From Expert Enough—just enough to be dangerous:
Many people say they would like to write a book. That statement is usually in the form of “I have this great book idea”, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel” or “I will write it when I have more time.”
I used to say things like that. I kept promising myself that I would write a book someday. Then I realized something important.
There are seven days in a week, but someday isn’t one of them.
From Aeon, a fascinating science article called, Die, selfish gene, die, by David Dobbs.
So says Donald Miller:
I used to play golf but I wasn’t very good. I rented a DVD, though, that taught me a better way to swing, and after watching it a few times and spending an hour or so practicing, I knocked ten strokes off my game. I can’t believe how much time I wasted when a simple DVD saved me years of frustration. I’d say something similar is true in my writing career. If you read these books, your writing will improve to the point people who read your work will begin to comment on how well you write. Sometimes the difference between an okay writer and a great writer is simple. I’ve read quite a few books on writing and here is, in my opinion, the collection every writer should have in their library.
Read the list at the above link. I’ve only read one of his recommended books, although I’m familiar with the others. Maybe that’s my problem.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Will Be Free
By Saïd Sayrafiezadeh (2009)
1. This intensely poignant, beautifully rendered memoir tells the story of a child brought up in a Trotskyist family in America. The author’s mother (nee Finkelstein) was a member of the Socialist Workers Party who, in the 1960s, married a fellow party member, an Iranian-born graduate student who left her nine months after Saïd was born. Told by the author without recrimination, the story opens a window onto the bizarre universe of a radical who thinks and acts as if “the revolution” is around the corner while her child has to live among the aliens inhabiting the real world. The flavor of this affecting tale is captured in the title anecdote: The narrator, who fervently desires a skateboard, is denied this wish by his mother, who tells him that the $11 price is a form of capitalist theft and that he needs to wait for the revolutionary day “when skateboards will be free.” This book gave me shivers each time I picked it up.
A humorous piece from The Wall Street Journal. O’Rourke asks, “what have we wrought?” I’m pre-baby boomer generation, but not by much, and O’Rourke’s wit resonates.
From A Nerd’s Guide to Reading, a nice list, if you like science fiction.
“In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
Let’s put it another way—what’s the point of blogging at all?
Most bloggers have no idea what they’re doing.
Ah…that seems about right.
From The New York Review of Books—the summarized thought:
Physical science has historically progressed not only by finding precise explanations of natural phenomena, but also by discovering what sorts of things can be precisely explained. These may be fewer than we had thought.
Teaching policy-making politicians to think critically about science…good luck with that! Read the 20 tips from Nature—part of the introduction:
In practice, policy-makers almost never read scientific papers or books. The research relevant to the topic of the day — for example, mitochondrial replacement, bovine tuberculosis or nuclear-waste disposal — is interpreted for them by advisers or external advocates. And there is rarely, if ever, a beautifully designed double-blind, randomized, replicated, controlled experiment with a large sample size and unambiguous conclusion that tackles the exact policy issue.
In this context, we suggest that the immediate priority is to improve policy-makers’ understanding of the imperfect nature of science. The essential skills are to be able to intelligently interrogate experts and advisers, and to understand the quality, limitations and biases of evidence. We term these interpretive scientific skills. These skills are more accessible than those required to understand the fundamental science itself, and can form part of the broad skill set of most politicians.
To this end, we suggest 20 concepts that should be part of the education of civil servants, politicians, policy advisers and journalists — and anyone else who may have to interact with science or scientists. Politicians with a healthy scepticism of scientific advocates might simply prefer to arm themselves with this critical set of knowledge.
“There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil,” Bill Gates wrote this summer. That’s quite an endorsement—and it gave a jolt of fame to Smil, a professor emeritus of environment and geography at the University of Manitoba. In a world of specialized intellectuals, Smil is an ambitious and astonishing polymath who swings for fences. His nearly three dozen books have analyzed the world’s biggest challenges—the future of energy, food production, and manufacturing—with nuance and detail. They’re among the most data-heavy books you’ll find, with a remarkable way of framing basic facts. (Sample nugget: Humans will consume 17 percent of what the biosphere produces this year.)
His conclusions are often bleak. He argues, for instance, that the demise of US manufacturing dooms the country not just intellectually but creatively, because innovation is tied to the process of making things. (And, unfortunately, he has the figures to back that up.) WIRED got Smil’s take on the problems facing America and the world.
Read the interview at the link.