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Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Literature can train, and exercise, our ability to weep for those who are not us or ours.
     ––     Susan Sontag
From:  “At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches
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On This Day In:
2020 Trying To Keep On Keeping On
Bending
2019 Ooops (Again)
2018 Two Start Up Front
2017 I Love America Because…
An Act Of God
And So It Came To Pass (Act Of God part 2)
2016 As Far From
2015 Rocky 7
Just Like Politics
2014 Game And Legend
“Scientific” Pride In Humanity
2013 Real Honor
Catching Up
2012 Thoughts And Communications
2011 But How Does Peter Feel?
2010 Name That Regret

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The Circle Of Fifths For Guitarists” (2017©)   —   book review
This review is for the first guitar book (non-song book category) which I have finished reading.  Hopefully, there will be many more in the future…
The book is written by:  Joseph Alexander and is part of a series of learning about music / guitar titled:  “Fundamental Changes“.  There is an associated website at:  www.fundamental-changes.com.  It also has associated Facebook and Instagram blah-blah-blah…
Background:
In January of this year (2021), I decided to teach myself to play guitar.  I’ve now purchased multiple guitars (acoustic and electric) and about a dozen books on learning music and learning how to play various genres of guitar.  I am trying to “find” my voice on both hardware and in music.  I am doing this (journey / vision-quest) “mostly” through YouTube, Wikipedia, Google and my local second hand bookstore.  I am averaging about one hour a day of hands-on practice and another couple of hours exploring genres, music theory, musicians / bands / songs, and hardware reviews.  Although I have (probably) over 300 hours of hands-on practice, I still consider myself to be a near complete-beginner guitarist.  I have watched multiple hours worth of videos on “The Circle of Fifths” and given this book is only a little over sixty pages of material, I’ve spent far more time watching videos than I actually spent reading this book.
Review:
Having said this, the questions remain:  is THIS a good book about the topic and would I recommend it to others?  The answer to both is:  “YES“.
First (good):  this is not a particularly easy topic to cover / explain.  I may feel this way simply because I’m such a beginner, but I’ve asked a few people who’ve “played” guitar in the past and they (mostly) said:  “Just learn some chords and play songs. Nobody is interested in theory.”  The problem is: I AM!!  Not only am I interested in guitar (as a physical instrument), I am also interested in it as a means of musical expression.  I seek to “Grok” guitar.  This means I have to learn the how’s and why’s of just about everything “guitar”.  Hence, my interest in the topic:  “The Circle of Fifths” (TCoF).
Alexander has written a very easy to read explanation of TCoF and I feel this book significantly increased the depth and breadth of my understanding of this music tool.  Obviously TCoF is a tool for all musicians and not limited to just use by guitarists.  Having said this, the author appropriately makes the effort to explain things from / for a guitarist’s point of view.  He defines words / terms when he first uses them, so ensuring the budding guitarist knows what he is talking about.  Alexander also takes the time to briefly explain some things beyond the scope of the book and cautions readers when a side topic is going to get deep.  Basically, he explains fundamental concepts clearly and then builds on the foundation to round out the reader’s understanding.
As mentioned earlier, there is an associated website with audio files which can be played to increase understanding by ear training and not simply expecting the reader to “understand” a point by reading about it.  This is a book about practical application of theory to music (sound).
Second (bad):  If that’s the good, what’s wrong?  Well, my copy came to me with every third page glued together.  Not consecutive pages, but facing pages and every other set:  two pages open, two pages glued, etc.  The glued spot was pretty uniform at about two inches in from the center / binding.  Most were only spots.  A few were lengths (a quarter inch to two inches) running from binding margin to the center of text.  A couple were the full height of the page as well as being over an inch in width.  Most could be pulled free.  Three of the sets completely shredded the opposite page – which meant you couldn’t read the back of that page either, even though it wasn’t glued.  Fortunately, the worst pages were at the extreme front and end of the book.  When contacted, the response was:  the books are printed and delivered by Amazon;  take it back to them and they’ll arrange to give you another.  If this was a hardbound book or more expensive, I would have done this.  Weighing the cost versus my time, I just decided to live with what I have.  And, after all, the book was still readable.  Although annoying in multiple locations, I could figure out the missing words from surrounding context.
Third (bad):  The book had a handful (less than five) of editing errors where either a word was dropped or an incorrect word was used.  Only one was so bad (impactful) that I had to go back and re-read adjoining text to ensure I knew what the author was saying instead of what it looked like he was saying.  I would add, I personally would NEVER buy this type of book in kindle format without having seen the complete book on whatever hardware version I owned.  There is too much valuable information easily accessible by laying out two pages and seeing them next to each other in a readable size / format.  In fairness, I am a “book” person, not an “ebook” person.  Of course, with kindle I wouldn’t have had the glue issue.
Final recommendation:  strong recommendation.  If you are interested in learning a bit about music theory, how chords and keys are built and how chords work together to create music, this is an excellent beginner’s resource.  Is it going to “vastly” improve MY music skills.  Not in the immediate future.  I’m not that good, yet.  But I’ll get there some day and I believe reading this book will have helped me get there sooner than if I’d not read it.  I will look for this author and series in my local used book stores where I can open and check the pages before I buy the book.
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On This Day In:
2020 Doctor’s Orders
Make That Seven Orders…
2019 Innocent
2018 Ripost
2017 Just Asking…
2016 And 4
How Tall Do You Stand?
2015 More Prejudice
2014 Say What?
2013 Daring Errors
2012 Are You Comfortable?
I Just Have To
In Flux
2011 True New
2010 A Job Well Started Is A Job Half Done
I See With My One Good Eye

