Like Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, this book is a synthesis of science, philosophy and cultural observation that aims to change the way youLike Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, this book is a synthesis of science, philosophy and cultural observation that aims to change the way you look at a big complex chunk of the world -- namely food. Pollan's style is more casual than Diamond's -- more dinner conversation than college lecture -- but he is an amiable, self-deprecating, common-sensical, highly-quotable chef.
Another thought: On one hand, Pollan is an idealist who offers harsh condemnation of the industrial food system and advocates a sustainable way forward. On the other hand, he is an arch cultural-conservative, celebrating a return to traditional (even primitive) food systems. Contradictory? Discuss....more
Godel's Incompleteness Theorem is a bit complicated. In college, it was the topic of an intensive, two-quarter course in mathematical logic. Having onGodel's Incompleteness Theorem is a bit complicated. In college, it was the topic of an intensive, two-quarter course in mathematical logic. Having only taken the first quarter, and therefore having missed out on the punch-line, I picked up this volume.
It's a pretty decent layperson treatment of the proof. It simplifies quite a lot, but doesn't really leave anything out. I found that with a only a little bit of pondering and re-reading, I could follow the argument. Plus, it is only 100 pages long, so you can take it in small chunks and not feel overwhelmed.
It does skimp on some of the more interesting philosophical and computer science implications of the proof, but for those I highly recommend Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach. Also, FYI, apparently Hofstadter was involved re-editing this work for a re-issued version (not the version I read, though)....more
**spoiler alert** This is probably the worst Neal Stephenson book I've read - which places it several steps ahead of most sci fi. The flaw here is NS**spoiler alert** This is probably the worst Neal Stephenson book I've read - which places it several steps ahead of most sci fi. The flaw here is NS spends so much time world-building that he forgets to construct an exciting plot. Indeed [minor spoiler:], one main character spends a decade (and several hundred pages) in suspended animation while the rest of the plot rambles on. He crafts a typically engaging and plucky heroine and gives her next to nothing to do until the rushed ending.
That said, the world he builds is fascinating and worthy of the detailed exploration he does here. Some 50 to 70 years in the future a nano-tech revolution has eliminated scarcity and re-drawn the political boundaries. NS spends the bulk of his time toying with the sociological and technological implications of nano-tech. And there's a lot to marvel at here, but anyone looking for a zippy, witty follow-up to Snow Crash will likely be disappointed....more
I know next to nothing about economics, so I grabbed this from my father-in-law's bookshelf (he's a professional economist) because I like Krugman's NI know next to nothing about economics, so I grabbed this from my father-in-law's bookshelf (he's a professional economist) because I like Krugman's NYT columns. Krugman is excellent at sketching out the major trends in economic thought from Keynes onward, but because the book was written in 1994 he's pretty dated on a lot of current economic issues.
1994 is barely post-Clinton, but it's pre-NAFTA, pre-internet, pre-Gingrich, pre-globalization-protests, pre-Wal-Mart, pre-dot-com-bust, pre-Bush. Oddly, he spends the last section of the book very concerned that Bill Clinton (the guy who signed NAFTA) might not be as staunchly free-trade as most economists would like. He also says some inadvertently hilarious things about computers, the internet and corporate power.
Still, I was looking for a good, conversational overview of economic thought, and on that front Krugman delivers. He starts off with Keynes and the theory of the business cycle, and then goes in some detail on Friedman, Lucas, Feldstein, monetarism, rational choice and the conservative challenge to Keynesianism in the 1970s. The main thrust of the book is how those academic ideas were twisted by non-academic 'policy entrepreneurs' into Reagan's supply-side policies (which Krugman labels sheer quackery).
He closes the book with the rise of the neo-Keynesians in the 80s and 90s and explores their ideas about the fallibility of markets and quasi-rational behavior. Again he laments how academic economic ideas about free trade have been twisted by non-academics to support specific policies and politicians. (It would be interesting to see how he feels about policy entrepreneurs now that he's become NYT columnist and pundit extraordinaire.)
So anyway, now I feel like I know slightly more than nothing about economics. Hooray!...more
I confess, that I probably would have loved this book as a teenager because it perfectly captures the unstoppable, we-can-do-it idealism that so many young people have. As an adult, I liked it, but I found myself hoping for a little less narrative convenience and a little more ideological murkiness. It's fairly preachy with lots of explanations of tech gadgets and concepts (a la Neal Stephenson), which makes it read, at times, like a manifesto from the Electronic Frontier Foundation with optional plot and characters.
For all that, its a pretty entertaining book. The story involves a handful of high-school students in day-after-tomorrow San Francisco who are picked up by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack. One of the students decides to fight back against the subsequent government crackdown on civil liberties. So yeah, it's fairly topical....more
For me, The Yiddish Policeman's Union worked on all levels of writing: Chabon writes hilarious one-liners and enjoyable characters, he knows the ins and outs of the hard-boiled detective genre and using these building blocks he constructed a thoughtful piece of literature about Big Ideas like redemption, homeland and Judaism.
The book is a piece of "What If" speculative fiction, describing an alternate universe where the state of Israel didn't survive and the diaspora of European Jews ended up in Sitka, Alaska, of all places. The plot revolves around an alcoholic police detective, his partner, his ex-wife and the dead chess prodigy whose murder he's investigating....more
Like Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed, Coyotes is first-rate undercover journalism. Ted Conover lived and worked among Mexicans working illegallLike Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed, Coyotes is first-rate undercover journalism. Ted Conover lived and worked among Mexicans working illegally in the U.S. -- sharing their jobs, living space, food and (as much as is possible for a gringo) the risks they take to be in our country. The book is about 20 years old, but it still feels fresh and relevant for today's immigration debate
Conover is a solid writer and he wisely frames the novel firstly as adventure tale, secondly as cultural reporting and only occasionally as overt political statement. This makes for an exciting page-turner of a book ... with an unmistakable political under-current.
One harrowing border-crossing through the Sonoran desert reminded me of nothing so much as Sam and Frodo's march toward Mt. Doom. Other incidents are funnier, but you never lose sight of the precariousness of their lives and Conover communicates a deep respect for the courage, tenacity and cleverness required to be an illegal immigrant. Good stuff....more