The Wobegonians view big cities as places of skewed moral compasses. Keillor does not take sides in the argument. Instead, you have a feeling that the author himself is just as torn between the two views.
Keillor’s first novel carries all the trademark humor that fans of The Prairie Home Companion have come to expect. There are points where he loses his footing and gets lost in his own storytelling, but overall the novel is strong. Keillor has the framework in place, but he is still fleshing out the mythology that we have come to call Lake Wobegon - “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” His greatest gift is his ability to make you feel part of this "worn-in" community of characters. ...more
Butterfly Valley: A Requiem is a sonnet cycle where the last line of text in each contributes to the fiA truly beautiful work from Inger Christensen.
Butterfly Valley: A Requiem is a sonnet cycle where the last line of text in each contributes to the final sonnet. Christensen is using the colors and imagery of the butterflies as an expression of memory. In a similar vein to Proust's "episode" of the madeleine, the butterflies rekindle lost thoughts as they rise from ground.
In Watersteps, Christensen embraces structural changes to describe the fountains of Rome. The depictions begin vividly and break down to the essentials in each proceeding section. It made me think of how a "view" can change at varying lights. As the day moves forward, we have bright colors leading to somber ones and ending in darkness.
Poem on Death uses haiku-type stanzas to discuss death. The poet shows that writing about something impossible to understand leads to writer's block. The words become denser as a way of portraying this ordeal. Eventually, even the words themselves become an obstacle to the idea.
Finally, The Meeting is a poem dealing with communication, or rather the lack thereof. The strange part about this work is the idea of the written word. She is dealing with the nature of the word to communicate, but the words themselves become too dense to understand. Overall, the images are striking, but the whole becomes obscure. Then again, that might just be the point....more
Inger Christensen's "It" is an epic work about history, philosophy, politics, sexuality, communication, and the human race as a whole. These themes crInger Christensen's "It" is an epic work about history, philosophy, politics, sexuality, communication, and the human race as a whole. These themes creep into many of her writings. Yet in this single work, Christensen is taking on the whole scope of universe in a manner that few would ever attempt. The poem is at times beautiful and frustratingly obscure. There are moments of true vulnerability followed by what seems like a dense academic exercise. This mathematical structure is extremely complex, but it often takes away from the power of the words as they attempt to fit into the model. "It" is a brilliant work as well as a labor of love - both for the author and the audience. ...more
This is a quick and funny read about history as understood through Facebook statuses and updates. It stretches from the Big Bang to 2011. The Joan ofThis is a quick and funny read about history as understood through Facebook statuses and updates. It stretches from the Big Bang to 2011. The Joan of Arc section was my favorite!...more
After years of understanding chess, this book taught me how to play it. The authors do an outstanding job covering the strategies of openings, middleAfter years of understanding chess, this book taught me how to play it. The authors do an outstanding job covering the strategies of openings, middle game, and end game. The presentations are very cleanly laid out and the graphics are inviting. ...more
This is the ultimate Akira art collection. It covers promotional work, frames, advertisements, displays, etc. collected from various international relThis is the ultimate Akira art collection. It covers promotional work, frames, advertisements, displays, etc. collected from various international releases. In many cases, this book is the only way for readers to access these pieces. As a whole, the book is overwhelming. There is simply so much on display here that the casual fan will probably become intimidated. Yet for the Katsuhiro Otomo fanboy, this book is an absolute treasure. Although "Akira Club" is obviously designed for lovers of Akira, it will be of interest to any manga fan looking to learn more about the history of the art form. Highly recommended. ...more
Katsuhiro hits the ground running. This first volume introduces us to the major characters and swings us rather quickly into the story. As a result, tKatsuhiro hits the ground running. This first volume introduces us to the major characters and swings us rather quickly into the story. As a result, the characters do not have much of a chance to develop. Of course, this is rectified over the course of the series but it may throw off new readers. That said, Katsuhiro's storytelling through art is simply magnificent. The dialogue is sparse but effective.
For first time readers, a tale of rebel teenagers in Neo-Tokyo getting caught up in military exploits may not seem revolutionary. Yet, Akira was the paradigm shift that all others have sought to emulate. It's hard to to think about what modern manga and anime would be like without having Akira's presence. Katsuhiro completely altered the playing field. ...more
The story reads as a first-person account of a demon, called Jakabok Botch. He is trapped within the pages of the novel and trying to convince the reaThe story reads as a first-person account of a demon, called Jakabok Botch. He is trapped within the pages of the novel and trying to convince the reader to burn this book. Barker's story traces more like dark humor as we are guided through Mr. B's life and how he eventually ends up trapped within the pages. The the premise has vast potential, but the story felt quite dry. There weren't enough of the twists and turns that we have come to expect from Barker's classic horror tales. Furthermore, Mister B.'s character does not offer a lot of depth. His pleading and threats come off as gimmicky rather than blood curdling.
Recently, Barker has been consumed with his Arabat series, which is marketed towards young adults. I felt that the framework narrative - but not necessarily the subject matter - of Mister B. Gone may have worked better for the Arabat audience. Barker writes, "words know how to wait." And, it also appears that fans of his unique horror stories will have to wait as well. Although lauded as Barker's return to horror, this novel does not fulfill that promise. ...more
Mankell is a fine writer and Wallander is his finest creation. Yet, this particular novel is not his strongest work. This is the fourth book in the WaMankell is a fine writer and Wallander is his finest creation. Yet, this particular novel is not his strongest work. This is the fourth book in the Wallander series and Mankell is attempting to add more complex elements to the stories. Although the premise is interesting, the mystery becomes more far fetched as the pages fly by. That said, The Man Who Smiled will be appreciated more for fans of Wallander, the man, as opposed to the series. Readers will appreciate that Mankell delves deeper into Wallander's interpersonal relationships with his co-workers. This adds a strong new element to the stories as well. ...more