June 27, 2015
I enjoyed this book and am glad I finally read it. Like some of the other novels I have read recently, it was engaging and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened.
The plot is about a child, the human race, and how the child is trained to save the human race from an interstellar enemy. There is a movie version, and I saw a bit of the ending previously. Like most stories, the good guys win – but it was interesting to see how it got to that point. The majority of the book covers the time when Ender (the child) is going through primary school. Of course, instead of primary school with kids – it’s the military…with kids. The battle simulations that he played were fun to read.
The second half of the story, where he actually grows up and embarks on his mission in life was rather short. After the author spent all that time writing about Ender’s “childhood”, I thought there might be more about the actual war. It’s almost like he had a page limit and had to tell the story within the allocated length.
Although this was a fiction novel, I think it was really interesting how authority (and later Ender) engineered situations and brought out leadership capabilities in talented individuals. I’m sure it wouldn’t work in all situations (i.e., non military ones), but reading techniques with a story is definitely much more interesting than a self help book.
I also found it interesting that while the book was written in 1985 and is science fiction, the idea of the Internet and social networks were fairly accurate!
June 1, 2014
I’m skeptical that I’m going to make it to SPG Gold again this year (10 stays), so I started trying to game the system. I went to NYC for 2 days for work and hotel hopped – stayed at 2 different hotels during the trip. Then we took a cross-border shopping trip to upstate New York the following weekend and I stayed at another SPG hotel. That’s 3 different SPG hotels in one week! Now I’m halfway to gold (and it’s about halfway through the year so I’m not really ahead).
I was finally able to release an update (v2) of A Healthier Commute to Google Play. This was a substantial release as the app actually passively learns your commutes and plays them back in the UI. I was actually done the majority of the code in April, but spent May tweaking various parameters of the algorithm to make it work better. It’s still not perfect but it’s getting better. I’m not sure how much better (certainly not perfect) I can make it though; I’m sure someone like Google could implement it better, but I’m stuck with the tools that I have access to.
Last May, we spent a lot of time outdoors going to parks and whatnot with Apollo. I remember this because I have a lot of photos with Apollo outside. We didn’t do as much this year. We tried to do it a bit earlier in April, but it was too cold, and we just didn’t make it out as often over the weekends in May.
I finished up my Pocket queue this month – mostly because I had a bunch of short articles and was travelling. Now I’m trying to restock, but I may have to resort to reading books on my eReader instead!
November 25, 2013
I’ve been using Instapaper for a long time (33 blogs worth of links) but recently decided to switch to Pocket. There’s a couple of reasons for that:
- There’s no good, free app for Instapaper on Android. I tried Everpaper when I first moved to Android and the UI/design just didn’t appeal to me. And I don’t want to spend a couple of bucks buying the official app. Pocket has a free app.
- Pocket has Kobo integration so I can push my saved articles onto my Kobo (looks like it doesn’t support my Touch though). I tried doing this with my Kindle and Instapaper and I didn’t like how it was formatted (a bunch of articles in a PDF). Hopefully once I get my Aura, this integration will be better
October 7, 2013
I’ve first read Rosencrans Baldwin’s work when he wrote for the website The Morning News. I enjoyed his writing and was aspirational to read because of the way he wrote. Whereas reading something written by Malcolm Gladwell is interesting because he picks interesting topics and viewpoints, Baldwin’s writing is enjoyable even if the topic is not so much. His way of story telling and use of colourful language/metaphors is something I wish I could do.
At some point, I read an excerpt from his book Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down. It was a long version of his writing, and the topic sounded fun too! I put this book on my to-read list.
And now I have read it and enjoyed it very much. It is a memoir about the year-and-a-bit that he spent working in Paris and how he had to adapt his New York sensibilities to living in a city full of French people. He has a lot of funny anecdotes to share (some of which are in the above excerpt), but as the book progresses he also tries to interpret why French people act the way they do, and the differences between American and French cultures.