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I never travel without my diary.  One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
    ––     Oscar Wilde
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On This Day In:
2020 The Spirit Of A Fighter, The Heart Of A Saint
Corporate Cults
2019 Most Hire
Just The Three Of Us
2018 Sounds Like #45’s White House
2017 Have We Started Winning Yet?
2016 Still Springy
2015 Well Concealed
2014 The History Of Warriors
2013 A Cult Of Ignorance
2012 Counting Valor
Understanding Faith
2011 I Can Hear You Now
2010 Inception

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What counts, in the long run, is not what you read; it is what you sift through your own mind; it is the ideas and impressions that are aroused in you by your reading.  It is the ideas stirred in your own mind, the ideas which are a reflection of your own thinking, which make you an interesting person.
    —     Eleanor Roosevelt
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On This Day In:
2020 Role Reversal
Time To Defend The Constitution (Part I)
Time To Defend The Constitution (Part II)
2019 Right Or Wrong
2018 Open Doors
2017 When It Deserves It
2016 Expiation For Rest
2015 You’ll Get Through It
2014 A Special Kind Of Fall
2013 Very Rewarding
2012 MIB3 – The Team Is Closer Than Ever
Yet
2011 Little By Little

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I believe in the magic of books.  I believe that during certain periods in our lives we are drawn to particular books — whether it’s strolling down the aisles of a bookshop with no idea whatsoever of what it is that we want to read and suddenly finding the most perfect, most wonderfully suitable book staring us right in the face.  Unblinking.  Or a chance meeting with a stranger or friend who recommends a book we would never ordinarily reach for.  Books have the ability to find their own way into our lives.
    ―    Cecelia Ahern
[This quote is available at multiple locations on the web, but I originally found it as a post on one of the blogs I follow:  I didn’t have my glasses on….
The specific post is:  the magic of books.   Which can be found at:   https://ididnthavemyglasseson.com/2021/05/08/24719/
Please give the site a visit if you have some spare time.    —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2020 The Magnitude Of The Challenge
2019 Still Tearing, Still Being Rewarded
2018 Nothing More, Nothing Less
2017 Memorial Day – 2017
No Wonder I’m Smiling
2016 Thinking Science Fictional
2015 Dawn Is Coming
2014 Back When I Was A Firebrand
2013 Pen In Hand
Word Up!
2012 Disturbing
Trying To Keep Up
2011 Unreliable And Selective
2010 Adult-Onset Athlete

