these are presumably chronological, so I'm willing to make some allowances, but even so vol 1 has stories of wildly> differing quality. the gold-buthese are presumably chronological, so I'm willing to make some allowances, but even so vol 1 has stories of wildly> differing quality. the gold-bug is a real winner, along with murders in the rue morgue. I will cop to skimming some of these. adventures of hans pfaal was more like hans pfffffffffffffffal, even if it is of historical interest as proto-sci fi.
the poe that you remember from HS English class (team cask of amontillado '98) represent pretty spectacular advances in form from baseline poe; murders of the rue morgue would be an all time classic if the opening movement wasn't so chaotic. vol 1 poe can definitely deliver a bow-tied, out-of-left-field narrative resolution, but he struggles to get the chess pieces of said worlds out into the open in a way that generates suspense or to be more blunt doesn't just put you to sleep....more
weirdly long on journalistic score-settling (glenn greenwald will not be getting a christmas card from david gregory) and short on details about prismweirdly long on journalistic score-settling (glenn greenwald will not be getting a christmas card from david gregory) and short on details about prism, boundless informant etc. like, what's the backstory on this crazy nytimes story? http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/...; does the NSA really know how to defeat all the consumer encryption on the internet? and what should we make of the conflicting claims about access to google's servers?
I thought that 500+ amazon reviews couldn't be wrong, but found no place to hide ultimately disappointing, at least relative to what I had hoped for. I will say that the backstory on the initial snowden/greenwald connection was pretty compelling, though....more
heard halpern on the longform podcast and picked this up - the notion of a "bad homes" beat at the new republic was an endearing concept. billed as aheard halpern on the longform podcast and picked this up - the notion of a "bad homes" beat at the new republic was an endearing concept. billed as a book about houses, but this is really a collection of character portraits - what compels anyone to live at the margins of society, anyway? the stories are a good ride, but there's no grand insight into humanity at the end of braving home - the answer we get is "stubbornness, mostly."...more
"moneyball for soccer" - that's fine as far as it goes, but I think people forget that a non-trivial part of moneyball's success is that it was writte"moneyball for soccer" - that's fine as far as it goes, but I think people forget that a non-trivial part of moneyball's success is that it was written by one of the master storytellers of our time....more
zeitgeisty and of the moment; I have been somewhat fascinated with peter thiel's all-contrarian-everything worldview since the george packer profile izeitgeisty and of the moment; I have been somewhat fascinated with peter thiel's all-contrarian-everything worldview since the george packer profile in 2011.
if you are actually planning on running your own startup, this is probably required reading (but you knew that already). if you are looking for insight into the culture that is SF or 'build[ing] the future', there's not much to be found. there's an interesting defense of bold certainty and planning, but a the book reads like what it is - lecture notes to stanford kids....more
via course 15, which I am (very) slowly working my way though.
Pretty thoroughly unimpressed with Robinson Crusoe. Presumably someone, somewhere can exvia course 15, which I am (very) slowly working my way though.
Pretty thoroughly unimpressed with Robinson Crusoe. Presumably someone, somewhere can explain why this one has been canonized, but I'm at a loss. There is some generally pleasant thematic stuff in there about gratitude and humility before god, but nothing so poetic or profound to balance out the 200-odd pages of monotonous Notes on Island Horticulture. The coda was really the kicker for me - 28 years on an island, and literally no thoughts at all about integrating back into society? Instead we get a dramatic man vs. wolf showdown in the mountains of france? Not impressed....more
2: you could teach pretty much any random slice of 15 pages of spillover as a exemplar text for a nar1: david quammen is a very, very talented writer.
2: you could teach pretty much any random slice of 15 pages of spillover as a exemplar text for a narrative non-fiction writing class. quammen reads widely and deeply, and has the confidence to grapple with uncertainty and complex causal explanations that few other science writers would touch. we've all read who-knows-how-many articles about HIV; do you know what T-cells are? do you know why they are called "T"-cells? do you know what the H and the N in H1N1 influenza stand for? if quammen has anything to say about it, you damn well will.