I can’t tell if the book is entirely based on true events or not, but it doesn’t really matter. If you can classify a book as a pop song, this would be a catch one that takes a fun look at Paris and its culture, from a viewpoint that is relatively similar to mine.
September 20, 2013
For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs is one of those books that have been on my to-read list forever, and I just got around to reading it over my trip to Asia. It is by Robert Heinlein whose sci-fi stories I had read when I was younger. He is probably most well-known in mainstream for having written Starship Troopers.
For Us, The Living piqued my interest because it was his first novel and not published until after his death. It was written in 1938 and tells the story of a gentlemen who “died” in 1939, only to re-appear in 2086. This premise is really a vehicle for Heinlein to describe his idea of what could be the future of the Unites States. It’s not a description of an utopia, but rather an attainable future, although there would be lots to study within an English class.
He goes into quite a lot of detail describing a new economic system, how its different than the one used in 1939 (which I guess is still similar to what we use now) and how its better. He also discusses a new moral system (which are the customs) which seems like it could work (but I can’t see how we would convince an entire society to suddenly switch to this approach).
There’s also bits of traditional sci-fi elements (i.e., new tech) but what was interesting to me was they discussed going to the moon. This was a far-fetched dream in 1938, but it happened less than 30 years later!
February 5, 2013
When I decided to read Guitar Zero, I was hoping to read about the author’s journey from being musical illiterate to being fluent at the guitar, and perhaps emulate his path. I was starting with a better foundation than him, and had lower expectations. But the book didn’t end up being what I expected.
I had hoped there would be a step-by-step (or at least some plan) on how to play the guitar, but rather this book was about how music affects the human brain, and how a human whose brain hasn’t developed musically yet can become more musical and benefit. I wasn’t interested in the latter, but the former was sometimes interesting.
The specific effects of music on brain chemistry was not interesting to me, but I enjoyed the discussion on how song structures can affect our enjoyment of music – music satisfies our brain’s need for repetition and novelty at the same time.
On the whole, I skimmed through large sections of the book quickly, thinking that it was quite long (240+ pages) and I was getting bored. Lucky for me, the book ended around page 170. What were the last 70 pages? Acknowledgments, glossary, index, appendix/images etc!
December 27, 2012
I really enjoyed this book, so much, that it took me almost half a year to read. I could’ve finished it in a few days, but I didn’t because I wanted to savour it and enjoy it; rather than reading it in interrupted segments while I was waiting for other things.
Most people will know this Phillip K Dick novel as Blade Runner, although I haven’t seen the movie in well over a decade (but I think they’re doing a remake of it now). But I like the book version of Dick’s works rather than their film adaptations – the books are more weird and subversive.
The reason I liked DADoES is that it is the most exciting book I’ve read in awhile. It is plot driven and has a lot of “action” but it also has some interesting questions about human classes – are people human, “specials” (radiation affected humans) or androids; what really is the difference between them, and should we treat them differently. Although this is set in a futuristic world, you can imagine that those same questions can be posed today in our culture.
There is also the question of whether Deckard is an android (i.e., replicant). I remember that that was raised in the movie, but I didn’t read anything that would specifically point that out (nor was there anything that would disprove it). But it’s one instance where knowing the ending actually made the book more interesting, as I was thinking of his reaction to situations and how they would sway the argument one way or the other.
November 15, 2012
I remember some friends from high school talking about Kurt Vonnegut so the name is familiar but I never really knew who he was (What? read books/literature? Who does things like that!) But I came across his book While Mortals Sleep and decided to read it to see why Vonnegut is famous and for another reason…
While Mortals Sleep is a collection of short stories that were published in 2011 after his death in 2007. The second reason this book attracted me was because they were short stories so I could read a bit here and there. The stories are indeed short, and each can be consumed in about 15 minutes (i.e., perfect when you have to watch or feed a baby).