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2034: A Novel of the Next World War”  (2021©)  —  book review
The book subject to today’s review was written by Elliot Ackerman, James Stavridis Admiral USN (ret.).  Ackerman is a former White House Fellow and decorated Marine veteran.  Stavridis is, of course, best known as a four-star Admiral and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.  Ackerman is a working journalist / opinion writer and both are authors of multiple books.  That’s pretty much their bonafides for writing a “future – history” about world war / combat.
This novel is set thirteen years in the future.  Putin is still in charge of Russia.  The U.S. has a female President from an Independent party.  And, we don’t really know much about anyone else in charge around the world.  We know China is pushing its claims in the northern Pacific, yet Taiwan remains an independent “nation” state.  India has somehow “resolved” the Pakistan issue in its favor, but we don’t know what that means for either India or Pakistan.  NATO is in disarray without strong U.S. leadership.  And, finally, Iran has had some success against Israel.  What isn’t exactly made clear, except Iran has somehow “freed” the Golan Heights.
Background:  The first third of this book was published as a special “full dedicated issue” recently in Wired magazine, which I subscribe to.  I have read EVERY issue of the magazine since inception back in 1993.  The company I worked for back in 2000 had all of the back issues on a shelf and I would “borrow” them one at a time, read cover to cover and then bring them back.  As far as I know, no one else EVER read any of them, as once I was hired, I kept the current ones on my desk and no one ever asked for them.  Shortly before leaving the company, I got a personal subscription and have continued reading them for the last 20 years.  Anyway, Wired‘s issue left you hanging with the promise of a future novel publication in March 2021.  My review is of the full publication.  This book was one of two I received as a birthday present from my wife.
And,…  This book is about a military conflict between China and the United States.  Supposedly, China is an ascending world power and the U.S. is a descending / failing world power.  China stages a confrontation in order to demonstrate its military superiority – and the world slips into war.
Is the book interesting?  Informative?  Entertaining?  Accurate – technologically, politically or militarily?  Is it worth the time to read it?  To be honest, the magazine promised more than the book delivered.  The answer to all five of those questions is mostly so-so…
It is a fast read at barely over 300 pages.  The problem is there isn’t much there – there.  I don’t know how much (if any) current military capability Ackerman has access to.  It is a given (to me) that Stavridis would have had nearly unlimited access (pre-retirement anyway).  The problem is, of course, the book would have had to be submitted to and cleared through State and DOD before it was published and neither agencies (nor the authors) would have been inclined to offer much useful information in a novel.
With nothing but the most general capabilities described we get a lot of implausible “magic” technology under the guise of “AI” (Artificial Intelligence) which seems to work perfectly and then not at all.  We get very poor strategic decisions / action by the U.S.; we get some oversimplification of other technologies (overseas internet cabling);  side tracks by Russia and Iran, which seem to have been added to make the conflict global rather than China vs. U.S.;  and then we get a couple of miracles at the end by India to conclude the novel / war.  That pretty much covers the “informative and accuracy” portion of this review.
What about interesting and entertaining?  Again, so-so…  There are five main characters: female American Admiral, male American fighter pilot, male American (Indian immigrant) NSC advisor, male Iranian officer (he ends up with various ranks), and the main Chinese (half-American) Admiral.  The story is told from each of their viewpoints.  (Yes, there are also another handful of secondary but important characters, but this is really about the big five.)
The problem I had was the number of characters made for a long, deep story which developed each character to the point where you cared about them without giving away too much plot / ending.  Unfortunately, this book is neither long nor deep, which meant you almost cared, but not quite.  And, again unfortunately, it was almost entirely predictable and therefore, while I finished feeling entertained, I didn’t feel satisfied – emotionally or intellectually.
Then is it worth your time, then?  Yes!  It raises the interesting question if military technology is useful if it is subject to (can be negated by) a less expensive counter-measure.  In this case, the apparent answer is that if the elephant is blinded, it is still an elephant and not easily overwhelmed.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  This is not Tom Clancy or Sir John Hackett level political, military or strategy writing, but I did find it entertaining even if not informative or militarily consistent.  I’m grateful to have received it as a present, because I’d have waited for the paperback or a very reduced price before buying it myself.  So I got to read something almost literally hot off the presses…
Final disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
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On This Day In:
2020 First Buds
To Fly
2019 What If Nobody Believes Them Either
2018 It’s About Heart Not Skill
2017 Winning So Much I’m Already Tired Of It (Not)
2016 Punishing Red Binge
2015 Bits In The Soup
2014 More Beef, Less Bull
2013 Where Are Your Mountains
2012 Spherical Knowledge Of Hamsters
2011 Taking Stock Over Time