3: the ecology of viruses is super interesting stuff. the mystery-virus-detective-stories in here were riveting reading. great hard reporting on ebola.
4: there is a lot of on-the-ground reporting in this book, and evidence of a lot of hours logged in the reading room of your university library filled with titles like Journal of Applied Virology. hopefully the world of buzzfeed-funded journalism has a home for this kind of thing.
5: is this book worth your time? parts of it definitely are, and therein lies the problem. did anything get cut from this book? do we need to know about all twenty-odd types of simian immunodeficiency virus? does david quammen even have an editor? can I please talk to him? spillover has deep insight on big questions like, why are RNA viruses so much more likely to produce pandemics than DNA viruses? what farming and city planning practices make humans vulnerable to pandemics? why do bats have so many goddamn types of nasty viruses that infect humans? but there's seemingly never a detail too minor for quammen along the way. spillover has a little bit of moby dick in it - epic in scope, reaching pretty amazing heights along the way, but hold on to your butts, because there's pages and pages of whale biology thrown in for good measure....more
very enjoyable free-wheeling conversation with more than a touch of sadness, knowing what events would soon come to pass.
not buying DFW'S defense ofvery enjoyable free-wheeling conversation with more than a touch of sadness, knowing what events would soon come to pass.
not buying DFW'S defense of economy of language as presented here, and I wish Garner had pushed him on it in the conversation. As presented here good usage & clarity of speech are virtues because they don't make the listener do extra cognitive work, which is very shaky ground for such a prescriptive stance.
the argument I wish/hoped he would make is that written language encodes thought - you are writing to infinite future audiences! - and you should be aware of what your language is doing. somewhere in one of his books (maybe in the authority and usage essay?) he reports that his manuscripts to editors have the note "all departures from standard usage are intentional". the intentional is what's key to me - you follow rules of usage because NOT following them is across device that should be deployed for specific effect, not out of ignorance....more
very conflicted on this one. david mitchell is a phenomenal, lights-out, first-rate, insert-your-superlative-here writer. i am 100% on board - even wevery conflicted on this one. david mitchell is a phenomenal, lights-out, first-rate, insert-your-superlative-here writer. i am 100% on board - even went back and read number9dream and the rest off the old stuff. the kinda mystical, people-transcending-time plots are part of the whole project. so it's weird to say that I loved this book but hated the sci-fi bits - kinda like writing a rave review for peter luger's, except for the steak, which really wasn't very good at all.
but that's what we have here - an absolutely beautiful novel, with exceptional structure and lots of little interlocking arcs and stories, about 10% of which relate to time-vampires fighting each other. didn't love those parts. loved everything else. YMMV....more
Have been waiting for my thoughts on Short and Tragic Life (SaTL) to cohere on this one, but they aren't cooperating, so I'm going to take a stab at tHave been waiting for my thoughts on Short and Tragic Life (SaTL) to cohere on this one, but they aren't cooperating, so I'm going to take a stab at this anyways. Complicated feelings about a complicated book.
Mr. Martin, speaking for the Defense: It's clear that Hobbs did some pretty methodical reporting for SaTL. Everyone in Robert Peace's orbit - family, friends, classmates - is pretty well represented, and even more importantly, Hobbs doesn't over-reach and make ill-advised grand pronouncements about social policy or the war on drugs or poverty or what-have-you. The book's central, inner-flap, bold-face question - What does the untimely death of one man mean? is left as an exercise for the reader, and you are left with a lot to chew on. Jeff Hobbs knows that this is not really his story to tell, and he honors Rob's story by presenting a patchwork portrait told almost entirely through the direct observations and interpretations of the people in Rob's life.