I did a bit of research and and Vonnegut was an American author know for his dark humor and satire, and these techniques were used quite frequently in his short stories. Some of the stories were good and some were not so good – all had a theme behind it; kind of like an grown-up version of “the morale of the story is…”. Usually that is hidden behind literacy artistry and doesn’t reveal itself until last few paragraphs; but some are pretty obvious.
If you like reading about first world human issues from the 1950s, then the themes and stories are for you. The first few I read were interesting because of the generation gap between the world we live in and the lifestyles that Vonnegut describes; but after awhile I got bored because I couldn’t connect with the setting anymore!
July 18, 2012
I enjoyed reading Freakonomics wayyy back in 2006 but reading current event-type books had lost its appeal to me the last few years. So I kind of ignored Superfreakonomics when it came out. Not that I didn’t know about it, because at that time I was also following the Freakonomics’ authors blog (then on the NYTimes family of blogs). Eventually I stopped following the blog too, although I forget why now (probably because I lost interest).
I picked up Superfreakonomics a few weeks back to pass the time on a couple of doctor visits and finished it earlier this week. It was surprisingly short, and I didn’t enjoy reading it very much. My main problem with the book was that it jumped between various aspects of a topic too frequently, seemingly every few paragraphs. I’d much rather read an in-depth chapter about a certain field of study and learn its insights, rather than read through tangentially related, and superficial discussions on a field. In fact, I felt like I was reading a series of blog posts that were loosely tied together!
The topics themselves were relatively interesting (prostitutes) and current (climate change) and I found that the book tried to educate the reader on basic economic terminology. That’s actually a great goal, but a negative externality (which is defined in Superfreakonomics in case you forgot from econ 101) of this is that the book ends up reading well to the general reader (i.e., someone picking it up for a flight) but was not very engrossing for me.
June 14, 2012
I was interested in watching Up In The Air because I thought it would be a film about the culture of flying; and although I don’t fly as often since I don’t have to fly for work, it’s still an interesting topic for me. I skipped watching the movie (on a flight no less) but read the book recently.
This was a weird book, and doesn’t read like an award winning movie. I felt like the novel spent most of its time in a monologue by the main character, who is narcissistic and paranoid. There are a lot of holes in the timeline of the plot, but I’m honestly not sure whether it’s on purpose or not. I think the novel is an excellent choice to read for English class because there are a lot of potential themes and metaphors; for example, is flying a metaphor for a refined persona that one presents professionally?
Well who knows. Afterwards I read about the film adaptation and it is quite Hollywood-ized. Mental illness seemed to play a huge part of the book, but it didn’t sound like it was there in the movie.
May 20, 2012
To try out my new Kobo Touch, I started reading Moneyball. I’ve actually had it on my reading list for awhile now, even before the movie came out (which I haven’t seen yet); but I never got around to it yet. Also, my reading has been blocked because I’ve been struggling to get through this book for about the last half year (gave up some 30% in)!
Anyways, speaking of books I gave up on; I was also reading Bill Simmons’ book (The Book of Basketball: The NBA according to the Sports Guy) but gave up half way because I just wasn’t that interested in basketball. I’ve had much better luck with Moneyball, which I attribute to three reasons:
- I’m more interested in baseball, and its written during a point in time (early 2000s) where I at least still knew some of the players
- Michael Lewis is a more interesting writer whose writings on Iceland and football I have read before
- The writing is more person-focused, and spends time building up a character and telling their stories instead of just stating facts, observations or statistics
To a data geek, Moneyball just makes the other 29 teams in the league seem silly. However, as I was reading it; I realized that Brian Burke, GM of the Maple Leafs, puts a strong emphasis on a player’s character and community involvement (which results in many years and much money invested in players who may not be very good at playing hockey). He’s also very “moral” in his dealings, preferring to take the high ground. Of course, that’s just the persona that he portrays and I can’t know whether these attributes affect his decision making or not. I just hope not, because I don’t want to be one a fan of one of the “dumb” teams in the NHL.
