a superficial chronicle researched at about the level of a Vanity Fair longread. fun nonetheless, with some great quotes. upon reading some of DFW's sa superficial chronicle researched at about the level of a Vanity Fair longread. fun nonetheless, with some great quotes. upon reading some of DFW's source material (books like Ball Four and Short Circuit), you realize that he ripped off a lot of his base material; D. T. Max's glorified wikipedia article makes it even more clear that whole essential characters and dialogues, especially from infinite jest, were taken directly from life sources (indeed, early DFW flirted with a libel case for "My Appearance"). it's a quick read, but Richard Ellman on Joyce it is not. i look forward to scholars working through the piles of material at UT's Harry Ransom Center (how is it that UT in shitty Austin came to own DFW's papers anyway? http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/press/relea... provides few details) producing a real biography in coming years.
it's good to see that fellow mathematicians apparently agreed with my take on a history of everything (summary: it was garbage). i was entirely unsurprised to discover DFW failed introductory calculus. poor guy thought he knew how to add--stick to the critical theory, dave.
finding out DFW was a fellow unashamed Tom Clancy fan was delightful. Red Storm Rising: truly a watershed moment in 20th century american fiction.
and yes, on a personal note, the similarities were pervasive and distressing, especially regarding interaction with women, and the agonies and ecstasies of creation, and addiction, and that "feral talent is its own set of expectations and can abandon you at any one of the detours of so-called normal American life at any time." but that's neither here nor there....more
on one of the last pages, there's the line "How Verity conveyed to [their dragons] that they must feed only on the Raiders, i do not know, but that lion one of the last pages, there's the line "How Verity conveyed to [their dragons] that they must feed only on the Raiders, i do not know, but that line was held," pithily summing up this trilogy....more
the title is literal -- this is essentially a how-to manual for finding, agitating, culturing, and acquiring samples of various types of bacteria, incthe title is literal -- this is essentially a how-to manual for finding, agitating, culturing, and acquiring samples of various types of bacteria, including macroscopic indicators, (microscope) slide preparation, and safety procedures. each chapter succinctly introduces a type of bacteria, presents its metabolism and physical forms, and provides hypotheses regarding phylogeny/evolution and ecologic role. the writeups were interesting, but too short to be considered a real textbook on bacteriology. if you need to find some halophilic biofilm, or wonder whether the gas bubbling up from your anoxic backyard sludgepool suggests methanogenic archaea, this book is for you. if you just want to learn about our prokaryotic friends, turn to a more general biology text....more
not a great achievement in research or writing or insight or anything, but a pretty competent assembly of timelines and people. feels like it could hanot a great achievement in research or writing or insight or anything, but a pretty competent assembly of timelines and people. feels like it could have been a much more compelling 35-page michael lewis vanity fair article....more
pretty good. certainly thorough. "epidemic" is tossed around pretty liberally -- if a fever burns out a south american village, does it make a sound?pretty good. certainly thorough. "epidemic" is tossed around pretty liberally -- if a fever burns out a south american village, does it make a sound? poor editing, with numerous phrases and sentences repeated verbatim and certain acronyms expanded not at all, on late use, or multiple times. i'd like to have seen more on the virology and suppression of HIV and fewer tedious pages of stats and prediction histories. worth reading, though....more
750 pages of pretty dense prose, originating in Pennsylvania, spanning the globe (you'll come out knowing more than you did going in about venezuela,750 pages of pretty dense prose, originating in Pennsylvania, spanning the globe (you'll come out knowing more than you did going in about venezuela, bahrain, and azerbaijan) and ending on the shiite plains of iraq's central euphrates region in 1991 (an epilogue addresses the period ending in the second gulf war, but is cursory at best). characters of all ethnicity and nomenclature enter, live for a few pages, and then exit, sometimes referred to again fifty pages later. switches from backroom industry intrigue to global strategic strategy to wildcat drillers from chapter to chapter.
most striking was the lesson yergin drills home: oil is a strategic asset, unlike most commodities, and thus governments can't ignore it. the american military is the strongest in the world, but it runs on oil. military operations require tremendous drawdowns of stocks, and the ability to move them. power projection, barring nuclear weapons, is limited by where one can deliver oil, and the bandwidth of that delivery. without oil, your nuclear-powered carriers can get somewhere, but your planes can't fly. your trucks can't move materials, your tanks can't roll, and your men are stuck walking. my conclusion: our operations in the middle east were most certainly about oil, but not about oil company profits as so often accused. if we don't invade iraq, and it keeps kuwait, and prices skyrocket as a result, oil companies pass those costs on and do just fine. it's the military that eats it. keeping oil prices at historic lows for a decade may well have offset the cost of the first gulf war (i have done no analysis), especially if a major military adventure had cropped up.
also interesting was the desire of governments, even net importers like the united states, to keep oil prices above some minimum. what is that minimum? the cost of producing economically effective domestic oil. otherwise, one's domestic exploration and production infrastructure goes to seed as more cheaply-produced foreign oil swamps the market. you need that domestic production to buffer yourself against sudden foreign supply problems, even if it means oil is more expensive on average.
towards the end, he got into how the futures markets allow further buffering and hedging, at least via displacement in time, but the treatment was at a very high level and didn't satisfy me.
small details, easy to miss, are deadpanned and hilarious. did you know saddam's maternal uncle and father-in-law (what) wrote a pamphlet entitled Three Whom God Should Not Have Created: Persians, Jews, and Flies? i didn't, and my life is better for knowing it now.