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Burn old logs.  Drink old wine.  Read old books.  Keep old friends.
   —   Alfonso X of Spain
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On This Day In:
2020 Always
2019 #45 Is More Of A Piddle Than A Puddle
2018 Found Out
A Message To The “Wanna Be” Dictator On Leadership
2017 Still Waiting…
2016 Same Old, Same Old
2015 Shout!
2014 I Hear Voices
2013 Ethics And Standards
2012 Swing Higher
2011 Convicted For Life

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Many scientists deeply involved in the exploration of the solar system (myself among them) were first turned in that direction by science fiction.  And the fact that some of that science fiction was not of the highest quality is irrelevant.  Ten-year-olds do not read the scientific literature.
    —   Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 Happy Thanksgiving (2019)
2018 And Smiles…
2017 Or Savor A Little Longer…
2016 Sometimes I Just Want To Smell The Flowers
2015 One Truth – Done Well
2014 Now In Imagination, On The Other Hand…
2013 No Plan, No Map
2012 Singing About Love
2011 The Awesome Power Of Truth

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Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.
      ―     Socrates
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On This Day In:
2019 #45 Is The Inverse
2018 A Message To The White House Press Corps
2017 Eeny Meeny Miny Moe
Binge, Binge, Binge
2016 Feeling Warm Yet?
Four Documentaries
2015 Just Like All The Others
2014 In My Own Vanity
2013 Filled With Words
2012 Lectio Auget Existentiae Meae
2011 Lied Lately?
2010 Born To Work At Faux News
Lost Again (Uh, Make That Still)
Qui Genus Humanum Ingenio Superavit
They’re Back… (Part 1)

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The Lessons Of History”  (1968©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for a summation / distillation book written by Will and Ariel Durant (a married couple) which culminates a series of eleven volumes popularly titled:  “The Story of Civilization“.  This book (“Lessons“) actually was written and published between volumes 10 and 11 of that main work.  The book attempts to provide extremely brief points about twelve topics:  geography, biology, race, character, morals, religion, economics, socialism, government, war, growth / decay, and progress.  There is also a preface and a first chapter detailing the authors “hesitations” in presenting such a précis.  The book is barely 117 pages while the typical main volume is 900-1100 pages (over 10,000 pages in total).  Obviously, their task was daunting and, generally speaking, they only compare / contrast the two main tensions (positions) for each topic (i.e. religion vs secularism) in this slim book.  This book, like the main series, is an attempt to bring “history” to the masses (in simple, if flowery, language).
If you are a lover of words, you will enjoy the authors’ writing style.  I found the imagery almost poetic at many points.  If, however, you are a person grounded in ideas, you may be less taken by this work.  The chapters tend to be limited to the “compare and contrast” formula of only two main concepts each per topic.  Another issue:  the book is dealing with racism and culture, character and morals, etc., and many times we see these topics through the prism of our modern perspective, while the authors view them over the course of human history.  Racism and slavery, for example, seem almost excused because that’s the way it (humanity) has been for the vast majority of the last 5,000 years.  It is NOT excused (by the authors), but it is detailed and in most sections comes across as “the white-man’s destiny”, until suddenly – sometimes in only a single brief paragraph, it isn’t.  And the “suddenly” paragraph represents the last 150 years which some of us have lived through a fair chunk of – in my case 65 of them, anyway.  I am not trying to be critical of the couple’s monumental work (over five decades in the writing for the main series), however, this book seems to suffer from the same European / Northern Mediterranean perspective (i.e. bias) which the main series is always criticized for.  I did not personally find this overly objectionable, but then I am a “melting-pot” American (product of the 1960’s).
Is this a good book?  Is it thought provoking?  Is it entertaining?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  There is a well known expression that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  The authors opine this is not necessarily as true as is the subtle appearance of time, leadership, government and civilization being caught up in great interweaving cycles – like a pendulum we swing back and forth between anarchy and tyranny with only brief periods of democratic liberties and freedoms.  And, they attempt to illustrate this series of cycles for each of the twelve chapters opposing extremes.  Please note:  the authors imagery is circular.  Mine is the pendulum.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!  I bought the full twelve volumes several years ago and promised myself I’d read them “eventually”.  I’m glad I’ve finally dipped my toe in the ocean.  I guess the next step is to begin the real swim…
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On This Day In:
2019 Dodgers Choke AGAIN
He Wasn’t “Just Kidding The Press”
2018 Thinking About My Hil
Remember Your Duty In November
2017 Play Well With Others
2016 Surviving And Challenging
2015 On Destroying Historic / Archaeological Sites
2014 Magical Power
2013 How Awesome Would That Be
2012 Two Views
2011 Still Looking For Examples
2010 Giants Win Away 3 – 2!!

