The Age of American Unreason
The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Back in 2007, I went to Thanksgiving with Mom to the home of a Philosophy professor. The professor’s father discoursed on why United States presidents should only be intellectuals. His arguments made sense. Someone able to understand the options, determine risk, and plan for contingencies will likely do a better job than someone who cannot. (Most PotUS surround themselves with those capable of doing this, but at the time, the PotUS had political sycophants rather than intellectuals.)

The most spectacular portion of the book was the discourse on Junk Thought, which is what Jacoby calls pseudoscience, since she uses Junk Thought to bash it.

Really, I agree with 90% of the conclusions made in this book. My issues with the book rests with how the arguments link together in odd leaps that seem to rely more on faith than evidence. Plus, it is easy to tell who the author dislikes with the ad hominems used to discuss them.

The United States does need a well educated, well read, and actively engaged electorate to ensure our elected representatives possess the highest caliber. Books like this hurt that conversion instead of aiding us to somehow navigate the issues to achieve it.

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As I have previously written here, I am biracial. One parent is European descent while the other is of African descent. When I was born, I was the first biracial child many had ever seen. Thankfully, it was just the start of a trend, so these days plenty are around for people to notice us.

This morning, I noticed several different book series all with protagonists who are of mixed blood. One even has a character who is half human and half dragon, which ought to be interesting for the parents to explain conception. (For the D&D nerds out there, in AD&D 2nd Edition some dragons could transform into human shape, which is how half-dragons became a thing. I had a few NPCs as a DM who were half-dragons.)

Pretty consistently these half-blood characters found rejection in larger society in not fitting one race or the other. Society wants them to choose. Really, it is a false choice as the characters, like I did, find honoring both is the only real viable path. Rejection of one or the other just leads to painful experiences. The reality is I am neither white nor black and can never be either. So I will always be something in-between. That’s OK.

Well, that’s what I have to explain to some people.

Anyway, fantasy and science fiction novels were a great source of reading about half-anything. Some of my favorites:

  • Spock from Star Trek who was half-human and half-vulcan.
  • Tanis from Dragonlance who was half-human and half-elf.
  • Smash from Xanth who was half-human and half-ogre.

Maybe with these new books I can find a few new favorites.

 

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I enjoyed reading Why We Should Design Some Things to Be Difficult to Use by Brian Millar for WIRED. It caught my attention and held it by referencing Dan Pink’s book Drive. I posted his TED Talk on Drive back in 2009. The sections of the piece:

  1. The Pleasures of Mastery
  2. Difficulty Makes Things Exclusive
  3. Danger May Be Safer
  4. Expert Mode and the Pro Am Phenomenon
  5. Are You Making It Easy to Do Something Badly?

It made me think about my decision to own a dSLR camera back in 2006. When I finally learned how to take good photos in a single take using Manual mode, I felt accomplished. It was something over which I felt proud. Even when I used a Point-n-Click or cellphone, my photos were much improved. Even looking at the work of others took on a new element of having some idea what went into creating such a gorgeous piece of art. (Or what shortcuts some took to create a sloppy mess.) Getting to know other photographers seeking to learn and improve and help each other changed the game for me. I understood why artists build a community.

Risk homeostasis, aka the concept that people will change behavior until the risk level is back up to the prior amount, was new to me. You know where to find me. (At my laptop Googling more.)

 

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A while ago I posted a review about the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. The message of the book, I think, is critically important, but the book wasted my time with too many anecdotes and testimonials which are a taboo in science writing. The good parts remain where Dweck wrote about her own and others’ research and application of it in this area. If it had stuck with that I’d have given it 4 stars instead of 2.

In the review I suggested “The Inverse Power of Praise” chapter of NurtureShock (Bronson and Merryman) as an alternative. Well, The Secret to Raising Smart Kids written by Dweck is another good alternative.

Here Carol condenses Mindset to something any parent or teacher can read. It focuses on the research and how to put it into practice.

Not long ago, I noticed someone praised me for self-correcting. Specifically he like I noticed where I was doing it wrong and changed to resume the correct form. So I got to explain Mindset and praise his process of observation and reward. It got more than a little meta.

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About five years ago earlier this month, I went on Bahá’í pilgrimage to Haifa.

It is funny how in that post I wrote about the experience my expectation of some significant change. Even that post stated, “Something like serving at the Bahá’í World Center would be the kind of change I foresee,” which clearly states where my head was looking at the time. I think at the time I was terrified of where things were headed at work and very much tempted to flee a sinking ship. Many of our top talent at the time were. Anyway, I did apply for a job, but after the interview felt a crushing feeling it was not the right move for me so I withdrew. I am at a loss to figure out what changed.

Did not enter a relationship.

At the same employer. New job.

If anything, then the one big change is drifting from faith.

I still think about the statement I was told by some strangers that I ought to be an educator instead of wasting my potential working in IT.

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A friend posted about Winds of Winter not coming in 2015.

Back in 2011, I posted about George R. R. Martin and the question “whether GRRM has the time to finish the books before the HBO TV series catches up to him.” He had estimated the TV series will take multiple seasons for some books. Let’s compare his prediction with the reality so far.

Book Between Publishing TV ETA TV Real
One (Game of Thrones) N/A 2011 2011
Two (Clash of Kings) 2 years 2012 2012
Three (Storm of Swords) 2 years 2013 / 2014 2013 / 2014
Four (Feast for Crows) and
Five (Dance With Dragons)
11 years 2015 / 2016
(/ maybe 2017)
2015
(rest not yet announced)

That looks pretty spot on through 2015. Season four starts April 12rh. Based on the leaked GoT trailer, they do recombine books 4 and 5. Combined they are a monstrous almost 2k pages. GRRM also claimed 2-3 seasons for the recombined Feast and Dance books. Three seems more likely given the 1200 page Storm took two, 1800 page Feast/Dance should be about three.