May 8, 2012
I have an ebook reader and I hardly read on it (or books in general), yet I am itching to buy another ereader. If that’s not techlust, then I don’t know what is!
Well actually I have good (and justifiable to me) reasons why I should buy another one. The Kindle3 that I have is great and all, but it has a keyboard which makes it longer (and thus bigger) than it needs to me. It’s a bit too big, although it still fits into a coat pocket. The problem is that I don’t always bring a coat with me, and in fact I would love to get (another) one which fits into my jeans.
I don’t think my phone satisfies my need because if I read for say an hour on it, then I’m draining the batter too much – which has a strong negative impact if I actually need it. I also don’t want a 7″ tablet because it’s too bulky and heavy.
So instead, I’m looking at the Kobo Touch and the new, cheapest Kindle. They both go for around $100 and are smaller/lighter than my current Kindle3. I actually like the Kobo Touch because its firmware/software is more appealing – it has achievements and statistics! Both are also around $100 too so I won’t feel too bad when I inadvertently sit on it.
September 3, 2011
I haven’t been excited about reading a book in a long time, but when I heard about Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, I immediately thought “Wow I want to read this!”. The second thing I thought was, “How do I get this on my Kindle?”
What a geek right? But well I got it on my Kindle and started reading it. What is it about this book that is so attractive to me? Well it’s based on a collection of letters and interviews from people who made it out of North Korea. While I’ve been to (a small part of) the DPRK, I’m still curious about what the country is actually like, especially with the famine and poverty that has stricken the nation.
Although recent visits to countries from the former Soviet bloc (e.g. East Germany, Czech, Poland, Latvia etc) have given me some idea of what it is like to live in a communist country; DPRK feels different to me because it’s still in a dictatorship and has actually been deteriorating while the rest of the world has been improving. Also, I guess living in Korean town has made the idea of understanding Korean culture more interesting to me. In any case, these aspects hype up this book for me and I’ve been reading a bit of it every day this week.
July 16, 2011
I started reading Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guys. It’s interesting but also not very interesting – I mean, I am piqued by the concepts he suggests, but not so motivated to read about all the basketball stories that he uses to illustrate his points. I’ll probably get tired of it and quit reading it.
But early in the book, there are a couple of points that kick around my head. First is his claim that sports is interesting because of the unknown element. This makes a lot of sense, in fact a few days prior, I also came across this link saying that it is almost entirely uninteresting to view a replay of a sports event because although you may not know the specific outcome, you know that no (super!)-heroic event took place. However, when you’re watching a live event, there is always a chance of a ridiculous play happening which is why real-time sports is exciting.
The second point is that The Secret of winning a basketball championship is basically assembling a team of team players (although that needs to include an elite star, a co-star and supporting cast members). But I got to thinking why being a team player is so important in basketball vs the other major sports (baseball, football, etc). Immediately I thought about hockey, which is also a strong team game, but I think it’s different because 20 people on a team participate in a game of hockey (and the minutes are not heavily weighted to certain players), so at any given moment the players on the ice are different. Meanwhile in basketball, a large portion of the game will be played by the 5 starters and so their chemistry and cohesiveness can greatly affect the success of the team.
July 15, 2011
For no real reason, I started reading A Scanner Darkly by Phillip K Dick this week. I typically don’t read fiction (actually I typically don’t read), but I was tired of the seriousness of the non-fiction genres. So I flipped through my fiction on my Kindle and this was the first one that didn’t feel boring.
A Scanner Darkly is about a cop in the near future, who is working undercover and hanging out with some druggies. The primary drug is Substance D and prolonged use of it causes the two hemispheres of your brain to get out of whack – you start hallucinating and losing rational functions. As he does undercover work, he starts experiencing the effects of Substance D and eventually (in his mind) becomes two people – the narc and the druggie.