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There are two motives for reading a book:  one, that you enjoy it;  the other, that you can boast about it.
    —    Bertrand Russell
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On This Day In:
2019 Dodgers Choke AGAIN
He Wasn’t “Just Kidding The Press”
2018 Thinking About My Hil
Remember Your Duty In November
2017 Play Well With Others
2016 Surviving And Challenging
2015 On Destroying Historic / Archaeological Sites
2014 Magical Power
2013 How Awesome Would That Be
2012 Two Views
2011 Still Looking For Examples
2010 Giants Win Away 3 – 2!!

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Introducing The Universe”  (1993©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for “Introducing The Universe“, written by Felix Pirani (writer) and Christine Roche (illustrator).  While copyrighted in 1993, my version is a re-publication from 1999.  (Dear Readers, I apologize in advance for the length of this review, which may seem longer than the book.)
I have a reasonably long history (ten to twenty years) of reading these “Introduction / Introducing” series of books about a host of different topics.  The benefit of the series is you (generally) get a very quick (under 200 pages filled with mostly comics illustrations) and very general overview of whatever the specific topic is for the book.  The negatives are reduced a number of important sub-topics, lack of breadth and depth for a specific sub-topic, and (occasionally) even I find the illustrations tedious (if not demeaning).  Be that as it may…
This book is about cosmology (the science and study of the universe).  Obviously, theories about the universe and creation pre-date “civilization”, and certainly pre-date reading and writing, let alone the start of modern science.  This book covers all of this… up to publication date.
So, the two main theories of the universe are:  1) it has always existed pretty much as it is now;  and, 2) the universe sprang into being at some point.  The first theory is known as the “Steady-State” theory.  The second is more popularly known as the “Big Bang” theory.  Pre-1960(-ish), 1965 to be precise, the Steady-State theory held the reigns because there was no physical evidence to believe otherwise and it let scientists avoid the chicken-n-egg question of: “If the universe was created, that implies there was both reason for creation and a creator / intelligent designer.  So, who was it?”  This moves from the “hard” science which scientists like to think about, to the practice to philosophy – which may be logical, but is rarely scientific (from my experience anyway).
I call theory #2, “The God Theory“, because creation implies creator and it pre-dates modern science (as we know it).  I call theory #1, “The Science Theory“, because not only do we not know what happened, it seems unlikely we will ever know.  If you are comfortable with doubt and dealing with the unknowable, you can be comfortable with science.
Well, in 1965, a couple of radio guys at Bell Labs were looking at space and they found some background noise (aka “Cosmic Microwave Background” or CMB) which could not be easily explained.  It seemed to fall under the predictions for residue background radiation from a terrific explosion.  Hence: “The Big Bang“.  With this data, and a corresponding space-race to the moon between the United States and the U.S.S.R., a lot of money was being poured into the coffers of universities (and companies) which would study these phenomena.  (Note:  the theory pre-dates the CMB evidence.  The CMB, however, serves as the primary evidence supporting the theory.  When I was a child and first learning about all of this, the Steady-State was THE primary theory for cosmology and the Big Bang was just beginning its ascendancy.  It was a paradigm shift in cosmology based on new data, post theory.)