Ideally Winds would come out well prior to the HBO season covering it, giving us a chance to read it first. So ideally 2016 but it could be 2018 or later. :(

Gate of Ivrel
Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend recommended this to me as the basis of Stargate. The concept of using a system of gates to reach other worlds certainly resembles Stargate.

I like C.J.’s The Dreaming Tree, so this was obvious for me to try.

I kept hoping to discover Arthur and Merlin as Morgaine sounded like she would be tied to tales of them. With three more in the series there is still hope.

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m4s0n501

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One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: ‘To rise above little things’. ― John Burroughs

    1. Read 52 books. Yeah, I know. In 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, I read more than this same exact amount. I like the number because it is a book a week.
      • Read 50% by female authors. After reading “Readers prefer authors of their own sex, survey finds“, I did an analysis of my own books for the past 2012, 2013, and 2014. My best year was 17% female authors. So I’ll push for at least 50% this year. Ideally, I would do even 90% female but that might mean buying a lot more books. That best year? Most of the books by female authors came from participating in a book club with most female members.
    2. Biking was an abysmal failure last year. Weight lifting is my new health and exercise thing. Based on some stuff I’ve read, these should be reasonable achievements for someone who has reached novice level. As I understand, someone who is my height takes longer to reach them, so with three months now adding another year, I think I can reach these by the end of next year. Looking to do something like a 4 day rotation of chest, back, legs, cardio (bike).
      1. Bench 185 pounds (1RM equivalent). Benchmark lift Tuesday was 80 at 10 reps which by my phone app was a 107 1RM equivalent. This puts the goal at 78 more.
      2. Squat 245 pounds (1RM eq). Benchmark lift Saturday was 80 at 10 reps which by that calculator was 107. This puts the goal at 138 more.
      3. Deadlift xxx pounds. Do not have a benchmark lift yet. According to one resource this should be 305, but I should probably look to see what I can do before committing to something.
      4. Drop to about 15% body fat. I think I am closer to 25-30% at the moment. Setting a specific target weight seems like a bad idea because I’ll need to add several pounds of muscle in order to achieve the above, so I will likely gain weight even while dropping fat. Setting the body fat target should achieve the real purpose.
      5. Bring HIIT up to about 50-50. Muscle is good, but I think I have been so lazy for so long that I have major stamina issues. Bike day is high intensity interval training (HIIT). Right now, I am struggling with 30 seconds high with 120 seconds slow. This goal is to get this closer to 60 seconds high with 60 seconds slow.
    3. Take a trip at least 300 miles away from home. Work conference does not count. It might be to visit family, but the distance ensures my home town does not count. Yes, this is the same as last year’s failed. I use up my vacation time for work and this seems like a good way to encourage that.
    4. Declutter Part II. Continue the progress made from last year. Shred and trash more unneeded paper. Get all statements to be kept in folders. One last closet is still a mess and needs to be emptied of stuff.

Old resolutions: 20142013, 2012201120102009.

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This year was a mixed bag. Sorry for the lack of updates.

    1. Read 52 books. Today, at the end of the year, I should be at 52 books read. I reached that point back on October 12th. (A few days earlier than last year.) My total for the year is 74. (142%) SUCCEEDED.
    2. Ride 10 miles a week April to October. I bought a bike and got up to 3 miles in the few weeks I was trying in March to build up for starting in April. Some unexpected complications were 1) getting sick and 2) the hills in neighborhood are beyond my capability. FAILED.
    3. Declutter. Reorganized enough to be somewhat presentable that lasted for a while. Removed about 4 trash bags of clothes from the closets for donation. Threw out about 10 trash bags of broken down boxes, shredded receipts, or junk mail. Setup laundry bag carts so no longer in piles. Setup new shelving units so stuff is not sitting in piles anymore. SUCCEEDED.
    4. Take a trip 300 miles away from home. No trips taken that qualify. The one trip to Seattle was for work. FAILED.

Somewhere around February I decided to work on financial goals. I managed to reorganize some things, fully fund a goal, and get an idea of where I want to go in the future.

Tomorrow I should post 2015’s goals.

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Dataclysm: Who We Are
Dataclysm: Who We Are by Christian Rudder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe really 2.5 stars, but I rounded up.

I have read the OkTrends blog since its inception. Human behavior fascinates me, so I take any opportunity to read on it. The We Experiment On Human Beings post ensnared my attention since it flubs its nose at academic sensibilities at what is ethical experimentation. But, this review is not about Rudder’s ethics, so I will move on to the book.

The writing engaged a technologist interested in Big Data, interesting links, and how data can be used in interesting ways. (Hardly surprising.) Many references made me laugh out loud. I highlighted 32 places according to my Kindle stats. Much more were worthy. The writing alone would make me give it 5 stars.

My first problem manifested in the lack of details in the main text. Where I expected to read about how conclusions were reached, the details were light. Where it all fell apart for me fell in the Coda section where he delved further into the methods used. Suddenly the assumptions, based on nothing but super wild ass guesses (SWAGs) came into complete view. For example, his conservative estimate is that active OkCupid users go on at least one date every two months and uses this with active users/month to arrive at 30,000 dates will happen tonight because of OkCupid. This number is used for other calculations. I would give this aspect no stars.

So an average of 2.5 stars rounded up is the reviewed 3.

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