Although Dick is a science-fiction writer, this novel is not really science fiction (sure that are some gadgety aspects, but it could have been written without them). Instead, it is a story drawn from Dick’s own drug usage experiences. It’s also quite interesting in a English-class type of way, trying to understand the metaphors that are present in the story. The latter half of the book becomes plot-driven, but there are some good thought questions along the way which makes this an enjoyable read.
I then followed up the reading with a viewing of the movie. The movie stars Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder; except it’s done in a weird style where they filmed the actors but then animated over top of it. My guess is that was done for budget reasons (so they didn’t have to build any sets), but I just found it odd and distracting. The movie stays faithful to the book in many parts – I remember the lines well having just read the novel, but I thought the movie was quite poor. It had all the necessary scenes, and I understood what was going on, but things were disjointed. A large part of the story is the development (or destruction) of the protaganist’s mind, where he starts becoming paranoid and schizophrenic. That’s not captured or conveyed in the movie. Without that, I think a stranger to the book would be thoroughly confused as to the motivations of the main character. And if, like me, you knew the book you would think that the movie is just a plot summary of the plot. I give the movie 2 stars out of 5.
February 14, 2011
I’ve wanted to read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time since the mid 00s but never got around to it as there was always other, more interesting or light (both in weight and comprehension) books available. Thanks to the Kindle, I finally got around to reading it.
It starts out great and interesting. Taking the reader through the annals of history and introduces the major physical and astronomical discoveries that shape our understanding. Everything is at a high school level and explained clearly, although this is probably the fourth (high school, university physics, nuclear science) time I’ve been introduced to everything.
Then things start to go a bit off track. He talks about the big bang and the beginning of the universe, and it’s just plain difficult to explain those concepts in the same layman terms as basic physics. It’s no longer as interesting because I don’t want to read each chapter four times to understand it! After about 2/3rds through the book, I gave up. I have more interesting things to read.
February 10, 2011
I’ve ignored the library for oh, I would say 15 years. If you’ve been like me, then it might surprise you that you can borrow books, music and video electronically from the library now. How does it work? It’s similar to how you would rent videos from iTunes or Rogers. You download the electronic file, which can only be played through a certain program (thanks to DRM), and you will have a certain time period to read/view it. Then the file will expire and you won’t be able to view it again.
With the Kindle, I’ve started browsing the library again for interesting ebooks to read. Unfortunately, because the Kindle does not support the format of books that the libraries provide (which are predominantly in ePub format to be played in Adobe Digital Expressions), one has to jump through a few hoops in order to get their borrowed library books onto their Kindle. Along the way, it also becomes very easy (and necessary – otherwise you can’t read it on the Kindle) to break the DRM.
Breaking the DRM may be morally reprehensive (i.e., you are stealing from the library!) but I see it this way:
- I’m not doing it to distribute books that I receive from the library, I’m just doing it so that I can read it on a device that I own. It’s like saying, you can borrow library books but you can ONLY read it if you’re on the subway – why can’t I read it in my own home?
- It allows me to time shift and get around holds and queues. Even though the books are electronic, each library only owns a certain amount of licenses for each book. For example, if they only own 1 license for Harry Potter, then only one person can borrow Harry Potter at one time. The next person has to wait until the copy of Harry Potter that has been lent out “expires” before they can borrow it. And you can’t return it early. This is a stupid format for digital media and the way to get around it is to request all the books you want to read, and then when they arrive, transform them into a format where you can read it when you please.
In essence, I think I am still abiding the spirit of the library, just getting around arbitrary digital restrictions posed by the ebook framework.
If you agree with this, there are some tools to help you convert format and strip DRM. First you will need Calibre, which is open source software that manages your book collection and converts between file formats. Then you’ll need some Calibre plugins to remove the DRM. I found some here. To get everything to work together, you’ll might want to follow these instructions. Once you’ve set it up once, it work transparently.