The problem is for pretty much all of the last 60 years, more and more study has produced more and more confusing results, and, in turn, more and more convoluted twists in the Big Bang theory to explain the exceptions to the predicted data.  For example: we believe the universe is expanding, but we can’t identify a point of origin.  All points seem to be moving away from each other at the same rate.
And, another: the stuff of the universe, which we can see, behaves in a way which predicts there should be a LOT more stuff.  The mathematics works out that for the universe to function the way the theory says it should, there’s probably 90% or more of the stuff in the universe which is, as yet, unseen.  Nobody knows what it is or where it is or why we can’t see (detect) it.  And it’s not just “stuff”.  The same seems to be true for “energy” which we also cannot detect.  The scientists have named these two unseeable and unmeasureable things: “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy” (cause they’re original that way).
Basically, the real and measurable data we’ve been gathering seem to contradict the Big Bang theory, but we’ve yet to come up with a theory to explain the data which the data could support (some theory other than the Big Bang theory and / or the Steady-State theory).  The result is we are stumbling along with the philosopher Thomas Kuhn’s “normal science” while awaiting a new theory or “paradigm” which explains the evidence in terms of supporting the Steady-State theory.  (Hence, String Theory / Super-String Theory and multi-dimensions and multiple universes.)
So, is this book any good?  Is it interesting?  Before I answer those two questions I must state:  I am NOT a scientist and I entered the book with only the most high-school level knowledge of cosmology (let alone math / physics).  Having said this:  Yes, and YES!  This is not a book which most physicists, math folks or cosmologists will find useful.  Between the non-linear / non-chronological presentation and the use of mostly comic-book style illustrations, I imagine they would find it trivial if not insulting.  I don’t know enough about the subject to find it such.
Final recommendation:  strong!  I am sure the target audience, the format and the length of the book precluded the author and illustrator’s ability to present as much as they might have liked to.  Never the less, as a novice seeking a general overview which could be gained in a couple of hours of light reading, I felt the book covered the topic and reading it was a useful experience.
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On This Day In:
2019 The Right Questions
Day 3: Still Difficult
2018 A Thought For Those Continuing To Support President Trump
Day 36: Pushing On
2017 Imagining Humor
2016 So Go On And Deal With It
2015 From A Letter To A Friend
2014 Your Part (Here)
2013 Complements
2012 Sound And Light
2011 Two Politicians Visit A Farm…
2010 Labor Day And Honorable Men

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The whole idea of what happens when you read a book, I find absolutely stunning.  Here’s some product of a tree, little black squiggles on it, you open it up, an inside your head is the voice of someone speaking, who may have been dead 3000 years, and there he is talking directly to you, what a magical thing that is.
    —    Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 And I’m Not Letting Go
2018 The Continuing Failure Of Speaker Paul Ryan
Day 3: Approaching The Half Way Point
2017 Orange Comb-Overs Unite!
2016 Speaking Of Which
2015 Complexity Has A Strict Architecture
2014 Just Support
2013 Wandering Free
2012 Contribute = Paying Taxes
2011 How Will You Be Judged?