Mr. Martin, on behalf of the prosecution: SaTL's terrain, the Two Americas that cleave on lines of class and race, is complicated, really complicated, and we need a different tour guide, even if the aim is to tell an n of 1 story. When Jamelle Bouie can write you a better thesis for whatever Bookforum is paying for a review these days (presumably days, not years of labor), that's a problem. Jeff Hobbs certainly seems to mean well, but if this is a story of Two Americas, Jeff was raised, educated, and lives firmly in the first; hence why his explanations of topics like the black experience at Yale (134) are so stiff and ungainly.
Ultimately I think I come down somewhere closer to the prosecution. SaTL is not a flawed book, but one that is ultimately unable to transcend its own improbable circumstances....more
Neerav rec; I found this to be a very, very troubling book.
deep thinking around "why the industrial revolution? and why 1770, not some other time?" iNeerav rec; I found this to be a very, very troubling book.
deep thinking around "why the industrial revolution? and why 1770, not some other time?" is always interesting; we need some way to explain this
Clark's thesis is, basically, a Darwinian one - differential rates of reproduction between the rich and the poor mean that values/culture/etc get transmitted, and Clark is quick to speculate about the 'etc' - some variation on "maybe genetics" shows up countless times in the book, all speculative as far as I could tell.
if you're starting to shift around uncomfortably right now, exactly. we've been down this road before, and genetic explanations for human difference have a nasty track record of being self-serving smoke screens that justify structural inequalities in societies. the evidence base that Clark marshals is weirdly thin for such a bold thesis, and there's a downing-street-memo feel to the whole book - one gets the sense that the thesis came first, and the evidence base selected accordingly. I'll leave it to real economic historians to debate the merits of the claim, but Clark doesn't even attempt to address even simple critiques of his thesis (if culture and genetics matter most, what explains the rapid rise of poor immigrants to the US, like the Irish, for instance?) ...more
I felt like I was basically the target audience for this book (I had a g-reader subscription to that blog! there are charts! and belle and sebastian jI felt like I was basically the target audience for this book (I had a g-reader subscription to that blog! there are charts! and belle and sebastian jokes! I've watched that andrew bujalski movie he's in!), so why the underwhelming three stars? well, tone, for starters. Rudder is kind of in the tank for "big data" -- in the mystical this-changes-everything way that tends to be long on speculation and short on, ah, data.
second, Rudder frequently falls victim to a data first, questions second kind of analysis -- as in, I got a bunch of profile data, what should I do with it? I give him lots of credit - he is a superb technical writer, and his ability to explain technical concepts via analogy is basically unparalleled - but at book length, the factiods don't ever really cohere into a larger idea....more
straight-up gorgeous prose; if you asked me "which chapter from the sixth extinction would be appropriate for my kent state communications class" (notstraight-up gorgeous prose; if you asked me "which chapter from the sixth extinction would be appropriate for my kent state communications class" (not saying just saying) the answer would be "any of them; just grab one at random that has a picture you like" (most inexplicable photo: the dressed-up neandertal in a suit in ch. 12) ok actually the Great Auk chapter--I'm still a little bummed out by the devastation wrought on those poor little dudes
kind of weird, then, that a book so beautifully executed would fall down in the defending-a-clear-thesis department. not to say that sixth extinction doesn't have one (there have been five major extinction events in the history of the planet; there's a sixth in the works, and the cause is people), more that the facts presented is long on contextual anecdote and short on evidence that golden frogs/great auks/Sumatran rhinos net out to an extinction event that matches numbers 1-5. in fact, Kolbert leaves us plenty of reason to think that a more accurate title might be A Really Bad Extinction That Could Make the Planet Uninhabitable For People (but is probably only second-rate on planetary timescales)
¨'...in a geological context' Climate change alone 'is unlikely to generate a mass extinction as large as one of the Big Five'...However, there's a ¨high likelihood that climate change on its own could generate a level of extinction on par with, or exceeding, the slightly 'lesser' extinction events' of the past¨
at some level, that's just quibbling; after all, Sixth Extinction still registers as a 4-star effort on the ALM rubric, and if we're arguing about really bad extinction vs world-historic extinction the implications are basically the same. emotionally arresting, memorable storytelling - if Elizabeth Kolbert isn't on your New Yorker Mt. Rushmore already with Grann, Wright, Packer and the rest, Sixth Extinction will make you re-evaluate....more
Seminary Coop purchase (the best source for random philosophy of science books, hands down).