February 4, 2011
I think that Amazon had intentions for the Kindle to be the iPod of the book industry, and to lock in consumers to buying (e-)books from Amazon. I don’t think it has been as successful in dominating the competition as the iPod, but I feel it is leading the pack against other e-readers like the Nook, Kobo, Sony’s e-reader and other no name brands.
There are actually a lot of similarities between the Kindle and iPod. There is a huge company backing it, there are “locked” purchases that can only be played on the device (although they both support other open industry standards), there is a rabid and cult following etc. Here’s one more – I waited a few generations and bought one. I waited until the 4th generation to buy an iPod and I’ve waited until the 3rd generation before buying a Kindle.
The first thing I should say about buying a Kindle is I don’t read books! It seems a bit stupid to buy a Kindle then, but here are my reasons:
- Instapaper integration
- It’s light, its battery lasts a month, and the charger is the same as Android phones – great travelling accessory.
- E-Ink is cool!
- It’s not too expensive – $139
While I don’t read books (regularly, I should say, since I will probably read more books with a Kindle – at least initially) I read a lot online. So a major selling feature is to be able to punt the articles I want to read onto something that I can actually read around the house or out & about. The Kindle does this, while being user friendly.
September 19, 2010
I use Instapaper to queue articles to read on my phone. Here are some of the articles that I enjoyed reading recently.
February 15, 2010
For my trip to Calgary, I picked a larger, hardcover book off my shelf since I didn’t need to travel light. Coincidentally, the book I picked up, Fueling the Future, was very appropriate to my trip since it talked about the largest industry in Alberta, oil & gas.
Fueling the Future is a collection of essays written by various leaders in the field about how ingenuity, mostly social but also technical, can solve our upcoming energy crisis. It covers a wide range of topics from a Canadian perspective, such as the tar sands of Alberta, natural gas reserves in the Mackenzie Delta, the fuel cell industry in Vancouver, alternative energy sources and how Canadian approaches are different than those in Nigeria and elsewhere.
While there is discussion about many issues I found that what was lacking was actual rhetoric on what ingenuity will be able to solve these problems. It is clear from reading that book that our dependence on oil will continue for many decades, but it may no longer be as cheap as it is now. It is clear that Hydrogen and fuel cells will be the alternative in the future, but there are a lot of connections, such as how these cells will be powered, that there are no described solutions for.
I think the problem is that by asking many authors to write chapters, there is a fragmented vision of what our future could be. Many perspectives and alternatives are proposed, but there is no straightforward path to guide the reader through the history, the problems, and how the future may be fueled.
January 7, 2010
Hermione gave us this enlightening book about our pee and poo which I’ve been reading (and although it seems like it belongs on the toilet, I’m actually quite boring and just reading it at my desk). This book is one of those that cover a hundred of topics in brief, kind of like the Worst Case Scenario genre of books. Except this one is devoted entirely to the colour spectrum of your excrements.
A secondary contribution of this reference is to try and inject some comedy into your bathroom reading with information like:
- “In the world of pee, bolder is not better: mellow yellow is the way to go.”
- “Then you experience Vitamin Water pee, you may start to wonder if your diet has included antifreeze or highlighter ink.”
- “Diaper technology has improved over the decades, but there has yet to come an innovation that can suppress the Poo-nami.”
- “Admittedly not the most soothing way to be awakened, having a roommate with potent and predictable Morning Thunder does have the advantage of precluding the need for an alarm clock.”
Ah isn’t that more interesting than listening to your #1 or #2? That is, unless you have Red Rum or Pee-Phoria!
January 2, 2010
I suspected that I would be waiting a lot on our trip to Italy so I brought two books, a magazine and my ipod/charger. I only ended up reading one book which was The Wal-Mart Triumph.