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The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.
    ––    W. Somerset Maugham
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On This Day In:
2019 Not Enough
2018 One Thing We Do Know
2017 Preservation
2016 Going Back
2015 Just For Today
2014 Reaching For Destiny
2013 Still Just Passing Through
2012 Live Or Die
2011 On Secession
2010 A Rocky Weekend

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Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy And Its Consequences” (1988©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for: “Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy And Its Consequences“, written by John Allen Paulos.  The book is an overview of what the author believes are some of the symptoms (and solutions) of “innumeracy” (the math equivalent of illiteracy) in America.  Paulos is a Professor of maths at Temple University (or was at the time of the publication).  He is a bit of a math prodigy (at the very least precocious) and is kind of a cross between Richard Feynman, Malcolm Gladwell and Levitt & Dubner.  Feynman – as a teacher – in converting technical (math) concepts into relatable images, Gladwell in writing for “the general public” consumption, and Levitt & Dubner (of “Freakonomics” fame) in both of the above plus quirky examples to illustrate his point.
This book is a quick (fast read) and short (135 pages) overview of some main concepts in math and how they are poorly taught / translated / communicated to the general public and, hence, the general distaste for maths during school and its avoidance post-formal education whenever possible.
Paulos’ proposition is that because maths are poorly taught, the general public grows up with a fear (and avoidance) of math for the rest of lives.  One of his proposals is to take retired advanced math users (mathematicians, engineers, scientists) and have them teach in schools because the current maths teachers aren’t very good (for a number of reasons) – pun intended.
The author also reviews math concepts: scale (big and little), fractions, ratios, statistics, probabilities and pseudo-sciences.  This overview / review is the strength of the book as it reminded me of many of the areas of math I’ve long since forgotten (for lack of use).
So, is this book any good?  Does it make you feel numerate or innumerate?  Does it help with the issue raised (innumeracy)?  Yes.  Both.  And, no, or at least I don’t think so.  Once I could get past the author’s ego / superiority complex, I actually quite enjoyed the book.  It is a fast read and he does use his examples in a clear and sometimes humorous fashion.  The text made me feel numerate.  The work through examples innumerate.  A few of the paragraphs had to be re-read to make sure I followed the explanations for why he was doing a particular calculation.  For example, how many days is a million seconds?  The author says eleven-ish.  So, then how long is a billion seconds?  Again, thirty something years.  Now, the author actually worked out the numbers and provided the answers.  The problem?  Well, for me, the answer is 11(-ish) thousand days.  I would never arbitrarily convert days to years.  Not that I couldn’t; just that I wouldn’t.  Why would I, unless specifically asked?  And, for most purposes, I would have ball-parked it (1,000 days is almost 3 years, times 11 is “about” 33 years).  It would not be entirely accurate, but even then, the author didn’t state he was accounting for leap years in his own calculations.  His point was we “all” know how much a second is.  What we don’t know (have a feeling for) is how big a number is a billion (or a million).  My point is I’m not sure if my reaction means I’m personally numerate or innumerate.  And, finally, simply pointing out a problem isn’t the same as offering a viable solution.  I don’t think placing retired math users in schools is a workable solution.  Teaching (across all of the non-adult years) is an art as much as it is a skill.  Yes, you must be grounded in the material, but you must also be enthusiastic (about the subject and teaching) and relatable.  I’m not convinced there is a vast pool of retired engineers and scientists just dying to teach grammar, middle and high school students (and each group has different requirements).
Final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended.  As an overview of maths topics for the general public, I think this is a very valuable book.  It is brief and has interesting examples.  It is probably too simple for folks with college level math skills.  It is probably too difficult for the truly innumerate.  But, I think there is a wide, flat(ish) bell shaped curve of folks out there (probably 2 standard deviations on either side of the mean) who would gain from reading this book.  Those below the mean because the writing and examples are clear and can be followed along with.  Those above the curve, because the book will remind you how much you’ve forgotten since leaving school.  I just wish the author had been a bit less patronizing of us non-math prodigies.
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On This Day In:
2019 Don’t Forget: Fire Burns
2018 Especially In The Middle East
2017 A Good Local
2016 Life Unlimited
2015 Still Trying
2014 Destiny, n.
2013 No Apologies
2012 Utterly Convinced
2011 A Key To Effectiveness

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