Recent nonfiction — Quantum Universe, Disrupting Class

* “The Quantum Universe”:amazon by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. An attempt to explain quantum mechanics. Some good elements but the authors wed themselves to an analogy using clocks that I think just confuses the matter. I gave up 30% in.
* “Disrupting Class”:amazon by Clayton Christensen, Curtis Johnson, Michael Horn. Like most nonfiction books, this should be a pamphlet. Good stuff but overly drawn out. Kids have different types of IQ and learning styles, technology can be used to create custom targeted learning experiences.

Recent Nonfiction — Nano Mechanics, Digital Image Processing, Parisians, Buffalo

* “Nano Mechanics and Materials”:amazon by Wing Kam Liu, Eduard G. Karpov, Harold S. Park. Fairly dense text on modeling of nanoscale materials and composites. Best approached with a solid understanding of mechanics (not my strength) and finite element analysis (i’m ok on that), as the core idea is to meld macro-level FEA with nano-level mechanical analysis, paying careful attention to the bridging issues. Unrated on Amazon or Goodreads, a quality text.
* “Digital Image Processing: An Algorithmic Introduction using Java”:amazon by Wilhelm Burger and Mark Burge. Decent introduction to basic image processing algorithms using Java and ImageJ. If you want a quick explanation of things like erosion, dilation, edge detection, spectral analysis, etc., this is fine. Amazon says 5 stars, I think this is just a good book.
* “Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris”:amazon by Graham Robb. I like Paris, adventure tales, and history books, so this should be a total winner, right? But it totally left me flat. Yawn. No emotional connection with the characters or stories. Amazon says 3.5 stars and Goodreads agrees but I find it totally uninteresting.
* “City on the Edge: Buffalo, New York, 1900 – present”:amazon by Mark Goldman. A very thorough history of the last century or so of Buffalo’s history. The same tale could largely be told about any declining rust belt city, but the author has a clear love for Buffalo and does a great job telling the tale. Leaves one admiring the city that survives and wistful for what was lost. Way too much detail in some parts for a non-Buffalonian, but still excellent. Amazon gives 4.5 stars, Goodreads 4 stars, this is a very good book.

Recent nonfiction — The Arabs, Gandhi, singularity

* “The Arabs: A History”:amazon by Eugene Rogan. Sweeping history of Arab nations over the last 1000 years. Conflict with the West is an ever-present theme, but a bigger theme is internal divisions and violent self-destruction within the Arab and Middle Eastern nations. At the first opportunity, people seem to pick up weapons in this part of the world to resolve their differences. Amazon says 3.5 stars, “Goodreads”: says 4.6 which is very high. A solid book and worth the time.
* “Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth”:amazon by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. What an inspiration. If every public servant had Gandhi’s commitment to the truth, if every revolutionary had his commitment to nonviolent noncooperation, the world would be a better place. The Middle East needs Gandhi-like leaders! Amazon says 4.5 stars, “Goodreads”: 4.06. Not the best writing in the world but great to read the man’s thoughts directly.
* “The Light in the Tunnel”:amazon by Martin Ford. Sloppy lazy singularity crap. Thankfully brief tho I couldn’t stomach actually finishing it. Amazon says 4.5 stars, these people need to think harder. Goodreads says 1 star but then I am the only rater on Goodreads so a little circular. If you really want to read singularity crud, go read Kurzweil or Wolfram, at least those guys have put some effort into their arguments.

Recent Books

  • “Vacuum Diagrams”:amazon by Stephen Baxter. A pastiche of short stories, many in classic pulp style, strung together with some connective narrative to make into a somewhat interesting whole.  Diverting but ultimately kind of hollow, the main character is pretty thin.
  • “Meat Market”:amazon by Bruce Feldman. Nonfiction, Bruce sits inside the Mississippi team for a year following primarily their recruiting travails under (now former) head coach Ed Orgeron. Life on the margins of bigtime college football is tough for the players and the teams, gives me new appreciation for coaches that are able to lift programs up from the doldrums.
  • “Nothing To Lose”:amazon by Lee Child.  Another Reacher tale, this one is one of the weaker in the series, or maybe I am just Reachered out.  This book starts to feel like it is heading toward Stephen King territory with Apocalyptic cults which seem to have possessed whole towns.
  • “The Watchman”:amazon by Robert Crais.  A Joe Pike thriller, this one is far more satisfying than the Reacher tale above.  Characters are more human, and thus resolution of plot is far more satisfying.

June Books

* “We Disappear”:amazon by Scott Heim. Drug addict son returns to small-town childhood home to care for dying mother and unwrap the mysteries of her life. Some bizzare david-lynchian moments. Just ok, never really hooked me.
* “Free Lunch”:amazon by David Cay Johnston. Central premise about corruption, government subsidies abuse. Some solid examples but way too much diatribe. One good prescriptive recommendation — 100% public funding of all political expenses, no gifts whatsoever. Oh and I hate the “the rich are taking ever more of the pie” argument — this may well be true but the analysis is terribly incomplete — there is no discussion of globalization, of the incredible advantages the US had post-WWII that are finally being whittled away, there is no discussion of the fact that a growing economy naturally will create more spread at the high end of the income distribution.
* “A Fine Balance”:amazon by Rohinton Mistry. Strap on your hard hat because this is a relentless and long tale of tragic injustices and disasters battering away at every character in the book. No one ever achieves a balance, tragedy rips away at their joy. No one comes away untouched, many die. If this book is truly reflective of India in the 60s and 70s, man that was a tough time.
* “Altered Carbon”:amazon by Richard K Morgan. A real ripsnorter. Nanotech, virtual tech, multiple layers of conspiracy, a hard-bitten anti hero. My second read of Morgan and both have been great fun.

Recent Nonfiction Books — The Geography of Bliss, The Thing About Life…, An Army At Dawn, Silver Spoon Kids

* “The Geography of Bliss”:amazon by Eric Weiner. A solid book exploring the nature of happiness; community, sharing, connections, a sense of a greater purpose, and a laid back approach to life all seem to be key.
* “The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead”:amazon by David Shields. Reflections on mortality. I don’t really get it, he seems to be yelling at his readers and his father “don’t you get it? How can you be so carefree? We are all going to die” and my response is so what? How would I live differently? Am I supposed to be more dour and depressed, and how would that make things better?
* “An Army At Dawn”:amazon by Rick Atkinson. The story of the US Army at dawn of WWII in North Africa — disorganized, soft, bickering, self-centered. All this was blasted away as the army learned how to fight and as the men ill-suited to war were rendered casualties. At the start, we viewed this as someone else’s war. By the end of the North African campaign, the war was deeply personal to the army with resultant changes in behaviour.
* “Silver Spoon Kids”:amazon by Gallo, Gallo, Gallo. Trite examples, middle school vocab, shallow thinking. If you have no moral compass whatsoever and can’t bring yourself to engage in deep thought or true acts of compassion, I guess this book is for you. I’d personally recommend almost any classic or autobiography or meaningful nonfiction (any of the other books mentioned) as a better way to develop morality, and of course real engagement with real people in your community.