I bought this book a few years ago as around that time I had been reading a lot of articles online about Wal-mart’s efforts against the unions, using illegal aliens as workers, their expansion strategy, crowding out mom & pops and other nefarious tactics they use to maintain their empire. I was hoping for a 200+ page book breaking down these issues and presenting both sides of the argument. I was sorely disappointed.
It started off promising. The paperback was a reprint of the hardcover version, and included a new forward by the author talking about how Wal-Mart has recently had to spend and pay more attention about its public image. But that was about it for all the scandals.
Instead the book focused a bit on the history and life of Sam Walton (interesting) and then his handpicked management team after his death (not so interesting). The author has had a history of profiling CEOs and senior management so I suppose it is not a surprise that he chose to focus on that subject matter.
I learned about how Wal-Mart became the largest company in the world, but not how it is dealing with their present days struggle. I think I could have gained the same knowledge from reading the wikipedia article though, so this wasn’t a good use of my time or money!
March 20, 2009
I bought this book in Japan for the flight home last year, but as it turns out Pauline started reading it and I didn’t get a chance to read it! So on this trip to NYC, I brought it along as my reading material.
I was really disappointed by this book. The book can be summed up in one line: Don’t act with a negative bias towards other people. There I just saved you two hours of your time. I was further disappointed at how the book was “written”. It was a conversation between two people (i.e., a senior VP and a VP), where the VP had just joined Zagrum from a competitor and had to learn the Zagrum system (and secret to success). I couldn’t get into this storybook/conversational style of the writing at all.
The most interesting thing about this book is that it was authored by The Arbinger Institute rather than a single person. With that in mind, the story made sense; they created a fictional situation to describe their research.
March 14, 2009
I picked this book up in I think the Vancouver downtown Chapters, but I can no longer find any evidence of it on Chapters or Amazon.ca! It’s a shame because this was an interesting read.
I’ve been curious about the struggle between Israel and Palestine for a long time. The suicide bombings made headline news too many times to count, and I remember the “peace negotiations” from the early 2000s. After watching Munich, I became even more curious about this guerilla war. This book, by Paul Middleton, is a narrative that describes the history of Jews from BC (although the focus is from 1850s) and how they alienated the Palestinians.
After reading the book, I feel my views in the past were very naive. Based on media reports, I saw that Israel was the democratic, stable state in the Middle East; and all the other Middle East nations were plotting to take their western ideals down. And that’s exactly what they want you to think. Did you know that Israel wasn’t a nation until after the second World War? In the 1800s and early 1900s, they were scattered around the world; until a group of Jews decided to settle in their Promised Land and with some shrewd negotiations and propaganda, turned that into their own independent state! The people they displaced were the Palestinian Arabs, and as you can expect, they’re not very happy about it.
Israel vs Palestine was a quick read, and I suppose you could get the same information from Wikipedia; but it’s worth it to read something about these issues to really understand that background, and just what the media wants you to think.
October 23, 2007
Reading is my excuse for travelling, and so it was good that I had an opportunity to go travelling to Vancouver recently as I have been working on this book for a year without making progress.
I originally bought The Making of Intelligence by Ken Richardson because I was fascinated with the gap between the rational intelligence of humans and the instinctive intelligence of animals. What is it that separates us from monkeys and allows us to write poetry instead of squabbling over bananas? I was hoping for examples of animal intelligence and its differences as well as a discussion of how we (as humans) think. Failing that, I was hoping for a discussion on how humans think. Unfortunately neither of these happened.
The book discussed a lot about the measurement of intelligence, such as the (in)validity of IQ tests, and briefly on how we might be more intelligent than animals. It discussed everything in scientific/research terms and felt very much like reading a survey of intelligence papers. That was, I think, the main reason why it was so boring. I’m not a researcher in this field and was only looking for some cursory knowledge, which the book was not written for. I have a habit of wanting to finish the books I start, which seems to me like a bad habit in certain situations, and I think this was one of them.