clear and readable to be sure. the genetic algorithm and cSeminary Coop purchase (the best source for random philosophy of science books, hands down).
clear and readable to be sure. the genetic algorithm and cellular automata chapters were legit fascinating. but on the whole, somewhat disappointing. i was probably at three stars until the last page when James Gleick was quoted and I remembered just how good ¨The Information" was. Far too many chapters here read like barely-fleshed out versions of the initial skeleton of draft 1 notes and topics (Ch 16 especially). deadlines? uninspired editing? who knows, but life is short, and there are so many books in the world - I would have a hard time recommending anyone commit to this one....more
thought I was picking up some sort of parable about student debt, which, you know timely, piketty in space, something something. turned out to be an athought I was picking up some sort of parable about student debt, which, you know timely, piketty in space, something something. turned out to be an adventure story about space pirates - the number-five ranked* amazon book in the 'space marine' category, no less.
but honestly, who's complaining! as space piracy** thrillers go, poor man's fight clicked on all cylinders.
*today you/I learned: there is an amazon fiction subgenre named 'space marine'! **admit it, you laughed...more
Pinprick-sharp summary of the science, pre-history and current political context of our present teacher quality debate. There's the old saw about howPinprick-sharp summary of the science, pre-history and current political context of our present teacher quality debate. There's the old saw about how you know you succeeded w/r/t a politically divisive subject when you anger both sides; Green has done something much more rare (and difficult); namely, written a compelling synthesis bridging of two very different viewpoints. Start with the NYT mag article, but if you have any interest in education/education reform, definitely pick this up.
In broad, possibly reductionist strokes, you have the reform and Gates foundation community (of which I loosely consider myself a part) on one side, who has read the Hanushek stuff about the *incredible* importance of teacher quality, is frustrated by the glacial pace of change, and has embraced standards and accountability as primary tools for improving education.
On the other you have Ed School/union/remnants of progressive/unschooling crowd, who recognize first and foremost the skill and judgement required to teach, view teacher autonomy as a primary tool for improvement, and feel attacked and unappreciated by everyone above.
The reformers call unions and traditional districts "the blob"; they call the reformers "privatizers"; somewhere in the mix you have the Tea Party making strange bedfellows; yelling and frustration ensues. The way out is somewhere in between; traditionalists need to recognize that the only way forward is through the intense feedback that comes with standards and common practices (hat tip to the Japan chapter); reformers need to understand that evaluation and sanctions on their own are blunt instruments unlikely to cause transformational change in the culture of teaching on their own.
Green points to Deborah Ball at Michigan and innovators in the charter sector (Doug Lemov; KIPP) as offering a third way forward; given the current rancor over the Common Core I'm not holding my breath, but I will certainly be telling everyone I work with to read this.
(nb: There is a Drew Martin in this book; I am not that Drew Martin.)...more
fun, light, pleasant; Bonnett has a love for the subject matter that shines through. some choice details (in particular, the aside about Hemingway's bfun, light, pleasant; Bonnett has a love for the subject matter that shines through. some choice details (in particular, the aside about Hemingway's brother!) and oddities catalogued -- the vignettes on the Guinea/Senegal border, pumice islands, and Peace Village, North Korea were highlights -- but Unruly Places is ultimately undone by its breezy, toe-dipping approach, with no single topic meriting more than about 1,000 words -- or about the same length as a portrait in an airplane backseat travel mag. Difficult to tell if it is the format or the man, but Unruly Places is ultimately ill-served by the decision -- in borrowing form and structure from breezy travel copy, Bonnet brings too much of its tone and depth, as well....more